Tagged: Speculative Fiction

Interview with Charley Pearson – Author of SCOURGE

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Thrice Read Books interviews SCOURGE author, Charley Pearson

On this edition of “Between the Lines”, we sit down to talk to author Charley Pearson about his writing career, life, and new release, Scourge.

Jenn talks to Charley Pearson, author of science fiction/medical thriller SCOURGE

Jenn: I was reading your bio this morning while setting up the blog post for Scourge. It sounds like you have a fascinating background in all kinds of science-y goodness. Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Charley: Well, I started in biology, moved on to chemistry, then joined the Navy (after protesting the Vietnam War) and spent a career with them as a nuclear engineer. They had to give me extra training for that. Mostly oversaw chemical and radiological environmental remediation after the end of the Cold War, releasing sites for unrestricted future use.

Jenn: That’s an unexpected life choice, going from protester to the Navy.

Charley: I may be unique, for all I know. Gotta defend our right to protest. LOL. I was in the first OCS class post-Vietnam that was 100% volunteers, no draftees.

Meanwhile, raised two daughters and spent hundreds of hours backstage at their ballet studio, on sets and stuff.

Jenn: Biocheminuclear engineer by day, ballet stage-dad by night? And I hardly think you’re alone in the “defend our right to protest” thing. I’ve met a few folks in my years as Army wife and Army civilian that would join you in that sentiment.

Charley: Good. Oh – you’ve heard of soccer moms? The other guys and I called ourselves “ballet dads.” (heh, heh). Wrote a humorous mini-memoir that got published last January by Kallista Gaia Press

Jenn: Ah, yes! You mentioned your humor collection before we began. Before we get into the yummy stuff about Scourge, could you tell us a bit about your humor?

Charley: Well, that ballet thing was separate. The humor collection’s title piece, “The Marianated Nottingham,” finally tells the truth about Robin Hood, by revealing the Sheriff of Nottingham’s side of the story. (Poor guy’s trying to found a national park to protect deer, for goodness sake.) Full-length screenplay. Then there are 24 short things – skits, stories, and ballads (solid meter, strict rhyme, and no redeeming social value). Off the wall and sometimes Pythonesque.

Jenn: Aww… Are you gonna make me add more to my TBR pile? Everyone in the Thrice Read family is a huge Monty Python fan.

Charley: Yay! It is available from Amazon; the e-book is only $2.99.

Jenn: I’ll add a link down below for those interested.

Having read the blurb for Scourge though, this seems to be a huge leap from humorous screenplays, poetry, and skits to intense medical thriller. How did that come about?

CharleyScourge – yes, quite different. I had this idea for the technology back in college, but it was premature. Now that computers are so much better, I dug it out and couldn’t resist finally writing it. The tale includes a recurring theme for me — pragmatism vs. morality (aren’t there at least some situations where ends justify means? Maybe?), plus the idea of someone who decides, dang it, they’re going to do what seems right no matter what it costs them.

Jenn: The Messiah archetype?

Charley: Perhaps. But coming from a flawed character who’s been concealing a dark secret about her Roma clan her whole life.

Jenn: It’s those flaws that really make those characters pop off the page and become real. Now, in reading the blurb… is there a single protagonist? Or do you have co-protagonists (hero and heroine)?

Charley: Ah, there’s a love story subplot about these two geeks who have no clue how to read each other. The woman is the main lead, but the guy cons her into trying something she wouldn’t have on her own. The resolution depends on both.

Jenn: Nerd-love! While saving the world, no less. Very cool.

Charley: So terrorist virus, multiple villains, and FBI who thinks the protagonists are at fault, and health agencies who could never solve the problem on their own.

Jenn: Sounds rather twisted and complex, and a little too close to plausible.

Charley: I have a Kirkus quote, “Imaginative and full of action…continually shifting the quirky plot into places that are both surprising and fantastical.” – Kirkus Reviews

Jenn: So, on the seriousness scale, where would you say Scourge falls, between light-hearted and ultra-serious/dark?

Charley: Hmm, tough one. The science may be achievable someday, which I find seriously worrisome from an oversight standpoint. But the story has a lot of light moments and comic relief. I particularly like the parrot, as will your Monty Python fans.

Jenn: I’m trying not to laugh hard enough to alarm Brian. I can imagine how a Python-esque parrot might fit into the story.

