Posts Tagged ‘guest post’

[AKA: Funk Five.]
File #5 contact: 
Denny Upkins
Read on for full mission brief...

1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

The story was initially a script for a potential collaboration I was doing at the time with my buddy Camille Debose, who is a gifted filmmaker, photographer and a college professor. We had ideas for a short film that would be easy to shoot on a nominal budget with a story that packed a wallop. Life happens and both of us have very busy and demanding careers. So plans for the project were put on hold indefinitely. Nevertheless the story stuck with me, and I felt it was one that needed to be shared. So a few rewrites later, and we got The Bonds That Bind.

Without spoiling the story, I will say that two of the heroes are inspired by real life loved ones and personal superheroes of mine. You can learn about their incredible origin story here.

This story (at least this iteration anyway) definitely wouldn’t have been a reality if it wasn’t for the incredible people in my life.

2. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

You think you know but you have no idea. Each character in the story has an agenda and some of them are fighting internal battles. Once said internal battles are revealed, it becomes clear that the one who appears to be the antagonist, is battling impossible odds.

On rare occasions it is about believing in someone and seeing the good in them even if they struggle to see it in themselves. A lesson taught to me by one of my mentors, author David Dark.

3. What’s your favourite spy movie?

Fast & Furious 6 probably takes the top spot with Skyfall and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, running closely behind.

4. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

I do but none that I’m at liberty to divulge. What I will say that many of the same skill sets needed to be successful in both espionage and investigative journalism/detective work overlap.

5. Best spy hero?

In real life: Harriet Tubman, Josephine Baker and my personal patronus, Alan Turing.

In fiction, there are a number of them: James Bond, Diana Prince, Phil Coulson, Melinda May,

And of course Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne of ABC’s Revenge.

6. And favourite spy villain?

Li-Na, the North Korean sleeper agent and season five Big Bad of Strike Back: Legacy.  Played by Emperor Philippa Georgiou herself. I’m a hardcore fanboy of all things Michelle Yeoh on any day ending in ‘y’ but Evil Michelle Yeoh is the gift I did not know this world needed. But you really couldn’t call her evil because she continuously served as a glitch in the matrix that is western white imperialism and consistently called the powers that be and by extension the viewers out on their hypocrisy and their part in systemic racism and I was here for all of it.

“I’m a hardcore fanboy of all things Michelle Yeoh on any day ending in ‘y’ but Evil Michelle Yeoh is the gift I did not know this world needed.”

Anna Espinosa who was played by perfection herself, the Goddess known as Gina Torres in the ABC series, Alias. Espinosa was a recurring rival to the show’s lead, Sidney Bristow who was played by Jennifer Garner. Espinosa was the Moriarty to Bristow’s Sherlock and those eps always made for great television.

Gravedigger who was one of the antagonists of season 3 of Black Lightning. He was played brilliantly by Wayne Brady. Much like  Strike Back’s Li-Na, a very strong argument could be made that he wasn’t a villain because he was an unapologetic revolutionary fighting for freedom for other Blacks and metas and he reluctantly had to fight in a war to achieve those goals because, well, freedom isn’t free. Especially in a world built on antiblackness.

Nikita series Big Bad, Amanda Collins, who was brought to life masterfully by the incredible Melinda Clarke. She may just be the best version of a live action Emma Frost to date.

The beguiling Raina, portrayed by the talented Ruth Negga by on the Coulson May Power Hour (billed in some regions as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.) I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Werner von Strucker who was also a recurring baddie. My adoration for the latter certainly has nothing to do with my weakness for cute cerebral psychopaths or actor Spencer Treat Clark. Nope not at all. [shakes head convincingly]

7. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?


Idris Elba is a class act and one of the most talented entertainers in the game today. The fact that he isn’t helming multiple franchises is absolutely criminal. He deserves better and nothing less than the best. I’ll leave it at that.

8. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

For the two spies in my story, I believe they have a strong core of morals and ethics and would do their best to do right by all parties involved but their primary allegiance is towards the greater good….whatever that would entail.

