Indie Spotlight – Russ DiBella

Today I am welcoming Russ DiBella into the Indie Spotlight.

Russ DiBella has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications / Journalism from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). As a lifelong musician, travel enthusiast and avid reader, he’s written everything from poetry and prose to song lyrics and freelance articles. His most recent book A Drive Down the Coast was recently awarded a 5-Star Silver Seal rating from Readers’ Favorites. His previous book From the Inside: A Backdrop to the Music of My Life chronicles a lifelong passion for music and takes readers behind the scenes to experience the inner workings of a live concert setting. He lives in South Jersey with his wife and twin daughters.

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Welcome to the Indie Spotlight, Russ!

What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?

When I discovered the traditional publishing process was extremely involved with an unlikelihood of securing a literary agent or getting a manuscript accepted, I immediately considered an independent approach as mine was primarily a labor of love. That said, I also decided to be as hard on myself as any agent, editor or publisher would.

After a life of writing in various forms (poetry, lyrics, journals, personal meditations and professional documents and articles), I decided to try my hand at something with “a bit more size and scope,” as I wrote in my first book From the Inside: A Backdrop to the Music of My Life.

What made you decide to write in the specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?

Whereas I’m comfortable with fiction in the shorter format of song lyrics, non-fiction is my niche with the more extended demands of prose as I enjoy documenting experiences. My first book recounts all the musical moments of my life to include bringing the reader backstage “to catch a glimpse into the inner workings of a live concert setting.” My most-recent effort, A Drive Down the Coast: Getting Lost of the Back Roads of California, is in the scenic travel genre and takes the reader along the state’s majestic coastal back roads.

Do you only read the genres you write?

My reading interests are fairly wide ranging from legal dramas (fiction) to musician autobiographies and travel writers (non-fiction). I believe everything I read helps with whatever I’m writing (or plan to write) and that the best way to become a better writer is to become a better reader.

What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Listening to?

At the moment I’m reading Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road by Matthew Crawford. My TV watching is varied and seasonal (rarely in summer as I’m always outdoors). As fall is upon us, I’m watching my Dateline and 20/20 murder mysteries as well as Yellowstone (Montana drama) and Alaska Daily (newspaper drama). Contrary to the rest of my life, I don’t listen to music for writing inspiration – nor do I have it on when actually writing as I need complete silence for that (as I do when reading).

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Aside from the previously stated “become a better reader,” I’ll quote from my first book: “With regard to the often slow process of documenting everything, some advice offered by author Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft put it in perspective for me — most likely saying it best and periodically encouraging me when I had neither the energy nor inclination to continue: ‘Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like The Lord of the Rings, the work is always accomplished one word at a time.’”

What are you working on right now? What can we look forward to seeing from you next?

I’m still actively marketing A Drive Down the Coast. But I’m also considering another drive on a different coast as the travel-writing bug has clearly bitten me!

Thank you very much for joining me on my blog today, Russ, I wish you every success with your books!

A Drive Down the Coast

“Racing along the twisting, turning, tree-lined roads that gave way to open fields and farms brought the old, well-known proverb to life… the journey is indeed the reward.”

So begins this richly textured account of a solo drive down the coastal back roads of California from just north of the Oregon border to the southwestern-most corner of San Diego County along the sparsely populated United States-Mexico line.

More than simply recounting his travels, DiBella captures in detail the distinctive and wide-ranging beauty of California’s scenic landscape. With relevant musical and literary interludes, this comprehensive celebration of nature and travel includes a classic-rock soundtrack that puts the reader enjoyably in the passenger seat along roads “typically driven on only by locals.”

From forested coastal highlands and long narrow valleys to gently sloping wine regions and all along the glimmering blue Pacific Ocean, A Drive Down the Coast is a welcome escape and an inexpensive ticket to a uniquely scenic road trip – all from the comfort of your favorite reading chair.

Amazon | Goodreads

From the Inside: A Backdrop to the Music of My Life

Part memoir and part backstage pass, From the Inside is written from the perspective of an outsider looking in. By taking a peek behind the literal and proverbial curtain, DiBella discovers the inner workings of live concert setting and gives readers an intimate look at activities otherwise inaccessible to the typical concert goer.

Clearly written with an appreciation both for the songs and the artists who have inspired so many, From the Inside is the story of a life examined through the lens of music.

Amazon | goodreads


BBNYA Spotlight: The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow

This year, the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 50 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 10 finalists and one overall winner. 

