Tag Archives: Article

John Smith the Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars

Here’s an exclusive from author Roland Hughes who is talking about his book John Smith the Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars.

Why Did I Write “John Smith”?

We are the sum of what came before. Even if every person was an identical infant clone at birth, placing them in different environments and giving them 30+ years of different life experiences will yield individuals with varying, sometimes dramatic, uniquenesses.

There were few things school-wise I found enjoyable in high school. I’m not claiming to having had some horrible school age period, just that it took quite a while to figure out what I liked. While I enjoyed the coming up with stories part of English and Lit classes, my handwriting was (and still is) horrible. My inability to spell and construct grammatically correct sentences would probably still shock English teachers. Let us not forget the manual typewriters of the day were a lot of work.

Prior to my senior year that left the various history classes as my favorite thing. I liked the teacher and actually took an interest in many of the topics. I also didn’t mind reading. I rather enjoyed it. Even read quite a bit of mythology then.

Everything changed my senior year in high school. It was the year the school got its first three computers. Commodore Super PETs with dual floppy drives. I was in the first class to work on them. Here was a keyboard which was easy to type on. Rudimentary (although high end for its day) word processing with spell checking (not on the fly, but checking none-the-less.) You could save this work to disk and if you needed to change a paragraph or word it was a simple thing to print another copy.

Forgive the “barefoot in the snow up hill both ways” sound of this, but that was life changing. I went to college to become a computer programmer and eventually an IT consultant. That career path allowed me to work in a wide range of industries and absorb a lot of different information and helps provide unique perspectives when solving problems today. Contrary to what many might think, the most important part of any system architecture isn’t the “happy path” of when everything works, but the “very unhappy path” when things go horribly wrong. If there is a chance human life could be damaged or lost the “very unhappy path” gets an immense amount of work.

At the time John Smith started talking there was great hubbub about the end of the Mayan calendar and the new “Battlestar Galactica” had re-interpreted the opening line of “Peter Pan.” (For those who don’t remember “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”) I believe those questions you find on the back cover are the first questions John Smith asked over the days he was attempting to form in my mind. “What if the Mayans got the start of the end correct because they had survived it before?” “What if our written history was just as accurate as the old tale about three blind men describing an elephant?” There are others, but, you get the gist of it.

One question, above all others, the one I asked, or at least believe I asked, really set him off on a tither. “What if that opening line from Peter Pan is the only thing which has survived across the cycles?” I mean, what if it is some kind of genetic memory or subconscious recognition of a message or signal from the past? I have met people raised in cultures where they claimed “Peter Pan” did not exist or at least never existed as part of their childhood, yet, their culture has such a phrase. Once that question was posed there was no turning him off.

Anyone who was even half awake during world history class has to have realized human civilization gets wiped out on a rather frequent basis. Well, frequent in terms of the galaxy. It’s almost as if the universe periodically hits the reset button. The length of the period may be different, but there can be little doubt the reset button gets hit. Take your pick: the Ice Age, Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire,

Egyptian Empire, Black Death during the Middle Ages, others. I mean, doesn’t the name Middle Ages imply that there has been a Beginning Ages and must be an Ending Ages?

The Great Pyramids are a wonder of the world quite simply because humans lost the ability to build them using nothing but hand tools and animals. It obviously took hundreds, if not thousands, of people so how to cut and move those stones had to be widely known at the time. That twenty story high-rise you walk or drive past on your way to work without even thinking about will be a wonder of the next world if it happens to still be standing and humans no longer have any idea how to build it. Just how many people do you think it took to build the thing?

John Smith kept chattering in the back of my mind. He kept insisting that the cycle itself could not be prevented but the catastrophic loss of knowledge could. There-in lied the rub. If we are the sum of what came before, what are we when nothing came before?

Hurricane Sandy proved there is no existing disaster recovery plan in place anywhere which does not rely on the bulk of civilized infrastructure surviving. Generators flooded in basements, generators on roofs without a functioning fueling infrastructure, you saw the news reports. Imagine that globally. Imagine every disaster recovery plan on the planet relying on some place else coming in to save them and living in a time where no place is in better shape to offer help. Once you begin to imagine that you begin asking the most important question of all:

How do you reboot humanity?

