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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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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)”

Tayrel Kan Trever (of Octopus Song, by Natalie J. Holden)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a powerful sorcerer on a mission: to find the elusive, underwater race and secure their help in colonizing one of the newly discovered worlds. He’s here to talk about fast ships, pretty sailors, and giant tentacled monsters.


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

When I was born, Dahls was not the superpower it is today. It was just a tiny world, already stretched to the brink of its capacity and connected only with words that were similarly stretched. One of the ways our government tried to save us was by imposing a one-child policy. I guess my parents wanted a daughter, cause they ditched me like an used condom.

I was adopted by Kanven Sandeyron, a corporation that primarily produces technomagic equipment. At that time they tried to branch out into medicine. The problem with it was that they needed to test their inventions somehow. You didn’t think they took me in out of the goodness of their hearts, did you?

So you were something like a guinea pig?

Something. We—there were a few of us—got education, playtime, social contact, even fucking psychologists. None of it meant shit if every day each of us was taken to a special room, strapped onto the chair, and injected with some miracle cure meant to dissolve our brains and remake them to their liking.

Yeah, I know your next question. One of the side effects of their treatment was strong telepathy that I can’t shut off. I know you weren’t going to ask; that’s fine.

You’re already intruding, if you wanted to be tactful you shouldn’t ask about my fucking childhood.

Seriously, did no one teach you to shield your mind?

Yes, that’s better. Thank you.

Anyway, I hated everything that came from them. Their focus at the time was increasing humans’ magical potential, so of course they were trying to get us interested in magic. Everything they gave us, books, toys, etc. was connected to magic-using.

I’d tell them to shove it. Except they didn’t teach me to cuss. Obviously, I made up for it when I left.

What I played with were illusions. I was instinctive, you see. I can use magic as you can use hands, whether it’s because I was born this way or because of Kanven’s bloody experiments. But when I was locked in, surrounded by people I hated, choking on the smell of antiseptic, I could already weave imaginary landscapes around me. Pretend I was somewhere else. Not just in Dahls, but other worlds. Big, open spaces. Organisms other than humans. Animals, plants, all that shit I barely learned about at school. I thought myself pretty clever. Until I actually went outside and realized how woefully limited my imagination was.

As for friends? It was hard to form attachments if you knew that any day one of you could go for testing and not come back. That you could not come back. Yeah, we tried… not to get attached.

No, we don’t keep in touch. We don’t really like anything that reminds us of those times. Put this damn shield back.

You talk about getting out. How did that happen?

If you were imagining some great escape, releasing all of Kanven’s pupils and burning the site to the ground, I have bad news. Once I became an adult they had no legal right to hold me, so I showed them the finger and took off.

What? Dahls is a civilized world. We’re not perfect, but we have laws and even those bastards have to follow them.

And yes, some bastards can do unspeakable evil and get away with it. If you think everyone gets what they deserve and good always triumphs, what bloody world do you live in?

What happened when you left?

At that time Dahls reached critical mass and just when it was about to break, our sorcerers found a way out. A merge between our world and some unknown and uninhabited world we called Sfal. And a couple thousand others beyond it.

But, just like that, we were the only thing standing between the old worlds, all not much better off than ours, and unimaginable wealth. With no way to keep that to ourselves, the geniuses in the government decided to open the way for everyone, no matter their species, culture, or where they were from. All tightly controlled, obviously, but don’t tell anyone that. Anyway, they needed an army of bureaucrats to handle the influx of immigrants and that was my first gig.

How did it go?

Great. My telepathy makes normal socializing painful but allowed me to communicate with people who didn’t speak Dahlsi-é. Or didn’t speak at all, for that matter. Not all of them were humans, did I mention that?

Until my bitch-of-a-boss got smitten and wouldn’t take no for an answer. So she set out to ruin me.

But maybe that was for the best. With nothing to do and a burning grudge against humanity, I set out to explore new worlds. The business was unregulated at the time. There was The Cosmographic Society, using their magic to locate new merges, but after that, anyone could grab the coordinates and set off. A lot of people got themselves killed. Not all worlds are habitable. There are wild beasts, irregular magic, even shitty, inhospitable environments. One world, I shit you not, is completely filled with water, top to bottom.

