Interview with Author Jeff Provine

By now, you’ve heard the name Jeff Provine a few times if you hang around here. I reviewed his book, Hellfire, a while back and he recently reviewed The Other Side of Hope as well. Today, I’ve got two more reasons to mention his name. First, I got the chance to interview him and ask some questions about Hellfirehis other works, and what he’s got coming in the future. But that’s not even the best part. What I’m really excited about is that he’s agreed to give a signed copy of his steampunk adventure Dawn on the Infinity to one of you. More details after the interview!

RF: There are lot of changes to the timeline, all stemming from the Newton’s Catalyst, in Hellfire. Can you tell us where the idea started for you? What was the original spark that got the whole thing rolling?

Jeff: Heh, “spark,” I like that! Steampunk has always been a huge source of interest for me, mixing the past with enormous new tech. The problem that keeps steampunk from being a reality, though, is that steam engines are so indirect with their energy consumption, something like 5% efficiency. That’s a lot of fuel to carry! So, I asked myself, “What if there were some kind of gateway that could just port in the heat?” It was a fun idea, and then it came with a great twist. What would have more ambient heat than the Lake of Fire?

RF: One of the best things about Hellfire is that you don’t spend countless pages telling us the whole alternate history of your world. But there is this one tantalizing tidbit where you mention Napoleon invading Britain with airships. Any chance we’ll get to see that time period explored in a future book?

Jeff: A prequel would be a lot of fun! There are a few bits dropped here and there about the influence of Newton’s Catalyst on the timeline, but they weren’t pertinent to the plot, just thought-experiments about what might have changed. One of my other favorites was the use of tanks in the Mexican-American War. Both of these could easily merit a short story at least. Perhaps there’ll be a Catalystverse out there someday.

RF: Tell us a little bit about Dawn on the Infinity. Why should we read it?

Jeff: Dawn on the Infinity is an adventure across the multiverse. Dawn’s your average fourteen-year-old: braces, contacts, and enough of a spitfire to headbutt a troll right in the solar plexus. She’s kidnapped by a space-pirate crew of doppelgangers, robots, vampires and more as part of a plot to steal a power generator from another timeline, but soon she learns that nothing is as it seems.

RF: Seems like you write in a few different genres. Is there one that you consider “your” genre or a favorite? If so, why?

Jeff: I’m all about asking, “What if?” That sums up why I tackle so many genres, from alternate history to fantasy, since they are all taking a world and seeing what we can do to twist it. My absolute favorite genre is Magical Realism, but it is a very narrow field and super-hard to write for. Always worth it, though!

RF: Where should we go to learn more about you and stay connected to your work?

Jeff: Check my website out at www.jeffprovine.com and on social media @JeffProvine and www.facebook.com/AuthorJeffProvine

RF: What are you working on now?

Jeff: I’m tackling some new alternate history and a middle grade horror project (Remember those Goosebumps books? Ask yourself, “What if it all happened to the same kid?”). As a side-project, I’m following up on my love of board games with a whole series of twists on existing games I’m calling, “New Rules for Games You Already Have.” 2017 should be a busy year!

Thanks, Jeff for answering my questions and for providing a copy of Dawn on the Infinity!

For those of you just itching for your chance to win that signed book, just click here!

New Review for The Other Side of Hope

Jeff Provine, author of Hellfire (click here to read my review) recently reviewed The Other Side of Hope and published his thoughts on BlogCritic.com. He wrote a fantastic review and I was pumped up to see how he really got the themes of the story.

Click here to read Jeff’s review.

Isn’t that great? I love it because it’s thoughtful and engaged with the content, not just a simple, “Oh yeah, I loved it.” I think it also does a great job of sharing enough details to get people interested without giving anything away. Probably even better than the blurbs and back cover copy I’ve written myself!

What do you think of Jeff’s review?

Win a Free Copy of Kingsley!

I’ve told you about Carolyn O’Neal and her dystopian eco-thriller, Kingsley, plenty of times. So I won’t waste space here going on about it. If this is the first you’ve heard of the book, here are few links where you can learn more:oneal-carolyn-kinglsey-200x300

My review of Kingsley

Podcast review of Kingsley on The Wrambling Writers

My interview with Carolyn O’Neal

If you’ve read/listened to any or all of that content, I’m confident you’ll be interested in what comes next.