We are all the sum of what came before. Unlike John Smith though, we are not desperately trying to pass on the entirety of human

Read More: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/john-smith-roland-hughes/1102176003?ean=9781939732002

Grace Revealed

Take a look at this exclusive article about Grace Revealed: A Memoir by Greg Archer

Seventy-five years after Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror across Eastern Europe, author and entertainment journalist Greg Archer takes a step back from Hollywood and examines his Polish family’s mind-bending odyssey of the 1940s. In the process, he exposes one of the most under-reported events of the 20th Century: Stalin’s mass deportation of nearly two million Polish citizens to the Siberian Gulags and the life-and-death events that followed.

But the author’s quest takes a dramatic turn. As he walks an emotional tightrope between the past and the present, can a serendipitous overseas adventure become a saving grace, heal the ancestral soul and bring justice to his family and their forgotten Polish comrades?

In a tale that goes from glitz to Gulags, Grace Revealed

boldly strips away the sunny disposition of celebrity obsession and uncovers a part of history that was nearly swept under the rugs. It also reminds us all that Hitler was not the only monster from World War II and that many of Stalin’s atrocities remain overlooked. What is revealed, too, perhaps, is the true gifts that can be found in exploring ancestry and the uncharted waters from the past.


Download Now Here

Author Social Media Checklist

A while ago I was doing some promoting on Goodreads and I got talking with amazing author Nicole Delacroix who has written lots of articles offering tips and insights into indie publishing. Nicole very kindly donated the following article on social media which is a must for all newbies. This is an abbreviated article, but I strongly recommend you read the in-depth version too, as well as checking out her site for more tips and ideas. http://nicole-delacroix.com/


Author Social Media Checklist: For in-depth article click here: Author Social Media Checklist

Have you been ignoring social media? Think you don’t have time for it? Or that ‘readers will come if my book is in stores’? Do all the different forms of social media seem overwhelming?

There is so much information but I formulated a quick list of the top items every writer/author should be looking at for Social Media avenues. First thing is decide how much time you are willing to devote to Social Media – and you will have to devote time. But if you can find 2 hours a week, you can start to build a long lasting platform.

This list is by no means all that’s available; I isolated the most important and most influential ones to start. These are listed in order of importance – based on my opinion only – but again, every platform is different. You have to decide which avenues are right for you and your message.

  • Personal Website: This is the number one – absolute MUST HAVE for social media.  Whether you blog or not, you must have your own corner of the World Wide Web for readers and fans to find you.  Remember – your personal website is the CENTER of your Universe. All of your other social media sites should reflect and always point the reader back to your site. For in-depth article click here:  Personal Website
  • goodreads.com: Goodreads is a social channel that is perfect for authors! Recently acquired by Amazon.com, the site was designed by readers for readers. If you haven’t already joined, run to your computer now – go on… I’ll wait – you can join even if you haven’t published yet. For in-depth article click here:  Goodreads
  • facebook.com: Facebook is the King of social media. If you’re serious about having a career as a writer, you must have a Facebook Author Page where fans can “LIKE” your page and keep up with your events. It’s critical to keep your fan page updated with fun information to keep your readers engaged and anticipating your next book. For in-depth article click here:  Facebook
  • twitter.com: If Facebook is the King, then Twitter is the Queen. Twitter is especially helpful to authors as it helps you connect with your readers and other authors around the globe. Twitter can connect you with the greatest minds in publishing, writing, editing and marketing. For in-depth article click here: Twitter

Lastly, a few key points to remember when formulating your social media plan and especially, once you’ve implemented it.

