Friday, December 14, 2018

Forbidden Delays and a New Alt History Anthology!

It has been way too long since I threw together a blog post.  Living life really can take up your time!  Things are good for me, though, so I will not complain.  I hope to have more time to devote to writing and editing in the coming year, but work just keeps piling up.  It's better to be busy than not, I suppose.

First off, I have to apologize to everyone involved with the Forbidden anthology about the further delay in publication.  It is just taking a little longer to put things together for this collection, but it is 100% definitely going to be released in 2019!  I promise.  Once the final proofing and a couple of author rewrites are complete, we will be ready to set the final, concrete release date.  I don't want to throw out another date range yet, because I would hate to miss it again.  But be assured sometime during the first half of 2019.  Unless something disastrous happens, the book will hit the presses before next summer, possibly much earlier.  As soon as we get a firm release date, I will start posting the author interviews here on this blog to promote the book, as has become usual.

So, what else will be coming from Martinus Publishing in 2019?  I have a couple of projects planned, so long as I can allocate the appropriate time.  One thing will be a new short collection from one of my favorite contributing authors (more details once we finish planning things out a bit further).  And after a long wait, I will be setting up another new anthology, something in the Alternate History field again, though this time with a twist.  Without further ado, I hereby announce the next Martinus Publishing anthology:

This Never Happened!

~Alternate History Farce and Fantasy~

A new anthology devoted to the humorous side of alternative history fiction.  This collection will hold stories that are funny and outrageous, set in worlds where history differs from what happened in our own reality, with ridiculous consequences.  Tales that could not possibly have happened, or maybe they could have but would have just been absolutely hilarious if they did.  This Never Happened will explore what could have been, and what absolutely could not have been as well.  Make me laugh, and screw up history like never before for this wacky story collection!

You can find submissions details on the Martinus Publishing website here!

Let's see what happens in the new year!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Getting Back to It

Well, let's start this off with a look at the final cover version for the forthcoming anthology, Forbidden!

I am pleased to announce that editing and proofing has officially commenced.  I don't have a publication date yet, but it will be coming shortly.  I am hoping for a late summer release.

In my last blog post, I was feeling down, and seeking to reevaluate things in my life.  It is still an ongoing process, but things are moving forward.  This winter, I hope to set up a new anthology, at the very least.  get ready for more information about that as the year goes on.

In the coming weeks, we will begin to run author interviews for the Forbidden anthology.  Many contributors have agreed to the interviews, so you can all get a peek into the minds of these writers.

So very much to do, so little time...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Knowing When to Rest

The last month has thrown quite a few nasty surprises my way.  First off, I had my desktop computer die, and being lazy and careless, I failed to have some of my more recent files backed up.  Thankfully, I was able to retrieve those files from the hard drive yesterday, but it ended up costing me about a hundred dollars in hardware and software.  Now that the files are recovered, I will finally be able to resume work on the Forbidden Anthology, though there are other issues that make me reluctant to proceed.

This past week threw something even more troubling my way. I received a notice from Amazon, saying that they had received a communication from a Kenneth Romine of the "Veterans of Foreign Wars" organization, saying that the Martinus Publishing book “VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars” violated their "trademark" in some way.  Amazon instantly removed the title, stating that they do not involve themselves in "third party disputes.”

That alone was a shock, but a few hours later I received yet another notice from Amazon, saying that Martinus Publishing had published a "pornographic work," (which title they did not identify) and then they immediately suspended my entire KDP account.

I was quick to fire off a response to Amazon on both matters.  Shortly after writing them, I received a letter from Amazon saying they had "accidentally" accused me of publishing porn, and that my account was no longer suspended.  However, the VFW issue was apparently no mistake, and they doubled down saying they wouldn't get involved in the "third party dispute" and wouldn’t let the title back online until I provide documentation proving I have the legal rights to publish the work as is (what documentation they have refused to specify), or until Mr. Romine rescinds his complaint.

The only thing I can consider being a problem is the cover lettering.  If the Veterans of Foreign Wars owns the "VFW" letters as a trademark, I can understand the legal issues, though I had always assumed that the title of this book was protected as fair use.  I offered to alter the cover to remove the VFW lettering on the book's cover, but Amazon refused to consider it.  They now say the title will remain blocked until the “dispute is resolved by all parties concerned,” which could entail a costly legal battle with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which I have no money to fight.  It’s kind of ridiculous that an anthology written to honor veterans, many of the stories having been written by actual veterans, would be shut down by an organization set up to also help veterans.  It doesn’t make any sense.

I have been going over everything in my head for the last few days, trying to decide what the best course of action would be.  VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars hasn’t sold anything in the last six months, and in its entire run it only just about broke even, so there’s no real profit to be made at this point in keeping the title in-print.  Though, I find it upsetting that it has to end this way.

To be honest, I’ve felt like giving up this publishing business altogether.  It’s been hard the last couple of years, and this latest nonsense is just leaving a sour taste in my mouth.  I don’t want to stop, but so often it feels like I’m trapped, tied down by the weight of being an editor.  I don’t have the time to write my own material anymore, and I don’t seem to be helping the writers I care about.  Most of the collections I release don’t sell enough to make back their publishing cost, so how does that help anyone?