9. Any questions you want to ask *me*?

Your story is now part of an anthology that will no doubt be cemented in the ongoing renaissance that is Black Speculative fiction. As an author, as an artist, how does it feel to have that kind of legacy?

VERY interesting question! This is the sort of thing I must first start off noting what an honour it was for me to be one of those chosen for this anthology in the first place. But yeah, further than that, I’m delighted that I got to write this story, which I hope is the start of much more. Not just by me, but by others who had that same thought when sat in front of their computer reading the casting call in the first place and go on to do amazing things. I’m really looking forward to what comes next and as strange as this sounds, it might sink in a bit more as to what has happened now a lot more once that happens. [Russell]

Thanks for stopping by, Denny, and thank you for reading, viewers! And speaking of reading, here’s an excerpt from Denny’s tale, The Bonds That Bind. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for news of the next entry. Be seeing you…

Apologies, readers, for the wait between files. Be assured there are more being gathered by our best agents as we speak.

Our fourth file is brought to you straight out of Spy School. This session’s contact:

John. F. Allen.

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

    The idea for the characters were inspired by James Bond and how he was not a very good spy, lol! He was way too flamboyant, and everyone pretty much knew who he was before he even started to engage in his mission. The best spies are those who can blend into their environment and avoid suspicion, which Bond always failed at. The physical descriptions of the characters are patterned after Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, and David Oyelowo.
  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villain tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

    The two major characters are motivated by ambition and self-gratification. Service to country is the excuse they use to justify their true motivations and fulfil their duties to their superiors.

  2. What’s your favourite spy movie?

    Four-way tie: Argo, Spy Games, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Spy. Argo is based on a true story, which I found to be an almost perfect operation for a group of spies to be involved in. Spy Games deals with very interesting subject matter, characters, and timelines. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is very real-world espionage adaptation of a novel from one of my favorite spy fiction novelists, the late, great John Le Carre’. Spy is a comedic look at the very Spy tropes I expose in my story, which very much inspired my approach in some ways.
  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

    About 20 years ago I worked as a Private Investigator and I learned a lot about subterfuge, thinking on my feet and surveillance. In one instance, I sent a Mexican employee into a restaurant to listen in on a conversation between a subject and their extra-marital partner regarding a plot to murder my client for insurance money. My employee didn’t speak English very well but understood it well enough to write down what they heard, and they also had a hidden recording device which we were able to transcribe later. Thankfully, their plans were thwarted, they were arrested, and my client was able to live their life without fear of being murdered.

  2. So, from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

    Yes, I believe so. Most of the popular spy films we are given are very much action oriented and because of this, they are very over the top and make it almost impossible to suspend disbelief. On the flip side, many of the BEST and true to life spy films lack the over the top action and are much more believable but aren’t very mainstream. These films are much closer to true life spies, in my opinion.
  1. Best spy hero?

    I’d have to list Felix Leiter as portrayed by Jeffrey Wright in the Daniel Craig Bond films. He was the epitome of the soft spoken, cool agent, who kept a low profile and was able to blend into his environment. I had hoped that they would’ve spun the character off into a sister franchise, but alas it never came to be.

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

    As silly as it seems to mention this character, but Gru from Despicable Me fits the bill for me. I think that he has the most growth as a villain I’ve seen and yes, even though it’s a children’s movie, his ability to utilize his strengths and discover NEW ones through his journey are very interesting to me.
  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

    It depends on which of the three primary characters you’re referring to. For Oxford Jameson, he would enjoy any romantic/sexual escapades he encounters while on mission and consider the other party expendable upon conclusion. He also wouldn’t hesitate to assassinate the other party with prejudice if it became necessary. As for Aisha Zewde, her take is almost the same as Jameson’s, but she would likely consider, however briefly, the possibility of preserving the life of the other party, if for no other reason than serving as an exploitable asset. However, she would just as easily assassinate the other party if they in any way endangered her life or the mission. Lastly, Kwento Adebayo would be much more discreet and conscientious where his mission is concerned. He would have planned out his mission with the scenario in mind and put fail safes into place. However, if his life and the mission depended on it, he would take extreme actions as a last resort only.