If you want some more information about BBNYA, check out the BBNYA Website or take a peek over on Twitter @BBNYA_Official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow

Publisher: Louise Walters Book

Length: 304 Pages

Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery

Age Category: (Upper) Young Adult, Adult

Date Published: 5 December 2019

Amazon CA | Amazon US | Amazon UK | goodreads

‘Stunning and original’ The Literary Sofa

Seventeen-year-old Simon’s sister Charlotte is missing. The lonely Fenland village the family recently moved to from London is odd, silent, and mysterious. Simon is epileptic and his seizures are increasing in severity, but when he is told of the local curse of the Naseby Horses, he is convinced it has something to do with Charlotte’s disappearance. Despite resistance from the villagers, the police, and his own family, Simon is determined to uncover the truth, and save his sister. 

Under the oppressive Fenland skies and in the heat of a relentless June, Simon’s bond with Charlotte is fierce, all-consuming, and unbreakable; but can he find her? And does she even want to be found?

Drawing on philosophy, science, and the natural world, The Naseby Horses is a moving exploration of the bond between a brother and his sister; of love; and of the meaning of life itself.

‘A novel that blends the supernatural with the psychological in a way that is surprising, subtle, and unexpectedly satisfying.’ Ray Robinson, author of The Mating Habits of Stags

“A tonally assured debut with a powerful understanding of the contradictory emotional forces at play when someone close to you is lost… tense, intriguing, and absorbing” Peter Jinks, author of Hallam Foe

“A riveting debut” S A Harris, author of Haverscoft

Author Bio

Dominic Brownlow lives near Peterborough with his two children. He lived in London and worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. He now enjoys life in the Fens. The Naseby Horses is his first novel. It was long listed for the Bath Novel Award 2016.

BBNYA Spotlight: Wonder Rush by Dan McKeon

This year for the first time I have been a panelist for the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA). This is a competition entered by many authors (I think 300 books were entered in the first round) and judged by a fairly large number of book bloggers. It has been a really rewarding experience and I have got to know many new bloggers and authors and been able to read extracts from multiple books I might never have become aware of otherwise.

This year, the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 50 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 10 finalists and one overall winner. 

If you want some more information about BBNYA, check out the BBNYA Website or take a peek over on Twitter @BBNYA_Official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Today I am featuring a Young Adult thriller called Wonder Rush by Dan McKeon:

Publisher: Hush Moss Press
Length: 312 Pages
Genre: Thriller
Age Category: Young Adult
Date Published: 6 May 2021 

Wendy Lockheart has been known by many names—none of them her own.

With each new school, she is assigned a new identity and a new foster family, but the same mission—kill whoever she is told to kill.

Most agents in her network of female teen assassins begin training at age ten, but for Wendy it has encompassed her entire life. Abducted at birth, she was engulfed in a world of psychological manipulation, brainwashing, and physical training. At seventeen years old, Wendy is the most highly trained assassin in the agency.

“Wendy Lockheart” is her twenty-fourth identity and one that won’t be hers much longer, which is unfortunate. She finally found a place to call home. She has an inexplicable connection to her friend, Amaya. Her foster family is caring, and she loves her foster brother, Corey, who has cerebral palsy. Nonetheless, her days as “Wendy” are limited. They always are.

After carrying out a hit on an alleged drunk driver, conflicting information leads Wendy to suspect corruption within the ranks of the agency. Intent on discovering the truth, Wendy intentionally botches an operation, making her the agency’s next mark. As their dark intentions come to light, Wendy realizes she must destroy the organization that shaped her in order to discover the person she truly wants to be—that is, if they don’t kill her first.

Wonder Rush is a thrill ride through the dangerous world of a teen assassin, but it is also a journey of self-discovery—a coming-of-age tale under the most extreme circumstances. How can a girl develop her own personal identity when she never had one to begin with?

Amazon Canada | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Author Bio

I am the author of four feature-length screenplays as well as several short stories. Wonder Rush is my first novel, and it was recently named a Silver Falchion Award finalist.

My interest in writing blossomed during a film analysis class I took while studying psychology at Villanova University. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts from Villanova, I also hold a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems from Boston University and a Professional Certification in Screenwriting from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

When I am not writing, I work as a software developer and enjoy spending time with my wife, Rosa, and my two sons, Justin and Brandon.

