Book review: Second Chance by Dylan Hearn

Second Chance (The Transcendence Trilogy Book 1) by Dylan Hearn

Second Chance is thrilling and chilling. There is blood and gore, but it is the cold-blooded, or even bloodless aspect of British society that is really at the core of this story of a political system that controls everything even beyond the grave.
There are four distinct threads to the story as well as sub-stories, as murky as the crumbling cityscape. Each chapter adds a little more detail to one of the main threads, and as Dylan Hearn pulls in the threads, we begin to see through the murk to where they are all going. And it’s not a nice place, I can tell you.

The technical parts, the cloning and regeneration, the memories that are replaced in the new brain, or not, depending, seem perfectly feasible to a non-techy person like me. The idea of cheating death on the one hand, is balanced against the massacres committed by the forces of law and order on the other. Petty crime might have become rarer because of the intricate system of police surveillance and the instant data search system that has replaced the internet, but for those who can manipulate the cameras, the police, and the data collected and redisseminated, there are no limits to what horrors can be perpetrated and the evidence wiped out.

The pace is relentless, the tension maintained right the way through. I was completely caught up in the way Second Chance unfolded—expecting the worst each time I turned a page. Dylan Hearn plays with notions of morality and ethics as much as he does with science and technology and it soon becomes clear that our notions of right and wrong have become distinctly warped in this near future. The characters are real. They are in the main, not likeable, and of course, given the theme of the story, not necessarily even bona fide ‘real’ people.

If I were to compare Second Chance to another novel, I would choose PD James’ The Children of Men. This treats a similar theme, the world gone wrong, rotten and above all, insidiously untouchable at its centres of control. I highly recommend Second Chance as a thrilling and disturbing read. Sometimes it’s good to be disturbed. link


Promote Yourself: Linzé Brandon

My weekend guest author is Linzé Brandon, a prolific writer as you can see from the number of book covers in the gallery. Here is Linzé to tell us a little about herself.

Teaching herself to read before she went to school, it was the start of her life long love affair with books. Trained as an engineer, Linzé has worked as an export consultant and is presently a project manager at a company that designs and manufactures products for the military industry. Although she still loves to read, she also enjoys counted stitch embroidery, archery, fly fishing, painting abstracts, her husband’s medal winning photographs and watching Manchester United play.

She is one of the moderators of the Google+ group, Writer’s Rabbit Hole, and leads the Pretoria Writers Group, consisting of ten members, seven of which are published authors in various genres.

Linzé Brandon lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her engineer husband and German Shepherds who are convinced that the world revolves only around them.

LinzeBrandon Author Photo small

Linzé writes in an extensive range of genres, and the book she has chosen to share today is the second volume of a fantasy romance series.

Keeper of the Dragon Sword_Cover_KINDLE

Keeper of the Dragon Sword – The Dragon Masters


It was definitely not her week. Her uncle had been murdered, her life had been threatened, an old school friend had re-appeared, she had two body guards and a new home. Elizabeth L’Emery was not having a good time as the new owner and chief executive of the largest fabric manufacturer on Xa’an.

Randall Storm had missed his best friend from school, but he had so many secrets that staying away from her had seemed to be the only solution to keep her safe from the uncontrollable lust for blood of his dragon half. But when he was assigned to her protection detail, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

As they search for ways to control his magic that didn’t enslave him – and didn’t kill her – more threats came to try and pull them apart. When the opportunity arises to put a weapon of incredible power into her hands, Elizabeth has to decide if the violence of the blood ritual would be worth the sacrifice of becoming the Keeper of the Dragon Sword.

Attacks, magic and sword battles ensue as they continue to fight for her life but in the end it might come down to the ultimate sacrifice of the dragon to keep his vow to serve his master with his life.

Was their partnership strong enough to survive the choice of enslavement to prevent a war against their people or a ritual that could kill the woman he loved?


Feeling a little depressed and exhausted by all the new happenings in her normally quiet life, Elizabeth fell straight into bed not even bothering to undress.

She woke the next morning with her heart pounding. It took a moment to recall the dream that was responsible for the aroused state of her body. It took another to realise that the tingling sensations in her left shoulder that would normally accompany her stimulated body, were not present.

