Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Title: Prophet Of The Badlands
Series: The Awakened
Author: Matthew Cox
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
Release Date: 27th April 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
For most twelve year olds, being kidnapped is terrifying. For Althea, it’s just Tuesday.

Her power to heal the wounded and cleanse the sick makes her a hunted commodity in the Badlands, a place devoid of technology where the strong write the law in blood. For as long as she can remember, they always come, they always take her, and she lets them. Passed around in an endless series of abductions, she obeys without question―mending those who killed to own her.

After three whole months in the same village, the affection of a young warrior makes her feel almost like a member of the tribe rather than a captive. Her brief joy shatters when raiders seize her yet again; for the first time in six years, being stolen hurts.

A reluctant escape sends her wandering, and she realizes her gift is a prize that causes as much death as it prevents. Her attempt to return to the tribe leaves her lost and alone, hounded at every turn. When a family who sees her not as the Prophet―but as a little girl―takes her in, she finds the courage to use her power to protect those she loves.

A strange man from a world beyond her imagining tests her new found resolve, seeking to use her power to further his own agenda. Tired of being property, her freedom boils down to one question:

Can Althea balance the sanctity with which she holds all life against the miserable truth that some people deserve to die?

Post Apocalyptic has to be one of my favourite genres alongside dystopian, so i was already interested in this book prior to reading the blurb. Then when I read about Althea and her power/gift of healing, it added another dimension to the book and encouraged me to read this book.

I was given a free e-copy of this book by the publishers Curiosity Quills Press in exchange for my honest review.
The cover features a young bedraggled girl, who looks very small, afraid and maybe a little unwanted. We learn from reading the book that this is Althea, the Prophet. The back ground surrounding Althea is of mangled cars, rusted steel and broken down buildings, which adds to the post apocalyptic feel of the cover.
Would the cover make me want to pick this book up from a  book store shelf? Yes, if I am totally honest it was the cover that initially caught my eye and influenced my decision to read the blurb when Clare from Curiosity Quills sent me information about this book and others that had been released in April.
The main character is Althea a young child, whose best guess is that she is about 12 years old. She can't remember her real age or even her parents as she has been moved around and swapped between different "owners" for all of her life. Althea is no ordinary young child, though the only real clue to her powers are her bright blue eyes, that glow in the dark. Althea is known in the Badlands as "The Prophet" though she has many powers, the one people fight over to possess her is her power of healing.
Althea cannot refuse to heal, it causes her pain if she see's someone in the need of healing and she is not allowed to help. Althea is a powerful and valuable commodity in world where fights and injuries are a daily occurrence. As the reader we travel along with Althea as she is stolen from one set of people in the Badlands to another, never once getting a choice in where or when she goes. We join Althea when she has been with a tribe in the badlands for two months, she is mistrusted by all except for one seeker (hunter) Den. In fact they are in love and plan to become joined (married). There is a jealousy of Althea from a female member of the tribe who was originally to be joined with Den. Althea manages to sneak off to follow the seekers, her intention to protect them as she has a "bad feeling" about their trip. She is right to fear something happening, she ends up being kidnapped and taken back to Vakkar's home in the badlands, their she is kept in a cage next to another cage which contains Vakkar's harem of stolen women.
At one point in the book Althea truly thinks she is with friends and that her days of being kidnapped are over, only to overhear someone whom she thought a friend discussing the great prize and riches that she will receive when she turns up with the Prophet. Althea actually runs away herself, but once again ends up trapped and mistreated, held against her own will.
Althea is at her happiest when she is with Karina, and Karina's father, they treat her as a "normal" child and she feels part of the family rather than an outsider. However her simple happiness is not to be and she is once again taken.
The presentation of this e-book is really good, as I said above I do like the cover, it is a very good likeness to the imagery I have in my mind from the authors descriptions of Althea. Althea has more gifts than just her healing gifts, such as, she can touch an item or building and know it's history, that is also described well. 
So I suppose I have given you a fairly spoiler free plot summary, now the more difficult part explaining how I felt about the book and what I honestly thought about the book. I did enjoy most parts of the book, however if I am totally honest I did not enjoy all facets of the book.
I enjoyed the post apocalyptic aspects of the book, the descriptions of the surroundings, the way people live. I did enjoy the book, I just felt at times like the author was trying to introduce a few too many genres. I wanted the book to remain within the post apocalyptic genre more, and perhaps leave out some of the more sci-fi/fantasy threads of the plot. I was not keen on the introduction of the harem woman Rachel, and the fact she was from the future and had been in a stasis bed/container. The character of Rachel, and her being part of the military was in keeping with the plot, it was just a step too far for her to have traveled from the future for my taste. Whilst I liked the idea and character of Aurora, I also wasn't so keen on the sci-fi element of how Aurora would randomly emerge from someone else's body. I loved the first part of the book and then at almost two thirds of the way through the book meandered off somewhat becoming more sci-fi led, then at the end it came back to the things in the book that I had enjoyed in the first two thirds of the book, and the conclusion is one of hope for Althea and those she genuinely cares about, but in addition to the hope there is also a hint at a shadow of more harshness and terror to come for her, in the shape of Archon and his followers. Althea may end this book in safety but will she remain in that level of security for very long?
So did I enjoy the book? To be totally honest, my feelings and opinion on this book was mixed. Considering all I'd say yes.
Would I recommend it? Yes, though I would point out it is not solely a post apocalyptic plot.  
Would I want to read another book in this series? I'm not wholly sure, it would depend on which genre was more prominent. If it's predominantly post apocalyptic then that's an easy yes. If it's more Sci-Fi/Fantasy I'm not so sure. I'll have to read the blurb to decide.
Would I read another title by this author? That would depend on the individual title but I would certainly checkout any title by this author.