  2. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I personally feel as though I’d rather have him portray Felix Leiter and leave James Bond white, if we had to go that route. That said, I would much prefer he portray a NEW character whose origins are black to begin with.

  1. Any questions you want to ask me?

    This was fun, would you be open to more interviews with me in the future?

Absolutely! Actually, I’ll definitely want to be doing one of these myself as well, so I should probably consider some questions from elsewhere for that if you’re up for such things? [Russell]

Want to read an excerpt from John’s story, Spy School? Well, you can find it right here. And once you’ve done that, the rest of the collection is available when you want it here too, as a paperback or an e-book. Thanks, John, for a great interview.

Our third special Spyfunk! agent will take us to the 1970s and beyond.

File #3’s contact:

Gavin Matthew

See the full mission briefing below...

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

My story was inspired by my love of 70s Black action films and my fixation with train rides. Part of it is also a nod to how espionage-like the Black Power Movement conflicts had been.

2. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

The two protagonists are motivated by a loyalty to the Black community. One has dedicated her life to the fight for freedom against oppression. While the other is forced into action for survival. The glue that binds them to their heroic goals is the sacrifices others close to them have already paid in pursuit of their mission’s success.

3. What’s your favourite spy movie?

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

4. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

The entire list Civil Rights and Black Power cloak & dagger conflicts. It is interesting and maddening how hard a whole government fought to abuse, control, and profit from an entire people despite there having never been a threat from them. Then the resilience and intelligence of our people to overcome such an enemy is simply invigorating.

5. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

Of course. In reality the idea of good guy is murky in espionage. Weatherman committed terroristic acts but they also stole and leaked evidence that shined a light on countless government sanctioned acts of violence and surveillance. Then, at the same time, fiction breathes life to events that could have happened, allowing us to paint an idea about situations we may never know the truth about.

6. Best spy hero?

Dan Freeman

7. …and favourite spy villain?

Dr. Kananga

8. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

My protagonist weighs the relationship partner’s ethics and then gambles with telling them the truth. They then deal with either a new ally or a new enemy.

9. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I would watch it with hopes that is well written with cultural ideas woven amongst its classical tapestry.

10. Any questions you want to ask me?

Do you have any pointers on how to secure life as a full-time writer and novelist?

[Russell – as I’m not at this point a full-time writer or novelist; in fact more of a full-time student these days, I may not be the absolute best person to ask this one! That said, I’ve seen enough of it to know one or two things. The main one in this case is there’s a difference between full time and what I’m doing that everything else you’re doing is depending on it, income, timetable etc. but the fundamental matter of that is that you need the output to get the input. So you have to be actually writing very often. Sounds obvious, but at that level it’s like an exercise regime, that you have to keep up at least a basic level of fitness to be able to do it. It isn’t how much you’re doing; it’s that you’re frequent, and that makes the rest easier for you.

I’ve another completely converse point there, in that given you’re centring your occupation around that, you’ve got to be prepared to do other things which *aren’t* writing in order to get yourself where you’ll want to be. Some of these are fun. Some will not be. But just be ready for that aspect too.

Are you ready for an excerpt from Gavin’s story, Train, Pain & Naturals? Of course you are.

Gavin Matthew is a writer known for his unique characters and lively dialogue. His projects are rich with culture and tend to have feature strong images of women. He is a screenwriter and a novelist, having a deep love both the creative mediums. With his belief that writing can be another form of freed fighting, he seeks to inspire any and everybody who reads his work. Gavin Matthew is the writer of the short story Train, Pain, & Naturals which is one many tales found in MVmedia’s Spyfunk! Anthology.

Spyfunk! Author Interview subject:

Joe Hilliard.