“Oh hell,” she muttered, and threw back the covers.

There was no time for getting dressed. On silent feet she searched the bathroom. Nothing.

A search of the men’s bedroom and the other bathroom revealed no dragon either.

A hiss and a growl made her run for the main room. A hard arm held her back when she rushed towards the noise.

“Shh,” he whispered in her ear.

It was only Randall’s calm assurance that stopped her from pulling away. “She is fine.”

“What happened?”

She felt his arm loosen its tight hold on her waist, but he didn’t let go all together. “Your dragon surprised me. She must be producing mating pheromones, because my dragon was awake and on the floor before I had a chance to comprehend what was going on.”

She watched the two dragons circle each other, hissing and growling in turn. The mare was smaller than the dragon, but appeared unintimidated by the new addition to her territory. If nothing else, she seemed fascinated by him. Watching his every move. Her tail made slow sweeps behind her, as the two of them danced the introduction of meeting a potential mate.

Elizabeth took a better look at the dragon. He was red and black like her own dragon, but he had the most amazing blue eyes that dominated his face. They practically glowed with lust at the sight of the mare. But he was wary. Dragon mares didn’t submit to mating unless she was ready, or accepted the dragon. Dragons mated for life, but Elizabeth couldn’t be sure about hers. The dragon mare was part of her, but she couldn’t shift into its form. She was more like an alter ego, a primitive form of herself, than an actual independent entity.

“Will they mate?”

Randall tensed at the question and tightened his arm around her. He too watched as the dragons sized each other up. “I don’t think so. Dragons seldom mate at a first meeting. But we cannot take the chance that they will fight. Just keep still and let them decide,” he replied in the same quiet tone.

That was a surprise. “Why would they fight?”

She felt his chest move against her back. “Dragons of both sexes can be territorial. She must sense that I am a blood dragon, and that can put any female on edge.”

She frowned and turned her head to look up at him. In bare feet, he towered over her, head and shoulders. “You are a blood dragon? What does that mean?”

His expression froze into determined blankness.

Follow Linzé online:

Blog (Butterfly on a Broomstick)
FB author page






Book Links

Science Fiction

Don’t Call Me Sweetheart –

Erotic Romance

Their +1 –


Bubble trouble –

Pixie Dust, Boots and Reindeer

The Third Gender Series (Sci-fi Romance)


Hunger –

Perfect –

The Nations of Peace Series (Fantasy Romance)

Géra’s Gift – The Grandmasters –

Keeper of the Dragon Sword – The Dragon Masters


The Cutting Horizon –

Thank you Linzé and best of luck with your newest release.

The author hot seat: That was nice. What was it?

My next guest author to share her experiences of writing outside the Amazon norms is Nikki McDonagh. In Nikki’s case it isn’t so much the genre, which is broadly dystopian speculative, but her style of writing that knocks the reader sideways.
I was attracted to her first book by the beautiful cover and was immediately drawn in by the narrative. There is something Dickensian in the speech of her characters, a quirky style that bears no resemblance to modern tv soap dialogue, but makes me at any rate think of nineteenth century boatmen and other London low life. There’s something sad and out of time in the words that sits very well with the underlying story of loss.


J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.
N: The Song of Forgetfulness is an unsettling and mysterious vision of the future where animals are almost extinct, humans are subjugated by the sinister and secretive Agros, and gifted children know as Meeks, are going missing.

In the book I deal with issues that are of concern to us today. Such as overpopulation, rapid advances in technology and global warming. The book is set in Scotland because oceans have risen and that is all the land that is left in Great Britain. There are no animals because of viral infection, except for the elusive birdybirds and they never land. In ‘Echoes,’ I am trying to suggest that if mankind continues to abuse this beautiful planet, then a world like the one I have created might happen. But I am also trying to say that we are all connected somehow, and that we all have something special inside us, even if we aren’t sure what it is. That we are all capable of doing something amazing if put to the test.