Small Press, Big Stories – Rob Edwards

Today for #SmallPressBigStories I am featuring Rob Edwards. Rob has written two middle grade/YA novels which would make perfect Christmas presents for any teen who loves superheroes and SciFi stories. He has also had a number of short stories published in various anthologies by Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press.

The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards

Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero?

Amazon  |  goodreads | My Review

The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards

Return to the Justice Academy, the galaxy’s premier college for superheroes!

Back for his second year, Grey wants nothing more than to spend time with his friends and maybe take a class or two. A normal student life. Instead, Grey’s friends are all distracted by their own problems and somebody is trying to break his nemesis out of jail.

When tragedy strikes the Academy, Grey finds himself stuck between the roles of investigator and prime suspect. Chased across the galaxy and back, Grey must face a dark secret from the Academy’s past. Grey cannot hope to defeat it alone, but cut off from his friends, can he trust an unexpected crossover?

Amazon UK  |  Amazon US  |  goodreads | My Review

About The Author

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and podcaster, living in Finland.  His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings from his short stories and excerpts from longer work.  His work can also be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press.

His debut novel, the scifi superhero adventure The Ascension Machine launched September 2020.

His greatest geek pride is his entry on wookieepedia, the a result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios back in the day.

Twitter | Website

To Hel In A Hound Cart: Journey To The Centre Of Europe by Jacqueline Lambert

I was lucky enough to beta read Jacqueline Lambert’s upcoming new release in the Adventure Caravanning With Dogs series: To Hel in a Hound Cart. This book will be released on 9th December 2022 – just in time for gift giving!

“Go to Hel.”

The Polish local wasn’t being rude. She was describing Hel, Poland, a place well known for its fine beaches and windsurfing. Ever since Jackie and Mark packed themselves and four dogs into a hound cart to tour Europe, they’ve learned lessons about overcoming obstacles – much more than they ever imagined.

Soon after they left, everything they knew about traveling changed.

COVID-19 stranded them in Italy, where they were forbidden to set foot outside the garden of their rented apartment. Then, finally released from Italian lockdown, with borders closed and their own home rented out, they could not return to the UK. With only a rough idea where their wanderlust would take them, their adventures soon start stacking up. If you ever wanted to learn what full-time RV life really is like, this is the best place to start.

Join them as they navigate precipitous cliff-side roads, political unrest, and borders closing, and explore what it’s like to live with less, triumph over adversity, and not take things for granted.

Will they make it to Hel in a hound cart, or is that what will happen to their plans?

Amazon | goodreads

My Review

In Jacqueline Lambert’s latest travel memoir, To Hel in a Hound Cart her irrepressible sense of irreverent humour and quest for knowledge once more shine through. The comic asides are one of my favourite parts of her writing and this time I found myself laughing out loud as she tells of her husband’s interpretation of the French song “Sur le pont D’Avignon” and again at an imagined conversation about heraldry in Saluzzo. I also love all of her nods to popular culture such as British TV shows Brookside, Blackadder and the lyrics to popular songs.
Jacqueline has a talent for painting pictures with words when describing scenery. Her descriptions are evocative and easy to imagine, to the extent that I found myself cringing during parts of the journey on mountain roads such as the Crest of Gorges route, which sounded horrific if beautiful. I would have loved to see the griffon vultures her and her husband encountered, but I have trouble with such roads and admire people who are able to endure them without ending up cowering in the back seat (which happened to me when we took a trip up Mount Washington in New Hampshire).
I enjoyed the many wonderful and unusual little historical details included in the book. The composer, Chopin travelling with a jar of Polish earth so that he was never too far from his home was one which piqued my interest and I think the amount of historical and political detail in general throughout the novel is just enough to be educational without getting boring. Some difficult subjects such as the Jewish prisoner of war camp Auschwitz are handed over to Jacqueline’s husband to discuss as he is a history buff and his take was very interesting. These difficult subjects are handled with care.
I also found it interesting hearing how mundane tasks such as the laundry get done while living in a van.
As usual the four pups are adorable and draw a crowd of fans wherever they go. A couple of them suffer hardships during this book, but nothing too serious thankfully!
Humorous, educational and entertaining – I highly recommend this book!

About the Author

Jacqueline (Jackie) Lambert is a dedicated adventure traveller, doggie travel blogger, and author.

BC (Before Canines) she rafted, rock-climbed and backpacked around six of the seven continents. A passionate windsurfer and skier, she can fly a plane, has been bitten by a lion, and appeared on Japanese TV as a fire-eater.

