Today’s Featured Author – Brian Barr

Today I welcome author Brian Barr to my blog. His debut book, Carolina Daemonic, Book 1: Confederate Shadows was released earlier this year.


Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Brian Barr and I am an American author. My first novel, Carolina Daemonic, Book 1: Confederate Shadows, was published on August 14th of 2015. I co-created and co-write for a comic series called Empress with Chuck Amadori, alongside artist Marcelo Salaza and colorist Geraldo Filho. I’ve published a number of short stories in anthologies and magazines, namely NonBinary Review, New Realm Magazine, Dark Chapter Press’s Kill For a Copy, and Nebula Rift.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always loved telling stories, ever since I was a kid. It’s a part of my nature as a human being. I’ve always been creative, but writing is where I’ve been able to grow and develop with more drive than art or music. Even before I wrote stories, I use to share stories with friends and relatives, particularly ghost stories, growing up. I always liked the fantastical, and being scared.

Many authors inspire me to write, from novelists to comic writers, and I have a great deal of respect for all of them. Tad Williams, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Walter Jon Williams, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anthony Burgess, Jim Starlin, and Alan Moore are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Please tell us about your current releases.

Confederate Shadows is the first book of my Carolina Daemonic series, which was published by J. Ellington Ashton Press. JEAP has been a great publisher, featuring many of my short stories in their anthologies, so I’m happy to have my debut novel published by them as well. The novel is an urban fantasy-horror with occult, steampunk, and science-fiction elements. Carolina Daemonic takes place in an alternative timeline, where the Confederacy won the Civil War, later achieving manifest destiny in a similar fashion to the U.S. of our real timeline. The novel has multiple characters from various backgrounds, and portrays a dark world filled with political, sexual, and racial conflict. Carolina Daemonic also looks at corporations, cults, and various social issues, all under the thrill of terror and suspense in a macabre storyline.

The ongoing comic series, Empress, that I co-write with Chuck Amadori is a supernatural noir mystery, mixed with horror and dark fantasy. The comic revolves around Zia, a famous actress who was a star in the silent films of the 1920’s and found transitioning to the “talkies” (movies with sound) difficult when the 1930’s came around. She suddenly ends up missing and Zia’s movie company hires a private investigator to find her. As the private investigator searches for Zia’s whereabouts, the truth of what happened to the actress suddenly becomes stranger with each unraveling mystery.

For Empress, Chuck and I collaborate go back and forth, every four issues, as writers for the project. Chuck will write four issues, then I’ll write four. Every four issues also comprises an arc of the comic series. Chuck’s first written issue was the debut issue, and my first issue was #5. Currently, we’re working on the sixth issue, and we have many scripts already written and waiting in line. Marcelo Salaza’s art is brilliant and he really brings our work to life. Matheus Broncas did colors for the first four issues and they were amazing. Geraldo Filho does colors now, which also blow me away. I’m thankful to work with these guys who really love comics and really care about making a story great.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes. The two main novel projects I have are Carolina Daemonic, Book II: Rebel Hell, and Serpent King: Smoke, Fire, and Ash. Rebel Hell is an intense continuation of the Carolina Daemonic series, with war and destruction abound. Serpent King: Smoke, Fire, and Ash is a dark science-fantasy featuring Zian Ur the Serpent King, a character I created years ago when I first got back into writing. I plan to finish Serpent King by the end of the year, and I want to put out at least one novel in between all of my Carolina Daemonic books, in order to stay diverse as a writer.

In Carolina Daemonic and Empress, which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

In Carolina Daemonic, my favorite character so far is Zevulon Khodorov. Zevulon is a Russian-Jewish American from Charleston, South Carolina, and a Kabbalist. I loved the research that went into making him a believable Jewish mystic and magician in a fantastical setting. I like his personality, which is quite calm and relaxed for someone facing heavy conflict. Zev was hired by the Union, along with other magicians, to fight against black-magic sorcerers hired by the Confederacy, only to suffer once the Union lost the war. Now, he has to do everything in his power to correct the wrongs that have been done, and the disasters awaiting Earth over a century later.

Empress has many characters as an ongoing comic series, but my favorite so far is Krummi. Krummi is a lesbian shieldmaiden, a female Viking from Scandinavia, possibly over a millennium ago. She’s honest, strong and confident. Although she’s only appeared in one issue so far, I liked her character so much that I wrote some short stories based around her character. One of the stories, Krummi in Helheim, is slated to come out in Mantid Magazine’s debut issue.