Brief synopsis of both books: Set three hundred years in the future, it follows the journey of 17-year-old Adara from the comfort of her hygienehome through the ravaged territories of NotsoGreatBritAlbion, as she searches for her brother Deogol. One of many Meeks abducted by the all-controlling Agros. A misfit in her community, Adara is the only one who can sing to the birdybirds and make them land. In a time of hunger she must keep her talent a secret from those who would abuse her power.
echoes cover for email
During her journey, Adara is kidnapped by lustful Woodsmales, befriends a Nearlyman, is attacked by ravenous wolfies, falls for a Clonie, and is helped by a S.A.N.T. Yet Amongst the outcasts and deviants she encounters, Adara finds unlikely friendships that help her come to terms with her ability and realise her true potential. Whilst hiding out in the Lady Camp, Adara is told she must go to the Clonie zone to find a Backpacker who will help her on her mission. Accompanied by a Nearlyman Wirt, Adara is joined by Eadgard a S.A.N.T. who takes her to the Monastery in the clouds where she discovers her true potential as a Bringer and powerful weapon.
In the second book, A Silence Heard, Adara and her friends escape from the monastery in the clouds and with the help of a mysterious map, travel to Agro headquarters. The place where the little ‘uns are imprisoned and Agros carry out sinister experiments.
A Silnce Heard cover sml
Disguised as Ladies and their escorts, Adara, Kendra, Eadgard, Wirt and Marcellus, enter Agro headquarters ready to infiltrate their colony and free the Meeks. However, Agros are smart and Adara and her companions find themselves at the mercy of torturers and sleazy seducers. However, there is hope. The Meeks have a secret weapon and outside, folk are gathering. A legion of Woodsfolk, Clonies, S.A.N.T.S, Holy ones and Ladies, are on their way.

But time is running out. Adara’s struggle to save her kin becomes a desperate battle of life and death, as Agros send in their army of cloned killers to destroy the insurgents who are moving ever closer. Adara is forced to use her voice again and again, to try and stop the Agros from winning the war, but each time she does, a part of her dies.
venom silence amazon
As filthy battles ensue and loved ones perish, Adara must sing The Song of Forgetfulness one last time if she is to save not only the Meeks, but all the folk of NotsoGreatBritAlbion, from a life of slavery and despair.
lights silence amazon

J: What inspired the story in the first place?

N: The Song of Forgetfulness began as a challenge from students that attend a creative writing class I teach at my local High School. We discussed issues that they were concerned about such as global warming, cloning, and the rise in deadly diseases. They said that I should write a book for YA readers. Now, I had never thought of doing this, but when I started doing some research about the threat of future global famine and advancements in technology, I became hooked on the idea of incorporating what scientists are doing now, tweaking it a bit, and using it in my story. Adara, has a Synth bag that is both invisible and so light that she cannot feel it, despite it being full of stuff. Also, the students wanted me to incorporate characters doing things they don’t normally do in YA fiction. Things like going to the toilet and having a menstrual cycle. I asked them if they really wanted to see this in the books they read and they said, “Yes.” Then they said, “Are you going to write one?”
I said, “Okay.” And I did. In fact two, so far.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?

N: I did try to get an agent, but got the usual reply, “We like it, but we just don’t love it.” So I decided to get in touch with Indie publishers. The response was better, and several offered me a contract. Being new to this publishing lark, I went with the one I thought offered the better deal and would do some of the marketing. The reality of the matter is that the author does pretty much all of the promotion and marketing for their book. I am not good at it, but I am learning as I go. Selling books and getting an author profile takes time as does building a fan base and an audience. Most publishers traditional or otherwise do seem to leave the marketing to the authors. Which is why, I suppose, that so many writers are self- publishing. Why do all the work and only get 30% of the royalties?

J: Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

N: I don’t really know? My YA books are described as dystopian and science fiction but they aren’t really just that. Putting a tag on any book will pigeon hole it into a genre or category. This will inevitably attract a certain audience. If the book disappoints that reader, then it could hinder its saleability. So far, I have had really great reviews, but this has not reflected in great sales. I suppose I just have to keep going and write more.

J: How do you tackle promotion?