What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
I’d hope my name is somewhere at the top of this article, feels a bit awkward to repeat it. I was born in South Amboy, NJ, and living not too far away from it now in Parlin.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I’d always been prone to creating stories and alternate worlds in my head, though I didn’t start off wanting to write. To be honest, in my school-age years, I was rather turned off on the whole thought of reading because it was mandatory. “Summer reading lists” annoyed me, being told what I had to read made me not want to read at all. I suppose that’s fairly typical for a kid, wanting to do the opposite of what you’re told. For me though, it left a lasting mark. Most of my creativity went into designing worlds and characters (and later systems) for role playing games. Writing started for me about twenty years (give or take) ago, in small bits and pieces and usually in support of building on the games I was making. As for what I wanted to be – I couldn’t decide. I dabbled in graphic design, technology, IT, even thought of getting into computer programming, but it never quite happened.

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
At some point after people told me they liked what I’d written. I quipped the other day that “there is no art without doubt” and I am speaking from experience. I find the greatest reward in hearing someone connected with a story I wrote, and having been fortunate enough to be told that – I imagine I can be called a writer. It’s a difficult thing to pin down though, and subject to a lot of opinion.

Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
As these things go, so I am told, it was pretty fast. From deciding to get serious about writing to first draft to first published was a little less than two years. If you factor in the battle of laziness vs. desire that led up to that, closer to ten.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
Yes. But if there’s an agent out there interested in changing that for me, I’m open to suggestions.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Caller 107. A young girl in a bad situation gets a few hours to clean her karma or be forever lost.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
My publisher is Curiosity Quills Press. 

Do you have a "lucky charm" or "lucky routine" you follow when waiting for your book to be accepted by a publisher?
Not really. This is such a subjective business. While I may be a superstitious sort in some ways, I queried agents with little success until someone suggested sending one to CQ directly. They loved it (Division Zero) and signed me. Thus far, everything else I’ve written, I’ve sent to them.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
This varies a bit, though I have been told I’m fast. Virtual Immortality took about three months to draft, and about six to edit. Division Zero took about two weeks to draft and a month or two to edit. Prophet of the Badlands, I drafted in fourteen days, not counting a week of outlining first. (That story wanted out). I guess on average about two to three months.

Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
Prophet was the easiest. Grey Ronin took the longest so far, as I was wound up and distracted by the excitement of Division Zero being released and had some focus issues around that time… Caller 107 started as a thing that was too long to be a short story and too short to be a novella. CQ suggested building on it and making it a novel. I’d say that was the most “difficult” thing I’ve done so far, since I didn’t have an outline for it and I didn’t want to add “filler.” I think starting from scratch with a concept is easier than taking a nugget or proto-story and massaging it out to a full length book while keeping the tone of the original intent.

What can we expect from you in the future?  ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
I’m working on more of the Awakened series now, which takes place in the same world as Division Zero and Virtual Immortality. Also, an anthology of short stories that are a mix of Sci Fi, horror, and one fantasy. I’m excited about a MG fantasy currently on submission to CQ. Going forward from there I have ideas for some post apoc stuff, maybe a full-length fantasy, and possibly some contemporary paranormals.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Caller 107 is standalone, the events depicted within are not the sort of thing that recurs. I do have plans for new books. Perhaps more ideas than I’ll have time to write.