I still feel obligated to release Forbidden, though I am not sure where I’ll be going from there.  Part of me wants to gear up for another Alternate History anthology, as those are the only things that seem to make Martinus Publishing money, yet that isn’t where my heart is.  It would be just another job, which takes the fun out of it all.  I want to be a writer again.  I don’t know if I can truly do that if I am busy editing other people’s stuff.

At the very least, I think I’ll need a break.  I need a reset on my writing life.  I don’t want to shut down Martinus Publishing, though it may be some time before I’m ready to release another multi-author anthology.  I have stories of my own that need to be told, characters I’ve missed for too many years.  It's time I revisited them, and maybe made some new ones.


Last month, I woke up to a minor nightmare.  My desktop computer died.  It wouldn’t have been such a big problem, but I had been lazy and not backed up my latest work documents, in months!  All of the files for the latest anthology I’m working on (Forbidden!) were lost, along with the digital copies of my latest IRS Tax Return, the royalty reports from January for Martinus Publishing, and pretty much anything that happened in 2018.  On top of that, I don’t know where any of my photo back-ups are (it’s like they fell into a black hole or something).  So I seemingly lost almost every single family photo from the past 8 years, as well as the digital scans of many old pictures I’ve painstakingly archived over the years.  Needless to say, I was upset.

I will admit that I am no tech guru.  I muddle through with technology, being clever enough to figure out what I need to learn to make it work.  Yet, when it comes to the finer points of computer sciences, I am not an IT professional.  Unfortunately, I am rather poor, and lack the financial means to pay a real tech guy to fix my problems, hence the muddling through part of my existence.

So, I began by going on ebay and getting a used desktop.  I wasn’t in the position to buy a new one at the time, but I found a refurbished tower that was the same model as the one that had died on me.  It even had a fresh Windows 10 install.  After ordering that, and going over a few tutorials on how to slave a hard drive, I purchased an adapter to do just that.  Then, I waited.

The desktop arrived first, so I got that set up and added what files I had backed up, giving me head start.  Finally, today, the adapter came, and I was finally able to try it out.  Initial connection seemed good, but try as I might, I could not get into my files.  Sure, I could access some of the Windows operating system files, but my pictures and writing were all hidden.  The computer couldn’t detect any of my important files, no matter what I tried.  I was fearful that I had failed, and my laziness may have cost me so many irreplaceable files.

Then I did a little more research, and ran across a software retrieval program at  I downloaded the trial software and gave it a shot.  Lo and behold, my files appeared, waiting to be retrieved.  The only catch was I had to buy the full version of the software.  $73 dollars later, I finally had the program I needed to get my lost files off the corrupted hard drive and onto my new system.

Overall, this was a harrowing experience, one that should never have happened.  I know better than to go any amount of time without backing up my data, as soon as the rest of the files get transferred to my new computer (they are still downloading as I write this), I will be putting everything onto fresh SD cards.  I have a Kingston 128gig card that should fit most of the content, though the pictures will suck up most of it.  I’ll grab a few more once I have the money, and keep several copies of everything, just like I used to.  Really, after all I’ve been through in the past few years, I am finally learning to get back into the habits that I had been accustomed to for so long.  Sometimes, you need a wakeup call to remind you of why you should do certain things.  I’m really glad I was able to retrieve all that I might have lost.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Forbidden News!

It has been far too long since I posted to the blog.  Life is busier than ever, but it is getting better.  The past month, I have been courting the true love of my life, and it may seem a bit hasty, but on Thanksgiving day we got engaged.  There will be more time to discuss that later, but rest assured I have finally found happiness.  So, please bear with me if I don’t have as much time for writing at the moment (I also still have 4 children to raise, as well as many work projects to take up my time).

Now, the news many of you came looking for.  The Forbidden! anthology is still being put together.  I am pleased to say that I’ve accepted a few stories for the collection, but the vast majority remain under consideration, and they will until January, when I will make the final cuts and acceptances.  We have a lot of good stories waiting, and to make sure I have room for the best of the best, I might as well wait until the last subs come in this month.  I’m sorry for those of you who have been waiting since July-August.  I expect it’ll be worth the wait.

As we wait for the final submissions and the forthcoming acceptances, here is the final cover art for the anthology, illustrated by the very talented Christine Leonardi:

If I don’t get back to you beforehand, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Keep reading, and check out Martinus Publishing books for great gift ideas!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Worlds of Bruno Lombardi (and Other Stuff)

Wow, the summer just flew right by.  This has been another hectic year for me, and for Martinus Publishing.  Altered Europa has done well, and without giving away too much at this time, I’m in the early planning stages for a new Alternate History anthology (expect to read more about that toward the end of the year).

Yesterday, The Worlds of Bruno Lombardi was released.  You can get your copy here right now!  Of all the writers I’ve encountered during my tenure as an editor, Bruno is by far one of the most imaginative and entertaining.  He’s one of those little known talents that should get more exposure, so I encourage everyone to grab a copy of this short story collection.  It’s only $2.99, and it contains several of his best pieces, including 3 never before published stories!  Really, go check it out right now.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait...