N: With my hand over my face!
I promote on Facebook with an author/book page and advertise when I do giveaways and Amazon deals. But I have no control over a lot of promotion since it is up to my publishers how and when and if, they decide to make it free or do the Kindle countdown deal. So that can be a little frustrating. I twitter, I have a blog, I do author interviews, and very occasionally I have bought a cheap promo on a site. Sometimes that has generated a few sales. I have found that just telling people I know or meet, and doing a few readings in libraries, have been a good way of letting my target audience know about the book. My book is available in libraries and people are borrowing it to read, so that is really nice to hear and may lead to future sales. It is all about getting the word out to as many people as possible. Also, I work in a High School and am slowly building a fan base with some of the young people. Hopefully they will spread the word. I am planning on trying to get some radio spots. I have made some book trailers and hope they have helped to raise awareness. Building a fan base is a long process though and I keep slogging at it.

J: Are there any writers you feel you share some common ground with?

N: All Indie writers struggling to promote their books!
I would like to believe that I share the same kind of ethos that Ursula Le Guinn has in her books. The philosophical aspects she includes are similar to mine, in that she questions the role of mankind in the grand scheme of things in a lot of her sci-fi works. Also, Ray Bradbury in The Martian Chronicles. He deals with mankind’s arrogance and destructive ways with a sense of beauty and tragedy that is simply compelling. I hope that I have created my futuristic world that is somewhat similar to the way in which these two authors describe their alien environments; with strong imagery, pacey narrative, and interesting use of language.

J: Anything else, advice, experiences, anecdotes you’d like to add, feel free.

N: I would say to new authors, don’t rush to get published. It is so tempting to jump in when you get a positive response from an agent or publisher. I think I was flattered so much by what my publisher said that I was caught up in the euphoria that goes with the promise of being published by a publishing company.
Test your writing out on good writing sites to get a feel of what readers like. There is a really good one called youwriteon: You submit some of your work, it is then randomly sent to readers who will review it and give feedback. You must do the same thing in return. I did this with Echoes since I wanted to test the waters about using such a slang-based language. Due to the mainly positive feedback I received I went ahead and sent my book off to agents and publishers. I also made sure that I had the manuscript looked at by a trusted professional writer and tutor who also proof read it for me.
After my experience with being published by a small Independent publisher, I decided to self-publish a collection of my short stories – Glimmer and other stories. I do the same amount of marketing and sell roughly the same amount of books that I do being signed with a publisher. I now question the role of many small presses, as it seems from my experience, that they do little to promote their authors. I’m sure there are some really good small independent publishers out there, but I would hesitate to send another manuscript to one unless I was convinced it would help to raise my profile and sales of my book.
One of the nicest things I heard recently as regards to Echoes from the Lost Ones and my heroine, was a teenage girl saying that she wished she was Adara, and could do all the things she could do. I was so touched.
Oh, and keep writing! Really it is good advice. The more you write and experiment with genre and language, the more you learn. Edit your work after you have written it and don’t give it to friends and family to read if you want honest feedback.

Thank you so much Nikki for sharing your publishing experiences as well as giving us an overview of your writing. You are certainly not alone in wondering exactly what purpose some small presses serve. They have limited promotional clout and many of them don’t want to waste their time and money on it anyway. Romance seems to be the exception to the rule, but even with the best will in the world, we can’t all squeeze into that particular bracket.

If you would like to sample Nikki’s writing, Echoes from the Lost ones will be a free Amazon download from May 29th through to June 2nd.

To find out more about Nikki and her work—writing and photography—here are some links to follow.

Relevant links:

Book trailers:

The Song of Forgetfulness website:


Twitter: @McDonaghNikki

Website photography:



The Amazon links to her books are here:

The author hot seat: That was nice. What was it?

When I first thought of inviting unorthodox authors to let rip on my blog, I had a few names in mind. One of them was John Collick, both of whose books I have read and very much enjoyed.
I first came across John when I was Googling Noggin the Nog (we all have our favourite forms of procrastination) and his blog post came up. When I’d finished with Noggin, I went on to read his very thoughtful and funny piece about the Moomins, and I said to myself, this bloke is right on my wavelength. When John wrote an article about The Singing Ringing tree I decided that whatever this Thumb novel was about, I was going to have to read it. Someone whose literary enthusiasms range from Moomintroll to Mervyn Peake was not going to produce a string of formulaic banalities. I wasn’t disappointed.