  1. Social Media sites are a collection of parties. No matter how savvy you are, social media is like a party. Make sure you understand the rules of the party before you start a conversation or you could end up with egg on your face.
  2. Have a clear goal and plan for each Social Media channel. Don’t join a site just to say you have Social Media. Have a plan and a purpose.
  3. Patience Grasshopper. Don’t expect to sign up on a site and everyone on that site wants to be your friend. You need to put forth the effort to attract the right Above all else, never, and I mean NEVER buy followers. It’s cheap, dishonest, and it doesn’t get you actual readers or fans.
  4. Don’t focus on building an audience. I know, you just went, “what?!” I say that to mean, focus on giving value to the people that already follow you, you will attract more people like that if you do. That’s the audience you want – people who truly want to hear what you’re saying.
  5. Cultivate your mailing list. Encourage your followers on all your social media sites to join your mailing list. This is where your blogging becomes important, because your blog is personal, and your fans want to be a part of your world.
  6. Be everywhere. I know I just finished saying don’t join every site, and that’s still true, but what I mean is that you want to claim your “names” and any variation of them as a form of protection. That way your fans always know you’re in control: control your name and your brand.
  7. Quality. No matter what, make sure you’ve given your absolute 100% best quality on everything you do. You control how your readers perceive the message – make sure they want to come back for more.
  8. Schedule. Whatever time you have decided to allocate to Social Media, make sure you have a set schedule.
  9. Define your message. Make sure no matter what, you control the message that is sent to your readers. There is nothing worse for a fan then when they think they are talking to the author and find out it’s only some web administrator with no access. Treat your readers like they deserve to be treated and you will have a fan base filled with loyal readers who can’t wait for your next book.

I hope this has helped you start to focus where you want to take your Social Media plans in the future, I know I’ve given you a lot to think about.  I’ve provided links to all the in-depth articles for more information so if you have any questions or comments between now and then, please send me a comment.  I will try to answer you as quickly and completely as I can.


Okay so be honest how many of these are you doing right? I think, now at least, I’m ticking off 100% but it isn’t easy and every now and again I like to refresh this article whenever I feel like the world wide web is derailing me slightly. If you do get chance please go over to Nicole’s site, it’s a great place to post questions and connect with a really wonderful author with a great attitude when it comes to indie publishing. Tell her I said ‘hi’.



Terence Park

This is a post for all you indie authors about inspiration, influences and science fiction. This is a must read for all your aspiring SF and Fantasy authors from a really talented author Terence Park.


Influences. We’ve all got them. Who looks at theirs? It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time on but I suppose mine began with Space Westerns. Of course I didn’t call them that; not then. An aspect of Space Westerns that I’ve found interesting, I call Backwoods SF. I’m going to look at that and see where it leads.

What’s in a term

Backwoods: Not in the big city; wooded or partly cleared and far from a city; remote or culturally backward.
SF: Fiction with healthy doses of scientific speculation.
Big cities: where decisions are made and where the politicians who make them hang out. These are places where the rewards are compelling and what’s on offer is a cosmopolitan style of life, new technologies, new (and laxer) social mores. They are where it’s at. Yet cities are also at the sharp end. In a way they’re the kitchen of civilisation – if you can’t stand the heat you get out. Big city life is demanding and unforgiving. Trust is in short supply. Can-do writ large morphs into opportunism. It has more than its fair share of thieves and crooks. Let your guard down and you suffer. Those who dwell there know it’s the price they pay for living at the apex of civilisation. City Slickers, if they think on it, will consider those in smaller cities, towns, villages… as further down the slippery slope of success.
Stories to entertain that market will need big themes, something to lift the reader above the overpowering presence of masses of people. By its very nature, most Science Fiction gravitates to a city point of view. But not all. There’s a strand connecting to the realities of rural life. Backwoods SF is as far away from Space Opera as you can get.

Writers in this area

Clifford D Simak and Robert Heinlein spring to mind. Robert Heinlein needs no introduction. He works this strand well in novels such as Red Planet, Farmer in the Sky, Tunnel in the Sky and Starman Jones. Heinlein’s works are suffused with the self-determination and individualism that is often seen as American in character. His heroes rely on their own judgement and skills and have a healthy disregard for overbearing authority – jumped-up men in suits. This is not unfamiliar territory to those who read Westerns.