Okay, moving on with the blog, I’m currently in the middle of putting together “Forbidden,” a collection of stories about things that are banned or denied, generally by society or government, but some stories will also focus on forbidden acts that are merely against the rules of certain individuals or dieties.  Yet again, I preface this by saying this is not a collection of “sexual taboos” or anything like that.  It seems that any time you ask for submissions about something that’s “forbidden” the first thing that people think about is sex.  No, I will not publish your rape or incest fantasies.  Yuck!  But those of you who want to write about something that isn’t X-Rated, here is the submission page: MartinusPublishing Submission Guidelines.

I apologize to those of you who have not heard back from me yet about your “forbidden” submission.  I have a pile of stories for this one, and picking the best from them is proving difficult.  Plus, I still haven’t read half of them, because of my busy schedule.  When I’m not working my regular contractor job, I’m taking care of four kids and trying to do a million home improvement projects before winter strikes (and people wonder why I don’t have time to go out on a date).

So, that’s about it for right now.  Submit your stories, read Bruno’s stories, and come back to this blog to keep updated.

Monday, July 3, 2017

News and Nostalgia

Here we are, coming up on America’s Independence Day, and I’m taking a little time to get some Editing work done.  There are two upcoming projects I’d like to mention, for readers and writers alike.

First off, for the first time in over two years, Martinus Publishing is open to submissions for an anthology.  Forbidden!  will be taking subs from now until the end of December, focusing on stories that revolve around something that is “Forbidden.”  I’m hoping to see a good mix of stories for this one, and stories that explore the theme less traditionally.  I’d like to see some stories that focus on fairly innocuous or commonplace things being forbidden or banned in the past or future, and avoid a lot of clich├ęd rehashes of drug or sex stories.   Imagine a world where sugar is illegal, or a time in the past where someone rebelled by wearing purple (when only royalty were allowed to).  Think outside the box a little, and let your fingers do the talking on your keyboard!  For more guidelines, check out the MP submissions page here.

The other project in the works is the third installment in our “Author Spotlight” series, which gives selected solo writers the chance to showcase their best (and some of my favorite) stories.  This time, the honor goes to Bruno Lombardi, and his 8-story collection is currently being formatted.  This series is planned as an ebook special, so get your Kindles fired up for this!  We’ll have a dedicated post for this collection when we get closer to the release date.  Look for this one toward the beginning of August.

So, as I have been settling into my Editor’s life again, I have taken a few brief moments to glance over some of my old projects, and recall the fire that propelled me into this life I’m living.  As I looked back at several of the previously published anthologies that I’ve worked on over the years, I came across what is possibly my fondest and most disappointing release; Quests, Curses, and Vengeance.  This fat collection of stories came out when Martinus Publishing was in its early stages, and I am eternally saddened that it did not spark much interest from the reading community.  It was by far the largest book MP has released to date, and it was by far one of my favorites.  This was the product of a writing shootout, with stories derived from a single contest.  I had the most fun reading and editing these stories, more than I’ve ever had before or since.  I had the pleasure of working with some of the best writers I’ve ever known.

In my bit of nostalgia, I looked over the list of stories and authors, and I realize how much I miss the feeling I had back then.  It was all so new, and refreshing.  So many of those writers I haven’t heard from in years, and some aren’t even with us anymore (RIP Nye).  I wish this book had gotten greater attention, but as is the case with most of the things I like the most, few others appreciate them.

There are times I miss those days, but only certain parts.  The stories and the writers who crafted them were truly a highlight of those years, which are not so far behind.  I hope the future will bring me back to that feeling, and beyond.

Monday, April 17, 2017

In Your Closet and In Your Head

So, I haven’t talked a lot about this project, but it’s high time I let you know.  Last winter, I was approached by my old writing friend Aaron (A.C.) Hall about an anthology he was putting together with Steve Beaulieu and an "all star team" of indie writers.  They were assembling an anthology of “monster” stories, and I was invited to be a part of it.  It was something I couldn’t pass up, as I continue to get back in the writing game after a few years of limited creation.

So, with invitation in hand, I went to work, creating my first serious piece of fiction in years.  I’ve done monster stories before, of course, though I knew I had to try something a little different.  I wanted to make something special for the anthology, other than your run of the mill monster tale, while returning to my sci-fi roots.  A concept popped into my head rather quickly, and I spent a couple of weeks fleshing it out.  The end result was an alien invasion story with a twist called "Monsters In our Midst."

I had a great experience creating this story, and working with Steve Beaulieu on the editing.  He gave me editorial insight that polished the short to perfection.  It was an important step which I needed after years of growing rusty.  You can edit other people’s work all day, but sometimes fail to see the flaws in your own stuff.

This collection of stories is really amazing, and I haven’t even gotten through all of them (blast this hectic life of mine).  You have some fairly well-known contributors in this anthology, and a wide array of topics.  For a monster anthology, it is very diverse.

This collection hasn’t been out long, and it already has six 5-star reviews on Amazon.  For a multi-author anthology, that’s a really good sign.  I am honored and excited to see the praise these stories are getting, including my own.  It’s a good first step back into the writing field for me.  Being an editor has its ups and downs, but nothing beats creating your own fiction and having people enjoy it. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Sam Kepfield

Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" was released on April 2, 2017 (ORDER IT HERE), and as we continue to promote the collection we are still running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Sam Kepfield, who contributed Foundation and Evil Empire.

MTI:  For those of our readers who aren’t familiar with you, how about we start off with you telling them a little bit about yourself.