Time to hand over to John and let him explain how and why he is writing a series of novels that just don’t fit into any category Amazon has yet discovered.

Jane: Tell us what the story is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.


John: I’m jumping the gun to the next question as well but the best way to start is probably to explain where the original idea for The Book of the Colossus came from. Long ago I had a dream of an enormous mannequin hundreds of miles long lying in a desert. It was being built by a society of people to save them from something, but they’d been creating it for so long that they’d forgotten its original purpose. As the eons slipped by they splintered into competing groups, each associated with a part of this giant body, and started fighting amongst themselves. Over the years I played with the story in my head, and each time the colossus got bigger until, in the final version, it’s half a million miles from head to toe (roughly twice the distance from the Earth to the Moon).
The series is set at the end of time, when all the stars and planets have vanished and the remnants of humanity live on an artificial landscape created as a work bench for this immense figure they are fashioning out of scrap stolen from the past. Somewhere in the void is a portal leading to the next universe, but only Gods can pass through. Of all the sentient races left in the dead universe, only humanity lacks a God. Hence the mad scramble to build a deity that will save mankind.

Invaders from The Empire of the Ear
Invaders from The Empire of the Ear

The first book, Thumb, is set in a backwater city in the shadow of God’s left hand. The two main characters, Max and Abby, rescue a stranger from the wilderness only to find that she is a refugee from an invasion fleet bearing down on their home. In trying to stop the advance they discover a secret about the nature of the unfinished God’s mind that threatens the future of humanity. In the second book, Ragged Claws, Max and Abby make their way through the vast body of the sleeping titan in an attempt to save the colossus from destruction. Right now I’m working on AntiHelix, the third novel. This is a tale of politics and betrayal set in the corrupt Empire of the Ear, and will be released at the beginning of 2015. The fourth and final book doesn’t have a title yet.

Jane: What on earth inspired the story in the first place (and I don’t necessarily mean which illicit substances)?

The Colossus (Panic) by Francisco Goya
The Colossus (Panic) by Francisco Goya

John: Apart from the initial dream I can think of countless ideas and images that have influenced the books. I’m a massive fan of Franz Kafka and I wanted to explore the question, what would a science fiction adventure story by Kafka look like? The city of Metacarpi, which lies in the shadow of the Thumb, is based on Kafka’s Prague. I’ve tried to write the tales as exciting page-turners, but in a universe that is very surreal and dream-like. If I was pitching the series to Hollywood I’d probably describe it as Indiana Jones meets Kafka.
Other writers who have been a massive influence on me are Mervyn Peake, Michael Moorcock and J. G. Ballard, all of whom take images and ideas from 20th century urban landscapes and turn them into vast shadowy realms inhabited by strange creatures and splintered societies. There are also a couple of paintings by Francisco Goya – Saturn Eating His Children and The Colossus.

Cover art for Ragged Claws
Cover art for Ragged Claws

Several people have assumed that because The Book of the Colossus is about man making a God at the end of time it’s a tale with a Christian message. Nothing could be further from the truth and I’m not in any way religious. In one sense I tried to take the story of Frankenstein one step further. In Mary Shelley’s classic, the hero played at being God by creating a monster, who he then abandoned. What if man builds God? What is his duty and responsibility to this vast, powerful being which is ultimately nothing more than a means to an end – a divine slave?
I think there are also lots of unconscious influences as well. Jane, you pointed out a similarity between bits of Ragged Claws and Tove Jansson’s Moomin books and after thinking about it I can definitely see echoes. My problem is that I’ve lived with this idea for decades and so in my head it all seems very logical. When readers tell me the stories are really weird and sometimes quite disturbing, or that they’ve given them nightmares, it takes me by surprise.

Journeying across the skin of God
Journeying across the skin of God

Jane: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get?