Charley: He’s named Mr. Praline. You know, for the John Cleese character, in the.. well, you know which sketch. 

(Clip from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Season 1 episode 8, aired 12-7-1969)

Jenn: Oh, my!

Charley: Sometimes I have a difficult time avoiding humor, even when writing serious stuff. Sigh.

Jenn: I personally like a little humor in the suspense I read, because I get heavily invested in the really good ones, and that makes for some disruption in the real world. And I know several readers that are the same way.

Charley: Yeah, the pacing is essential in any tale.

Jenn: I noticed that your protagonist/heroine comes from a Roma family. When I read that, I think of gypsies. Am I assuming incorrectly? Or could you clarify that, for our readers?

Charley: Ah, yes, Roma = Gypsies = Romani, though the latter is also an Italian name. Some people have used the term Gypsies in a disparaging manner, so it has been dubbed incorrectly occasionally. I tried to clarify the issue in the novel. The clan often refers to themselves as Gypsies, but outsiders vary.

The female lead is in the clan. The guy isn’t. That’s one of the key problems between their ever getting together.

Jenn talks to Charley Pearson, author of science fiction/medical thriller SCOURGE

Jenn: Okay. Major intercultural hurdles can make for some delicious tension.

Charley: Hey, my mother (mixed English/Irish/Belgian/who knows ancestry) faced prejudice from my father’s parents (3rd generation pure Swede). It’s amazing how stupid prejudices are.

Jenn: It is. And yet they persist, sadly. Hopefully, as the literature world starts to come around to diverse books, that will begin to change.

Charley: Yup, diverse should help a lot. The MC in my historical is Japanese-American, and I was really lucky to find a guy born in Tokyo in 1938 to give me a beta-read and advice.

Jenn: Very awesome! That particular generation, while I grew up surrounded by them, they are rapidly disappearing. You’re very fortunate to have that kind of reference.

Charley: True. My dad was the meteorologist on Tinian during the war. Got me interested in that theater and era.

Jenn: And probably gave you a little boost in the direction of a science-based career?

Charley: Undoubtedly. No way he would let me major in music no matter how good a drummer I was. No money in it. Gotta have a productive career. Depression mentality that generation grew up in.

Jenn: Exactly. Although… I think a few drummers have made quite the living, but, erm… I don’t quite think that working in a rock band would have fit the description of “gainfully employed” by his standards?

Charley: LOL – you got it! Hey, I had a great career, so can’t knock his advice!

Jenn: Bingo!

As we reach the end of our time, is there anything else that readers should know about Scourge, or you as an author?

Charley: Well, I’ve got a couple of short stories out in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthologies, if anyone reads those. And I’ve got a YA-historical that’s nearing completion. So don’t count on any consistency from me.

Jenn: LoL! Keep us in mind when that YA is finished! I bet Sam will be all over that.

I’d like to thank you, on behalf of Thrice Read Books and our readers, for taking the time to answer some questions for us.

Links for your published work and your social media are down below, so readers can find you.

Charley: And a humongous thank you back at you! Most fun, and truly helpful for getting the word out to potential readers. Here’s hoping they like it!

Jenn: May your launch be successful, and your book sales through the roof!

Charley’s Social Media: 

             Facebook              Twitter               Website          

 Buy Scourge:

FIERY SEAS BOOKSTORE     AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE     KOBO

Check out Charley Pearson’s

THE MARIANATED NOTTINGHAM AND OTHER ABUSES OF THE LANGUAGE

One More Run – Review

Jenn reviews One More Run by Matthew J. Cox on Thrice Read Books review blog

About the book:

One More Run by Matthew S. Cox     Roadhouse Chronicles Book 1

Published by Curiosity Quills Press      December 4, 2016

Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction

In August 2021, they tried to disprove the adage that violence doesn’t solve anything―by killing everyone.

No people, no problems.

Fifty years later, humanity has emerged from the ashes. As if nuclear war wasn’t enough, a cruel virus followed on its heels, reducing many survivors to mindless killers.

With no infrastructure left, Drivers are the only link between scattered towns. Anyone with the skill to maintain a vehicle (and the balls to hit the road) can seek riches running jobs for the Roadhouse.

Kevin longs to trade in his steering wheel for a Roadhouse of his own, no longer being the idiot ducking bullets for a handful of coins. He’s one run away from retiring when a strange woman begs him for a ride to Harrisburg. Desperation has a way of getting a man to do stupid things, and he agrees to run a package so valuable half the Wildlands will come after him.