SAM KEPFIELD:  I’m not good at talking about myself.  I am 53, and a practicing attorney.  I keep my sanity by spinning tales about other times and other worlds. 

MTI:  Your story, Foundation and Evil Empire., appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

SK:  Isaac Asimov, the Grand Master science fiction author, was born in the Soviet Union in 1920.  His family moved to America shortly thereafter.  I’ve wondered what would have happened to Dr. Asimov had he not moved to America.  With his personality and inquisitiveness and inability to suffer fools gladly, it would have been fascinating to see him function and challenge the Soviet system.  I envisioned him still be a writer, but a sci-fi version of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, revealing truths about the system in his work. 

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

SK:  Only one? 

I’ve always wanted to go back to 1916 and make sure Roger Casement got his 900 Mauser rifles to the Irish rebels and make the Easter Rising succeed.  Lately, though, there have been thoughts of sending a robot back in time to deal with a certain real estate developer…..

MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

SK:  I would.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

SK:  I am working on an alternate-history/political thriller/hard sf novel.  The basic premise is that the USSR did not collapse in 1991, and that it is still alive and well in 2017 and in a race with the United States to reach Mars first.

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

SK:  I don’t have anything definite, but I have works in submission and in progress.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

SK:  I don’t watch television.  I’m too busy reading.

MTI:  How about music?

SK:  My musical tastes are stuck in the 1980s.   Hall & Oates, Journey, Genesis, Steve Winwood, ELO, Level 42, Bananarama, Swing Out Sister, Scandal, Thomas Dolby, you name it.

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you’ve enjoyed watching during the past year?

SK:  I haven’t been to a first-run movie (other than a Pixar show with the kids) since 2006, when Peter Jackson’s crummy King Kong remake made me swear off movies.  The news that someone is actually trying to remake 2001:  A Spacey Odyssey has convinced that the terrorists are right, that our culture is decadent and decaying. 

MTI:  Interesting answers.  Thank you for a great interview, Sam.  I hope everyone picks up a copy of Altered Europa, for a taste of your excellent writing!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Altered Europa Initial Success

Taking a brief moment to review Altered Europa's first week on sale, I note that we are doing well.  At the time of this writing, we're at 15,268 on Amazon Kindle (Altered Europa Kindle version here), and #27 in the "Alternate History" category.  Our initial boost came from the pre-orders, but we've seen a steady flow of sales on Kindle each day since the release.  We aren't seeing the numbers we had with Altered America just yet, but things are going well.  We received our first 5-star review this week!  So far, detractors have yet to appear.

Anything could happen at this point.  The anthology could take off and sell huge, or the sales flow could slow.  We are teetering on the balance at the moment.

Keep spreading the word, and let's make Altered Europa the best-selling Martinus Publishing title yet!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Bruno Lombardi

Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017 (ORDER IT HERE)!  In preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Bruno Lombardi, who contributed The Battle of Tim Hortons (co written with Ben Prewitt), and also co-wrote N'oublions Jamais with Tom Anderson. 

MTI:  We've done a few interviews over the years, but believe it or not there are still people who don't know who you are.  Why not tell our new readers a little bit about yourself?

BL:  I work as a civil servant for the Canadian government by day and am a writer by night. While I’ve been writing fictional short stories for seemingly forever and regaling friends and family with my many misadventures that often sounds comically fictional, it’s only been the last five or six years or so that I’ve actually become published. My writing career seems to have taken off quite a bit since then, with one published novel and over a dozen published short stories since then.

MTI:  Now for Altered Europa, you co-authored two stories.  The first one that appears is N'oublions Jamais,. which you wrote with Tom Anderson.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

BL:  Not to give too much away from the plot, as some of the joy of the story is the realization of just how and why everything deviated, the basic idea is a World War One with wildly different and surprising alliances.

MTI:  Tell us a little bit about your other contribution, The Battle of Tim Hortons.  What's the story behind it?

BL:  It’s the late 1980’s, the Soviets have finally decided to take a roll of the dice and start a land invasion of Western Europe and we follow the (mis)adventures of a group of Canadian soldiers in a mechanized infantry unit.

Yes, Ben and I somehow managed to make a comedy out of a WWIII scenario…

MTI:  How much fun is it  to co-write with fellow authors?  How did your collaborations with Ben Prewitt and Tom Anderson come about?

BL:  The backstory of how The Battle of Tim Hortons got written, first off, had a truly hilarious genesis to it. I know Ben from various discussion boards and he knew I was a budding writer. So one day, pretty much out of the blue about 8 years ago or so, he threw me a small snippet of the story.

I laughed my butt off! Ben’s ex-military, so one definitely gets the impression that some of the stuff is, if not based on actual real events and people, is certainly both plausible and familiar to those in the service.  I asked him for more of the story and was annoyed he didn’t have more, so together we fleshed it out into a full length story.

As for Tom, we’ve been collaborating on various projects for years, so when he asked me if I wanted to be co-writer on his story, I jumped at the chance. The fun part of the story was that it was written ‘round-robin’ style, which each of us writing several hundred words, then e-mailing it to the other to do the same and then back again. I think we managed to write the entire story in just under a week.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

BL: I’ve read – and written! – enough stories like this to worry about the ramifications of the butterfly effect but if I had to pick one event, it’s be the events leading up to WW1. There were so many ‘Almost WW1’ events and crises that, nevertheless, had cooler heads prevail in the end that one can argue that 1914 could have been avoided as well.

MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

BL:  Oh tempting! Very tempting! Do I get to come back or is this strictly one way? If I can get back, I’ll only hesitate long enough to pack a lunch. Otherwise, I’ll think I’ll take a pass on it.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

BL:  A few projects here and there that I hope to submit to various anthologies in the next six months. One is dieselpunk version of the Rapunzel fairy tale, a second is the adventures of a New York Subway technician having to deal with a most unusual problem and a third deals with a perennial favorite topic of mine – time travel.

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

BL:  By the time this interview sees print, a short story of mine – ‘Devil in the City of Lights’ – will be published in Occult Defective Quarterly #2.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

BL:  I’ve become absolutely enamored with the show Legends of Tomorrow. It’s an absolutely bonkers show that not only has fully embraced its silly premise but has decided to just drive off into the sunset with it as well.

MTI:  How about music?

BL:  Always have been and always will be a fan of blues and jazz and I’ve been enjoying tracking down all kinds of independent labels showcasing different takes on the genre, including multicultural versions.

MTI:  Can you name 3 good movies you've seen in the past year?

BL:  Rogue One, like for many people, made me feel like a kid again. Alas, I haven’t seen much lately that I enjoyed but hope springs eternal this summer.

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today? 

BL:  This is a snippet from that dieselpunk story I was mentioning earlier:

She runs across cobblestones stained by a century of smoke and sewage and sediment, the moonlight reflected on scum-encrusted puddles of fluids best not looked at carefully.

There is, however, no danger of that happening at the moment, as more pertinent thoughts are foremost on her mind.

The main one being, quite simply, survival.

For the sixth – or perhaps seventh? – time in as many minutes, Valeria looks around the dark streets looking for a sign – any sign – of help or assistance or succor. And for the sixth – or perhaps seventh? – time, she is disappointed.

The streets are empty of human life at this time of night and now the domain of cats, dogs and rodents. The streetlights – those few and far between that are still functional – are haloed by the ever-present haze of smoke and fog that hangs as a shroud over the city.

For a moment – for a brief moment – she snickers. For a City That Never Sleeps, it certainly seems to be napping very hard at the moment.

And then her mind snaps back into the here and now. She takes another long breath and ignores the burning sensation of her overtaxed lungs being forced to go beyond their limits once more. Her leather boots – thankfully chosen for functionality rather than fashion – pound against the ground. She catches a glimpse of her shadow on a brick wall and a small part of her mind notes – with bemused satisfaction incongruous with her present situation – that her flapping overcoat brings forth the image of a giant bat flying through an ancient canyon.

A silhouette appears in the haze a street ahead, an ogre of old carrying a giant crossbow. The haze clears somewhat and the image resolves itself into that of a large man instead. The crossbow weapon resolves into an angry looking large revolver with an equally large rotating machine-gun-like cylinder attached to it.

Even now, Valeria finds her scientific mind analyzing the gun as the man – a gold tooth glinting in the darkness – advances forth.

A Manville Gas Gun? 37 mm, if I’m not mistaken. Twelve rounds. Designed to carry flare, smoke, sleep or tear gas canisters. Rather poor design – kept jamming up on troops during the Battle of Lake Superior last year. 

Valeria twists to her left and down a hidden alleyway, her passage leaving twisting vortexes in the fog in her wake. She had grown up in this part of New York City a lifetime ago and knows these half-formed and unmapped alleys the same way she knew a Coffman engine starter; like the back of her hand.

She has just dodged around a cumbersome pile of crates and was just about to leap over a fence when the man with the Manville Gas Gun appears out of the shadows.

“I grew up in this neighbourhood too,” says the man.

And then he fires the gun.

MTI:  A tempting tidbit!  Thanks for another great interview, Bruno.  Those who wish to read his alternate history stories can pick up Altered Europa.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Deborah Davitt

Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out April 2, 2017 (ORDER IT HERE), and in preparation for this grand release we're running interviews of various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing Deborah Davitt, who contributed Ave, Caesarion.  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

DEBORAH DAVITT:  Hi, there! It’s lovely to speak with you. I was born at an Army hospital in Washington state, but spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Reno, Nevada. That’s where I graduated from college—from UNR—and then I moved to Pennsylvania to get my Master’s degree in English from Penn State. My focus was in Medieval and Renaissance literature.

I’ve taught college-level composition, and have worked as a technical writer in three different industries—defense, space, and computer manufacturing. I have an intense love of literature, history, and science, and I currently live in Houston, Texas with my husband, son, and a rather spazzy Norwegian Elkhound puppy.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

DD:  Honestly, I started writing at such a young age, that it’s sort of hard to recall. But I loved reading, and I wanted very much to be able to write the sorts of stories that I enjoyed reading most. That hasn’t changed much—I love science fiction and fantasy, and I tend to write in those two domains. . . but because I have such an abiding interest in history and science, both of those disciplines always creep into everything that I write.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

DD:  Just one? That’s the hardest question on earth. Quite a lot of my writing and style is what you might call either an extended homage to writers I love, or an extended argument with authors with whom I disagree. Some of those writers are the same people, because I can enjoy what someone’s written, while disagreeing with them philosophically on almost every level.

