Tag Archives: speculative fiction

Chris Mentzer: Interview with the Author of The Askinar Towers Trilogy

Chris Mentzer

It’s been a little while since I’ve hosted an author interview (and if you’re thinking of doing one with me, I am considering moving the format to video via G+ Hangout) but today we welcome Chris Mentzer, author of The Askinar Towers trilogy. Thanks for joining us today, Chris. Could you share a little bit about your recent projects? 

My trilogy The Askinar Towers is completed and I’m waiting for book 1 release in December by Tiger Dynasty Publishing. In addition to these, I’m working on a new Towersstory featuring a supporting character that appears in both book 2 and book 3 of the trilogy. I’m also working on a blog series called Observations of a Café Waiter. This features a waiter named Chuck and his employment at the Floor 17 Café found in the Tower of Water. 

Busy, busy! Do you tend to put messages or themes in your novels? 

Adventure can be found everywhere and anywhere you look. A simple trip to the grocery store can be made exciting just by using your imagination. But always remember that when you are out on an adventure, home is the place you always want to return to in the end. 

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why? 

From book one, I would say my favorite chapter to write was How To Rescue a Damsel in Distress. The reason being that first, it is an off-the-wall title, and secondly, the chapter gives a breakdown of the rescue but it doesn’t go as planned.

From book two, my favorite part would be the Black Friday scenario in a sleepy town called Pleasington. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers.

From book three, it’s a toss-up between the chapter called Angry Villagers 101, and the pirate scenario. Both were fun to write and the outcome is somewhat unexpected. 

Did you choose your genre, or did it more choose you? 

I got interested in Fantasy primarily from reading the Chronicles of Narnia series in junior high. From there I progressed to David Eddings novels and the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett. The Askinar Towers trilogy was greatly inspired by Narnia in that it too is a Portal Fantasy series. 

Some of my own early favourites! I would have read The Chronicles of Narnia before I even knew what fantasy was, and David Eddings was my first ‘real’ fantasy as I understood it. I pinched Castle of Wizardry off Dad when I was ten. I was well into Discworldby age twelve.

What book are you reading now? 

Currently I’m reading The World of Karov by Elyse Salpeter. It’s book 1 of the Children of Demliee Series. I recently met her online and picked up an e-copy of her book. Very inspiring story.

I’m not familiar with that one. I might need to check it out. Are there any other new authors that have seized your attention? 

In addition to Elyse, I’ve been following Kayla Curry, Scott Bartlett, and Ciara Ballintyne. I’ve haven’t read much from them but I’m in the process of making the rounds. 

Awww, me? I’m flattered! I have to say this is a first for me.

Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? 

Hands down it would have to be M.C. Beaton. She write small village mysteries featuring a local constable by the name of Hamish Macbeth. What I love about her writing is her ability to make the fictional town of Lochdubh seem real including the residents. I’ve read all her Macbeth books and hope to collect them all and reread them in the order that they were released.

That got my attention! Although the Scottish angle always does that for me. No, I do not have a ‘men-in-kilts’ fetish, just some relatively recent Scottish roots, as my Dad was born in Edinburgh.

I imagine like many authors (myself included) you have a day job as well. Are you happy to share that with us? 

Yes, I’m currently serving a life sentence in retail. Been with the company for 17 years and I hope to survive long enough to reach 20. Time will tell. 

Yikes, that’s a long time. I hope you make 20 as well.

If you were a Star Trek® character, which one would it be? 

Definitely a Red Shirt crewmember; Ensign Expendable. I can’t see myself surviving any particular mission down to a planet (hostile or non) and most likely would die shortly after arrival. 

That has got to be the funniest answer I’ve ever received, although I certainly hope you are not that expendable!

What would I find in your refrigerator right now? 

Surprisingly this is a difficult question to answer. We have two refrigerators in our house. My wife is a diabetic and has a gluten intolerance and she (and our youngest daughter) has control of the main fridge. I have the secondary one which houses basic things like bread, tortilla shells, and other items that can’t be eaten by the other two. Of course if you look in just my fridge, you’d probably wonder how I survive! 

If you looked in my second fridge, you’d think I survived on a steady diet of beer and ice cream…

If you were a car, what kind would you be? 

