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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Aemilia (of In Numina, by Assaph Mehr)

Dear readers, with the forthcoming release of In Numina, the second novel by our fearless leaders, we are proud to present an interview with one of the novels’ most charming characters.

This young lady is here to tell us about life in Egretia, that wonderful fantasy city based on Ancient Rome and Alexandria, from a point of view other the Felix’s. The interview is set at a time between the books, and reveals things that might surprise you.

(Note that this interview first appeared on D. Lieber’s blog. Our many thanks for her prompting to write it.


Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?

You do incantations? Right here? What branch of magic? Can I watch you do it? Will you show me how you do it? Oh, you want something specific? Anything really, just so long as it’s not permanent and I can see you perform it. Maybe light a fire? It’s rather chilly this time of year.

Please introduce yourself, and the book you are from.

My name is Aemilia, and my first appearance is in Murder In Absentia.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in the Clivi Ulterior, in my family’s domus. If you’re not familiar with our city, the Clivi Ulterior are the highest reaches still within city limits on mount Vergu. It’s a neighborhood of rich men’s mansions. My father was Tiberius Aemilius Mamercus, a consul and a direct descendant of the T. Aemilius Mamercus.

My life, I know, was better than for the vast majority of people in our city. In matter of fact, I knew little about how most Egretian live their lives. I grew up with friends of the same social circle – sons and daughters of the Senate’s elite. My elder brother died young, but my family kept his tutor. I thus benefited for a scholarly education beyond that of most women.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My brother had a couple of wooden toy soldiers, that one of the slaves made for him. One was an Egretian legionary, the other an Arbari barbarian. When Tiberius died from the ague, I kept those soldiers. I hid them under my pillow, and I imagined my brother’s spirit was still in them, that he – and they – were guarding me. I treasured them more than anything else I owned. I still have them.

What do you do now?

Trying to delay the inevitable… I’m nineteen. My mother is busy planning my wedding. I may have some little say in who I marry – or at least absolutely refuse to marry – but the outcome would be the same. Some young scion of a well-respected, old family. Probably a lawyer or a promising career military man, on his way to the senate. Me, I’d just like to experience life a little bit, before I become a show wife, sitting quietly behind the loom.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Ha! A young woman of my social standing is not allowed to have “adventures”. Not formally, that is. That never stopped me. My cousin Caeso has died in some strange circumstances, and the family wanted to keep it quiet. They hired a man to find out the killers, which he did. I am thankful for him bringing peace to my uncle, even though I thought his methods dubious.

Now another uncle seems to have ran afoul of some bad property investments, his tenants claiming that his apartment blocks are haunted. We thought Felix could resolve this too, so we recommended him. But I’d love to know how he approaches this. Continue reading “Aemilia (of In Numina, by Assaph Mehr)”

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Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher and Jenni the sprite (of The Roshaven Series / The Bone Thief, by Claire Buss)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the chief thief-catcher for the emperor, and his second in command — a rather mischievous sprite. They’re here to talk about their quirky magical mystery adventures.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Ned: I grew up in Fidelia with my parents and brother. It’s a coast town like many others I guess except…

Jenni: Yor Dad was ‘ead of T.A.R.T.S and yor bruvver took over and made it even more evil. Only ‘e ain’t yor bruvver or yor Dad.

Ned: Yeah, just found that out. A lot to take in.

Jenni: Specially as you killed yor bruvver. It were self-defence though, Boss.

Uncomfortable silence…

Jenni: Whereas me, I’m a fae ain’t I, so I was born in the grove. Me mum is Momma K, you’ve ‘eard of ‘er. Queen of the Fae and that. Me dad I just met so I can’t really say much.

Ned: He’s no pillar of society though, is he?

Jenni: Nah. S’good job we got each uvver in Roshaven, eh?

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Ned: Just the usual really, wooden swords and toy bows and arrows. That sort of stuff.

Jenni: Yeah but you grew up in a big ‘ouse though, didn’t you? Wiv servants and stuff. You got taught to fence and ride and all that malark. S’not wot people get usually, Boss.

Ned: I left all that behind when I moved away from Fidelia and came here to Roshaven. Started afresh.