I’m going to pick Frank Herbert, and bear with me on this. I watched the old David Lynch Dune when I was fourteen or so, and immediately picked up the first novel of the series. I got through it, but the subsequent books, well, fourteen isn’t the best age to read those. Still, the images haunted me, so I went back to the books in college. And once again, I couldn’t comprehend why these books had such a following.

Still haunted in my late twenties and early thirties, I came back to them, and . . . suddenly. . . all the education and perspective I’d gained clicked, and I understood that Herbert, this man taught by Jesuits, always wants you, the audience, to engage with him. To wrestle with him. To figure out the lesson without him explicitly defining it. To be honest, I still am not sure if I’ve understood his lesson in some of the books, and that’s. . . all right. I’ll keep wrestling with him. Because that’s the joy of it.

My own writing style is not much like Herbert’s. It’s shaped by having written online for many years, both in role-playing game and fiction format. I tend to reach out and offer my reader a hand, so that we can stroll through the story together, and as a tour guide, I think it’s my job to point out to the reader when the footing might get a little uneven, or when they might want to consult the guidebook.

MTI:  Your story, Ave, Caesarion, appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Your tale is actually based on a series you've created, called Edda-Earth.  Tell us a little about that series.

DD:  Well, simply put, in Edda-Earth, Rome never fell, magic and science co-exist, all the gods are real . . . and war is coming. That’s the short version, anyway.

The longer version? I’ve always been a little dissatisfied with alternate history that files the serial numbers off historical events and assumes that “well, Andrew Jackson was never president, but everything else went pretty much the same way.” In Edda-Earth, Julius Caesar wasn’t assassinated. The Roman Empire was taken over after his death by his son by Cleopatra, Caesarion the God-Born, not by Augustus. Caesarion, being half-Egyptian and somewhat more aware of reality outside of Rome’s borders, ensured that the people of the Judean province could practice their religion more or less freely and gave their theocracy more power, eliminating the puppet kings who’d governed them, but retaining a Roman governor in the province.

Rome expanded and did not fall; Germanic and Gallic tribes who wouldn’t submit to the rule of Rome were “encouraged” to travel west across the Sea of Atlas (the Atlantic) and colonize ever further and further away, landing in what we’d call North America some five hundred years after Caesar’s ascension.

Dates are thus delineated as “AC, or after the ascent of Caesar. There is no English language, because Germanic tribes never invaded Britannia. The entire “new world” is a patchwork of Roman and native kingdoms. People like the Aztecs (Nahautl) and Maya (Quecha) still retain their own gods, but Rome has put into place one very firm rule for its client states: No human sacrifice.

Needless to say, that rule gets broken.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

DD:  If I changed our reality and, say, Caesar didn’t die, there’s a pretty good chance that I wouldn’t exist, or that if I somehow did, I wouldn’t speak English. But, gun to my head, if I had to pick a major event? I’d prevent the death of Arch-Duke Ferdinand. Because without WWI, arguably, the world wouldn’t be in the shape it’s currently in.

MTI:  Indeed, that is one focal point I myself would consider changing.  Now, for further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

DD:  Do I get to come back, or is this one of those episodes where my get-home-device is broken as soon as I get to the other side? If I don’t get to come home, can I take my husband and son with me?

(Though that raises the specter of taking a seven-year-old on a trek through alternate universes, when even a tiny change to the routine in this one sends him into a tailspin . . . so perhaps these things are best left to the imagination.)

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

DD:  I’ve been writing a slew of short-stories here at the end of the year. Being self-published is wonderful, in a way; I’ve had a lot of very kind reviews, but a track record in the print world goes a long way towards getting people to see you as a credible author. So that’s what I’ve been working on of late, as well as Book IV of Edda. I didn’t really expect there to be a Book IV; the story can be read as complete as is. Because it is complete at the end of Book III. Book IV . . . heh. Well, it takes the concept of alternate history a step further, let’s just say.

MTI:  Other than Ave, Caesarion, appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

DD:  Stories, not as yet. I do have a poem forthcoming with Star*Line in their next one or two issues. The poem actually led me to write a short story that I submitted to the Jim Baen competition, and for which I have hopes. Not high ones. High hopes get dashed on the rocks of reality all too frequently. ;)

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

DD:  I don’t watch that much TV. My husband and I watch about an hour or so a day, pretty much only on Netflix (no commercials, but never up to date), usually before our son goes to bed. I’m usually quite frustrated by the writing in a lot of shows. We’ve been told that we’re too young to sound as much like Statler and Waldorf as we do. I did enjoy Daredevil and the first two seasons of Vikings, and while my husband’s been watching The Walking Dead since it first came to Netflix, I’d avoided it till a few months ago, and then I got caught up on it.

MTI:  How about music?
DD:  Pandora’s introduced me to a lot of artists I would never have heard of before the internet, and my already odd taste has become even more eclectic as a result. Two Steps from Hell, Korpiklaani, Cruachan, Russian Circles, Enter the Haggis, Yoshido Brothers, and some Nightwish and Epica are all additions to my list in the past, eh, four years? Basically, when I write, most of the time I can’t listen to music with lyrics, unless the lyrics are a perfect match for the scene and the characters at hand. Otherwise, the words just get in the way of the words in my head.