Known Aliases:

El Originario Extraño del Kalypso Kid

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

 When we moved from rural Michigan to Los Angeles in the early-80s, one of the big connection points to the other kids was lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), comic books, and tokusatsu. That was my youth. Lucha libre became a real cornerstone when I started writing, the masks, the milieu, that feeling of anything is possible. Watching the 60s and 70s films where Santo or Blue Demon could go from spy to vampire killer to Nazi Hunter to time traveller to solving the Bermuda Triangle, with a, “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!” and out the door. When Milton Davis pushed out the original Spyfunk call in 2017, I wrote “Dory Dixon” in a notebook, and printed out some research on the 1954 Caribbean Games. That initial draft played on a defection and hidden staircases and double crosses. Real Cold War tropes. While that draft “An Incident at the Embassy” never came to fruition, the true life story of Dory Dixon (noted in the coda to my piece) kept haunting me. It wasn’t until post-COVID when I started going to live lucha libre again here in SoCal and saw local guys like Mike Cheq that I realized I was looking, even in a Cold War setting, to capture that hype of live lucha, and the theatrics of those films. Milton reopened the call for stories, and Dante Davis leaped out as a reluctant hero caught up in intrigue, and finding his place in the world. He’s a bit of Dory Dixon, a bit Blue Demon, working on his Napoleon Solo.

Dory Dixon
  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

Like a lot of us, Dante Davis is driven by a few different engines – loyalty, doing what is right, and yes, a desire for excitement, for an adrenalin rush. We all know having those engines driving in all directions, especially when we are young. As the titles says, this is his origin. He is coming to terms with who he is, what those drives mean. How he can live with them? How can he change to fuel those engines? Should he change?

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

Just one? Ah! While far from traditional, Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST (1970) is as intriguing a betrayal of loyalty as you will see. More traditionally, Fritz Lang’s MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944), Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949), and Peter Glenville’s THE COMEDIANS (1967), all based on Graham Greene novels really kill it, and I will watch them over and over again. Or, it’s simply JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, fight me on the brilliance of Rowan Atkinson in that!

  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

I’m a sucker for the oddness of  Wild Bill Donovan’s OSS, the World War II precursor to the CIA. There’s something about the wide net of recruitment, this throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. Moe Berg the baseball player. Julia Child. Who is hiring these people? How is this real? I think of the opening sequence to the film THE RIGHT STUFF where they talk about hiring circus performers and barnstormers to be astronauts and you have this same feel. It’s what backgrounds the end of my story, where you have a wrestling promoter running your spy ring. It’s real, it’s not believable. It’s “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!,” which is pretty amazing in real life.

  1. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

I think the tension is, no matter how crazy you think your storyline is, there is someone attempting something that much crazier in real life, which should give anyone pause. Look at all the Fidel Castro assassination plots that the CIA cooked up in the 60s. It’s been going on forever. Never underestimate the human capacity to concoct means of violence and subterfuge on his fellow man…

  1. Best spy hero?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mickey Spillane’s Tiger Mann. They are some of the first spy novels I remember reading as a teen, even before Ian Fleming. My love for Fawcett Gold Medal 60s spies knows no bounds though. The “Assignment” novels by Edward S. Aarons starring Sam Durrell – 125 pages, no waiting. So, so good!

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless from the “Wild Wild West” tv show. So diabolical, and so fascinating!

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

Dante Davis is not the James Bond/Napoleon Solo lothario. He would undoubtedly look to an alternative. We see that he lives in a crazed Cold War place, but the underpinning for him was much more of the straight-forward character. The impetus for this was the Santo/Blue Demon films of the 60s/70s where the hero is “noble” in the traditional sense. Even when spying. And the tokusatsu heroes like Kamen Rider or Ultraman. Not that they are childish, or naïve, but that’s not the main impetus here. Perhaps a little more pulpy than saucy. That’s our Dante. But some of the other rogues that show up in this piece? They would have no such compunctions.