Tunnel in the Sky cover

Tunnel in the Sky

Rod Walker steps through a gate to do a survival course on an alien planet. The planet is a wilderness and he’s there for a week. But after the course ends, the gate doesn’t reopen. He’s marooned. There are others trapped there just like him. They work together to build a place to live. In this work, Heinlein shows the best and worst of human nature.

Clifford D Simak was an exemplar of Backwoods SF. His settings were often rural and his heroes, backwoodsmen. When his stories concluded, he often left mysteries hanging. His work was usually described as gentle and pastoral. Clifford said of his work:

Overall, I have written in a quiet manner; there is little violence in my work. My focus has been on people, not on events. More often than not, I have struck a hopeful note… I have, on occasions, tried to speak out for decency and compassion, for understanding, not only in the human, but in the cosmic sense. I have tried at times to place humans in perspective against the vastness of universal time and space. I have been concerned where we, as a race, may be going, and what may be our purpose in the universal scheme—if we have a purpose. In general, I believe we do, and perhaps an important one.
In his hands fiction became something greater than homespun story-telling.

All the Traps of Earth cover

All the Traps of Earth

In All the Traps of Earth, Clifford twists and turns through each story so the reader can rarely guess where each will end. Many of these tales mix his sense of the homely rural and suburban against a backdrop of the alien and cosmically vast. The title pice shows a robot closing down the accounts of the Barrington family, to which he belongs. The problem is the last of the Barrington’s just died. That means he (the robot) will have to have his personality erased. These short stories remind me of PK Dick.

The rural / outdoor life; what is it? It’s not just city economics; labour + materials + process = result; there’s a whole lot more it than that. Those who live the outdoor life see something different; they see the pattern and flow of nature. This is brought out through the story. Character emphasis will be different, its development will be refocussed; regardless of whether it’s set in the outback of some place on Earth, or in the big back yard of another planet. This becomes the baseline. Contrast it with the unknown / alien; the two will be very different. These pre-built extremes are ready to generate conflict; the known matched off against the strange and unknowable. If you’re the writer, you’ve now some variables from which to draw the characters of both hero and alien. Your protagonist loves nature? Nature gets in the way of the alien. Your protagonist knows how to track a trail, the alien uses gadgets for that… and so on. From there you can start to flesh out your alien’s back story which will in turn determine further traits. A delight for the writer and hopefully, the reader.

UK Outback = up North

I always felt that Backwoods SF was an interesting notion to develop. However, here in the UK we don’t have no outback. It’s hard to be a long way from Big Cities in the UK – the nearest one to me, Manchester, is a mere 15 miles off. I live in Rossendale. Still; I empathise to being disconnected from the hustle and bustle of city life. I guess if I worked there (as I have in the past) that that would vanish, and the disconnect might well transfer to the place I live. We’re admonished: write what you know – it gives your work authenticity. I know small town life and it informs my narratives. So that’s what I plug into them.

Bundling these together can lead to interesting and intellectually satisfying results. For example: where does an alien on the run go? Does he / she go to ground? or go to the most important person they can find, perhaps pretending to be the ambassador of an advanced race? Could the alien become part of a technology transfer trading setup? Heading for the President or someone in authority sounds superficially attractive. This is actually a snag, if you’re on the run, as that’s the first place a pursuer would check on. Symbols of power mean a lot on technologically undeveloped worlds and it’s easy to work out who makes decisions. A lot depends on how thorough pursuers are likely to be, and how well versed they are in the craft of information gathering.

Alien as Refugee

This is what I did in Lucky (named for my alien heroine). Lucky rejects most of the above as too likely to get noticed and decides to go to ground. She second-guesses human intolerance and, rather than go to a big city, chooses to settle in a town. She finds a place where ‘one more’ makes little difference; where the chance of being outed as a true outsider is low. The country she chooses, the UK, has large scale, on-going immigration. She works on her back story: she is a refugee (just not from Earth). Knowing my locale, the rationale for why an alien might choose to hide there seems plausible.

Writing point: you know your neighbourhood. Write it. It gives a voice to your area. Done well, it sounds authentic. Or you can always research. If you’re a writer, you’re always researching – even when you’re not!

What aliens do you do?