I can’t really say I dislike any of my characters, though I dislike much of what they do and what they represent. All of my characters, from the most genuine to the most disturbed, have flaws. There are characters I feel sorry for, like the cult leaders and racist characters in Carolina Daemonic. They represent a lot of what I feel is destructive to the world, a lot of human pain and hatred that merely keeps humanity from growing and helping each other.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Zevulon Khodorov in Carolina Daemonic, because he’s a skilled magician with a heart of gold.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Empress’s main character, Zia, was inspired by Emelia Earhart, the aircraft pilot who when missing when she tried to fly across the Atlantic in the ‘20s. Her disappearance captured my imagination since I was a kid, and I always wondered what happened to her.

I have a fictional inventor in my Carolina Daemonic series who is based on Nikola Tesla. Whether he becomes a major character in the series or not, I don’t know, but he’s mentioned briefly in the first book.

Did Carolina Daemonic’s first book turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

When I started Carolina Daemonic, I was curious about writing steampunk. I was reading China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, a great book, and researching steampunk at the time, so I wanted to have fun in that genre. I ended up writing a mixed genre book, and steampunk became a minor element to Confederate Shadows. I believe the occult horror stands out the most with Carolina Daemonic, along with the urban fantasy.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I have a genuine love for the craft of writing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved storytelling, and as soon as I learned to write and read, I was ready to put my own stories on paper. That love continues to drive me to this day.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

Otherland by Tad Williams is currently my favorite book series of all time. All four volumes read like one huge book, and together, they are all the best to me.

What books are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, and nearly done with the third Fire and Ice book from George R.R. Martin. Love Game of Thrones.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

I would only embarrass myself, but probably Tad Williams and Clive Barker. Alan Moore if I was lucky enough to meet a third. I like all of them equally.



Book Blurb

Carolina_It’s 2020. The South won the Civil War and achieved manifest destiny in the United States. Great Britain, known as Victoria, and China, have maintained their empires. American slavery was abolished in the late 20th century instead of the late 19th century. Steam powered machinery and electricity make up the bulk of modern technology.

In the shadows of the Confederacy, there is magic. Esoteric sciences arcane and archaic survive from forgotten times, and strange demonic creatures wander through the slums of Charleston…

Enter Carolina Daemonic. In an alternative timeline, see a dark world not too far removed from our own- religio-political cults, racism, sexism, homophobia, corporate takeovers and corruption are abound. Witness the strange and mysterious beyond the familiarity of our ordinary world as well- godly avatars, lustful demons, necromancers, and the undead.

About the Author

Brian Barr is a speculative fiction writer who enjoys writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories that are imaginative, macabre, fantastical and strange.  Along with novels and short stories, he has written comic books, including the Empress series with Chuck Amadori. His debut novel, Carolina Daemonic Book I: Confederate Shadows, was released this year. He has also published books under the name Aghori Shaivite. Brian is a member of the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop.

You can find out more about Brian on his website.

Carolina Daemonic can be purchased on Amazon.

Reference Books for Authors

This past weekend I have been working on a wish list of items for Christmas. Yes, for some this may seem early to be working on this, but I have family members that like to shop early and want to know what to buy so we work on wish lists in October.

IMG_0183Years ago, as a new author, I would request books on the writing craft. As with books on any topic, some were helpful and others not so much. My main complaint with many of these books is they don’t give out a lot of good, useable information. There is too much fluff, history, or filler information. I want just the meat of the subject without all the other stuff. I want to know how the information pertains to actually writing a novel or more importantly, my novel.

So this year, I have been taking a look at a few books to perfect my writing because even as a published author, I know there are always things that I can learn or perfect.

So for today’s topic, I wanted to go over a few reference books I already own and a couple that I saw on Amazon that piqued my interest.

Books I own

Flip Dictionary and a Descriptionary – both these books work in the same way. They work in the opposite way of the dictionary for when you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word. The Descriptionary is broken up by subject. The flip dictionary also does it by subject as well as listing words sort of like a thesaurus.

Baby Naming book – I have two of them that I flip through when looking for character names. Having an actual book works better than scrolling through names on the computer in my opinion.

The Howdunit Series – Body Trauma and Deadly DosesI received these two books as gifts back when I first started writing and love them. Body Trauma is a writer’s guide to wounds and injuries while Deadly Doses is a guide to poisons. The latter was helpful when creating my own poison in my The Elemental trilogy.

Fantasy Reference book & The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy (Vol 1 & 2) – While all of these have interesting information, these books fall more along the line of the books I mentioned with more “fluff” and less actual practical info.

The Writer’s Journey – This is an excellent book to read to understand story structure. It is chock-full  of examples from George Lucas and Steven Spielburg. While it isn’t necessarily a reference book, it is well worth a read.

Newly purchased books

I recently purchased a Kindle book called Writing about Magic. It is book 3 in a series of 12 books by author Rayne Hall. I have not had a chance to read the book but for a mere 99 cents, I figured it couldn’t hurt to buy a reference book with 4.6 star rating. If I like it, I may just have to pick up a few of the other books in the series.