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I was a little crushed Elba didn’t get the Doctor Who gig actually. I love me some science fiction Elba more than anything. Bond still is an intriguing thought. His Luther was (still is), so compelling, I think it would be tempting to compare any Bond appearance by Elba negatively in that light. Much like how Roger Moore’s work as Simon Templar influences my view of his James Bond performance. Or Remington Steele invades Pierce Brosnan’s Bond for me.

  1. Any questions you want to ask *me*?

Who’s your go-to wrestler, when the chips are down? And, when can I come visit you in London???

(Well, there are many fine choices. But if we’re talking in their prime, I tend to look no further than the Deadman. To this day I don’t remember a debut impacting me quite like that one. These days I’m loving Blackpool Combat Club. The latter would depend upon when I’m actually *in London these days, which is not always easy to know! See the introductory post 🙂 – Russell)

Joe Hilliard. Writer. Luddite. Teller of Tales. Michigander by birth, in the wilds just outside the World’s Largest Walled Prison. Misspent teenage years in Los Angeles on a diet of Blue Demon, Chester Himes, Philip K. Dick, the Circle Jerks, Judge Dredd, and This Island Earth, on the fringe of 80s Hollywood. Graduate of the University of Michigan, which only added Kawabata, Tsui Hark, Krazy Kat, and William S. Burroughs to the mix. Marks time as a paralegal in sunny California.

Besides, SPYFUNK!, his short stories can be found in DIESELFUNK! from MVmedia, THE LEGENDS OF NEW PULP from Airship 27, HARD-BOILED SPORTS, SHUDDER PULP, JAMES R. TUCK’S HEROES OF HOLLOW EARTH, and ORIGINS AND ENDINGS VOLUME 1 from Pro Se Productions; AUTUMN PAINTED RED from Asylum Ink; MEAT FOR TEA: THE VALLEY REVIEW; and BLUE COLLAR REVIEW. His non-fiction comic book work can be found in APB: ARTISTS AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY from Rosarium Press and COLONIAL COMICS VOLUME II: NEW ENGLAND 1750-1776 from Fulcrum Publishing.

I don’t have an online thumbprint these days. Just LinkedIn for the day job. Find me there!

In conjunction with the imminent release of Spyfunk! I’ve managed to get hold of some of the authors in order to ask a few questions and find out more about the authors. Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find out more about Napoleon Wells. See below for answers, and in addition, you can read an excerpt from his story entry...

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character? 

My story exists in a larger world of Black Speculative Fiction, and I like to think of some of my imagery as Blackanime/Africanime where the world, concepts, conflicts and characters are all Black and fully realized. The world around those characters is always dangerous and my main character, Bul, has constant purpose and complicated motivation. He came from my need to see characters like him in stories, but finding few.

  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

 My hero is probably closer to an antihero and sometime mercenary. Still, he will do his job and try and save the world he knows. My villain’s motives are murky past, gaining enough power to tear this world apart.

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

I’d have trouble picking between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tenet, From Russia with Love and Our Man Flint.

  1. Best spy hero?

Considering his relative clarity and absurd luck, I’d say Ethan Hunt.

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

I prefer rich, layered villains, with a bit of style, so Bond’s Silva edges out Blofeld.

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

 Bul would do just about anything to see the mission completed, as long as the mission runs close to his own ends. Relationships, like weapons, his nanos and his power, would have to be a means to an end. They are a distraction he can’t afford while working, otherwise. Outside of work…

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

My thinking is that we need our own iconic Black characters in all areas of storytelling, so we don’t have to marvel at the novelty of a “Black Bond.” There are many richer Black/African world’s and stories to pull titans from, and we should start there. A film or series following the trouble of my character Bul would be dope, given the world around him, the stakes, it’s centering on Black characters and the peril.

Here’s an excerpt of his Spyfunk story, A Bullet From A God’s Gun.