I’m giving away a free, signed copy of Kingsley. Enter below for your chance to win and don’t forget to share the giveaway on Facebook and Twitter! You get three bonus entries for every friend who signs up using your link!

Interview with Author Patrick Marsh

This week I had the chance to talk to Patrick Marsh, author of The Greenland Diaries and Beware the Ills. Patrick writes dark fantasy and horror with a particular emphasis on monsters. So having him here is a pleasing contrast to Monday’s review of Tales of Mist and Magic since that one ran to the light end of fantasy. I’ve been following Patrick’s blog, What the Basement Said, for a while now and decided it was about time to ask him a few questions. Enjoy!


RF: I’ve noticed you write in journal form a lot. What is it about that approach to writing that attracts you?

Patrick: The journal format is appealing to me for a variety of reasons. First off, after reading so many chapter books in the standard first or third person format, I just wanted something different. I wanted to be part of the story, and when you’re trying to defuse the plot and figure out the characters like you would in a journal entry, you become emotionally and intellectually invested in a story. The journal is a very palatable author-photo-with-millieversion of making your audience work for information in your story. Instead of describing everything through an omniscient point-of-view, I’m limiting the details my readers receive, an I make their imagination fill-in-the-blanks. Sometimes when you make the audience work, they feel a closer kinship to the story.

RF: I loved reading your DOL stories when they were on your website and plan on picking up the book version when it comes out. Can you tell us what inspired the creation of the DOL monster?

Patrick: Thank you! DOL 39 is one of my favorite stories, and it really is fun to create. I’m in love with the monster. I wanted to create something truly terrifying and mystical. My basis for the DOL was to create something grounded in science, but also something completely unknown. The basis for the monster was something of a vampire, but more celestial and visceral. I basically took the idea of what if you had to live next to an evil god who was more powerful than you could ever imagine? How would you contain it? We throw so many shackles on god in the effort to control our idea of it. This is the same with the DOL. The DOL is a living nightmare. It is both alive and a legend at the same time. This is how a monster should operate. In a mixture of concrete feelings and complete suspense.

RF: Out of all the monsters you’ve created, do you have a favorite?

unblemished-coverPatrick: My favorite monster I’ve ever created thus far are my abominations from my book series The Greenland Diaries. The monsters in this series are unbelievably great. They are both mysterious and concrete. At times, they’re nothing more than shadows in the streetlights. Other times they are towering hooded shapes with claws dangling from empty spaces. Sometimes they’re clouds of spores with blades between their shapes. They throw thorns, move mirrors, and spray paint a language along the deserted highways no one understands. They only exist to kill humans. They never waver from their purpose. They’re like an elemental force, murder to them is air for us to breathe. They’re unknown and unrelenting. They are called the Unnamed.

RF: What’s your next big release or project?

Patrick: DOL 39 will be released on Halloween on the Kindle. This will include the first 25 chapters of the story. I will publish a sequel later this year. Depending on how the Kindle version does, I might publish a paperback version of the story as well. This will be an ongoing series. I’m very excited to get this story into a book format. I’m curious to see how the audience will enjoy the story. The format is unique, and the monster is to die for.

RF: What’s the best way for a reader to stay connected with you and your work?

The best way to stay connected to my work is to follow my blog What the Basement Said through WordPress, email, and Facebook. I publish three or five times a week on my blog. These are often new stories, nonfiction essays, and updates on my current publications and appearances. I love to blog, so you’ll always be in the loop.


There you go! Make sure to check out Patrick’s current releases The Greenland Diaries and Beware the Ills and keep an eye out for the release of DOL 39 later this month! I’ll be reviewing The Greenland Diaries soon as well and I can’t wait!

Click here to visit Patrick’s blog, What the Basement Said.

Interview with Author Carolyn O’Neal

I recently read Kingsley, the dystopian eco-thriller from fellow Virginia author Carolyn O’Neal and shared my thoughts both here on my website and over on The Wrambling Writers podcast.

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I loved the book so much that I wanted to talk with Carolyn a bit more. So I asked her a few questions about Kingsley, where it came from and what might be coming from her next. Also, keep your ears tuned to The Wrambling Writers where we’ll have Carolyn as a guest in the not-too-distant future!

RF: Where did the idea for Kingsley begin?