At some point, you, as author will want to move from unknown, presumed hostile aliens, to something a little more sophisticated – imagine your Nth alien saying its equivalent of “I am Dalek. I exterminate” – that gets kind of repetitive. Before we look at this further, there’s another aspect that deserves some attention; human reaction. Alienness gives the opportunity to stoke up fear of the unknown. If there’s one thing to provoke humanity to a killing frenzy it’s fear of the unknown. Run with that and you have something for your alien to second guess. That’s assuming your alien’s intellect takes precedence over its instincts; it could of course be a predator, come to hunt, or a feeder / breeder that hosts on anything alive (like Giger’s alien). This elicits a primal response. Is that your only aim?

Alien as Victim

A key alien character in A Guide to First Contact knows there is no means of returning home. She starts in the hands of authority and, without the opportunity to develop a good back story, her options are limited. Were she to escape, the pluses and minuses for big cities come into play. Big can mean easier to hide in; but also harder to stay out of  reach of those who would go out of their way to identify her and hound her, or profit from her. They would never let her alone. Recognising the inherent threat in humanity, she is forced to suffer in a secret laboratory. She becomes a victim. If you know no one, who can you turn to? I give my aliens difficult choices but they don’t all respond the same way. Some display the manners of cultured guests at a dinner party while others behave like opportunists (a trait we know so well).

This kind of talk suggests another look be taken at characterisation. As a writer, you’ve developed characters in contrast to alienness. But this then provokes you to round out your alien characters. Do you make them accessible? give them traits to which we can connect? Here, Zenna Henderson is worth noting because she pays particular reference to sympathetic alien portrayal. The two works I have of hers are The People: No Different Flesh, and Pilgrimage. As a rule I mix it up. A twist of inscrutability, some sympathetic traits plus, where appropriate, reference to the places you know.¹

Pilgrimage cover


Zenna Henderson wrote about alien exiles in the American midwest, who call themselves the People. They live in secret but come across as gentle and more akin to the spiritual side of humanity. Their flight from their doomed home world left them scattered across the US and Pilgrimage documents their stories as they try to find each other.

Lucky is mostly set in Codwich, a fictional town in the North of England. It felt appropriate to add some reference to its Celtic and Anglo-Saxon heritage. She asks a tramp about himself:

“You didn’t tell me your name,” Lucky called from the kitchen. She listened, but his only answer was quiet silence. Another sensitive area? She racked her brain for another tack, while she prepared the teapot. The kettle came to a boil and she dug out a tin with a still unopened pack of Rich Tea biscuits.
“I’m researching, you know.” he called.



Lucky added milk to the jug and brought in the tray, flushed with the success at having made a cup of tea for her first visitor. She looked at her small table, puzzled; he had emptied his pockets onto it. In the corner nearest him was a dirty handkerchief, tissue paper and a crumpled carrier bag. Covering the rest of the space were several plastic cards and heavily creased paper documents. His arms trembled but he swept them aside to make room for the tray.

“What are you researching?”

“Many things. Codwich, Coed y Ffin – tree bordered?” She knew how words morphed over time and recognised the Anglo-Saxon rendering of the original Cumbric term for the town. Few would. ²

Stretches of Guide are pastoral. Easing in a local reference was tricky. Sometimes, all that’s possible is a reference, meaningless to all but a few. Here, an amateur conspiracy investigator who’s tracking down a missing astronaut, retires for the day, baffled:

Maybe there really was redaction style webware out there.
So, her name was a no-go area. Did that apply to the other crew members? No way to tell, but based on Ms Singerton it was likely.
Something to chew over while watching soccer on Sky-Fox. The Clarets playing the Gunners. No wine, no firearms. Where did they dream up these names from? I would have flicked the channel but didn’t have the energy. ³

The Clarets is the nickname of my home town team who have been a Championship side since 2000; as of the time of writing – 18/11/14 – they look like making a return by the end of the season. Predicting they’ll be playing Arsenal in Premier League, March 23rd, 2019? Now that’s Science Fiction!