Napoleon Wells is a Clinical Psychologist, Professor and author of Black Speculative Fiction. He focuses on stories that center Black lives, mythologies and experiences. His works tend to incorporate the Psychology of Black/African experience across the diaspora as a means of building rich, fully realized frameworks for stories centered on Black heroes, villains and worlds. He believes that the erasure and exclusion of Black existence from many genres can be directly and necessarily defeated by the stories being brilliantly told by Black Griots and artists. He builds stories based on the magnificent reality of Black futurism which he already sees in daily life. If he isn’t busy writing something strange and beautiful, he is likely treating patients, writing a social justice column or watching a rap battle. You can find and follow him on social media at:

Hey everyone!

This is a good time to dust off this here page and apologise for not being around in a while. Things have been very busy, and in a really good way, though this has of course affected other things. I’ve not had any novels out that I haven’t told you about or anything; the last tale I had out was in The Elementals, where I had a fun time telling the tale of a young East London witch just trying to hang out with her cousin and being thwarted at every turn. If you happen to still be after a copy of this doorstep of an anthology, do get in touch – might be able to help you out there!

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy retraining somewhat as a historian as well as a writer. There have been reasons, and I’ll probably report more on that when I get the chance, though mostly spending time elsewhere on that front. If you want to know more about what I’ve been doing with that sort of thing, I can point you at some volunteering work with the RAF Museum in London which I have been up to in the last year. I should also probably tell you that I’ve additionally been busy taking a History M.A. at the University of Leicester but when I’ve finished that – this is happening:

Back on the writing; I’ve had a fantastic return to Milford, this time for a retreat on which I got back to one of my favourite places which recharges me like little else. It’s taking time, but I’m working through an Arthurian tale I would really like to tell, though I’m hopeful it will be worth the wait to release it to you all.

However, I’ve been enjoying working on some shorter stuff in the meantime which I’ll keep ensuring sees the light of day. In fact one of the things here is to let you know there’s another story coming very soon, if you didn’t know already. This time, it’s a step into the murky world of espionage as the legendary Milton Davis has compiled a collection of fine spy stories from past, present and future eras centring characters of African/African Diaspora descent, including my own, Rundown in Jamdown. We’ll come to that in one of the future posts but for now, I’m starting with this here intro to what sort of thing to expect and a link to the excerpts up so far. Also, where you can order, because obviously we’d all love you to read the rest! All that remains is to begin introducing you to some of our authors, which will of course begin imminently!

Stay tuned; however be reassured that these messages will not self-destruct.

Welcome to a special guest post from another member of my Xchyler Publishing stable, Joanne Kershaw! The Vanguard Legacy draws to a close with Fated, so if you haven’t already picked up Foretold and Reflected, what are you waiting for?

Fated title

The rest of the tour schedule is here, so you can follow the full event as follows:

And now, over to the Q&A! Take it away, Joanne…
  1. If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?

First, that all the dreams my children have come true. I just want them to be happy and healthy (and that the teenage years aren’t too awful!). Second, that more and more people fall in love with this series! I love to interact with fans and am so eager to hear what they have to say about Fated! And third—this is tough—I guess that I just want to write new things, different things, and still be able to teach, because I love my ‘proper job’!

  1. Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

I guess, I would love a small hut at the end of my garden. All I really need is a wireless connection and my music, so I don’t need much beyond that! Windows—so I can see the children while I work!

  1. Where do you actually write?

Either on the sofa, wrapped in a quilt my mum made for my when I was sixteen, or at my desk in the playroom (which is actually our conservatory, so is either roasting or freezing with no real in between!). Our cat is usually curled up next to me and it’s always late – so dark.

  1. How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

Five to seven weeks is the usual timescale. It’s the only time I have in between school terms. This is the first draft, of course. Depending on the availability of my editing team, it can take another eight to ten weeks to edit, but that is far less intensive. (Well, now I don’t make all of the awful mistakes I made before my awesome editor, McKenna Gardner, got her hands on me!)

  1. What are your inspirations?

I read a lot of YA literature, which made me realise more and more that I wanted to write my own—that I could write my own! I write for my children as well. I wanted to show them that anything is achievable if you work hard enough. If I can inspire them to go after their dreams, then I have done something  right in terms of parenting!