AD (After Dog), she quit work in 2016 to hit the road permanently with her husband and four pooches. Initially, they were Adventure Caravanners, who aimed To Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before. 

Now, they’re at large in a self-converted six-wheel army lorry, with Mongolia in their sights.  

Jacqueline has published five books about how she and Mark went from wage slaves to living the dream. Fur Babies In FranceDog on the Rhine, Dogs ‘n’ Dracula, It Never Rains But It Paws, and Pups on Piste all fall within one of her favourite genres; light-hearted travel memoirs. Her forthcoming books will chronicle their tour of Poland in a pandemic, and their new life as Trucking Idiots.

All Jacqueline’s books have received multiple five-star reviews and Dogs ‘n’ Dracula was a finalist in the Romania Insider Awards for Best Promotion of Romania Abroad. Dog on the Rhine has been a bestseller in Amazon’s German Travel and Rhine Travel categories, and on release, Fur Babies in France outsold Bill Bryson, albeit for a short time! 

Contact Jackie here:

Amazon | Goodreads | Bookbub | Blog | Facebook

Small Press, Big Stories: Kyle Lockhaven, Shadow Spark Publishing

Today for #SmallPressBigStories I am excited to share with you an exclusive excerpt from K. R. R. Lockhaven’s upcoming sequel to his recent novel The Marauders, The Daughter and The Dragon. (Click for my review).
Join Azure Brine once again in this hilarious high seas romp for an adventurous heist to beat all others! This series is published by small press Shadow Spark Publishing.

The Foundling, The Heist and The Volcano

(Cover to be revealed soon!)

When Azure Brine and her crew accept a job to locate a long-lost treasure on an island dominated by an active volcano, they end up finding a young girl from another world who is scared, lost, and alone. In order to help her find her way back home, the crew discovers they’ll have to steal a magical relic from the biggest, most secure casino on Mirth Island.

But as they plan the heist, they learn that the dragon, Zoth-Avarex, is keeping a secret about the child’s world of origin that could put them all at risk. And all the while, the most feared pirate in the League of Islands is single-minded in his desire to seek revenge against Azure and her friends.

An excerpt from The Foundling, The Heist and The Volcano:

Out ahead, a large puddle had formed in the middle of the road. Along the right side of the puddle, a small girl was fishing from it with a makeshift reel. Nostalgia warmed Azure’s chest. This tableau had been burned into her mind nearly her entire life. She had seen this so many times before. She had been that little girl.

There was a legend among the children of Barren, going back to before Azure’s time, that catching a puddle fish would bring unbelievably good luck. Azure had found out in her teens that it was a ploy used by parents to keep their kids busy, but close. She had spent countless hours at puddles like that, hoping for the luck and prestige that would have come from catching the town’s first puddle fish.

Azure looked down at the fish in Elijah’s hand, and a fully-formed idea swam to the surface.

“Elijah, do you think I could have that fish instead?” She gave him her cutest look.

“Uh…yeah. Of course.”

“Robin,” Azure said, “could you possibly fly out ahead and distract that little girl from further up the road?”

“Sure.” Robin zoomed away. Azure loved how her friend was always so ready to help or get into something, no questions asked.

Azure took the fish and hid it behind her back while Robin began to talk to the kid. After asking Elijah to stay put, Azure crept forward.

“What are you doing?” Robin asked the little girl.

“Just trying to catch a puddle fish,” she replied. “Mama says it’s good luck.”

“Oh, well, do you want to see me do a loop-de-loop?”

The girl giggled. “Sure.”

Azure reached out, snagged the girl’s line, and carefully pulled the hook from the murky water.

“Hey,” the girl said, “aren’t you that bird that talked to me before?”

“Uh…” Robin hesitated mid loop-de-loop. “Do you talk to a lot of birds?”

Azure pushed the hook through the side of the fish’s mouth and slowly lowered it back into the water. Then she hurried back to Elijah.

“No. I’ve only ever talked to one bird. One night when this lady was cry—“

“I think I just saw your line move,” Robin interrupted.

“You did?” The girl was incredulous.


Excitedly, the girl reeled the line. “It feels different!” she exclaimed. “Heavier!”

As the long-dead fish crested the surface, the girl gave a shout that was equal parts triumph and disbelief.

“Wow,” said Robin. “Nice fish.”

“Thank you.” The little girl placed it gently on the dirt road and looked around, eyes wide.

Azure and Elijah continued to walk toward her as if they’d never broken stride.