Carolyn: About 8 years ago, my son and a friend were playing video games in the den.  They were middle-schoolers and adorable.  (I might be the only mom in the world whose heart melts when she sees her son playing video games!)  As they were playing, I was reading a report about how certain chemicals in petroleum based pesticides and herbicides mimic estrogen and have a detrimental effect on male fish and reptiles.  Almost immediately the conversation between Bapsi and Charlotte in Chapter 16 popped into my head, when Bapsi compared men to tigers: beautiful and dangerous and mourned deeply when they were gone.

RF: Do you have a favorite character from the book?

Carolyn: I think I did a good job of creating very different characters, each with their own personality.   My readers say their favorites are Joyce and Charlotte.   I’m happy with that.

RF: What do you do besides writing?

dscf0176Carolyn: I volunteer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program.   It’s important to me that I not just fret about the environment; I want to make a difference.   These two non-profits have improved the water quality of Virginia waterways.  I’m proud to be a part of this positive change.

RF: Can you tell us about what’s coming next from you?

Carolyn: I am writing another eco-thriller that continues the story in KINGSLEY and I’m working with an illustrator on a children’s picture book entitled TERRY AND THE MONSTER BEATERS that’s geared to preschoolers and early readers facing a frightening visit to the hospital.

In my next eco-thriller, I want to touch on the global effects of climate change. As with all momentous changes, there will be winners and losers.  Probably the best comparison is 1492 when North America was introduced to the rest of the world.  On the human scale, this accelerated the rise of the Spanish Empire and the fall of the Mayans, but the environmental impact s were arguably more devastating. The introduction of European and African plants and animals to the Americas drove hundreds, perhaps thousands, of native species to extinction.  Our beloved honeybee, which graces the cover of KINGSLEY, is a European import. It was considered a harbinger of evil to many early native cultures because it meant European settlers weren’t far behind.

A Quick Excerpt

I told you a few weeks ago about “The Waters Above,” a new short story I’ve been working on that blends sci-fi and theology. Now I’m almost finished with the first draft and I want to share a brief snippet of the story with you. In the next few days, I’ll be making the first draft available to my creative team for feedback, so if you’d like to get on board, head over to Patreon and join!


Anomaly detected.

The thin electronic voice of the Star Duster’s on-board computer cut through his stupor and dragged him back into consciousness.

Anomaly detected.

The voice was calm, almost soothing, and Waqaz’s body begged him to ignore it and go back to sleep for just a few more…

He came fully awake as he remembered where he was. And how long he had been “sleeping.” Of course, there was no way to know how long that had been. Sleeping wasn’t really the right word for it. What the body went through in carbon hibernation was nothing at all like sleep. If Waqaz had ever doubted that before, he certainly wouldn’t again. There was no REM in hibernation, no real rest at all. Only suspension. In fact, he was still plagued by the same headache that had been with him when he went down.

Waqaz spent a brief moment wondering how long ago that had been. The question was a useless one. When time was measured by the earth’s sun, it had little relevance beyond the solar system. And they were far, far beyond the confines of the solar system. It was impossible to say how long he’d been under in terms that meant anything at all.

Still, his eyes were drawn toward the place he knew the clock was positioned.

Except that he couldn’t see the clock.

Or anything else.

Before his rational mind could catch up and assure him that hibernation blindness was a perfectly normal reaction to spending so much time in suspension, the panic set it.

He had designed the pod he was in. He knew that once the outer barrier had retracted, there was a raised edge of about four centimeters to step over. He knew that the cylindrical hibernation pod rested at an angle of about ten degrees back from vertical.

He knew all of these things, but, in his desperation, it didn’t matter.

Waqaz surged forward, tripped over the edge of the hibernation pod, and went sprawling onto the cold floor of the Star Duster. The impact jolted him back to his senses and he closed his eyes — unnecessarily — to take long, deep breaths.

“It’s normal, it won’t last long.” He spoke the words out loud in an effort to reassure himself but the sound of his voice was so hollow and dry that the last word almost didn’t make it past his lips.

Anamoly detected.

The ship’s mechanical voice intoned its warning again and Waqaz pushed himself to his feet. Traveling in hibernation meant they didn’t need much room, so the Space Duster was small. Even though he’d only been in the cabin for a few days before going under, Waqaz remembered the layout well enough.

The pods were in the back, about five meters behind two chairs that were situated in front of a bank of controls he knew little about. Beyond the control panel, a broad, flat view screen would be pointed out into empty space. If had been able to see, he would’ve had an unobstructed view of countless stars.