“Top to bottom”?

Yeah. Like, you know, when a world bubble emerges from the chaos, it starts filling up with the heavy stuff on the bottom until you end up with a world surface covered with sky-dome? So, there is no surface nor sky-dome, just.. world bubble. Filled with water. It’s crazy.

Continue reading “Tayrel Kan Trever (of Octopus Song, by Natalie J. Holden)”

John Ringo (of Writ in Blood, by Julie Bozza)

Dear readers, tonight we go to a Queer Weird West, to listen in on a conversation between a gunslinger haunted by a demon and Doc Holliday. They’re talking about murder, Wyatt Earp, and about the strange life in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881.


“The Protagonist Speaks…” John Ringo pondered this, then cast a sharp look at Doc Holliday. “That’s you, I suppose…”

“I am indeed the protagonist of my own life.”

John huffed a laugh. “And I’m my own antagonist?”

“How can that be? Even if you don’t consider yourself… entirely heroic.” Doc reached for the list of questions. An idle afternoon in a darkened saloon in Tombstone was in danger of turning tedious due to the Arizona heat. A distraction was called for. “Let’s make a start on these, anyhow. I have to admit I’m curious.”

What are you best known for?

“Easy,” Doc answered on Johnny’s behalf. “You’re known as a gunslinger, as am I.”

John shook off this thought and slumped further in the chair.

Doc, as he was wont to do, filled the silence. “It’s not that a hard reputation isn’t a convenience from time to time. It adds a certain… weight to one’s words. But I do wonder sometimes if I wouldn’t rather people see the truth beyond it.”

“Such as?” John prompted.

“Aren’t there days when you’d rather not be known as a killer? I know we’ve each earned it, but you could count up all our kills on one hand, and still have a few fingers left over. Add in Wyatt’s count, and you still wouldn’t need a second hand. Yet you and I are seen as desperados, while his lawman’s badge is barely even tarnished.”

Johnny ignored Doc’s chatter about Wyatt Earp with the ease of long practice, and mused, “I used to think… I could earn favors for the souls I freed.”

“Ah, yes. Your demon lover.” It had always been plain that Doc never believed Johnny about that, though he indulged such talk as if it were real. “I’m sure he is both beautiful and bodacious. But that still hasn’t motivated you to really earn your deadly reputation.”

“No, I met him after I’d earned it.” Johnny lowered his head, and rubbed at his face with both hands as if wanting to wrench off a mask. “I only killed the one man… and I thought I had good cause, but it ruined me. Maybe he – the demon, I mean – maybe he just has a taste for ruination.”

“Before that, then. Were you really so different as a youth?”

What was it like where you grew up?

“Ordinary. Indiana, then Missouri. My Pa owned a general store. They were quiet folk. Pious. I had some schooling, but mostly I read. Had the run of his aunt’s library.”

“Sounds idyllic,” Doc remarked – and he probably meant it, despite his sardonic tone.

“My parents decided to emigrate to California when I was fourteen. My Pa… On the way, in Wyoming… my Pa shot himself –”

“The deuce you say!”

“Don’t get all excited. It was an accident. Climbing down from our wagon carrying his rifle.” John sighed. “I saw the whole stupid thing.”

Doc considered him carefully, and then lit a thin cigar and drew in the smoke. “We’re not so different, are we?” he mused before a long exhale. “My mother died when I was fifteen. She was pious, too. My father, then… well, he lost my respect for ever.” Doc livened as another thought struck him. “But I wager you don’t have a saint in the family! My cousin Mattie, I swear it, will be canonized… Not that I’ll be around to see it.”

“No saints,” John confirmed. “But none of ’em were sinners.”

“Now, what’s next?”

Continue reading “John Ringo (of Writ in Blood, by Julie Bozza)”

Lexi (of Toxic, by Karina Kantas)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman from a faraway planet, craving adventure against her people’s drag existence. She is here to tell us about acid rains, desolate lives, friends, emotional scars, and independence.