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine
Clifford D Simak


¹ Aristotle’s Poetics

The rules to creativity were outlined in antiquity by Aristotle in a work that came to be known as the Poetics. I haven’t seen a satisfactory translation of this piece but if you cut through the philosophical trappings, you can see the granddaddy of works on writing; it dealt with issues that writers still deal with.
Section 4.3: poor characterisation makes poor tragedy
(although this section sees Aristotle talking of tragedy, this has much wider application)
Section 8.1: In all things: is this plausible? probable?
Section 11: things may be portrayed as they should be, even if they aren’t
My notes on Aristotle’s Poetics are here.

Author references

² Lucky p47

Lucky is on the web as Lucky and other stories
Lulu: 21617090 (UK Crown Quarto)

Lucky cover


³ Guide p240

Guide is on the web as A Guide to First Contact. The title is an ironic play on words.
Lulu: 21455011 (US A5)
Lulu: 21444383 (UK Crown Quarto)
Lulu: 21444388 (UK Case Wrap)

Guide cover


Web sites
My Telegraph

Flash Fiction/Nemesis

Author Marc Nash approached me a few days ago to see what I knew about Flash Fiction… answer very little. So he’s written a must read article for all authors interested in Flash Fiction and he’s also given us a taster of what he can do – don’t forget you can interact and leave comments below.

I’ve just published my fourth collection of flash fiction stories “28 Far Cries”. If you don’t know what flash fiction is, it’s the shortest form of fiction, ranging from 6 word stories to 1000 words. There’s no agreed definition of length, but 1000 words is generally felt to be the upper limit for flash, otherwise you’re straying into short story territory.

But flash fiction is so much more than a word limit. It actually offers the greatest freedom to writers, because you simply don’t have the words to play with to achieve many of the standard things of story such as introduction, character or setting description and the like. Your opening sentence plunges the reader into your story, as with any longer work, but only in flash does that first sentence have to bear the weight of establishing the world of your story. Word choices are important in flash, because again you do have the room to waste words. And the English language is wonderfully set up to offer you plenty of choice in order to find the exact word that can simultaneously carry different shades of meaning that give your story layers. Words like ‘cleave’ and ‘fast’ which have entirely opposite meanings and the skilful flash writer can imply both together!

But flash isn’t only about language. It offers a liberation for the author of the classic structure of a beginning, middle and end. I’ve written stories that are all about endings. I’ve written stories without any human character, so that these are more like a landscape painting (flash often employs quite lyrical language, where it could almost be seen as a prose poem). I’ve written a story made up of 100 single word sentences, all beginning with the letter ‘C’. In my latest collection, there is a story where one letter in every word has mutated into another, changing the word and therefore the meaning of the piece. Flash therefore represents many different ways of telling a story.

Although a tight word limit might seem to offer only sketches, actually the opposite is possible. You can take a central image or metaphor and examine it from every angle, reflecting different interpretations just like the different facets of a gemstone as the light strikes it in different ways and at different angles. So in the present collection, I have a story “Off Colour” about all the colours we use in every day speech, or another “Nocebo” which explores all the different ways of taking pills and concludes with the ultimate, that of a cyanide pill. In “Nemesis” an ageing superhero develops cancer from the radiation which gave him his superpowers and the story compares the cancer with the nature of his crime fighting.

Flash fiction has really come to the fore in the internet age. Its length is akin to a blog post. It’s easy to read on phones and other portable devices. It’s easy to do a YouTube reading of a story that lasts no more than five minutes and they are great for reading live as against an extract of a novel that needs a lot of explaining the story up to that point. And most importantly perhaps, it’s a really good way of flexing your writing muscles, especially when in between longer projects or if you’re feeling blocked. There are plenty of online communities with prompts such as photos or words to get you going.

Marc Nash

And here is a great piece of Flash Fiction from Marc himself:



My superpowers were ineffectual in the face of this particular adversary. Even though our potency derived from the same source, mine ultimately proved the inferior. I might be able to crush solid steel with my bare hands, but my foe could render me prostrate with an invisible motion.