The thought led to another spike of panic and he stumbled forward. His knee slammed against the hard base of the chair and he smacked my face on the firm, upholstered back rest as he doubled over from the pain. The combination of blows sent him reeling backwards and onto the floor again.

“Waqaz?” Another voice, this one thin and nasal, but definitely human. “Waqaz, are you alright?”

Waqaz got his feet under him and stood on shaky legs, ignoring the throbbing pain in his knee. A moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Waqaz, what’s the—” Faadi’s sentence ended a gasp, probably as he saw Waqaz’s blind, vacant stare.

His hand moved from Waqaz’s shoulder to his elbow and he guided him into one of the seats.

Waqaz hated being led around like a useless old man, but what choice did he have? When he was still a few centimeters away from being settled in, Faadi gasped again and released his arm. Waqaz could hear his boots striking the floor as he staggered back two steps.

“In the name of Allah…”

“What?” Waqaz demanded when Faadi didn’t say more. “What is it?”


That’s all I can share for now! The full story will eventually be available in a magazine if things go the way I’d like them to. But you can also read it early (and even improve it!) by joining my creative team at Patreon.

Review: Hellfire by Jeff Provine

The Bottom Line

An alternate history/steampunk adventure with a touch of supernatural thriller and strong spiritual themes that will hold your attention with its intriguing premise and interesting plot. Held back primarily by weak character development.

C

The Review

I was excited to get to Jeff Provine’s Hellfire because it’s the first alternate history we’ve reviewed on The Wrambling Writers. It’s also got a healthy does of the supernatural mixed in with the alternate history and that’s something I’m always down for.

The premise is that a crystalline fire-enhancer known as Newton’s Catalyst has jump started a steam-driven industrial revolution ahead of schedule. It’s set in an 1856 filled with airships, steam-driven wagons, powerful locomotives, and an abundance of steel technology. But there’s a catch. The catalyst is also opening doorways to another dimension and monsters are coming through. The resulting story is a supernatural, alternate history, steampunk adventure that tackles issues of faith, technology, and government corruption.

On a broad level, I really enjoyed it. It’s an interesting concept, the story is intriguing, and I was never bored. When you get down to the details, though, I found it lacking in a few places.

Hellfire’s biggest weakness is its characters. I wanted to like them, but never really felt a connection with any of them. Provine does a good job of not ambushing us with character backstory early on, mostly working their histories in throughout the story. There is however, a lull in the action near the book’s final act, during which we get exposed to one character’s story in more detail. It’s done through conversation, so it’s not awful, but it comes too close to info dump for my tastes.

The biggest problem, however, was that the characters simply didn’t feel alive to me. Perhaps because their battle against the evil Rail Agency has little connection to anything personal in their lives. They go on their quest because each of them is thrust into it and they have to either fight to survive or die. There are no real personal stakes or goals tied directly to the large scale events of the story. That leads to a cast of characters who all feel more or less the same, so that it’s sometimes easy to forget who’s talking.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that I’m really picky about dialogue. Really picky. The dialogue in Hellfire is not bad by any means. It’s just not great either. It’s solidly average. There are some good moments, a few bad ones, and mostly just middle grade, passable dialogue. It gets the job done.

Another big point for me is a book’s ending. I haven’t decided what I think of Hellfire’s ending yet, even though I finished it a few days ago. The very final pages do a good job of wrapping up the immediate story while making it clear where the characters are going from here. That combination of resolved-yet-open-ended can be difficult to strike and I applaud Provine for hitting it. What I’m less sure about is the actual climax a few pages earlier. The story is full of the supernatural, with God and demons playing important roles. So the divine intervention required to save the day isn’t wholly out of place. But it is a bit convenient and takes some of the thrill out of the high point. Again, it’s not awful, but it didn’t knock my socks off.

Like I said, I did really enjoy this book. The alternate history elements are very well done and we get small hints about what’s different in the world without ever being subjected to a boring (alternate) history lesson. The passing reference to Napoleon’s use of airships to invade Britain was brilliant. I absolutely love those subtly dropped details. They create a world that was fantastically built and which plays an integral part in the story. I love world building and Jeff Provine nailed that part of Hellfire.

The story itself, in the sense of plot, is also very interesting. Even though I wasn’t particularly invested in the characters, I still cared enough about what was going to happen to keep reading. And that’s because the plot was interesting and the twist was surprising, while not coming from so far off the radar that it felt implausible.

To Read Or Not To Read?