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

You can’t have much of a life when you’re stuck living in a mountain, ruled under a Committee of Tyrants. Sorry for sounding bitter. But I was bullied most of my childhood because I had two very pale blue almost white eyes. My best friend, someone I cared deeply for, left our mountain to train in another. He was always there for me and when he left my world fell apart. There’s no rule about not leaving the mountain, but who would dare without the proper equipment to protect themselves from the acid rain, that could melt your body within minutes

Were you close to your family? Do you have a favourite memory as a child?

I wasn’t close to my family. We were taken away at a young age and put to work, everyone had to pull their weight to make the running and life in Mount Elta go smooth.

I was forced to move in with Aron, my boyfriend. Although I never wanted the relationship to move forwards, others did. He was a Ranger and would always brag about his explorations and adventures he’d have whilst protecting the Trackers as they searched for the Terra plant. We could not live without this plant, as scientists created a substance called Dozax. This was then used in agriculture, medicines, recreation, protective clothing and shelter, basically in all parts of our lives. As for childhood memories, the only thing that stands out for me was how Marcus, my BF would always know when I was feeling down. He taught me how to survive outside the mountain. We would go on adventures together whilst trying to track the Terra plant down ourselves. But we never strayed too far from Elta.

I never did get to meet a savage face to face. These were Maloks just like us, who used the plant in another way. Boiling the leaves, they would ingest the juice, which gave them a high. A feeling of euphoria. The Committee soon put a stop to that, and they were cast out of the mountain, with no food, shelter, nothing. They would either have their skin and bones melt to nothing from the acid rain or would meet up with a savage and be killed. Those that were lucky enough to survive and find some form of shelter, turned into the monsters that now hunt for the plant and kill Trackers and Rangers.

What do you do now?

I’m a medic. Some injuries can be horrific, especially if the Ranger or Trackers were attacked. My job is to assess the situation and put the patients in order of who needed to be treated first. Of course, Dozax is used in all treatments I just have to decide in what form, where and how much to use. Dozax in its natural form is potent and too much in ones’ body can cause the opposite effect. That‘s why we can only get a massage once a week and even then, we get tested to how much Dozax is in our body. Too much can be a VERY bad thing. What I want to do and what I’ve been secretly training for is to become a Ranger. But Aron lectures me, every time I leave the safety of the mountain. He knows how much I want this and even though there are females Rangers he’s told me plenty of times that I’m not a good fit. But he’s not going to tell me what to do. I will listen to no man except my commanding officer.  Just a while ago we lost him to a vicious attack. We couldn’t save him so now we’re waiting for another CO to come and take over the Ranger Corp. I have my exam in one week. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. But I know I can do this. Marcus taught me everything. I’m not sure if Aron has been informed about my training, being as everyone knows we are together, and although I’ve asked for it to be kept on the down-low. He asked me to marry him so we can move into the West sector where the Rangers, Trackers and Committee lived with their family. But I refused. In fact, I don’t want him to be here anymore. He’s too controlling, and I feel like he uses me for sex, never giving me any satisfaction as long as he gets his. No this is not the way I thought my life would turn out. I have to speak with Aron and kick him out of my life, for now. If I do pass the exam, then I’ll be working with him and he holds a high rank, so I’ll have to put up with him giving me orders again. And I know he’s not going to go easy, but the sacrifice I have to make if I want to leave this mountain and make something of my life.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Only a few days ago, I was out exploring when the sky turned to a glowing red, the sign that it was about to rain. I knew no matter how fast I ran I wouldn’t make it back to the Elta in time. I was wearing a protective suit made of a rubber material from Dozax. I don’t know how they made the material, but it was certainly acid-proof. This wasn’t the first time I got caught in the rain. I grabbed the tent that was folded into a pocket of my backpack, I threw it out onto the floor, and it sprung up into an oval tent, I dived in just as the first drops started to fall.  I laid down and relaxed while hearing the rain splatter on the roof of the tent, I must have fallen asleep as I was having a very good dream 😉 then I woke to a burning on my hand. I sat up and watched the acid burning into my skin. I wiped the residue off my hand using my clothing and then looked up at the roof of the tent and saw a tiny hole where the rain was coming through. I watch it hit the floor of the tent and be soaked up. I’ve never heard of a leaking tent before so I knew that once the rain stopped, I would have to take it to the scientist in the North sector, after getting treatment on my hand which was still burning and stinging, but it’s happened before so I knew what the pain was like and how bad it could get.