Little did I know, that when I felt the swell of energy through my body as my uncanny physiology unfolded its transformation, a parallel transformative surge was happening too. As my sinew rippled and expanded to fill my costume, so my cells divided and thickened beneath. As my mitochondrial DNA fuelled my malignancy-fighting bursts, so they also unwittingly stoked a corruption of their own inside my body. A metastasis within Megalopolis.

Having been exposed to gamma waves in childhood, inevitably I was immune to radiotherapy. It baffled the oncologists, but at least they didn’t twig my identity. The chemotherapy was supposed to target the carcinomas just as precisely I’d excised villains. The magic bullet which I myself supposedly represented as the cure for the pathology out on our streets. But like the street antagonists I faced, remove one and three more grow back in their place. In the parlance of myth, we might have said like a many-headed hydra. In the clinical jargon of now, we cannot escape the fact of its tumefaction.

Luckily the hood of my cape covered up the ensuing baldness from the treatment. But the clumps of hair I had to remove from inside each time I divested myself of my costume, reinforced my reversion to mortality at the end of every mission.

Exposure to radiation turns the super-villain’s minds, sends them insane with their power. Allied to their innate malevolence which sees them looking to flout law and authority. With me the process has been slower, far more perniciously indirect. The creeping realisation of the price I have paid with my body divided against itself, has tipped me over the edge. The super-villain never felt any pain, except when I slapped the handcuffs on him. There was no slow erosion of the person they once were. My pain is doubled, the tumescent physical spasms augmented by the leeching away of my inviolability.

The felons simply regarded that they had to dislodge me as an impediment to the wholesale advancement of evil. They could not in all bad conscience see themselves as villainous if I, as a force for good, was allowed to prevail. They could not possibly live and operate as super-villains, if a super-hero was still poised against them. That made them heedless of danger for they did not care if they died, so long as they perished in the act of trying to vanquish me. And that ratcheted up the level of their degradation, made them capable of the most dire outrages.

So what did I achieve? I provided my citizens with the briefest of short-lived remissions. Before the pathology reared up again, more virulent and resistant to any relief I might provide. A superhero is supposed to provide protection, to keep death at bay, yet ultimately I’m unable to achieve either. A superhero can’t be killed, but he can still die. Undermined and overwhelmed by his own frailties. Harking back to the Greek origin of the term ‘hero’. Someone displaying the hubris to imagine they could rise up above the human throng, always to be brought crashing back down by the nagging apprehension that their life is no more elevated than anybody else’s. Narcissus is the more pertinent myth, only the pool that we gaze upon our reflection, turns out to be a mirage.

You can find Marc Nash here:

Amazon Author Page


Twitter @21stCscribe

Clash of the Clans

Today we’ve got an exciting post, not only is there an exclusive extract but also a GIVEAWAY! So please give a warm welcome to martial arts author L Benitez and check out all the details about her book Clash of the Clans below ….

Greetings! Or as one might say in Japan, Konnichiwa!

My name is L. Benitez and I’m a self-published author of the Martial Arts fantasy Shinobi 7 Series. I have one book out called Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior, the first book of my ongoing series. However, today I’m here to discuss my newest release, Clash of the Clans, Shinobi 7’s very own companion book!

Clash of the Clans is not the official sequel to Trials of a Warrior, it’s a short story involving the characters from the Shinobi 7 universe. For those of you who have read Trials of Warrior, this is a nice bonus to get you excited for the official sequel/second installment. For those of you who have not read Trials of a Warrior, Clash of the Clans will give you a solid sample of my writing and peak your interest for each of the characters.

As read in Shinobi 7: Trials of a Warrior, the evil shinobi clan known as Blackthorn has started a war in the world known as Shaaku Den. The only warriors left to defend the innocent people are the Kitsune Clan, where the members of Sector 7 are introduced. Sector 7 must not only train to be soldiers, but they must grow together as a team and learn to rely on each other through the times of battle.

In this companion novel, there is no war in Shaaku Den, and the Blackthorn Clan was never formed. Therefore, all thirteen ancient shinobi clans are still around and the pressure of battle doesn’t weigh on the students of the Kitsune Clan. However, peace and harmony isn’t awaiting the six members of Sector 7… misadventures lie ahead!