Jenni: True. Now you got a real sword. I never ‘ad a sword or nuffink like that. Didn’t need it being fae. Just snap me fingers and I’d get wotever I wanted. Corse that all changed when I ‘ad me coming of age ceremony and then there were the whole fing wiv the Source but I don’t fink we can talk about that, can we?

Ned: Not yet, Jenni. The book came out on 12th November, but we don’t want to spoil it for the readers.

Jenni: Right, right. I wos a ‘appy kid though. Always in everyfink, you know wot it’s like. Fun times.

What do you do now?

Ned: I’m Chief Thief-Catcher here in Roshaven. It’s my job to run the team and keep the empire safe from the criminal element.

Jenni: And I’m ‘is right ‘and fae.

Ned: That’s right, Jenni is my second in command. We also have Willow, a tree nymph, Joe, a regular human and Sparks, a firefly. We are actually looking for new recruits so if you think you’ve got what it takes to keep the streets of Roshaven safe then do pop in to Headquarters for a chat.

Jenni: And don’t go to the old ones on Justice ‘Eights. We ain’t there no more. Not after it got burnt down again again. We’re in The Noose, on the corner of the Black Narrows. Can’t miss us. Curry Night special on Thursdays.

Ned: We both joined the Catchers at the same time. It’s a funny story actually, involving a potato…

Jenni: Yeah, but we can’t talk about that eivver, Boss. It’s coming up, innit. When she wot does the writing sorts out the Case Files.

Ned: Yes, that’s right. There will be more Case Files coming your way, detailing some of our more interesting cases.

Jenni: Like the runaway cheese. And the Tea Cake Alley riots.

Ned: Best not to say too much more.

Jenni: Rightchoo are, Boss. ‘Ere, did you always wanna be a catcher? I tried a few fings first afore I knew. Didn’t get on wiv any of ‘em. And I definitely ain’t gonna be the next Queen of the Fae. No fank you!

Ned: I knew I wanted to do something in the opposite direction to my family.

Jenni: Them’s being thieves and vagabonds and evil and wotnot.

Ned: Erm, yeah. And I saw a notice in The Daily Blag about recruitment for the Catchers so I thought I’d go along. That was when…

Jenni: Boss! We can’t tell ‘em, remember? They gotta wait for the Case File to find out wot ‘appened.

Ned: Yes, sorry.

Continue reading “Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher and Jenni the sprite (of The Roshaven Series / The Bone Thief, by Claire Buss)”

Saul Imbierowicz (of Unavoidable, by Coy Kissee and Geoff Habiger)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a postal employee from 1920’s Chicago. He’s here to talk about being murdered buy AL Capone, and about being reborn as a vampire.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born and raised in Chicago. Mom raised me to go to Temple and respect my elders, while Dad taught me to be a Cubs and a Blackhawks fan, and that the only way to succeed in life was to work hard. My little sister, Sarah, tries to teach me patience, but I’m apparently a slow learner, heh. Until recently, we lived together in a second-floor apartment near Douglas Park, but once I got a job at the post office, I saved up enough to get my own place. It wasn’t much, but it was mine, and the only thing I had to worry about was my nosy neighbor keeping track of my every move and reporting back to my mother. At least, that’s what I thought. Then I died, but that wasn’t so bad, as I ended up getting a better apartment out of the deal. Silver lining, right?

Did you have any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

We didn’t have much in the way of toys growing up. Dad made a decent living at the meat packing plant, but not enough for too many extras, you know? I don’t have a lot of memories with my Dad other than sending him off to work in the morning before school, or eating dinner together once he got home, but there was one day that we had together that I’ll never forget.

It was Memorial Day, 1916, and Dad had the day off. The Cardinals were in town, and that day was a double-header. Dad surprised me with tickets and we spent the whole day together at Weeghman Park. The Cubs got shut out in the first game, but in the second game, Cy Williams hit a home run off of Bob Steele that landed close enough that I could chase after it. When I saw the ball coming our way, I heard Dad say, “If you want it enough, you might be able to get that ball.” That was all I needed. I shot out of my seat, and raced to where the ball landed, determined to snare my prize. Just as it was almost in my grasp, a bigger kid snatched it up in his meaty paw and jumped up and down for joy. Dejected I shuffled my way back to my seat. I sat there, pouting in silence, until my father said, “Do you see how happy that boy is?” I glanced up at him, and then over to the boy with the ball, and mumbled, “Yeah.” He looked me square in the eye and replied, “He thinks that he’s happy because he has a new ball, but he’s wrong. He’s happy because his hard work paid off. He saw something that he wanted, and he didn’t let anything stop him from getting it. He could lose that ball tomorrow, but he’ll remember the day that he got it for the rest of his life.” Dad had always touted hard work, but this particular example is the one that really hit home. No pun intended, heh.