Books on Amazon

Here are a few books I saw on Amazon that I thought might be interesting to read.

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws

The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A writer’s guide to Character Attributes

Internal Dialogue – Busy Writer’s Guides Volume 7

It never hurts to read up on different techniques and viewpoints on the writing craft. I am sure there are many other helpful (and not so helpful) books out there. If you have a favorite, please share it in the comment section.

New Release: Tick Tock by Toni Owen Blue

Author Toni Owen Blue just released her children’s book, Tick Tock, last month. This fantasy coming of age story is suitable for those age 10 on up.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think the first time I really considered myself a professional instead of an enthusiastic amateur was when I got my first fan review by email about my first work Double/Cross. Even though I’d been earning money from it and it did very well with shopfront reviews and scores.

I think I just felt rather detached from it, like all those people might have, I don’t know, left reviews on completely the wrong product or something equally ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate every single person who took the time to express their feelings on shopfront reviews. But there was something incredibly personal about receiving an email about how they felt.

How much of yourself, your personality and experiences are in your books?

I’m lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your perspective) to have had enough happen to me that’s really worth writing about, so quite a few of my own experiences are in my books, so much so that ‘Iris’ which is currently in editing is actually pretty autobiographical.

It really does depend on what I’m writing which parts of me you can see though. For example in Double/Cross I break the fourth wall once in a while and get sarcastic about what’s going on, which I could (and very much enjoyed) doing, as it was a very fun project. The protagonist of Tick-Tock, Vega, shares a few experiences with me, being bullied in school and having trouble with her mother. There’s a bit of me in all my projects really, just different bits.

Have you started your next project? If so can you share a little?

This is a very well timed question as I’ve finished my most recent project just this week, Iris, which I’ve already mentioned is now in editing. It’s a middle grade realistic fiction book that follows young Iris as she struggles with growing up with one abusive and one absent parent.

While that’s going through editing I’m geared up and planning the next project, another interactive fiction like Double/Cross, which I won’t spoil yet, although I will say to keep an eye out for it as I’ll probably be looking for Alpha testers towards the end of this year.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

I’m going to start with the worst thing about being the writer, because I’ve always liked to finish on high notes, and that is the way people look at writing, it’s one of those things that most people think they could do if they took the time, it’s not really viewed as a job. I think most authors will be familiar with the answer, when you tell people what you do ‘Ah – me too!” only to be told about an avalanche of ideas that have yet to be put on paper. In my mind this is like me claiming to be a doctor because I read ‘A guide to Anatomy’ one time.

As for the best, I imagine it’s the same for many writers, I’m doing what I love, I’ve always wanted to write, and despite the very painful experience of having my rose tinted glasses ripped off my nose when I realized that writers can’t just bury themselves underneath a big pile of books and coffee, I still can’t think of anything in the world I would rather be doing.

Please tell us about your current release

Tick-Tock is a middle-grade fantasy adventure for anyone 10+. It follows Vega, a twelve year old girl who’s living in the scarce village of Coalridge after her families’ exile from the much richer Sunlands. Her Mum devotes her life to the idea of going back to their old home, and Vega can’t find a single friend, aside from her brother.

Vega starts our story as well meaning, but a little spoiled. Hating the situation she’s in, but at the same time not doing anything about it, her brother is the one to bring good fortune her way. But when this blows up in her face and Vega finds herself alone for the first time and has to grow up much faster than she’d like.

What inspired you to write this book?

I think everyone struggles with confidence time to time, especially at a younger age when dealing with self-identification is very new.

I think this is something everyone goes through in their adolescence and then usually again later, namely finding how you can make yourself proud of what you do. That’s something that’s different for everyone and usually it’s something that you do. I’ll use myself as an example, when I was younger I did a lot of Kickboxing, and being good at that was how I got a lot of my self-worth. Looking back on it I don’t think that’s the best way to get your self-worth, because you end up defining yourself through it and that’s not who you are that’s just what you do. I wanted to take Vega and explore taking pride in yourself for who you are, if that’s clear.

I think that’s something that should always be on people’s minds when they think about themselves, even though a lot of the time it isn’t (I’ll be the first one to hold my hand up and say I’m very bad at doing that).

How did you come up with the title?

Titles are difficult for me, and I really wish I could employ someone to be a Title Creator or something because I’ve not improved in the slightest since my first work.