I’m a Martial Artist myself and an active participator of Shotokan Karate. I’ve been in many tournaments. This book is about the nerves of competition and overcoming them, the pressures you place on yourself to perform, and the support that can come from your friends and teammates. It’s not about being the best, it’s about trying your best and having fun!

Here’s an exclusive excerpt from Clash of the Clans. The current point of view is from Tabitha Meko, one of the young girls and main characters in the story. Please enjoy!

You can enter the giveaway to get a copy of the book here:


We arrived at the Black-Sho Clan early the next morning. Akira stayed true to her word and returned to our camp at five in the morning. She merely said, “Let’s go,” before we took off again. Today wasn’t like yesterday, our team wasn’t rushed to travel. Akira probably wanted the six of us to conserve our energy, that or the school wasn’t too much farther from us.

The forests of Viper Country began to get thinner and thinner as we walked. It was only an hour before I saw the outline of a building off in the distance. It was still far away because the building looked like the size of my thumb. I’ve still got a long way to walk.

Therefore, I chose to walk next to Kuroi. It wasn’t for the sake of his company! I walked next to him to try and get information out of him. My team leader has been at the Kitsune Clan for three years and for two of them he was all by himself. He knows a lot about the shinobi clans, even if he chooses to be a jerk about it and refuse to clue his team in.

“Getting awfully close there, Meko-Chan. Hoping my badass skills will rub off on you?” I purposely gagged after hearing Kuroi’s comment. “You wish!” I exclaimed.

He smirked at me. Smirks from Kuroi Kaze weren’t nice, they were always intended to be taunting.

“So why walk so close to me, then?” he asked me.

Dang it, Kuroi caught onto my plan. “I’m just walking,” I replied.

“So go walk next to your gal-pal, Yami-San.” Kuroi often teased Yami about how sensitive he was and constantly told him to “be a man.”

“Quit being a jerk. I just wanna ask you more about Battle Month.” There, the truth finally came out of me.

Kuroi gave a short snarl. “I shoulda guessed that you or Yami-San would come bother me about that. It’s not like I’m some expert or whatever, I’ve only been to a Battle Month once.”

“Really? You’ve been there once before?” I asked with enthusiasm. My eyes instantly glued to Kuroi, I wanted to hear what he had to say more than ever.

He nodded. “Yeah. Once. Three months after I arrived at the clan.”

Back when Kuroi had his old teammates, I thought to myself. A red flag went off in my mind. Kuroi never talks about the old Sector 7, never. I need to be careful and not ask him about that.

“Which clan was it?” I asked him. I lost a peg of previous enthusiasm.

Kuroi furrowed his thick eyebrows, anger making its way into his face. “This one,” he growled, “the Black-Sho Clan.” Uh-oh.

I turned my head around to the front of me. We were almost at the building! A moment ago the place was miles and miles off, now it’s almost in my face. What in Shaaku Den? I thought.

Kuroi saw my look of perplexity. “It’s called an illusion, Meko-Chan,” he told my dryly.

The Black-Sho Clan was all indoors with an infrastructure made of creamy marble. The building was shaped like a large rectangle but it was hard to tell because of how big the place is compared to how small I am as a human. The open doors were almost as tall as the ceiling, which ascended above us by two stories. We stepped through the threshold and into the clan.

“Wow,” Cassie and I awed simultaneously.

The ceiling was made out of glass and the view of the bright blue skies was overhead. The floors were a simple concrete. On the outside wall of the clan, it was creamy marble that covered the building. Once I walked inside, the walls were a shiny black marble that gleamed and glistened brightly. That’s so cool!

My awe didn’t last long. I paid attention to what was in the room versus the room itself. There was plenty of open space around us and the room was already crowded with hundreds and hundreds of people. All these people… they’re all shinobis… oh spirits!

You can enter the giveaway to get a copy of the book here:


But if you can’t wait, or are naturally unlucky order your copy of the short story Clash of the Clans on Amazon.com when it releases September 20th!


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