What genre would you place your books into?
Science Fiction, Cyberpunk with a trace of paranormal for the most part. Caller 107 is contemporary paranormal, while Emma & The Banderwigh is MG fantasy.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
It’s the story I had. I didn’t much think of “genre” while writing it.

Do you have a favourite out of the books you have written? If so why is it your favourite?
So far, I’d have to say Prophet of the Badlands by a narrow margin. I’m quite fond of the main character as well as the setting. (Most of it takes place in a post-apocalyptic area.)

Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
It’s a close call between Althea, from Prophet and Kirsten from Division Zero. Both are innocents caught in a cruel world that are mostly concerned with helping others rather than looking out for their own interests. Althea is more innocent and took a long time to get the nerve to stand up for herself. Kirsten is resilient, confident, and despite a horrible past, has not given up.

If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your book/books which would you be? and why?
This feels like a repeat of the last question, but I’d have to say Althea. If only because she has the ability to heal others.

How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
On and off for about twenty years. As far as inspiration to write goes, I’d have to say William Gibson for the most part, as well as various animes, movies, and other games with a sci fi element. My love of post-apoc came from Wasteland (old computer game).

Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
I can’t really pin an exact answer on this one. They just come out of nowhere. Sometimes I’ll see something in the news or catch a snippet of conversation and days or weeks later it bubbles back to the surface in the form of an idea. More often than not, I’ll come up with a character concept, stick them in a world, and work outward from a short idea.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
While I’m drafting, I can’t listen to music with lyrics. I find it distracting. When I’m editing, I don’t mind music. I sit in a certain chair because I only have one computer chair, but it’s not any kind of ritualistic voodoo or anything.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I’ve a circle of friends, co-workers, and people I’ve met online that read stuff before I send it over to CQ.

Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
So far, yes.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
The best review I’ve had wasn’t one that was posted. A woman I know read Virtual Immortality and had a personal connection with an issue facing the main character. Having the same issue (though for a vastly different reason) it resonated with her. As far as bad/critical reviews… Division Zero has received some, one from a religious person that objected to Kirsten’s atheism (though she does soften up as the series goes on) and another from someone who seemed annoyed that there wasn’t more detailed explanation of everything that happened. I don’t like info-dumpy books and tried to strike a balance between giving too much information and leaving enough room for the reader to think a bit.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. The only thing that would tempt me to contact a reviewer and ask them to change it is a spoiler reveal. Granted, the type of person who posts spoilers in reviews is also likely to react poorly to any attempt to contact them at all. It’s often best not to bite on troll bait and just let other reviews counteract them organically.

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
I think of suggestions and send them to CQ. Alexandria Thompson designed the cover for Division Zero, Dean from Conzpiracy Digital Arts did the cover for Virtual Immortality, and Polina Sapershteyn did Caller 107. Other titles have yet to get their covers.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Usually I’ll have a title first. Virtual Immortality was the exception – I had the plot first and started writing it. The file was called “Book” for quite awhile. With titles, I’ll either get one I love immediately, or I’ll slap one on and then hate it and stew for days, weeks, or months trying to change it. My original title for Caller 107 was “Natalie” but CQ asked me to change it for search reasons. (Type “Natalie” in a web search and you’ll get anything and everything but a book.) Caller 107 hit me in seconds of being asked for a new title, and they liked it.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Sometimes a name will hit me at random, like Natalie from Caller 107. That story came to me as a vivid dream, and the girl was named Natalie in the dream. Althea (Prophet of the Badlands) I found on a baby name site and chose it because it meant healer. Nina from Virtual Immortality, I named because I liked the sound of it. Sometimes I’ll look for a name with a cryptic or hidden meaning… In Division Zero, the main character is Kirsten Wren, and her last name plays on the name of the primary antagonist. (So far only a few people have gotten that.)
Place names… I usually just stare at my ceiling until something hits me. In Archon’s Queen, the area where the MC lives in the beginning (Coventry Tower) is named for the British saying “sent to Coventry” as a euphemism for being put somewhere far away with the rest of the undesirables.

Are character names and place names decided after their creation? or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
Character names I always have beforehand. Sometimes place names will happen during the writing, or change.

Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
For primary characters, I have their personality and quirks planned ahead of time. Sometimes minor characters (one scene background characters) will pick up an unexpected quirk while writing.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I outline. I’m not following any kind of structured thing like the “three act story” or whatnot. I lay out important scenes and events, mix in some of the clues and minor things that need to happen, put them in the order I want them, and then start writing.

How do you market/promote your books?
Since the homing-goats thing was an abject disaster, I’ve fallen back on facebook/twitter/G+ and blog tours.

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
I think those things are not necessarily connected. A really good book can languish in obscurity, and a bestseller isn’t always a good book. What makes a book good? Believable characters that the reader identifies/empathizes with and a plot that pulls the reader in and makes them forget that they’re reading a book and puts them right into the story. A bestseller is one part marketing, one part luck, and one part who you know.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
So far, I have been fortunate enough not to experience this. However, I do sometimes take awhile to get the first sentence started.

What do you do to unwind and relax?Do you have a hobby?
Yes, writing. Aside from that – still do some tabletop gaming and some computer games, though nowhere near as much as I used to.

Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
Sometimes. Captain Eze (from Division Zero) is based on a supervisor I used to work with. I’ve based some minor characters on co-workers (at their request). The antagonist in Archon’s Queen is also loosely based on someone I worked with. Virtual Immortality started off as a plot for a tabletop game I was running for friends. (Though the book is pretty different than the way that campaign went.)

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
If there are, it’s largely unintentional. I suppose one could think of Caller 107 as a story of good karma coming full circle.

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
Feels like I answered this already, but William Gibson.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
Hardcovers are cool. Paperbacks are good too. Ebooks are handy. Depends on what I’m doing. If I’m going out with it, ebook. To have for posterity, hardcover.

What is your favourite book and Why?  Have you read it more than once?
This is a hard choice between Neuromancer (technically the Sprawl trilogy) and Lord of the Rings. Given most of my writing is closer to Neuromancer, I’d have to give it there.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst  book to movie transfer?
Depends on the book and the time/effects. Some things they are doing now wouldn’t have been possible years ago. My favorite book > movie transfer is probably Blade Runner, even though it changed a bit from the book. So far I haven’t seen a movie that I disliked for deviating from the book – I just look at it as a different thing entirely.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
The Law of the Wolf by Sam Hunt. Ebook.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
Perhaps when we run out of trees.

Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
Hard to say. I don’t have kids and it’s been awhile since I’ve been in school. I do remember the forced summer reading lists having the inverse effect on me and making me resent reading. I don’t know what they’re doing now.

Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
As I said last question, I didn’t read much in school because of the whole required reading thing. When it became something I “had to do for school” rather than a fun/relaxing activity, the urge to do it went into the toilet. Serious writing is something fairly recent in my life, but the seeds have always been there. (I wish I realized that twenty years ago.)

Did you have a favourite author as a child?
Either Ray Bradbury or Tom Clancy. Fahrenheit 451 was one of those required reads that I didn’t hate.

Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
I don’t. All the books I had as a kid got lost somewhere among several moves.

Do you have a favourite genre of book?
Cyberpunk/Sci Fi or Fantasy.

Is there a book you know you will never read? Or one you tried to read but just couldn't finish?
If there is, I haven’t found it yet… though some have been painful, I’ve always finished.

Are there any New Authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and Why should we watch out for them?
I still consider myself a new author, and aren’t sure I’m in much of a position to comment here. However, based on what I’ve seen, keep an eye out for (in no particular order) Krystal Wade, Wilbert Stanton, Richard Roberts, Jason King (no relation to Stephen), Andrew Buckley, and James Wymore – depending on your tastes. I also read a compelling historical fantasy by Gail Strickland that was quite good (Night of Pan)

Is there anything in your book/books you would change now if you could and what would it be?
I’ve seen some bad habits in my earlier writing that I’ve since gotten over (echoes, and some overused words) that I’d perhaps tweak

What do you think about book trailers?
No idea. I’m not sure if they help at all, or where to get one.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
There will be doubt. If you don’t doubt yourself, you’re doing something wrong. Push through it. Keep writing. Also, buy a copy of “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White, as well as “Self Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne & King. On Writing by Stephen King is also high up on the list.

Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
I haven’t. I’m not sure I would.

If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?

While it’s more likely to rub elbows with my CQ associates, I assume you’re asking for the pipe dream choices… So: William Gibson, Chuck Wendig, or Cory Doctorow.

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