MTI:  Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

DD:  I have a seven-year-old son. My sample of recent movies is heavily kid-centric. However, I’d cheerfully put How to Train Your Dragon on my desert-island list. And then I’d toss in the two movies my husband and I generally save for Valentine’s Day—Stardust and Princess Bride, on alternate years. If I could pick a fourth, Apollo 13.

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?

DD:  I love samples, too! This is a chapter header in Book I, The Valkyrie. In it, I tried to imagine what fairy tales would look like in a world in which spirits were quite real, and the pagan origin of such tales did not need to be disguised. I hope everyone enjoys it!


Once upon a time, there were two woodcutters’ children who lived near the Black Forest in southern Germania. Their names were Halvar and Gudrun. Their mother had died when they were young, and when their father married again, it was to the village herbalist. Every day, when their father went into the forest to cut trees for other people’s fires, Halvar and Gudrun followed their step-mother under the shade of the branches that blocked out the sky, and helped her look for mosses, herbs, and mushrooms.

The spirits of the Black Wood were capricious in those days, and a dark mood gripped the forest. The trees whispered of a man with an axe made of steel, who cut too deep, and took too much. The spirits whispered in the dreams of the woodcutter, and showed him blood pouring from the trunks of the trees wherever his axe bit deeply. You have taken our sons and our daughters, root of our root. You will give us yours, in return, or the next time you come to the forest, your axe will turn in your hand, and the earth will drink your blood.

Weeping, the woodcutter knew that he had done wrong, and that he had to make recompense in some way. But he did not wish to give up his son and daughter. He did not speak of the dream to his wife, but rather took Halvar and Gudrun into the forest without their step-mother the next morning, with a piece of bread each. He told them that he loved them, and that the spirits would take care of them. And with that lie, he turned and left them alone in the woods.

But Halvar and Gudrun knew the forest well. Halvar had marked their trail with little cairns of stone, and they skipped out of the forest before nightfall. Their father rejoiced to see them; he thought that the spirits had let them go. But the dream came to him again that night. Give us your children, or your axe will turn in your hands, and the earth will drink your blood.

So the next day, the woodcutter took his children into the forest once more. And this time, he walked so fast that Halvar couldn’t leave cairns of stone behind, or mark the trunks of the trees with his little knife. And again, he said goodbye, and told them that the spirits would look after them. And then he left, weeping.

The children wept, too, because this time they knew it was not a game. As they wandered through the woods, hand in hand, they noticed that birds followed them. Ravens with the eyes of men. But they knew that ravens were the messengers of Odin, and they were not afraid.

After hours of wandering, they found a tiny house, where there never had been one before, in all their wanderings through the woods. A wonderful smell came from the windows of that house, a smell of pies and cakes and all such good things to eat.

Halvar said, “I’m so hungry. Should we knock at the door? Maybe whoever’s inside can tell us how to get home.”

Gudrun shook her head. “No one lives in the forest. Whoever this is, must be an exile.”

“Or a spirit.”

“Or a witch.”

Before they could walk away, the door opened, and an old woman emerged. “Who whispers outside my house?” she demanded. Her eyes were like old gold coins, yellow and a little blind.

The two children remained silent, hiding in the trees. They could feel the forest whispering around them. They watched as the old woman built a pyre of wood in the center of the clearing, near her house. They watched as she wove a little cage made of stout, tough branches. Just the right size for a child. “Come out,” she called towards the woods. “Come out, children. I know that you are there.”

“You’ve made a cage,” Gudrun called back. “What is it for?”

“Why, to hold a little piglet in, when I go to market.”

“You have built a pyre,” Halvar called out. “Who has died?”

“Why, no one, child. I built it to welcome summer next week. Come out, little ones, I have food and drink for you.”

Halvar and Gudrun were tired and hungry, and the food smelled good from inside her house. They came out of the woods, and the woman gave them honey-cakes and cider, and then, quick as could be, she shut Halvar up in her little cage. “See what a fine piglet I have,” she told them, smiling. “When you’re fat enough, I will put you in the cage, on the pyre. I will have my blood, as I did in all the days that went before.” And she put on her tattered cloak, which Gudrun could see now was made of bark and leaves, and the girl knew that this was the Black Forest, the spirit that dwelled at its heart.

For a week, she made Gudrun her slave, and Halvar, she fattened with wheaten cakes. Then she bade Gudrun light the pyre. Weeping, Gudrun did . . . and as the old woman moved the cage to the pyre, their step-mother emerged from the forest at the edge of the clearing. There were good spirits with her—spirits of the deer and the trees—and on her shoulder, a raven perched. The old woman screamed when she saw them, and their step-mother called to Gudrun, “Push her! Push her into the fire!”

Gudrun, who was right behind the old woman, did. The old, withered body fell into the flames, and burned with a smell of wood-sap. Working together, Gudrun and her step-mother released Halvar from the cage, and the brother and sister fell on each other’s necks and wept.

They returned home to their father’s cottage, where he begged them for forgiveness; the raven on their step-mother’s shoulder flew towards him, and plucked out one of his eyes. Their father wept, but he had learned wisdom, and he had his children back in his arms. And once one has suffered punishment, and justice has been done, then forgiveness can be offered.