For his whole life, all Kevin cared about was himself―and maybe his car―yet his enigmatic companion makes him wonder if there’s more to life than selling food, booze, and weapons to reckless fools.

Her past catches up to them, stranding Kevin at a fork in the road: fulfill his dream, or let it go for something he never thought he’d want―love.

About the author:

One More Run author Matthew S. Cox

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world, in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place. More recently, he has forayed into young-adult and middle-grade novels. Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humor, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

Jenn’s Review:

Mad Max meets Resident Evil in this fast-paced, post-apocalyptic novel by Matthew S. Cox. 

One More Run chronicles the unplanned adventures of Kevin, one of the few bold souls remaining brave enough to act as a courier between the far-flung, terrorized and tattered settlements that make up the former United States of America. 

Kevin is this close to having the cash saved up from his dangerous runs to found his own Roadhouse and retire from driving for good. But just as things are looking like the end of his dangerous struggles, Kevin finds himself in a situation that even his jaded conscious can’t walk away from – watch a woman dragged off to slavery, or stand up and take on a job that risks everything he’s worked for.

As one run after another goes sideways and wrong, Kevin holds onto his goal: Finish with being a courier for good, and settle down with his own roadhouse.  And as situations get more and more complicated, the jaded young man finds his heart softening towards his damsel-in-distress (who is far more than she appears to be), despite lingering questions about her humanity. Together, they dodge zombies, slavers, drug dealers and more, always braced for the next blow that could end one, or both, of them.

One More Run was an engaging thriller with just enough romance in it to keep me turning the pages. Clean enough to be a YA read for an older teen, this is also engaging enough for more mature tastes – due to language and occasional sexual references, I’ve shelved this one for Sam a few years down the road. Four stars, and looking forward to diving into the sequel, Redeemed, soon.

Jenn Reviews post-apocalyptic/Sci Fi novel One More Run by Matthew S. Cox on the Thrice Read Books review blog

Buy the Book:

This book is available in Kindle or paperback editions from Amazon here. [affiliate link]

Other books in this series:

The Redeemed (book 2)

The Redeemed – Review

About the Book

The Redeemed by Matthew S Cox (RoadHouse Chronicles)

Adult Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic 

Curiosity Quills Press (December 18, 2017)

The worst part about chasing one’s dream is catching it.

Six months ago, Kevin opened a Roadhouse of his own. No longer the idiot braving the dangerous post-nuclear highways of 2073, he thought he’d finally grow old and happy selling bullets, beds, and booze to those still foolish enough to get behind the wheel.

Then, he’d met her.

The white-haired outcast from the xenophobic Enclave crashed into his life, becoming the conscience he never wanted and everything he desired. She couldn’t save the world from the Virus, but she could save Kevin’s dream.

A biker gang calling themselves the Redeemed starts shooting up Roadhouses in flagrant disregard of the Code, shattering the serenity of his humble waystation. When the long-vaunted retribution of Amarillo’s army fails to materialize, Kevin feels more like a sitting duck than he ever did on the road―but it’s not his ‘house he fears losing.

Determined to protect her, he takes it upon himself to enforce the unwritten law of the Roadhouse.

About the Author

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world, in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

Jenn’s Review

After being pulled away from the series for a bit, I finally finished Matthew S. Cox’s The Redeemed. The story of Kevin and Tris continues and the mysteries surrounding the events after the end of the world deepen.

Kevin finally has his Roadhouse, his life long goal achieved. Except, his dream is starting to turn into a nightmare. The long-respected Code is being ignored, Roadhouse owners are dying, the Virus is spreading in strange circumstances, and Amarillo isn’t all it once seemed.

Tris and Kevin are pulled in opposite directions, as she tries to unravel the growing mysteries surrounding Amarillo and rescue the survivors of an impossible Virus outbreak.

Kevin has to leave his ‘house in the hands of virtual strangers to chase down then who murdered his long-time friend and mentor, only to discover that things are not what they seemed; and he must reconcile what is with the fading satisfaction of finally having a safe, stable life.

MAD MAX meets DIVERGENT in this post-apocalyptic, science fiction thriller with a thread of romance. Book 3 is due out in a few months; so we won’t have to wait long to resolve the bit of cliffhanger readers are left with. I’d toss this book in the New Adult category, along with One More Run, for some sexual content (book two has less than book one). The language is mild, and there is moderate violence.