“I caught a puddle fish!” she called to them.

“Nice,” Azure called back, giving an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “If anyone doubts you, tell them to come and ask us at the inn. We saw it happen as we were walking up the road.”

The girl nodded to Azure, eyes filled with wonder and shock, and smile bright as a sunbeam. She grabbed the line in one hand, the rod in the other, and took off toward the dock, shouting the names of every kid in town as she went.

The warmth in Azure’s chest intensified.

“Nice work, Robin,” Azure said as her friend landed on her shoulder. “I’m sorry I spoiled your gift, Elijah. But my dad probably would have seen it as a shameless bribe anyway.”

Elijah smiled, and they continued to the inn.

About the Author

K. R. R. (Kyle Robert Redundant) Lockhaven writes humorous, fun fantasy books with ever-increasing infusions of heart. He lives in Washington State with his wife and two sons. When not writing or raising kids, he works as a firefighter/paramedic.

Website | Twitter | goodreads | Amazon

Audiobook Review: The Skin by J. E. Hannaford narrated by Emily Mount

  • The Skin
  • Black Hind’s Wake, Book 1
  • By: J E Hannaford
  • Narrated by: Emily Mount
  • Series: Black Hind’s Wake, Book 1
  • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 01-18-22
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: J E Hannaford
  • Categories: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fantasy

‘You cannot fix this world alone, Selkie.’

‘I know. But, when we die, all that is left are shadows of our lives preserved in the memories of those who remain. I plan on leaving an exceptionally long shadow, filled with ripples of moonlight for those I helped, and darker than the worst of nightmares for those who wronged us.’How far would you go to save your skin?

I’m a selkie, trapped above the waves until I can recover my skin. Humans used to call us seal-wives many years ago – before they broke the planet. I thought that less humans, after the warming, would mean less danger. My kind believed our world was finally recovering.

We were wrong.

Up here, the magic is fading and Old Ones like me are being traded as trophies for rich and powerful humans to display in collections.

Without the Old Ones, the magic fades, without magic, the planet dies.

Humankind has gone too far and someone has to put a stop to it. I just wasn’t expecting it to be me.

Far to the south on his enormous pleasure ship, Barge, Lord Sal hunts for missing Old Ones – with a grand plan to leave his own mark on the world. But, Icidro and Prince Ulises are searching for them too, and this is a world where money talks louder than morals.

Audible | Amazon | goodreads

My Review

The narrator, Emily Mount, has a light, girlish, innocent sounding voice which is appropriate for Selkie as she finds her way in the human world in which she has been captured. Her voice for Sal was also believable and for the other crew members. The siren’s voice was interesting and exotic. Mona the innkeeper had a nasty, scratchy voice. The exciting faster paced sequences were delivered with appropriate emotion and energy. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook version of The Skin by J. E. Hannaford. Through her debut novel, the author delivers a love letter to non-human life and also a warning about what our future could be if we don’t pay more attention to marine ecology and the environment as a whole. My full review of this charming and intriguing fantasy story can be found here on

“The Earth may feel as though she recovers to you, yet she continues to die. We seek to slow that decline. I fear you may have done too much as a species to stop it altogether.”

About the Author

Writer of words, builder of worlds. J E Hannaford is powered by coffee, dragons and whisky. She teaches Biology in the real world and invents fantasy beasts to populate her own.  

J. E. Hannaford lives in Suffolk, UK, and pines for the coast and mountains of Wales.

Contact J. E. Hannaford on Twitter or Website – subscribe to the newsletter for a free short story

Indie Spotlight – Maximilian Sam

Today in the Indie Spotlight I am joined by Maximilian Sam.

Maximilian Sam is the award-winning author of “It’s A Stray Dog’s Life”. The second book in the series is out now.
Max has had a long career in PR that has taken him around the World. He has lived in 10 countries from the UK to Indonesia, with many stops in between.
There can’t be many people who’ve been able to make a last-minute dash for a weekend away on both the Isle Of Wight and Bali.
Max currently lives on the west coast of Turkiye, where he looks after a small army of stray dogs and cats.

Max can be contacted at:
Twitter: @maxsamauthor
Facebook: @authormaximiliansam
Instagram: @authormaximiliansam
LinkedIn: @maximiliansam
YouTube: @maximiliansam

Welcome to the Indie Spotlight, Max!

What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?