John: I wrote a first draft of Thumb about ten years ago and sent it to John Jarrold, who is one of the best agents in the SF/Fantasy world (he’s worked with the late Iain Banks and George R. R. Martin among others). He liked the idea but thought the writing wasn’t good enough. I asked if he’d be my editor and to my delight he said yes. So the last two years have been a brutal masterclass in how to write. He tore Thumb version one to pieces and I had to totally rethink my approach for version two (which is the one that was released). I told John my goal was to indie-publish something that was of the same quality as the authors he represented, so if he’s happy with the book and gives it the nod then I know the only reason it would get rejected is because it’s simply not commercial. I can’t over-stress the importance of having an editor who is both an expert and utterly ruthless, and I’m really lucky to have one of John’s calibre to work with. His recipe is very simple – a story must have pace, clarity and a strong POV.

Jane: Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

John: I don’t think Thumb and Ragged Claws are that left-field (though again I’ve lived with them for so long my judgement’s probably clouded). Personally, genre-wise, I’d put them alongside books by Iain Banks, Gene Wolfe, J. G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock and Jack Vance, who all have written surreal and quirky dark science fantasy. If I were to put a label on the books, apart from science fantasy, I’d call them New Weird – similar in tone and themes to China Mieville’s books or Clive Barker’s fantasies. There’s a strong tradition of unusual and grotesque dream-fiction running through British and Irish culture, from the Gothic novels of the 18th century, through writers like Lord Dunsany and William Hope Hodgson to people like Moorcock. These days it gets buried under the steampunk, vampires snogging werewolves and space opera that are currently dominating the corners of Waterstones where we lurk.

Jane: How do you tackle promotion?

John: I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask because I suspect I’m not great at it. One thing I’ve tried to avoid is promoting too aggressively. I think that too many authors constantly plug their books on Twitter and Facebook, often to each other, and I find myself just tuning out the constant “5 stars times 722 on Amazon – ‘A Great Read’ says someone no-one’s heard of”. I think that a couple of years ago everyone was sold the get-rich-quick dream of self-publishing and when the dream doesn’t materialise people become more strident and desperate. All my promotion efforts go into my blog, and my author’s Facebook page. I try not to talk about the books too much, and instead I post or write about things that I think my readers would be interested in – articles on art, literature, astronomy, film reviews etc. It seems to work because I get about 400 daily visitors to the blog, though it hasn’t yet translated into massive sales.


Jane: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?

John: I’d like to think that anyone who likes Science Fiction, Science Fantasy or Weird Horror would find the books interesting. In my head I was writing for fans of Iain Banks, Michael Moorcock, J. G. Ballard, Clive Barker and Jack Vance. I wanted to make sure that they were, above all, exciting character-driven adventures with protagonists readers could root for, despite them inhabiting a universe that is very strange. The feedback I’ve been getting has been positive – people enjoy the tales even if they find parts unsettling. I’m actually quite pleased to think that readers think some of the concepts are disturbing – it shows that the books are resonating with the readers.

Jane: Anything else, advice, experiences, anecdotes you’d like to add, feel free.

John: One thing that’s surprised me is how the books take on a life of their own when others read them. From things people have said it’s clear that the characters and universe of Thumb in their minds is often very different to mine.
My advice to anyone like me would echo what every successful author I know has said to me – write because you enjoy writing and have stories you want to tell, and be prepared for a very long haul. I don’t expect to gain any major traction for five, if not ten years. I’d also re-iterate John Jarrold’s comments to me – pace, clarity and a strong POV. By clarity he means don’t assume that because a scene or world is perfectly understandable in your head then it’s obvious to everyone else. Make sure the reader understands what’s going on at all times. And write and write and write, and read, and then write more. Isaac Asimov was once asked what he would do if he found he only had eight minutes to live, and he answered that he’d type a little faster.

Thank you, John, for that insight into your world. I have to say that I found your books fascinating. Not disturbing, but the reader has to be prepared to have his/her mind boggled. Constantly. Definitely not to be missed by fans of Mervyn Peake and Clive Barker. I am looking forward to reading the third volume, already fastened my safety belt, but Ragged Claws is a hard act to follow.
If you want to read some of John’s very eclectic articles, I strongly recommend you visit his website.
You can find his books on Amazon here and here.