Continue reading “Lexi (of Toxic, by Karina Kantas)”

Montague ‘Monty Hill’ Glupie (of Children of Little Might, by Peter D’Hollander)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with a sixteen-year-old boy with autism, who found a book that promised his every wish once he translated it. It took a bit of coaxing and some bickering, but he agreed (so long as it wasn’t face-to-face). He’ll tell us about fantasy kingdoms, princesses and paper girls, and power in adversity.


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

I grew up in Utah (though that’s never mentioned in the book) where I live with both my parents in a small city. Or rather: lived. My father… Well, he’s gone now and I still miss him. But Mom and I still live in our old home. In fact, I even sleep in their old bed – so I can be close to Dad.

I don’t have any brothers or sisters; though my father once said he wanted to have more. They never said so, but I guess my parents didn’t go for more children because I wasn’t always the easiest. You see, when I was eleven – the most horrible year of my life – they discovered I have autism. That same year, Dad… Went away and my best friend betrayed me. But I don’t want to talk about that.

I live in a house with three floors of which the third floor is my bedroom. I also have a game room, there, but I talk about that later. I go to a high-school, but I hope you forgive me when I don’t tell you its name. I’m not one of the popular kids, there, probably because I broke a bully’s arm. Also, the principal has it in for me. He doesn’t understand I had nothing to do with breaking my bully’s arm. I pushed him against a wall, for sure, but is it my fault he has brittle bones?

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

I often sit alone in my room. I don’t have many friends, except for Storm,  but I do speak a lot of different languages. And I love to find the explanations of names. Storm’s real name is Sherwin. It means ‘swift runner’, but since he’s in a wheelchair I don’t think it fits him well. Hence, I called him Storm. He’s like a storm in his wheelchair; fast and hard to keep up; even if I’m on my bike. He’s my only friend, though you should ask him why. Most people find me weird because of my autism. I often think the only reason why he’s with me, is because he can’t run away. I once told him, too, and it made him laugh. Don’t ask me why.

But to answer your question: I love to play computer games. I like Civilization, Humankind  or Minecraft. I love to conquer the world and I am so good at it I even beat Dad at it. When he was still at home… I also like to ride around with my bike. Dad and I did that on my eleventh birthday and that’s how we found the burned down ranch house. I loved it so much, Dad bought it and started to renovate it.

He shouldn’t have. A wall collapsed and since he was alone…

In the ranch house, a week or so later, I found a book that promised to grant me my every wish if and when I translated it. And that’s when I knew it: I wanted to wish my autism away and bring my father back.

My most cherished memory? It’s a Fourth of July – in New York. We watched the fireworks. And we were Mom, Dad and I. Did you know I recreated that memory to help save the Twelve? They are a crack commando and the personal bodyguards of the King of Kalpana – the author of the book I had to translate. But I really didn’t save them at all, I’m afraid. But that Fourth of July? Yes: that’s my fondest memory of Dad and me. Because, you know, he was always there for me.

What do you do now?

Yeah. About that. I don’t want to brag, but when I made my wish, I didn’t ask for my autism to disappear or my father to be alive again. I wished for a girl, a Princess for sure, certain she never came. But she did. And because of that…

Don’t let them tell you anything else. She took me to Kalpana – the world she came from. And that’s a funny word, right there. Did you know Kalpana means Imagination in Hindi? So, today I’m still this glupi boy who believes in wishes. And in case you don’t know, because you’re not as good in languages as I am, glupi is stupid in Polish.