A 4×4 car crushing monster truck. I am so sick of the way people drive on the road these days, I’d rather just run right over them to get to my destination. Plus I’d enter competitions on the weekend. 

*makes a note not to annoy Chris*

Thanks for joining us today, Chris. 

If you’d like to know more about Chris and his work, keep reading and check out his contact details at the end. Nexus of the Worlds, Book 1 of The Askinar Towers Trilogy is being published by Tiger Dynasty Publishing and is expected to be released on December 3, 2013. Watch Chris’s Facebook Page and Twitter account for details of the release.   

About Nexus of the Worlds 

Sara and Erika weren’t looking for an adventure but when but they are given a special key, they find a portal that takes them into a world dominated by four towers. They soon realize the towers themselves are the center of every known world. Their quest is to locate the legendary fifth tower, encounter the entity that lives within, and then find a way back home. Meanwhile a sinister cloaked figure is watching from the shadows and following their every move. Are they ally or foe? Do they want the girls or the special key? Find out in book one of The Askinar Towers. 

About Chris Mentzer 

Chris has been interested in writing ever since 1982 when he was given an English assignment in the 9th grade. He had to write a paragraph using a lot of detail. Although he wasn’t sure he completely understood the assignment, he wrote a scene in a bank where a guy was coming out of the bathroom and witnessed a robbery in progress. The detail portion came in when the witness described the robber to the police. From that moment Chris decided he wanted to be a writer.

Between 1982 and 2005, he made several attempts to write a story; it was his goal to write the great American novel, you know the one that everyone wants to own and read. The majority of his work lay incomplete in a personal slush pile in a filing cabinet.

Having read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and all fantasy books by David Eddings, he took a stab at Fantasy with minimal success. Even tried his hand at Science Fiction with a couple of buddies while he was in college. The bottom line was he lacked discipline and the desire to stick with any one project. But that was all to change in 2005.

In November of that year, Chris entered his first writing challenge held by the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website. Although the goal was 50,000 words, he obtained his personal goal of 25K, which went on to be the foundation of book 1 of The Askinar Towers Trilogy. He later wrote foundations for books 2 and 3 in ’07 and ’09 respectively. His inspiration for the Towers books came from John DeChancie’s Castle Perilousseries and Doctor Who’s Paradise Towers. 

Chris lives in Mesa, AZ with his wife and two daughters. He is currently employed in the retail industry working in the produce department. In his spare time, when not writing or stalking the social media streams, Chris loves to hike out in the Lost Dutchman area and Saguaro Lake. 

Here’s another interview with Chris Mentzer 
Contact information 

Platform Bloghttp://2150.wordpress.com 
Askinar Towers Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/Askinartower

Why I Originally Liked Falling Skies Better Than The Walking Dead

Don’t shoot me! I always liked The Walking Dead, but my fondness for the show grew rapidly at the beginning of Season 3.

Before that, while I enjoyed the storylines, watching it was sometimes an exercise in frustration for me. So many people doing so many stupid things. Mostly characters who are dead now. And you know why they are dead now? Because they did stupid things!

Well, that’s natural selection for you, but with my disposition and low tolerance for stupidity, it wasn’t my idea of entertainment. My long-suffering husband had to endure hours of my rants, or screaming at the TV.

‘Take someone with you!’

‘Don’t wander off in the dark alone – I don’t care if you need to pee.’

‘Where is your gun? Where the hellis your gun, moron?’

‘Oh my god, why are you letting that kid wander off alone? This isn’t a playground!’

Eventually these explosions evolved into a reorganisation of the survivors by yours truly – if only Rick had listened to me sooner, he might have made it out with more people alive.

Of course, then my husband had to listen to me wax lyrical about how I’d be running my band of zombie survivors.

I may not be able to fight. I’ve never shot a gun. I’m short, so I probably can’t run that fast, and god forbid I would have to ditch my heels – a sacrifice I grudgingly admit I would make in the interests of survival. God dammit, why can’t one be an efficient zombie survivor and look stylish?

But assuming I managed to survive the initial zombie onslaught using my brain, I’d be organising the hell out of my band of survivors, and you bet I’d be the one running the show. There’d be a buddy system. No wandering off alone, especially at night. In fact, no wandering around at all without a good reason. Everyone would be armed with something. There’d be guards posted.

Ah hell, I forget now a lot of the stuff I said. I’d have to watch it all again.

I know that people were getting used to the idea that humanity was no longer top dog, but hell, we are the mostadaptable species on the planet. That’s why we survive. And most of Rick’s little group weren’t doing a good job of demonstrating that – although they were doing a good job of demonstrating what happens if you don’t adapt.

You die.

At the time, Falling Skies appealed to me more because the characters in that show got it. They immediately understood they were no longer top of the food chain, and they were organising themselves to deal with that situation as best they could. They were mounting guards. They were armed. They expected something to jump out of the shadows and try and kill them at any moment. They were treating life like a hostile situation, not a jaunt in the woods, and consequently far fewer of them died.

They were smart. I liked them.

Then of course at the end of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, Rick basically declared it was his way or the highway, and that’s when things got better. At the opening of Season 3, the survivors were finally behaving the way I thought they should have been from the beginning. Better late than never, I guess, although for some of the original characters late was too late…

Season 4 has started, and I’m still waiting to watch it because my husband is working long hours out at the Sydney bushfires, and we’ve had no time together to catch up on TV. So the episodes just stack up on the DVR… eventually I’ll get to watch them.

What do you like about The Walking Deador Falling Skies, or how do they compare for you if you watch both of them? Yes I know they are different things, zombies, aliens, blah blah blah. It’s all sci-fi, and both these shows are post-apocalyptic dystopian stories.

Just, don’t talk to me about Season 4 of The Walking Dead.

The Glass Demon: Review by Club Fantasci

Club Fantasci held its April Hangout on Friday to discuss the Glass Demon by Helen Grant. You can watch the discussion by hosts Dionne Lister, David Lowry, Kriss Morton and myself below.

Reviews by each of the hosts will be available on the Club Fantasci website. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

May’s Book of the Month is Waylander by David Gemmell and you can join us for the discussion on Friday May 31 7:30pm CST.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: A Review by Ciara Ballintyne

What would you do if the fate of the world hung on a child, aged six? Would you make the hard decisions to subject the child to the trials necessary to give that child the capabilities, together with natural intelligence, to actually save the world? Could you?

Earth has been twice invaded by giant insectoid aliens. Casualties were horrific. We were outnumbered and outgunned. The first time we nearly lost. The second time we were saved by the genius tactician Mazer Rackham. Now we are preparing for the third invasion, and while our technology has advanced, so will have the ‘buggers’. Our hopes rest on a pre-emptive strike to the buggers’ homeworld, but we have no commander.

Ender is a Third – a third child in a world where couples are allowed only two. The government had great hopes for his older brother, Peter, but found him too cruel, too ambitious, to lead their fleet. Their hopes switched to his sister, but she was too gentle, and so, in hopes of a child with the qualities of both Peter and Valentine, the government authorised the birth of Ender.

Monitored almost since birth, Ender is taken from his parents at the age of six and sent to a school for talented children destined for great careers in the space fleet. While they make no secret of the fact they hope he will command the fleet in the attack against the buggers’ homeworld, Ender is subjected to incredible pressure in order to force him to learn to think his way out of almost any impossible scenario.

The majority of the training at the Battle School is mock training in zero gravity conditions between groups of other students, where tactics more than brute strength rule the day. Isolated, friendless, and made a target for bullies, Ender nevertheless demonstrates his ability to out think almost any adversary, defeating enemies or making them his allies. Each time he rises to the top, the instructors change the odds, change the stakes, and make the situation almost impossible for him to win.

He is advanced ahead of his age, made to prove his value to the older students, and then, when he does, he inevitably alienates some. When he gains acceptance, he is pulled out of his unit, made the commander of his own unit, and left to sink or swim with too many rookie ‘soldiers’. When he nevertheless turns them into an effective fighting force, the odds are stacked against him when the instructors stage daily battles, and then twice daily battles, instead of allowing the usual rest period.

While the training seems nothing short of cruel, and some of the instructors express concerns they may ‘break’ or ‘ruin’ Ender, if one looks closely you realise that the training is nothing more or less than actual simulated battle conditions. There is no mandatory rest period between battles in war. There is no guarantee that one will always have the upper hand, or that one will always have the best soldiers. A commander must make the most of what he has to still produce victory, and it is this for which Ender is actually being trained.

Will he succeed? At the age of eleven, is he capable of leading a space fleet to war… and winning? Should he even be placed in that position, made responsible for the lives of soldiers? While I, as a mother, mourn the loss of the childhood he never had, I can recognise that Ender’s youth makes him more flexible, more durable, than an adult might be. He comes with no pre-conceptions, no skills or beliefs to be unlearned, and has that resilience so common to children. While an adult might break under the pressure, a child may only bend, and so Ender bends, and is moulded into the tool that is needed.

But the moral question remains. Should a child be taken and moulded into a tool, at great personal expense of that child? Can such actions be justified to save the whole of humanity?


But what if you don’t even know if the enemy is coming? What if, maybe, the enemy has learned the error of its ways and has no intention of invading and attacking enemy space? What if it is now us who are the invaders?

I thoroughly enjoyed the direction in which the book led me, the questions it posed, and sharing Ender’s journey and personal dilemmas. While the book is written, at times, ‘simplistically’, and employs ‘telling’ in some cases instead of ‘showing’, it appears from the introduction that Orson Scott Card did this deliberately, believing it made the book more accessible to a wider audience. Perhaps he was right, and perhaps the style of narrative was appropriate for a protagonist aged between six and eleven anyway.

While not the usual type of book I read, I ripped through Ender’s Game in two days, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to read more in the Ender series in the near future. Highly recommended.

Humour In Epic Fantasy: A Look at Game of Thrones

With Season 3 of Game of Thrones just begun, I took advantage of my maternity leave to sit down and watch the whole of Season 2 over the last few days. As I did, I had cause to ask myself a question.

Why am I watching this?

Let’s face it, Game of Thrones is marvellously well done, but the story is downright depressing. I’ve read the books as well as watched the TV series, and I remember being desperately angry when I discovered I had to wait for Dance of Dragons. I bought it as soon as it was released, and 18 months later I’ve not read it.

Why not?

I remember almost nothing of the books, except that everyone dies. It’s as bad as a Shakespeare tragedy. Most of the characters are rotten, and there’s slim pickings when it comes to admirable characters. Every time you actually do decide whose side you should be on, that person gets the sword. I’m reduced to rooting for Tyrion Lannister who, despite being a Lannister, appears to be one of the nicer characters. He’s been hard done by as a child, unloved by his family, not to mention unvalued for the skills he actually does have, and appears to have a decent stab at being a good Hand of the King. He’s not perfect, he’s definitely self-interested, and he plays politics for the sake of it, but he has the basic decency to be revolted by the notion of killing babies.

And on top of that, he’s funny.

In fact, without the humour injected by Tyrion, I wonder would I watch the series? Without him, there is precious little uplifting about the story. A throne under contention. Good men, like Ned Stark, dying. Monsters like Joffrey in command. Babes torn from their mothers’ arms and murdered. Rape, and pillage, and greed, and dead men walking south from the Wall, and there’s no one I can point to who can save the day. No hero.

Epic fantasy does tend to run to grim, with worlds under threat, and lives in the balance. Most aren’t as grim as Game of Thrones. More usually the hopes of everyone, including the reader, are pinned on the likes of Rand al’Thor or Richard Rahl. With heroes to light the way, to give hope, there’s something to keep us reading past all the horror and fear. In fact, it’s the assurance that someone will save the day that entices many readers of fantasy; an assurance not present in the real world.

Even then, I sometimes find myself taking a break from the doom and gloom of a world under threat to read another genre, or to lose myself in the light-hearted comic relief of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Humour can be important in epic fantasy. A moment of levity can be used to highlight the horrors or to offer the reader relief from them. It’s not a necessary element of every fantasy, and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth has been successful without much in the way of humour, but it can be a useful part of the fantasy writer’s toolkit to avoid depressing the reader to the point where they don’t see the point in reading on.

When writing a story as depressing as Game of Thrones, I’d argue it may be downright critical.

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Do you like Tyrion? How many of the other characters did you like – and how many of them are now dead?

How important do you think the humour is in Game of Thrones?

Arya Stark – one of the few other likeable characters