All the Tick-Tock files are saved in my computer as Clockwork. I knew from the start I couldn’t keep that title because I read Philip Pullman’s book by the same name a lot when I was younger and I can’t get it out of my head. Eventually I had to sit and actually come up with a title I could use and thinking about it I realized Tick-Tock was perfect. Mechanical clockwork is something that hangs over Vega like a storm cloud throughout the book, the industry of metal work being the reason for her family’s exile and poor situation, and ultimately it becomes the reason she loses a family member.

Time is also a big factor for Vega, she starts the book with time ticking down till the moment she’ll have to accept her fate and go work in the mines. Later on in the book she finds herself losing time completely and things get very muddled and confusing.

Combining the two ideas turned out to be perfect.

Did you base any of the characters on real people?

My brother was absolutely thrilled to hear that Vega, with her traumatic character arc from slightly spoiled to kind-hearted and considerate was in fact loosely based on him when he was around twelve.

Which character is your favourite? Do you dislike any of them?

I love most of the characters for one reason or another. I love how tenacious Vega is, Rigel’s dependability and good humour. Stia is one of my absolute favourites with her fierce loyalty and Lyra’s confident gut busting made some of my favourite moments.

You’ll note I say most characters, there is one I absolutely despise and that’s Na’ir, he is just everything that makes me angry. I half wish he was real because then I’d be able to go full zombie apocalypse on him with a bat.

Book Blurb

Tick Tock“She saw his body was not a body at all. A bronze plate ran from his collar bone over his chest, stopping where his stomach would have been and giving way to ticking silver cogs, groaning mercilessly as they pumped what looked like clotted black oil.”

Coalridge. The name says it all. It’s a barren wasteland running down the ridge to the little town where the people spend most of their lives deep underground, mining rocks as hard as their heads. Coalridge is where Vega is stuck, even though she’s so different. Exiled with her family from a home she was too young to remember Vega belongs neither here nor there. The one place she knows she doesn’t belong is crawling around in the mines.

The only person who understands is Rigel, her brother. But when the pact that was meant to help their escape goes horribly wrong Vega ends up truly alone for the first time. It’s strange how easy running away is when you have nothing to lose.

About the Author

ToniToni Owen-Blue is a passionate writer of Interactive and Children’s Fiction, with a background in script writing and thrilling chair catalogue articles. She lives with Caspian, her dog, in Sunny England.

Toni’s inspired to write books for children in difficult situations in the hope that one day her books might inspire children the same way she was when she was young and living through a lot of the difficulties that people know exist in the backs of their heads, but don’t like to discuss very much.

On the other hand her Interactive Fiction has always been about having fun. Interactive Fiction is all about being able to influence a story as it unfolds before you, being able to snub the characters who rub you up the wrong way and trying to help those who you think need you.

With a million project possibilities before her Toni can’t get enough of creating both.

You can find more about Toni on her webpage. And you can purchase Tick Tock on Amazon and Amazon UK.

Puppy Katie Bell fitting in nicely with our family

In the middle of September, we brought home a 9-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppy whom we named Katie Bell. She joins the family of animals that already included three cats and another Cocker Spaniel named Sadie Rose. Katie Bell has turned out to be a wonderful addition to the family and has provided the needed companionship for Sadie Rose.

Integration with Sadie Rose

IMG_0754One reason we wanted to add another dog was to be a companion for our other Cocker Spaniel, Sadie Rose, who turned two in August. When we brought Katie Bell home, Sadie Rose looked at us like we were crazy to bring this bundle of energy into the house. There have been a few snarling matches as they set boundaries but after seeing them play together, I know it will be a good match.

Integration with the cats

Our three cats – Nikki, Tails and Spooky – have finally adapted to getting Sadie Rose, who is no longer in the exuberant puppy phase. And then we add a hyper little fluff ball to the mix who likes to bark at the cats. Needless to say, they aren’t happy. Tails has never warmed up to Sadie and now avoids both dogs. Nikki’s reaction is to hiss at Katie and tolerate the attention of Sadie. Only Spooky seems fine with both, though I am sure she doesn’t like the barking ball of fur.

Potty Training

IMG_0770Katie Bell had never been outside before we brought her home. So the first week was a messy adventure. But the good thing is that she learned to use the pet door from the beginning. And with Sadie Rose to show her what to do, she was soon happily going outside. Only this past week of rain has caused her a bit of a regression as she seems to now want to get her paws wet.

Puppy Obedience School

Two weeks ago, Katie began a six-week puppy obedience class at Petsmart. We have only had two classes, but she seems to be doing okay. She is just so bouncy and excitable that it sometimes is hard to keep her attention. But I know from taking Sadie Rose the class will be worth it.


Coming up in November, Katie Bell will be four months old and ready for spaying. It isn’t even a conversation here at the house. We get all of our animals spayed.

Overall, I think Katie Bell fits in with our family well and has been a nice addition. But we are definitely NOT adding any more members to this family!