Storm says I shouldn’t tell you that. But everyone knows and it’s okay. I guess that I still have autism. I got the chance to get rid of it, but everyone around me wanted me to still have autism, I guess.

No, of course that isn’t true. They really wanted me to remain me. My one real wish was to have friends, so that’s what I do, I guess. I do my best to evade them because while I like to have friends, they also make me feel awkward. I never know what to say around them. If this wasn’t a written interview, I probably sat there and looked at you. Now… It’s Storm and Princess Aislinn who keep pushing me to write answers down. I hope I don’t bore you to death, though. Because I Want to be your friend, too. Even when you look like a very old dude.

Ah. I forgot. Both Storm and Princess Aislinn want me to tell you I have a girlfriend. Princess Aislinn. It’s funny, because I’m not sure what to do around her, but then, she does most of the doing. Even the things I don’t like, but secretly love. She made me to what I am today.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

If I have to believe Princess Aislinn, I’m the hero of the story. But I don’t agree. The true heroes are my friends. Storm, because he’s always there to defend me – even when everyone else ignores him, without asking anything in return. Can you imagine that, though he sits in a wheelchair, he didn’t even want to be able to walk? He called it overrated. The idea alone.

And then there is Aislinn, who you can’t ignore, no matter how hard you try. She’s… Well, she’s her. She stopped my bully. And my teacher. And she took it upon herself to do stuff I ordinarily wouldn’t do. I guess she could do all that because she’s incredibly beautiful. And it helps she’s able to influence people.

Oh, and there is the King and his hateful twin. And the Queen. I still feel ashamed when I am around her because not only Aislinn, but she, too, witnessed the wish I made about her daughter. I’m surprised she didn’t kick my ass. After all, I asked – wished – her daughter to fall in love with me.

And that takes me to Damon. The king’s twin brother, but also my high-school principal. He wants something of me, but I don’t really understand what. By the time I figure it out, it’s too late.

Continue reading “Montague ‘Monty Hill’ Glupie (of Children of Little Might, by Peter D’Hollander)”

Nabilak (of There was Music, by J.D. Grubb)

Dear readers, tonight we meet a supporting character, right before they met the protagonist at the opening of her book. He’s here to tell us about his war-altered world , and about the prison from city ruins where he met the protagonist.


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

My mother, Fenna, was a prostitute.

I never knew my father, but Fenna said that he was a military man, and some even alleged that he was a noble. Regardless, my life began in Girion, the greatest Illiri city in western Illirium. Fenna and I did not stay in one place for long, however. She sought to change her life by becoming the mistress of Lord Goreb who resided in Tïrmen. At that time, I was still young, but old enough to recognize the dangers of his character. Goreb’s persistent abuse of my mother drove me to rise up on her behalf. She did not want me to, but I could not stand the man. At first, I challenged him with words; yet a disease clung to my throat, reducing my voice to a quiet, raspy sound. Therefore, I learned action is the truest measure of strength. Though we had to ultimately flee from Goreb’s estate, I felt greater liberation from the thought that he would never again be able to walk properly.

Meandering from one terrible relationship to the next, my mother stood tall at first, never letting anyone see how tired and lost she felt. I admired her for that. She was a survivor in spirit. Yet, she also never fought for herself, and for that I nurtured resentment. Dragged from place to place, I tried to learn all I could, such as from the baker who showed me the care and strength necessary to bake bread—the timing, the kneading—or the blacksmith who taught me about the focus and power needed to shape iron.

When Fenna and I eventually found ourselves living on the streets of Girion, I did all I could to provide for us. She came to both rely on and scorn my presence. “It is because of you that we are here,” she would say, acting like the trappings of Lord Goreb were worth all the pain. At other times, she desperately wanted me to hold her close. Her unpredictability taught me patience, while at the same time gnawed at it. When I reached manhood and could tolerate her madness no more, I left. I never saw her again, but suspect that she died on the street.

Continue reading “Nabilak (of There was Music, by J.D. Grubb)”

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