  1. How did you come to write this particular book or series?

The series started many years ago, when an unexpectedly free summer holiday gave me time to just put fingers to keyboard and hammer something out. The series came about because my publisher, Xchyler, took a chance on me. They saw the diamond of my story in the rough of my first novel and were the best support I could have asked for. Honestly, Fated exists because of the incredible editing team at The X.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book, and how did you overcome it?

I knew what had to happen in this novel. The hardest part was knowing that the right ending, the ending that had to happen, was going to upset people. As part of the process, I wrote an alternative ending, but it was such a disappointment to read. I hope that my readers can see why it has to end the way it does, and the come and interact with me to discuss it. (Bet you’re all intrigued now, aren’t you?)

  1. What is your writing drive? The power that keeps you going when your writing gets difficult?

I think that because my time is so limited, that is my drive. I don’t have the time to get stuck or lose focus—I just have to get on with it! It does help that there’s been a long gap between books, so there has been time to write the story in my head before I sit down to type it. It makes the whole process much quicker.

  1. How did you come up with the title?

When I signed on with Xchyler Publishing, part of that was an agreement for the full series. When we were getting ready to release Foretold, we brainstormed titles in series. With all three of books already penciled out, the titles had to link them together. Honestly, I think my editor in chief came up with the titles!

  1. Name one entity that you feel supported your writing, outside of family members?

My friend, Karen Banks. She might as well be family, but isn’t! She supported the books from the very beginning, encouraged me to submit to publishers and agents, and has generally been my cheerleader! I don’t think that the series would exist without her. I wrote the second novel (in its original form) for her as a Christmas present. She spent the whole of her Christmas Day that year sat on her sofa with the book and an editing pen! Her husband didn’t complain once.

  1. What is your favorite late night snack while writing?

Sweets, biscuits, chocolate, crisps. Pretty much anything! I’m not a very healthy snacker.

  1. What was the most surprising part of writing this book?

I don’t think anything was surprising. The novel had been planned out for over three years, and I’d been writing it in my head for two of those years, so writing the novel was actually the easy part!



It’s been another long, hard scrap, but the world can now get its hands on the second installment of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles! Primal Storm is now on sale, in paperback and e-book formats as linked below.

Even if you haven’t read Oblivion Storm, you should be able to hop on to the new story. It’s a different journey, for sure, but expect some familiar faces and a bunch of new ones. If you want to know a little more about the background behind it, I wrote a guest post for my publisher’s blog page just a few days ago.

I’ll be back with a lengthier post some time when I’m fully recovered from all the last minute work, but for now, I’m just sitting around, excited to see how you all get on. Until then, take care, and stay tuned! This is going to be a busy year. 

See some reviews of Oblivion Storm for yourself!

Primal Storm on sale now!

Come find me on Goodreads if you haven’t already 🙂


I was all set to just come back from my talk up in Durham and maybe tell you how well that went. Very, by the way. I had a pretty strong turnout and despite some early technical issues hopefully sent folk away with a couple of things to ponder. And memories of some images I had fun looking up.

Then I got home, unable to escape the fact that my feeds were being jammed with one piece of news: ‘Matt Smith announces he is quitting Dr Who’. So then I had a plan to jump on the big piece of news within the sci-fi community. I even got about halfway through writing a post, but hit a point where I thought everyone had said all the useful stuff already. So I’m going to give you a link to this D.A. Lascelles post instead, as he’s pretty much got me covered. Though I’d now add Zawe Ashton to that shortlist having read around and got to the Guardian’s post. Also, one thing *I’d* like to see is the show managing to keep the identity of the next Doctor hush-hush until the episode actually airs, for a proper ‘OMG’ moment. Now I realise this is damn-near impossible in this day and age, but you know – it’s kinda nice to have something genuinely surprising happen on screen these days.

Anyway, enough of that. Another reason this isn’t a full-blown post on that, or the recent Game of Thrones episode for that matter, is that something important came up on my side again. I have another interview through – this time, from my old university and one of the places this whole crazy idea to start writing began. You may find the link to the post here.