What do you do now?

I worked for the United States Post Office up until my untimely demise. After that, I became a government agent, working for Eliot Ness. With the help of my partner, Christian Wright, I enforce the law and am trying to take down Chicago’s biggest gangster, and fellow vampire, Al Capone. Oh, whoops, I probably shouldn’t have said the part about the vampires. I mean, I was just kidding, there’s no such thing as vampires. Heh. Um… yeah. So…

Ok, fine, here’s the deal. It turns out that my former girlfriend was a vampire who worked for Al Capone, who is also a vampire. That’s not public knowledge, so you can’t publish any of this. It’s… what do you call it? Off the record? So, anyway, she turned me into a vampire before she got killed in that big shootout on Valentine’s Day. She was under orders from Capone to get me to steal some ledger books that Capone wanted. I got caught up in this giant mess between Capone and Bugs Moran and the Feds, and I didn’t even escape with my life. Capone himself murdered me on the Michigan Avenue bridge. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that I’d become a vampire. I just thought I was dead. Which I was. Am. Heh.

Once I rose from the dead (no, not like Jesus), I became part of a team, led by Eliot Ness, with the main goal of taking down Al Capone once and for all. The fact that he (and I) are vampires isn’t even known by everyone on my team, but we’re fighting fire with fire, so to speak. My partner, Christian, was not very happy about the situation at first. Or now, even. We’ve gotten so close that he calls me these fun nicknames, like “abomination” and “affront to God”. Yeah, he’s quite religious, but he wants to take down Capone just as much as I do, so I trust him with my life. Death. Whatever.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, now we have a new boss, this J. Edgar Hoover guy, and he wants us to try to get Capone for tax evasion (I know, super exciting, right? I get to use all my special vampire accounting powers. Just kidding, that’s not really a thing. Heh.), although my partner and I think that he deserves a stake through the heart instead. Since we’re not going to be super busy with that, I think we should try to figure out who the mystery player is that seems to be at odds with Capone. If we can’t figure that out, I worry that Chicago will end up in the middle of a vampire turf war, and nothing good can come from that.

Continue reading “Saul Imbierowicz (of Unavoidable, by Coy Kissee and Geoff Habiger)”

Andy Thomas (of Suffer the Little Children, by Tina Helmuth)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man accidentally drawn into the dark world of child trafficking and abuse, and facing real and supernatural dangers.


Tell us a little about where you’re from and growing up.

I was born in Grass Valley, California, which is near Sacramento, the city where the seat of government for the state is.  My dad’s career was in the Army, so we moved around a great deal.  We spent time in Japan and Germany and once dad became a General, we moved stateside and came back to Grass Valley.   My dad was quite the inventor so when he was home, we would work on projects together.  We spent most of our time inventing things around the house for my mother.  I suspect she just put up with our inventions since she didn’t really care for things like a vacuum that cleans, sort of like the Roomba that seems to be all the rage today, though for her, it just keep getting under her feet.  I used to laugh when she would get a broom and try to sweep it out of the kitchen, only to have it come back.  Frankly, I think the thing did it just to bug her because it knew how much she disliked it.

My dad traveled back and forth to Washington DC, since he worked in the Pentagon, so my mother and I spent a lot of time alone.  I wanted a sibling, but evidently my father was too busy even for that, so I entertained myself.  I discovered I had a knack for computers and started tinkering with them.  In the early days of computing, well since I’m only in my 30’s, not the really “OLD” days where the computers used a dot matrix printer and were huge, I started writing code.  I was never a hacker, because frankly I wasn’t interested in breaking into sites, but I liked to write programs for me to do things with.   I also love photography and since I lived near the Redwoods, any chance I got to go there I took.

When I hit my 20’s, the General as I liked to call my dad disappeared.  The military told us they had no idea where he went though they kept visiting my mother and me at least once a month until finally after years had gone by, they just checked in once a year to see if we had heard from him.  My mother died broken-hearted and for me, it took a long time to get over my anger that he just up and left.

The General left behind some plans that I found one day while going through his stuff that my mother refused to get rid of and I discovered detailed plans for a noiseless drone that was smaller than anything the military had and could fly up to 30,000 feet as well as being undetectable by anything like radar.  I decided to build it to use for my photography even though he had left instructions on how to weaponize it.

Any cherished memories?

One of my most cherished memories is while living in Japan; before we left the country we went on a sightseeing tour.  The General didn’t normally have to time to do these kinds of things with us, but for one week we went to places like Kyoto and Nagoya where we visited some incredible Shinto temples.  I was into photography then and had a Polaroid that I used to take pictures with; I still have those photographs, the only pictures I have of all of us together.

What kind of work do you do? 

I have my own company which is basically computer tech support.  My mother left me the house where I live in Grass Valley, so I work out of the house.

Continue reading “Andy Thomas (of Suffer the Little Children, by Tina Helmuth)”

Barbara Bernsen (of the St. Rage series, by Karen Eisenbrey)

Dear readers, tonight with us is your not-so-typical high-school junior girl. While invisible since third grade, a magic hat recently brought her back to light. She’s here to talk about her priorities: an all-girl garage band, and fighting bullies with miraculous super-powers.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born and raised in Seattle, WA, which maybe explains all the flannel in my wardrobe. Practical three seasons of the year; some years, four. You’ve probably heard that it rains a lot? Yeah, so good boots are also a must. I got these retro Doc Martens at the thrift store for only $10! Anyway—we’re lucky to have a lively music scene. All-ages shows are a little harder to come by than over-21, but my dad was great about finding shows and festivals he could take me to once he realized we liked a lot of the same bands. We saw the Sonics!!! After I was in high school, I insisted on going by myself, hoping to meet my people. I had this fantasy that I’d be at a show and I’d overhear some other kids talking about starting a band. I’d say, “I’ve been writing songs,” and they’d be like, “Cool, you wanna be in our band, too?” and I could be a backup singer. But I was still invisible then, so that didn’t work out so well. I’d go, enjoy the music, and never talk to anybody but the door guy.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

When I was 6, I got a toy electronic keyboard for Christmas. I had just started piano lessons and it was fun to plunk out the tunes I was learning with sound effects and drumbeats! And it had a microphone, too, so I could make little recordings! My parents are both music lovers but not musicians beyond singing in church. And I never really learned to play the piano, but I think they could see music was important to me from an early age. I still use that toy keyboard when I’m writing songs now, if you can believe it. It lives on the shelf above my desk, next to my snowglobes and bobbleheads.

What do you do now?

I’m a student. When all this started, I was still in high school. Now I’m going to community college. One quarter down! I’ll probably get some kind of nothing job next summer. Oh, what do I mean by “all this”? Well, the band was obviously a big part of my life the last years of high school. I write songs for and sing lead in St. Rage. We’re kind of on hiatus while everybody goes to college, but we’re not done. And then there’s the whole superpowers thing. Against all logic, I’m leading a superteam called The Rage Brigade. I did not see that coming.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I was invisible—maybe literally—till age 16, when the most popular guy in school put a magic hat on my head and suddenly, I could be seen! That gave me absurd confidence, enough to start an all-girl garage band. The anger-fueled gestural superpowers were … unexpected. I try to use them for good; careless drivers, bullies, and misogynist jerks better watch out!

Then I started finding other young people with unusual abilities: a kid who punches internet trolls right there in the comments; a girl who can text her past self to undo mistakes; a guy who talks to bugs, and another who hears the soundtrack. We became the Rage Brigade. When we realized a fake pastor was using mind control on an entire megachurch, it was up to us to stop him.

Continue reading “Barbara Bernsen (of the St. Rage series, by Karen Eisenbrey)”

JAK037 (of Requiem For A Genocide, by Michael Drakich)

Dear readers, tonight we’re hosting a warbot, the last of his generation still in operation. While he was hoping to spend the last of his days in peace, he now needs to deal with a new menace – human settlers. He is here to tell us how he hopes to end the war and save his people from what he believes is a looming disaster.


Tell us a little about going online. What was it like to become alive?

It starts off crazy. It’s not like a Dalrean child who is raised from birth and learns over time. My head was filled with stuff put in there by my makers. Trying to sort through everything had me confused for days. And then when I was told to do certain tasks I didn’t want to, these insane robotic laws inside me threatened to shut me down if I disobeyed! Who puts such horrible controls in my head?

Did you have any cherished memories from those early years?

If going to war zone after war zone and fighting for your life is a cherished memory, I’d rather forget them. But I did make some friends who had my back in those fights. JBK775 and JBK892, whom I’ve nicknamed Boss and Chief respectively, became my best mates.

What do you do now?

Fighting, killing, fighting again. All the fun stuff that comes with war. Oh, and pissing off my Dalrean superior, Commander Bedo. A brainless coward.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

It’s one thing to fight against the Carthians, Dalrea’s nemesis, but when our leaders decide it’s time to fight against a technically superior race, the humans, you have to wonder if they’re all as stupid as Bedo.

What did you first think when you first encountered them?

We’re doomed. They got these big robots, I mean, really big robots, that can take out a platoon of my fellow bots single-handed. There has got to be a better solution than war.

Continue reading “JAK037 (of Requiem For A Genocide, by Michael Drakich)”

Sam Melvin (of Zombie Detective, by Andy Zach)

Dear readers, tonight we feature an ex-reporter specialising in zombie turkeys. After being fired from the newspaper, he decided to give being a detective a try — but found that people are only interested in hiring him for his experience in dealing with zombie animals


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

This’ll be short, since Midley, Illinois is a very small town (510) and there’s not much to it. I grew up on a farm, but I went to town several times a week with my parents and then every day when I started school. There’s only one street, one high school (300 students), one junior high, and one elementary school. We also have a hamburger stand, a gas station, and a post office.

People are basically the salt of the earth, in the sense they talk about fertilizer and farms and corn and bean prices.

It wasn’t bad at all. I got to drive my dad’s tractor by the time I was ten, and the grain truck by the time I was fourteen. We had a creek and swamp to play in and I could ride my bike to my school friends.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I loved playing with my trucks and cars in the sandbox. I played a little pickup baseball and football, but I was never any good. But I was always picked for the teams by my friends, so I had fun anyway.

I remember going to the big town of Peoria for special dinners with my family, like my parents’ anniversary. I got to see the Caterpillar Power Parade and the Heart of Illinois Fair.

What do you do now?

Until yesterday, I was a reporter for the Midley Beacon specializing in tracking and reporting on zombie turkeys. They’ve pretty much died out, that is, they’ve been ground up for sausage or whatever. They don’t really die without a LOT of encouragement.

This morning I was fired by my wife, Lisa Melvin, who’s the editor of the paper. She said the paper isn’t making enough to pay me. I’m worth more drawing unemployment. I’m going to give private investigation a try now. I’m good at asking questions and getting to the bottom of things. Lisa said she’d make it all legal, somehow.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After chasing zombie turkeys, even investigating murders will seem tame. But my first case is from a dairy farmer whose cows keep escaping. He thinks some zombie animal is involved. Could be. I’ll find out. Can’t be any more dangerous than zombie turkeys, can it?

Continue reading “Sam Melvin (of Zombie Detective, by Andy Zach)”

Tallis Steelyard (of A Fear of Heights, by Jim Webster)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a poet, a man of inconsistent careers and a somewhat vagrant lifestyle. He’s here to tell us about his latest adventure, involving the Idiosyncratic Diaconate, night soil carts, Partannese bandit chieftains, a stylite, a large dog and some over-spiced food.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I’m Tallis Steelyard, Port Naain’s finest living poet. I live and practice my art in Port Naain, the greatest city on the world of Domisa, home of all that is fine and lovely. From time to time I may venture out of the city, both allow those less fortunate than our citizens to enjoy the benefit of high culture, but mainly to avoid my creditors or those who seem to think I have insulted them.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I am an only child, but I spent much of my childhood on the streets of Port Naain. This is where I think I sharpened my skills of observation and got to know so many people whose careers I have since chronicled.

What do you do now?

As a poet obviously I have very few formal duties. It is merely enough that I remain within the city as an ornament and thing of wonder. Still a chap has to eat and white wine does not buy itself. Thus and so, I have any number of patrons who rely upon me to raise their lives above the humdrum and tedious. Not only do I dedicate my works to patrons, I will hold a private recital in their residence. Indeed I will often organize the whole evening’s entertainment, working hand in glove with my patron. I will discuss the catering arrangements with the patron and her cook, then I will bring in other, lesser poets, painters, acrobats, and even, gods help us, musicians. I can arrange everything from the moment a guest is assisted from their sedan chair to when the patron’s domestic staff finishing cleaning up after the event.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

 As a strictly unremunerated temple warden of the Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm I do have some duties. It was as I assisted Maljie, the senior temple warden in ensuring that our incumbent wasn’t whisked away from us that I ended up dangling from a hot air balloon high in the mountains.

What did you first think when you first met Maljie?

Maljie is an older lady, (note I did not use the word ‘old’) and thus obviously wise. Personally, after working with her for some time I grew to have a wider appreciation of her talents. Whilst admitting to wise, I think I would have to insist on ‘redoubtable’, ‘cynical’ and ‘cunning.’

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

For somebody who has, inadvertently, had to deal with dark mages, the walking dead, and any number of musicians of dubious morals, I always felt that I was reasonably hardened to whatever the world could throw at me. Yet still, I tend to twitch when somebody says, “The ladies felt you were the perfect person to judge the beauty context.”

What is the worst thing about like as a poet?

 Frankly the penury. The long hours, the demeaning comments, the constant petty carping, I can rise above. Honestly I don’t mind doing the occasional morning as a kitchen porter. But it would be nice to achieve a modest prosperity

What is the best thing about it?

In my better moments I’d say it is those occasions when I deliver a poem that I know to be good, and people I respect will come across afterwards, hand me a glass of wine, and say, ‘Tallis, that was fine work.’

In my less charitable moments I still remember fondly the time we dropped two dog fleas down the back of the shirt of that syrupy balladeer ten minutes before he was supposed to perform.

Tell us a little about your friends.

I suppose my two oldest friends are Calina Salin and Lancet Foredecks. We were street children together. Calina is a dancer, she is the one who will die a wealthy woman. Lancet is a performance artist. His last project was to find sponsors for a poem he was going to write, one line at a time, on the buoys that mark the channel into Port Naain. He was going to tune the bells on the buoys so as the tide came in they would play a tune.

Lancet I have had to rescue a number of times, he knows nothing of fear, and very little of self-preservation. Thus when an irritated mobster is going to have him dropped in the sea attached to an anvil, it’s always Tallis who has to talk people out of what even I can see is a reasoned response to immense provocation. As for Calina, I once saw her kick the hat off the head of a tall man who was irritating her.

Any romantic involvement?

I’m a respectably and happily married man. I could wax lyrical on the beauty of my lady wife, Shena, a mud jobber and a lady whose profession pays only slightly better than mine.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

To be honest, genuine villains aren’t a problem. They may be criminals, they made be murdering thugs, or more probably hire them, but they are not, in all candor, the people I hate. After all, many of them have families, aged mothers who dote on them, and are often generous to poets. They are flesh and blood with strong feelings. The people I dislike most are those for whom ‘it is more than my job’s worth.’ People who might well flaunt their conscience, boast of their services to the city, yet would turn a grieving widow out into a winter night ‘because that’s what the regulations say.’

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

Well if you’re buying, a glass of white wine please, and we can sit here and just swap anecdotes, tales of things that happened to us. Can you think of a more pleasant way to spend an evening?

What does the future hold for you?

Well there is another book on the way at some point. It’s about something that happened years ago, perhaps a darker tale at times that people expect from me.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

It has to be admitted that I may not be an entirely reliable narrator.


Jim Webster is probably still claiming to be fifty something, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. His tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters. He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels. Admittedly it’s blatantly obvious from his sense of humour, but he is English, living in the North of England, pretty much where the hills come down to the sea.

You can find Tallis Steelyard on the pages of A Fear of Heights, as well as his many other books.

Join us next time to meet an ex-reporter specialising in zombies. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Mary Carpenter Renbourn (of Return To Alpha, by Wesley Britton)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman from a near-future dystopia, where aliens have landed on our planet — now decimated by the effects of global warming and waves of weaponized plagues.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Hi everyone! You sure got me in a good mood!   I’m holding up my laughing baby and who wouldn’t be in a good mood holding up a laughing baby?

Anyway, I grew up in Dallas Texas after being conceived and born during the first Covid pandemic back in 2020-2021.  All through my childhood, I lived in a world where the human population shrank and shrank because of all the plagues released by the Everlasting Califate. Because of climate change, I was constantly hearing about how “things didn’t used to be like this.”

In many ways, I was a lucky only child as my parents were Affectionately Flirtatious every chance they got, especially at the kitchen table. As we lived through so many lock-downs and quarantines, living with so much parental love was about as good as you could get during those horrible decades.

What do you do now?

For most of my adult life, I was a special operative for Col. Ian Buell’s Dallas Infiltrator Unit before I was assigned undercover duty in the Caribbean.  Then I fell in love with Malcolm Renbourn II, the mutant half-alien from Beta-Earth. We became fugitives on the run from the Citadel prison and got married in a Pacific Northwest Native American settlement. Along with the rest of Malcolm’s alien family, we then hid in various remote sanctuaries in the Canadian wilderness where my son was born.

Right now, we’re exploring our possibilities, where it might be safe for us to live and raise our family, how public we can be, what we can contribute to Alpha as a family. I don’t want to tell you where we are now. Just not safe.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After our relatively comfortable stay in a hidden Native American canyon city, we had to go on the run yet again as I was being pursued by vengeful Texas white terrorists who thought I should pay for destroying their murderous cell. The entire tribe was running from the president of the United States who wanted the aliens for propaganda. Add in  the governments of the Sovereign Southern Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States who wanted to lock up all the aliens fearing all the cosmic revelations they wanted to share. And me, well, I was AWOL. Strange to say, that was the least of my worries.

What did you first think when you first met and interrogated the Renbourn aliens?

At first, I thought of them as a job, my assignment to pry out secrets my superiors felt the Renbourns were suppressing. As a born again Christian, I didn’t like their talk about various deities from the multi-verse, not at all. I wanted to convert them to my beliefs. I didn’t accept Olrei’s prophetic gifts until I saw them bear fruit.

I quickly came to like , respect, and trust them all, Malcolm II in particular. Could anyone believe they’d meet their soul-mate after they jumped through universes to get here?  

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

Without question, it was when the white supremacist found us in our wilderness hideaway, killed Olrei’s husband when they burned our dwelling down, captured me, tied me to a steell wall inside a stolen Rover, and whipped every part of my back and legs while we flew away before Malcolm and a group of Sasquatch found us and, well, you’ll have to read Alpha Tales 2044 to see how everything turned out.

What is the worst thing about living as a fugitive all over the North American continent?

Fearing we’ll never find a place we can call home where we can raise our children in peace and freedom. I want my son Randy-named after my father-to have a touch or two of normalcy in his life.

What is the best thing about your present life?

Living with my husband’s family, living with Malcolm, cradling Randy.

Tell us about your family.

As both my parents are dead, I was pretty much alone in the world until the aliens touched down in Jamaica.

Two of them are from Beta-Earth—including my genetically-enhanced husband. I often wonder what of his mutant attributes will carry over to our children.

His half-sister is the dark-skinned Kalmeg Renbourn, a very strong-willed woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Since coming to Alpha-earth, she’s become something of a geography enthusiast.

Then there are the two teenagers from Cerapin-Earth. Olrei is the prophetess botanist widow of Akito Kawahara who was killed in the terrorist attack. She too has a newborn to protect while she’s going through a dark period of grief.  Lastly, there’s Scott Renbourn, the multi-colored typical teenage male still looking for his path in life.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

In my experience as a special agent for several countries, I battled the Islamic terror network called the Everlasting Caliphate;   I battled a white Supremacist group called the Tex-zis; I fought a criminal organization called Hammerhead.  That doesn’t count all the small-time gangs I infiltrated back in Dallas. Let’s just say, I’ve seen a lot of the unsavory side of humanity.

What are some of your favorite things?

I wish I could have participated more in sports when I was growing up-that just wasn’t viable with all the waves of killer viruses. I can admit my one concession to vanity are my long auburn locks Malcolm loves playing with almost as much as I do. I enjoy traveling, most of the time, even when on duty. I like Caribbean and gospel music, I love dancing, I love going to church,  I love learning about  and loving my multi-versal tribe. I’ve always had a strong curiosity so I’m in the perfect situation to keep my mental skills active. To put it mildly.

What does the future hold for you?

We all wish we had a ghost of an idea what is possible for us. Will we stay together or split up? I rather doubt that, we’re so closely knit now. I know everyone would love to be able to join the human flow walking down city streets without worrying about one kind of attack or another.  I’d love to go to Pittsburgh and see the “Marivurn” spaceship the Renbourns flew to our earth in and see the museum devoted to their father who was captured in a Pittsburgh bank lobby.  I’d like to go to church or shopping without wearing disguises when I step out the door. It’s as if I’m always on duty even if I don’t report to anyone anymore.

I can tell you readers the next book in the Chronicles will be called Hammerhead and it will include thre pre-quels to Return to Alpha, meaning you’ll see me in action battling some of the enemies I mentioned above.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I guess that would be my resentment I couldn’t attend the funerals for my parents as they passed during a quarantine while I was in training at FT. Hood and forbidden from traveling back to Dallas.  On the other hand, I know of so many other people whose experiences were so much worse than mine, even when they weren’t on the front lines like I was.

I know everyone wants to know what love-making is like with a genetically-enhanced mutant. Sorry, ain’t gonna tell ya. That’s for me to know and you to never find out.


Dr. Wesley Britton taught freshman English for over 33 years in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. As a Mark Twain scholar, his first publications were a number of articles on Twain and “Mark Twain: Cradle Skeptic,” his dissertation. He has been published numerous times in scholarly journals, online and print periodicals, encyclopedias, and essay collections. He published four books on fictional espionage and, so far, eight books in the Beta-Earth Chronicles. Retired, Wesley lives in Harrisburg, PA.

You can find Mary on the pages of Return To Alpha, and Alpha Tales 2044.

Join us next time to meet a poet, leading a strange lifestyle and encountering strange adventures. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Angule (of Genesis – The IX Series, by Andrew P Weston)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an antagonist, a most intimidating character. This creature is here to tell us about its existence as a member of the Kresh – or as we call them, the Horde – a rampaging legion of mutated horrors that managed to overthrow an advanced space faring civilization at the height of its power.

The interview is set during the interval between the end of the prequel and the beginning of the main series itself, and reveals surprising details as to what makes these entities tick.


Who are you, and what is your role within the Horde?

My name is Angule, and I have assumed the mantle of Prime Catalyct of the Kresh. Or as you humanoids might say, I am the Field Marshal of the Horde army. Not that I have any inclinations of staying at the rear to direct things when the heat of battle is upon us. When the Kresh march, we fuel ourselves on the soul-rage that compels us to crush and dominate any and all who dare to stand in our way. That’s why puny humans and your Ardenese cousins, who, even now, hide behind the denying walls of their most prominent city, will fall. You fail to comprehend how irresistible the urge to fight and consume is.

Do you have any memories of who you were before you became the Prime Catalyct?

Such trivialities are inconsequential. All that matters is that I was chosen to emerge and feed and ascend into a higher being. Whatever or whoever it was that granted me the privilege of demonstrating my zeal for conquest, I can’t say … though my thoughts are troubled from time to time by whispers from the beyond, and fading memories of an existence prior to my elevation. Such recollections are foul indeed, for they hint of lesser things involving feelings, emotions and doubt. Or worse still, alien concepts of sorrow, remorse, mercy and love.

Emergence? Ascension? What are they, and how does feeding affect such a condition

Emergence is the act of becoming a real person. Someone who leaves ignorance behind in the never-ending quest for knowledge and truth.

Ascension is the ultimate state of being toward which all Kresh aspire.

When we first gain a measure of consciousness, we are near mindless automatons driven by berserker frenzy to feed. And to do that, we are drawn to anything containing the slightest measure of vitality: plasma conduits; computer screens; fuel cells; weaponized energy beams; explosive percussions. The more potent the better, for such exuberance brings with it an ever greater degree of self-awareness; an understanding or cognizance that promotes the generation of Jînnereth crowns – esoteric concentrations of cosmic quintessence – that purifies our wrath and boosts the range and scope of our psychic arsenal.

As for humans?

Ah, you are nothing to us but screaming electro-chemical snacks. Raw and puissant, to be sure, but snacks nonetheless.

Continue reading “Angule (of Genesis – The IX Series, by Andrew P Weston)”

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