Willahelm and Jacobus Grahn. Stories for Children: One Hundred Traditional Tales, Ambrones Press, 1888 AC.

MTI:  A fascinating tidbit!  Thank you for a fantastic interview!  Those who want to check out more of Deborah Davitt’s work can pick up Altered Europa!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Sergio Palumbo

Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017 (ORDER HERE), and in preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

Today I'm interviewing Sergio Palumbo, who contributed the anthology.

MTI:  Starting off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

SERGIO PALUMBO:  I was born in Florence, and am an Italian public servant who graduated from Law School working in the public real estate branch. I also like playing boardgames/RPGs games or Wargames, attending Medieval Reenacting shows, building scale models - mainly Sci-Fi or Fantasy - and I really read a lot, both for reasons connected to my job, and also during my free time, in this case especially books, manga and comics.

MTI:  What inspired you to start writing fiction?

SP:  I’ve always been a fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror movies and TV series, or Japanese Anime in general, and the first titles that come to my mind are Star Trek, Gundam, etc. But it was when I started reading works by some great authors, like Van Vogt and Heinlein, that I understood that the Fantastic genre might be rendered at its best not only on TV shows but also on paper in literary terms, and that it was not just battles or space fighting, but it might become much deeper in a way.
MTI:  If you had to name one writer who most influenced your writing, who would it be?

SP:  For the authors of the past, I would certainly say: Van Vogt, Heinlein, E.Howard, and that one named Tolkien of course…eh,eh. For the present –or more modern ones: Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, E- Feist, Ian M. Banks, Harlan Ellison, Frederick Pohl, P.J. McAuley, Walter Jon Williams, Scott Rohan, Stephen King.
MTI:  Your story, The Forbidden Fuel, appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

SP:  As a matter of fact, some huge meta-planes soaring through the skies of the British Empire didn’t ever make their ever-present appearance in 1800s, and this is probably the main feature of the alternate reality depicted in the short-story itself. Though, I didn’t want to make those flying vehicles become the center of it all, as it happens nowadays in too many Steampunk tales, as I liked most to have a look at the world and the town the characters live in, and what they are trying to investigate there. Other than that, the town of Bristol followed a very different course of history from that you can read in the story.

MTI:  If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

SP:  The betrayal leading to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest should never be allowed to really take place…eh, eh.
MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

SP:  Oh, yes, indeed!!! Problem is that, according to our most recent knowledge of the presence of possible wormholes, people are supposed they could get to the middle of one of those from one end, one day, in some fictional way, but they could never get out of it, or reach the other end. Though, you know, our modern science can only explain about 30% of what matter really is, while 70% is still unknown (think of dark matter, dark energy and so on …), so, this conclusion is too highly overrated, and if there are some aliens out there looking at us, they are probably making fun of our science, the same as we would do about the poor science of the old Stone Age…

MTI:  Indeed.  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

SP:  I usually write some entries for Aphelion Webzine Flash Challenge, every month, and about 1 to 2 short-stories every week, though I change from one genre to another, always in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror genre, that lately includes also Paranormal Erotica/Steampunk/Historical Fantasy, Weird Western and Urban Fantasy. And I complete a few some short-stories also in Italian during the year, thought I prefer to write in English, truth be told, thanks to my mother that wanted me to learn English since I was very young at school. I must also thank American authoress Michele DUTCHER that, very kindly, has always edited my first drafts and Americanized them.
MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

SP:  There will be at least 8 U.S. and 6 British Anthologies that are going to have some short-stories of mine published in 2017, as far as I know, though the exact time of completion of such books, and the release date might change, as it frequently happens in the literary field. Then, I’ll be co-editing a British Anthology titled “Steam-powered Dream Engines”, with many authors from abroad, to be done in the next months.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

SP:  Of course. Game of Thrones, Gotham and The Expanse are the first three that come to my mind. The latest, actually, reminds me, in a way, of another great Sci-Fi TV series of the past, the wondrous Babylon 5!

MTI:  How about music?

SP:  I like most of the music genres available, though I prefer British New Wave, Rock music, Classical music and Anime or movies’ soundtracks that I always listen to while freely writing.

MTI:  Can you name some movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

SP:  Well, they are too many to be listed…In case of a shorter enumeration, I would say Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (the whole series), Inception, StarShipTroopers, Babylon 5 (the whole series), Predestination, Twelve Monkeys, Aliens, Edge Of Tomorrow, Oblivion, Kill Bill I and II, Ghost in the Shell, Gundam 0079, Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny (the whole series), Ringu, Blade II and Once Upon a Time in the West that I always watch at least once per year when I want to set my eyes on something really exceptional…

Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?

SP:  Maybe this would be good enough:

“The wind seemed to become colder, and the darkness grew as those men moved onwards to an area even darker, and the street was in worse condition than where they were before. The sound of their feet over the rough pavement turned to an unending beating that appeared to be the only thing capable of reviving such a silent location, as the detective kept tailing the two at a distance. They definitely weren’t policemen investigating that man, Tyshawn was sure about it.”

MTI:  A nice, short excerpt.  Thank you for a great interview.  Those who wish to check out more of Sergio Palumbo’s work can get a copy of Altered Europa!