THE REDEEMED by Matthew S. Cox, book 2 in the Roadhouse Chronicles - Review by Jenn on the Thrice Read Books blog

Buy the Book

 This book is available from Amazon in Kindle edition here. [affiliate link]

Other Books in this Series:

One More Run (Book 1)

The White Pavilion – Review

About this book:

Five hundred years ago, Old Earth was facing certain destruction. In the country we know as Spain, a Clockmaker was visited by an Oracle, who told her that a new world must be created.

La Relojero, the Clockmaker, thus fashioned Tierra Mejor, a world governed by clockwork. Along with Seven Companions, she left the dying Earth behind.

But now, an illness is spreading across their world. Machines are failing, crops are diseased, and the Green-bands, led by a man known only as la Rebelde, the Rebel, are spreading discord.

Every year, the Daughters of the Pavilion dance to honour the myth is being performed by the Daughters of the Pavilion. Imre has been chosen to play the part of la Grulla. It is her task is to honour the Pattern by placing a white feather into the hand of a statue of la Oracula, the Oracle. At the last moment, she stumbles.

The Pattern has been disrupted, and Imre’s future is now in jeopardy. The Prince Regent, Thaniel, insists that she is brought to the Citadel. The Prince is young, easily distracted, and determined to bury his insecurities under a screen of drugs. Senor Grath, the Prince’s Advisor, is the effective governor. He dislikes Imre immensely – she is everything he despises. Then there is La Boca, leader of the mysterious Brotherhood, whose sinister plans seem to involve disposing of the Prince – and Imre is in his way.

Thrown from her old life into a world of politics and intrigue, lust and greed, tradition and romance, Imre must confront the Brotherhood and save her people. She will have to fight to ensure the final part of la Relojero’s plan is completed – and that the children of the Seven Companions can return home to Old Earth.

About the author:

Ruth has been an avid reader her entire life and, inspired by the books that engrossed her as she was growing up, she aims to create stories that can draw readers in and enthral them for days or weeks. She writes every day and lives in Ballarat, Victoria, with her husband, her cat, and an ever-expanding library of books.

Ruth completed a Bachelor of Arts/Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing in 2006. She has worked as an editor as well as an illustrator. She often illustrates her own work and hopes to publish many more books in the future.

Visit her website for more information.

Jenn’s Review:

I think that this is possibly the most challenging review I’ve ever written. The White Pavillion made me reach, as a reader; think differently, as a writer; and persevere, as a reviewer.

Ms. Fox’s work in White Pavillion is very different from what I normally chose to read. However, as Sam was dying to get her hands on this particular title, and we weren’t entirely sure of the book’s rating, I chose to push on.

I would not consider this a fast paced read. In fact, it rambles rather slowly until the climax, at which point it speeds up considerably. The setting was also unusual – while I could easily picture the place, I struggled to wrap my head around the sense of time. While I can easily accept other forms of telling time in created, fictional worlds, this book left me stumped in a number of places – Had Imre been held for what would amount to days? Weeks? Months? 

In terms of the “steampunk” element of this story, Ms. Fox takes the prize for world-building. Her creativity in building the world her characters inhabit excels, and while some elements are strange to our mundane world, she has managed to create an element of realism that is hard to find.

I mentioned earlier that the story was slow. Honestly, I don’t normally feel that I am dragging myself through the pages of a read, but this one felt supremely slow. However, that said… Patience is the reward in this novel. Without giving away spoilers, the plot twists near the end of the story blindsided me, while many of the plot twists earlier in the story were expected. 

As a parent, pre-reading this book for a 12 year old who frequently reads YA Fiction, this is not a book for younger teens. Imre is, after all, the equivalent of a high-class prostitute in training (in context, this isn’t as odd as you might think), and she is, first and foremost, a sensual being, a Dancer, an escort. She finds lust and love along her journey in this story, in the arms of both men and women, and the scenes are not “behind the bedroom door”. They are described, elegantly, but not subtly.

In the final tally, The White Pavilion was a worthy read. Reviews are, of course, subjective, and what I have trouble with in one book, another reader might love (and vice versa). If you are a fan of science fiction, speculative fiction and steam punk, you might give this plot a whirl.

Buy the book:

This book is available through Amazon in Kindle format here. [Affiliate link]