If you enjoy alternate history at all, you should read this book, no doubt. The biggest caveat is that if you’re easily turned off by spiritual themes, it’s probably not for you.

Q&A From the Islam Sci-Fi Anthology

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Islamicates Volume Inow is the time! It’s a free short story anthology, so what do you have to lose! As an extra bonus, IslamSciFi.com has also released a brief Q&A with the three winners of the contest (which includes me!). It’s a chance to learn a little more about the writers, where the stories came from, and what else we’re working on. Who knows, you might find a new author whose work you want to follow!

Islamicates Volume I is Out

Technically, it’s been out for a couple of weeks now, but I was slow to notice and share it with you. I shared a few weeks ago that I placed 2nd in a Sci-Fi short story contest run by IslamSciFi.com. Well, that story is now officially available in Islamicates Volume IIt’s an anthology of the best stories from the contest, including my entry, “Inshallah.”

The anthology is completely free and available for download in a wide range of formats, so there’s no reason not to go check it out! I just downloaded my copy and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories! Take a look, then let me know what you think. And don’t forget to sign up to get more free stories from me!

Review: Kingsley by Carolyn O’Neal

The Bottom Line

Well-written, with an exceptional plot and realistic characters. Kingsley is an engaging book that will you make you stop and think about the impact we’re having on our environment without beating you over the head with its message.

B+

The Review

Kingsley is classified by author Carolyn O’Neal as a dystopian eco-thriller. Even if you don’t know that means right away, I’m sure you can see why I was intrigued by the description. And really, it’s very simple to decipher. It’s a dystopia with strong ecological themes and a science-driven end to society as we know it.

The basic premise is that there a disease that causes brain tumors in everything with a Y-chromosome. Meaning every male human and animal on the planet. It starts in a few different mammals, then spreads to humans, sparking worldwide chaos. You know how too many independent books have a great premise but fail to deliver a story that matches? This isn’t one of those books.

Kingsley is a fantastic read packed with great characters and interesting twists. I have just a few minor complaints, and I’ll get them out of the way first.

The biggest was the dialogue. There are spots, especially near the beginning, where I felt like the characters came across just a little bit stiff. Almost like they got to the point too quickly. One early scene in particular involving a divorced couple and the wife’s new fiancee could (should?) have been charged with tension and unspoken hostility. Instead, the characters said exactly what was on their minds. It got the issue out in the open but it felt a little forced and weird. But that was a rare problem and most of the dialogue flows much more smoothly.

The other was the structure. I won’t go into this too much because Josh and I talked about this point a lot in our review on The Wrambling Writers podcast, but I basically would have built the novel a bit differently. There’s nothing wrong or even bad about the way it’s done. There are just some abrupt transitions that I would’ve handled differently myself. You may read it (you should read it!) and not even notice.

Now the good!

The story itself is top notch. Fascinating concept and excellent execution. It’s well paced with enough excitement to keep you going and just enough space to let you catch your breath. The characters are all very well-developed and there is no dead weight at all. Every character you meet feels real. Some of them are likable, some are detestable, some are annoying, some are pitiable. But they’re all real.

The absolute best part is the perspective. I’ve seen so many writers drop the ball on perspective, by head-hopping or some other common mistake, that I get really excited to see one do a decent job in this area. Carolyn did more than decent when it comes to perspective – she nailed it. In fact, Kingsley could easily be a case study on great perspective.

Part of the brilliance is that we’re seeing the end of the world from the perspective of a 14-year old boy. So a lot of the high level details are appropriately left out. You won’t hear anything about governments, local or national, deal with the crisis because Kingsley is only concerned about his headaches, his mother, and his crush, Amanda. The world is falling apart all around him, but you only know that from context clues. It’s not the focus and it makes the collapse seem that much more real and frightening.

The science that underpins the story is also very well research, lending a further tint of realism to the whole thing. I worried early on that we were going to be subject to long lectures on environmental issues but that never happened. Still, the science is there, driving the plot and making the events seem more plausible that you’d like to believe they are.

The ending wasn’t quite perfect, but I still liked it. That coming from someone who’s very picky about endings. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say about that.

Best of all, the book has a strong environmental message that it communicates without being “preachy.” Whatever your opinion on various “green” initiatives, Kingsley is guaranteed to make you stop and think.

To Read or Not To Read

Read. Absolutely 100% read. I’m going to put the link right here again so you have no excuse not to go read this book.

Are you reading yet?