I’d spent the pandemic writing a library of potential books. Getting them to market has been a journey with a massive learning curve.
I went through the usual few months of submitting to agents and publishers, before realising a debut children’s book was highly unlikely to be snapped up. I had no experience of the industry and a grand total of 23 followers on Twitter. It was about the limit of my social media presence. It made me look towards ‘hybrid’ publishing as a solution. It would get the first book published and give me the experience to independently publish future books. The ‘hybrid’ concept is good on paper, but I’m not convinced it isn’t being abused by people trying to make a quick buck. There needs to be more transparency and teamwork if the concept is to succeed and a further valid option given to authors.
We are customers, after all.
I was fortunate, as the experience worked reasonably well because I knew what I wanted from the process. The up-front payment was far lower than it would have cost to self-publish at that point, so I put the investment down to on-the-job-training.
It made the decision to independently publish “it’s A Stray Dog’s Life 2” very easy. I did a lot of research into what I’d need and am grateful to KDP for answering so many questions. Nothing ever seemed too much trouble. I received help, but still had full control. The perfect world. Using KDP was easy, once I’d resolved the cover sizing correctly, and has even got me writing more book, as I enjoyed the process so much.

What made you decide to write in the specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?

Fate. I’d been working on something completely different when there was a knock on the door. I was told the stray who lived with us had been hit by a car and killed. I wandered down to the beach and wrote a long letter to her which, through various twists and turns, became the first book. The good news was she hadn’t been killed and stayed with us for another 4 years before she sadly passed away this summer at the ripe old age of 17. Not too shabby for a stray.
I don’t have children, so writing a kids’ book felt a little strange. I think the approach of wanting the parents to enjoy it as much as the kids helped. It’s the only reason I can think of that allowed it to win Best Comedy Book at the Feed My Reads Awards.
A career in PR means I have to change my writing style several times a day depending on the client anyway, so switching genres feels almost natural. It certainly gives me a head-start.

Do you only read the genres you write?

Not at all. I was lucky as a child we had a room in the house filled with books. To this day, I’ll read anything and everything I can lay my hands on. It’s cost me a small fortune over the years shipping books with me around the world.

What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Listening to?

Reading wise, I’m really enjoying David Perlmutter’s books. It shows you can find your next read on social media.
I’m going to jump in with one of the best films I’ve seen in years that I’ve already watched 3 times in a week! “To Leslie” is a cracking independent film with some incredible acting. It’s a genuine must see.
With TV, I’m currently hooked on Pennyworth, Ghosts and eagerly awaiting the next series of Ted Lasso. I’m also screamingly angry Mock The Week has ended.
Musically, I used to be a DJ (a terrible one) so have a bizarre collection of music. I get stuck on Rolling Stones, Queen, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams and American Outlaws, with a touch of Guns and Roses thrown in. Much to the annoyance of my neighbours. I can be a little like Spinal Tap. My stereo goes up to 11.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read as much as you can. It will help to see different story construction. Also, ask other authors about their experience. I did. Even best-selling authors took time to answer questions. Peter James even has some wonderful tools on his website to help.
I’m a great believer in authors supporting each other. If we can get someone into a bookshop, then they might buy both of our books!

What are you working on right now? What can we look forward to seeing from you next?

The next book moves away from children’s literature. It’s a series of short stories from a random array of genres. We’re working on the cover at the moment, so it should be ready to go by Easter 2023.
The children’s books will continue in 2023 too, but I don’t want to give too much away, as there will be a few surprises. After that there’s several WIPs in the pipeline, including the original one that made way for “It’s A Stray Dog’s Life”.

Thank you very much for joining me in the Spotlight today, Max. Congratulations on your awards and good luck with your books!

“It’s A Stray Dog’s Life”

Have you ever wondered what dogs are thinking when you look at them? Now you can find out as Princess, Buster and Snowy share their adventures as stray dogs. You’ll soon realise being a stray dog is much more fun than you thought as you meet their friends, both doggy and human, and spend some time living their lives. You never know, you might make three new friends along the way.

Available in paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and other retailers or from

“It’s A Stray Dog’s Life 2”

The stray dogs are back to share more of their lives and adventures.
This time you’ll meet Mumsy as she tries to control her two puppies, Pitch and Putt, despite the best efforts of Snowy to lead them astray. There’s Jasper, who learns being a friendly dog can lead to good things happening as he discovers, with his forever family, a new home in the city of Izmir.
Finally, you can investigate crimes alongside the master detective, Toby. Be careful, though. He might not be as clever as he thinks he is. Princess, Buster, and some of the other stray animals you met before all make an appearance as the family of strays grows and the adventures continue.

Available in paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and other retailers or from

You can also find Maximilian Sam on Goodreads at

Small Press, Big Stories: Thilde Kold Holdt, Rebellion Publishing

This month I am joining a fellow book blogger, Runalong the Shelves, who is showcasing authors published by small independent presses using the tag #SmallPressBigStories. Each week in November I will be showcasing the work of one such author. Today I have chosen to showcase Thilde Kold Holdt, whose trilogy The Hanged God Trilogy is published by the independent publishing company Rebellion Publishing.

Northern Wrath

A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods. A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim. A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.

The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.

Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.

My Review | Amazon | goodreads

Shackled Fates

As Ragnarok looms, the trickster Loki breaks free from his chains.

In the battle to come, all shall die, but Ragnar will do anything to save his gods.

Einer scours the nine worlds for Hilda, who walks among gods and goddesses, searching the truth of the Runes.

For centuries Siv has run from her past, but she knows that to protect her daughter, and Midgard, she will have to face her worst fears.

It is time to confront the Alfather.

My Review | Amazon | goodreads

Slaughtered Gods

The Concluding Part of the Epic Viking Fantasy Trilogy


The great wolf howls for Ragnarok to begin. The half-giant Einer leads an army of the dead to clash with the golden shields of Asgard. The nornir tie and retie their threads, as Loki’s and Odin’s schemes unfold… and unravel. For not even cunning gods and giants see every part of the web.

As the survivors of the burned village of Ash-hill converge on the final battle on Ida’s Plain, only two are truly free to choose their paths and prevent the annihilation of the nine worlds: a storyteller who holds all destinies in his hands, and a shieldmaiden with no destiny at all.

My Review | Amazon | goodreads

About the Author

I am a writer of fantasy novels. My first series, the Hanged God Trilogy, centres around Vikings and the Old Norse gods. I’m represented by Jamie Cowen at the Ampersand Agency.

I am a novelist by profession, currently working an epic fantasy series about 7th century Korea. My epic fantasy trilogy about Vikings, the Hanged God, is currently being published. I have lived enough different places that the most difficult question to answer is: “where are you from?” I am, quite simply, from the planet Earth, for I have yet to set foot on Mars. Someday, though…

Twitter | Website

Rebellion Publishing

Rebellion Publishing is the award-winning publishing arm of leading European games development company Rebellion.

Founded in 2000 by Rebellion owners Chris and Jason Kingsley with acquisition of legendary UK comic imprint 2000 AD, Rebellion Publishing has expanded over the last 15 years with the creation of cult imprint Abaddon Books in 2006, acquisition of SFF powerhouse Solaris Books in 2010.

We’re proud that Rebellion Publishing has been consistently at the forefront of SFF publishing: we’ve been DRM-free on all our digital sales since our first electronic title in 2006; released a wide range of award-winning and fan favourite anthologies; and continued to promote a policy of publishing a diverse range of fiction from award-winning, bestselling and exciting new talent.

Based in the UK we’re an international publisher of the finest in traditional and cutting-edge Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Crime.

Audiobook Review: The Alchemy of Sorrow – A Fantasy & Sc-Fi Anthology of Grief & Hope (various authors)

Here be dragons and sorcery, time travel and sorrow.

Vicious garden gnomes. A grounded phoenix rider. A new mother consumed with vengeance. A dying god. Soul magic.

These stories wrestle with the experience of loss—of loved ones, of relationships, of a sense of self, of health—and forge a path to hope as characters fight their way forward.

From bestsellers and SPFBO finalists to rising voices, 13 exceptionally talented authors explore the many facets of grief and healing through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi.

Amazon | Goodreads

My Review

I was sent an audiobook arc of this anthology in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Virginia McClain. My opinions are my own.

The Alchemy of Sorrow is an anthology of stories by thirteen authors with the theme of grief and hope running through each of them. I was a little nervous to read it having lost my mother earlier this year, but I needn’t have worried, as the different aspects of grief are handled carefully and with empathy. Subjects covered include loss of family members, career and associated sense of self, the ability to conceive a child, country, culture and lifestyle.

I really enjoyed all of the stories but my favourites were the following:

Twice domesticated dragons by Inistar Khanani.
This is one of the shorter stories, but extremely original, it totally captured my imagination. A family’s garden and property is being overrun by porcelain garden gnomes, who breed by finding broken crockery in dumpsters and bringing it to life. The only way to get rid of the gnomes is to find a twice domesticated dragon. The young daughter and two younger brothers of the family are hoping to rid their home of these pests, so the girl goes into the woods and discovers a mated pair. Unfortunately events trigger her PTSD and we discover that the family are refugees and that her mother was lost in a war zone.

We learn in the author’s note that this is:

“A story about resilience and healing” influenced by the refugee crisis in the world.

The Witch in the Woods by Quenby Olson.
This is the heartbreaking story of a desperate mother whose baby is dying. She hasn’t dared to name her daughter because of the likelihood she will die. Written in the unusual 2nd person perspective and full of evocative language I really loved the originality of this story. She seeks a witch in the woods despite knowing this will mean dire consequences for herself and her family. She has no hope and this is her only option.

What mother would not do anything within their power to save their child, no matter the consequences?

Skies on Fire by Sonia M Black
This is the story of a Phoenix Rider who is too injured to continue. Her career as a soldier of the Emperor is at an end and she must relinquish her trusty mount, her phoenix who she loves. She suffers from a loss of identity and purpose through her chronic illness and grieves the loss of her old life. She must give up her ambition and find a new sense of self.

The two stories which affected me the most emotionally were Thief by Virginia McClain and The Paperweight Watch by Krystle Matar.

Thief by Virginia McClain is a fairly short story about a young girl coming to terms with her mother’s fatal illness. Illness and death are a thief of time. The heart-rending tone and writing style really gripped me and caused a tear or two to be shed.

In The Paperweight Watch one of the characters from Krystle’s novel Legacy of the Brightwash, Ishmael, is front and center and coming to terms with the loss of both his parents and having to take over the family business and move on. The nature of grief is that small things can grab you and upset you when you least expect it and this is expertly depicted in this beautifully written story as Ishmael becomes obsessed with the new wooden floor which has been put down in his father’s office and his (in)ability to mend a beloved watch.

Death in the Uncanny Valley by M.L. Wang
This was another favourite story for me. A 14 year old girl grieving for her mother has escaped into a virtual reality game she used to play with her mother as crippling illness took hold of her abilities in the actual world. The distraught girl is now searching the game levels for her mother’s avatar. She has been in the game for 3 days straight and her father is starting to worry. He persuades her older brother to also enter the game to try and find her and bring her back to reality. I enjoyed this idea of the two worlds, one in which a sick and dying person can perform to their full potential as an adventuring hero.

Other stories included are (in no particular order):

Lullaby by K L Villoso
This is a story told from the perspective of an unborn child observing his mother’s world and desperate for her affection while waiting to be born.

The Reliquary of the Damned by Rachel Emma Shaw
This is an imaginative story inspired by the author’s own experience with invisible disabilities. In this story all such disabilities are displayed on the skin’s “memoir” for all to see.

The Quiet by Madolyn Rogers
A tale in which a young woman has lost a baby and become unable to conceive as a direct result. She has to deal with people assuming that since she is young it will only be a matter of time before she has another child.

Summer Souls by Clayton Snyder
In this story a family are mourning the loss of their mother when a man arrives on the scene with a machine able to catch the souls of the dead and display their last moments. “Souls are just memories we can’t let go”.

A Matter of Trust by Angela Boord
The point of view character is a drunken philanderer who lost his wife and child through adultery. He becomes “stuck in this no man’s land of grief and guilt and sorrow”. He mourns their loss and eventually learns how to move on. He begins to show heroic traits and to be less self-centered as time passes.

A Recurrence of Jasmine by Levi Jacobs
In this epic story a young mother must persuade a vengeful and bored god that she is entertaining and useful to him in order to escape sacrifice. He mourns his youth and a more interesting life filled with love. The woman tries to remind him of better times centuries before and helpd him to move on.

Thicker than Water by Carol A. Park
This is a heartbreaking story in which a family chooses to denounce their son when he suddenly shows signs of having become a Banebringer. He grieves their loss and the loss of everything he has known up to that point – friends, lifestyle, love and the security of being an integral part of a loving family. His parents choose the fate of the rest of them over protecting their son.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in this excellent collection and am very glad I listened to them on audiobook. The narrators each had different styles of delivery which seemed to fit the stories they were presenting well. I have been introduced to a few authors who are new to me and whose work I will look out for. It is a highly imaginative and emotional anthology with an unusual theme – you will probably need a box of tissues on hand!