I really like the background painting for this picture. Works very well, I think! We actually spoke for a pretty long time, so I’m really impressed Jason managed to compress so much of what we ended up discussing into this space. Anyway, I’ll be taking questions on almost all of the above by way of comment of course. Except on the GoT thing 🙂

Today, I have another guest post on my blog, as promised some days ago. The topic is wonderful when it comes to crossover between the theme I tend to have when I get guests here: locations, and also the fact that this particular location happens to be my base of operations at the moment.

Readers: I would like to proudly introduce Vicky Hartley, and the Sticky Sounds zine. There is also of course a Sticky Sounds blog, as regular readers may know.

I will be back soon with details of my upcoming activities, but for now, take it away, Vicky!


“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


I was not born a native of Manchester, my family are from Liverpool and I was born in Plymouth on the South West coast of Devon. I moved to Manchester about thirteen years ago, at the age of 21, following my then boyfriend to the city. He later left but I stayed.

It may not be the city of my birth but is now my hometown, a fact that will remain true in the future, wherever I may come to live.


I feel a connection with Manchester, with its history, its canals, its backstreets, its beautiful red bricks, even with its rain. My favourite location is not simply the city itself, but the side of it that lies secret and is hidden to most residents, the side of the city that can be found in its underground tunnels, in its abandoned buildings, in its old mills and waterways. I spend much of my time seeking out and photographing these places in the hope that I might communicate this passion with others.

The history of this beautiful city lies all around us, like the rings of a tree, all you have to do is look for it.


“Very soon these same deserted sidewalks would be thronged with people. The city would go about its business in ignorance: never knowing what it was built upon, or what it owed its life to.” – Clive Barker, Midnight Meat Train

At the heart of every city is a monster that feeds on blood, and of no city is this more true than Manchester. Once known as “Cottonopolis” and the Warehouse City, Manchester led the world in industrialisation.


“What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.”

The Industrial Revolution brought great wealth to the city, but hand in hand with this came unparalleled poverty and squalor for a large part of the population. These people were nothing more than cattle for the greater good. A new underclass destined to live in a new kind of hell. The fires of this hell burned and smouldered in the red bricks as smoke billowed constantly from the dark satanic mills. The unbroken, monotonous rumbling of the looms filled the air and mingled with the heat of the steam. The city was a giant machine and its inhabitants reduced to units of labour, small expendable parts of the whole. Not so much a city as an assault on the senses. Overcrowding was chronic with whole families living in single rooms, and little or no sewage works for most of the nineteenth century. The only refuge that most of the poor would ever know from the hardships of their everyday life was found in alcohol. Their anger often expressed itself through violent crime, from domestic violence between husband and with to the youth gangs, or ‘scuttlers’ who ran amok on Manchester’s streets. When you look at these past extremes of the city it raises the question ‘what does it mean to have a life?’ These people remain in Manchester today, in its red bricks and the canals that run like veins through the city. As do all inhabitants who come afterwards, we are all Manchester, all serving the beast.


It’s called ‘urban exploring,’ when we go crawling or climbing into these old abandoned spaces, forgotten by people but not by nature. Old buildings that lie frozen at a point in time, and walking in these corridors it can feel as though the same thing has happened to you. Removed from the rest of the world and the reality of your life outside those damp and decaying walls, silence there becomes something that you can feel.


As we pass through rooms filled with remnants of the buildings former life it is as though we walk a path between the living and the dead. An abandoned building stands as an unintended mausoleum to a past world, until the present returns once more to sweep it all away.

“I find beauty in decay. I like to see nature conquering what man has left. I believe that old buildings have a soul, and when I photograph these places I try to capture a piece of that soul.”



Volume 5 of Sticky Sounds Zine is back from the printers and ready to post out. It includes an interview with R.A. Smith and a feature on urban legends, amongst other things. Should you like to request a copy then please get in touch: