"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Story Merchant Client James A. Hillebrecht's Interview on My Addiction

Author Interview – James A Hillebrecht - The Paladin Trilogy

Jim Hillebrecht has been a writer for almost thirty five years. He has produced almost a dozen books within this time which ranges between techno-thrillers, paranormal drama and fantasy. 

People have met James’s Trilogy with much liking judging from comments that range between “very exciting to must add this author on your favourite list.” It’s always an honour for me to host published authors, especially those who are met by society with awe.

Welcome to the blog today James from sunny South Africa. The festive season is about to hit off with just over 5 five days to go. James’s work is the perfect relax read for these times.

James. I was extremely humbled by your short author note on your blog. Can you share this intimate view with the rest of our readers?

Creative writing, at its heart, is the sharing of emotional experiences between the writer and the reader, using the characters as the vehicles for those emotions.  Our literature is rich in emotions like hate, vengeance, love, lust, anger, and joy, but in my experience, we tend to shy away from the heroic.  Or rather, we escalate it to the extra-human level of a Conan or an Indiana Jones, a special trait that raises them above common humanity.  But I believe the heroic resides within all of us, something that goes beyond simple courage which is the tool for heroism, much as knowledge is the tool for wisdom.

The main character of the books is Darius, a Paladin who is a holy warrior quested to confront great evil whenever it is unleashed upon the world.  But it is not the task of the Paladin to single-handedly destroy this evil.  As Darius’ mentor explains to him in the 1st chapter of the 1st book, “Did you think that you and my other sons were only to hack and slay?  No, you were to be the examples for Mankind, the proof that there was a better way than the paths of darkness, the heroes that might stir men’s' souls to valour.”  This is the very heart of the entire Trilogy, that when danger and intrigue and confusion begin to sway people into compromising with that evil, it is Darius who helps them to find the hero within themselves.

Can you tell our readers what made you start writing?

I think I have always been interested in story-telling, and it seems to be a natural outlet for a restless imagination.  The Trilogy, however, has a very different root.  I began playing the fantasy role-playing game (RPG) Dungeons and Dragons back in the Summer of 1978 with a group of close friends, and we are still involved in campaigning in the same world today.  In 1989, I took an informal college course on how to get published, and while the curriculum was a fairly standard introduction to query letters, the instructor did assign one fascinating project:  compose a query letter for the project you will never write.  At the time, I was writing “serious” fiction, and the idea of working on a sword-and-sorcery fantasy was the furthest thing from my mind.  So I wrote the query letter, and I fell in love with the idea.  The first book of the Trilogy, A Rage in the Heavens, was the result.
Interestingly, the book initially could not find an audience, at least partially because it was the first book of an unfinished Trilogy.  My agent at the time was not accustomed to handling fantasy, and after about a year of collecting rejection letters, I finally put it up on the shelf.  Then, around 2002, my eldest Daughter, Barbara, pulled down the manuscript, read it, and insisted that I complete the other two books.  And the Paladin Trilogy came to fruition.

Do you have a specific genre you are writing for?

The Paladin Trilogy is a sword-and-sorcery, high fantasy work that is grounded in the rich heritage of Lord of the Rings and the various RPG systems.  I was hoping to hit that ideal middle-ground between adults and teen-agers, and while the books appear to have been very well received by the adult audience, the teen-aged response seems to be mixed.  The relentless action of the books attracts some, but the political intrigue and the complex characters appear to be a bit much for others.

The Paladin trilogy consists of three novels. Can you tell our readers a bit more about them?

The first book, A Rage in the Heavens, was written in the early 90s, and by its nature, it is a simpler story, the tale of an aging fighter called out of a well-earned retirement to confront a barbarian invasion that is led by an unstoppable titan known as the Juggernaut.  But unknown to him, his teen-aged Daughter, Shannon, has also heard a distant call, and she follows in his footsteps to where the war rages.

In the second book, Upon This World of Stone, the simplicity of the first book darkens and complicates as more details become clear.  The Juggernaut is a weapon of the Ancient Wars before the birth of Men, and it has been set free by the tyrant of the barbarians after he came into possession of a demonic sceptre that has given him incredible powers.  But while the purpose of the tyrant to conquer and pillage is crystal clear, the intent of the demon sceptre is still shrouded in mystery

In the third and final book, Darkness Ascending, the various strings of the story come together in a compelling Gordian Knot as the ancient struggle between the gods begins to emerge once more.  Here, Darius’ ability to inspire is put to its final test as the ruthless and cunning thief, Adella, and Darius’ Daughter Shannon find themselves pulled into the final confrontation where the devastating plans of the gods themselves are revealed – and which only they have even a chance counter.

Your favourite character within them? What makes him/her dear to you?

That’s almost like asking a parent which is their favourite child.  These characters have been with me for over 20 years, and they are now all old friends.  But I have to go with the Paladin Darius and the Thief Adella, because their interaction is a wonderful part of the chemistry of the three books.  They come from radically different backgrounds, and their choices have put them on a collision course, especially since Adella wields the evil sword Bloodseeker, the absolute antithesis of Darius’ sword Sarinian.  As Darius tells her early on “We are friends the world has cast as foes”, and when they are able to put their differences behind them, they make an extremely effective team, complementing the others’ weaknesses and augmenting each others’ strengths.

The humour and the conflict between them is a fun sub-plot throughout the books, as is the lurking and forbidden romantic tension.  It is interesting that when the question is asked “should Adella and Darius end up together?”, the reaction is split perfectly down gender lines.  Every woman who has read the books responds with a resounding “Yes!” while male readers inevitably answer with an equally emphatic “No!”  I’ve occasionally felt I should have two different endings f I want to keep everyone happy.

On your website you have a link that refers to “The Campaign” can you tell our readers a bit more about it?

“The Campaign” refers to the RPG world that I and my friends have been designing, developing, and evolving for more than 30 years.  A role-playing game, simply put, is when players generate characters for a medieval setting, and the game-master designs all the intricacies of that world and then allows the players to adventure in that environment.  The current group of characters was introduced in 1981, and we have had some epic playing sessions, many of which will start on a Friday night and end in exhaustion on Sunday afternoon.  My earlier contention that the heroic can be found within all of us is sometimes demonstrated by the valour of these characters when standing against an overwhelming evil – some things you simply cannot play act.

People have commented on your rather intriguing covers can you tell us a bit more about the mastermind behind them?

John Blumen and I met in our 9th grade homeroom, and we have been fast friends ever since.  John was the silent, watchful artist, and I was a history nut with a real fascination for all things nautical.  When there was a school announcement congratulating John on his construction of a model of the USS Constitution, I made a point of seeing it and was astounded not just by the intricate detail of the vessel but by its flawless historical accuracy.  I fell in love with his work on the spot, and John, I think, was just relived to find somebody who knew the difference between an American frigate and a Spanish galleon. 

Ever since I wrote the first sentence of A Rage in the Heavens, I have dreamed of John designing the covers of the Trilogy.  John has developed into a successful commercial artist whose credits include covers for major publishers like Tor and Penguin, but he has always cautioned me that publishers often have their own stable of illustrators and are unlikely to even look at covers from “the author’s friend”.  StoryMerchant gave me the freedom to use the illustrator of my choice, and John has done a superb job of creating covers that work both as a thumbnail for e-books and as the full-blown jackets of the paperbacks.  It is my heart-felt hope that people will judge my books by their covers.

People have complemented your works by saying it’s intriguing especially to those that like political intrigue, medieval imagery and clever characters how have you dealt with bad reviews?

Well, fortunately, there have been no formal bad reviews to date, but all of my books go through an exhausting series of proof-reads by a loyal following of tireless friends.  Everything is on the table with the avowed purpose of helping to lift the work to the next level, whether that be to acceptable to good or to very good.  Criticism is a priceless opportunity to improve, and it only becomes a problem if you think your work has reached the pinnacle where no further improvement is possible.  I expect and hope that I will never reach that point.

Where can readers find your works and stay in contact?

My web site can be reached at:
You’ll find the Prologue to the first book there which you can read for free in order to get a flavour of the Trilogy.  The books themselves are available on Amazon/Kindle as both e-books and large paperbacks. 

A Rage in the Heavens
http://dld.bz/bSznP       (e-book)
http://dld.bz/bSzzw       (paperback)
Upon This World of Stone
http://dld.bz/bSmNv     (e-book)
http://dld.bz/bSznB       (paperback)
Darkness Ascending
http://dld.bz/bSzy7        (e-book)
http://dld.bz/bSzyG       (paperback)
Plans for the future?

I had originally envisioned two additional Trilogies set in the same world as The Paladin only with different characters.  But sometimes the pen just goes off in a totally unexpected direction, and I’ve learned to write what is clearest in my head.  So I’m currently working on an immediate sequel to the Trilogy, starting right after the last scene of Darkness Ascending, and I’m simply delighted with how it’s going.  At the current rate, it will take about a year to finish, but my experience has been that if it’s fun to write, it’s going to be fun to read.


Success as a writer is 90% work and 10% talent.  No matter how talented you are, if you do not do the work, if you do not roll up your sleeves, none of your dreams for greatness as a writer can ever come true. That's just reality.

The challenge is that today's writer is, quite frankly, distracted. It goes beyond simply wanting to wash your windows and walk the dog instead of writing.

Nowadays, the biggest time zapper is the Internet. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter or checking your email 400 times a day, every second you're playing on the Internet is one step further from your goal as a writer. In my book, A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write, I talk about how imperative this step is.

That's why when I was introduced to a new tool my good friend Jeff Rivera is beta-testing, I had to share it with you. It is a software that will prevent you from using the Internet without finishing your daily word count. 

If you're serious about your commitment to writing, I highly recommend it. 

Download  Write the Damn Thing now!

Larry Thompson's Thriller Thursday Interviews Jock Miller About His New Thriller!

Fossil River — A new novel from Jock Miller


A perfect energy storm that pits predatory dinosaurs against US Marines

Larry Thompson welcomes Jock Miller to Thriller Thursday to talk about his latest novel, Fossil River , an exciting combination of science fiction (and fact) in a riveting story story centered on an energy shortage that has it’s solution in the Alaskan Wilderness.  Jock Tells us how the story and novel came about, as well as bit about his personal journey as a thriller writer.

purchase on Amazon.com
view trailer

AEI Client Noire's New Novel Is Available Now!

Sexy Little Liar by Noire

This here ain't no romance
It's an urban erotic tale
When Gutta hits the bricks
Mink's gon' sho'nuff catch some hell!
It started out as just another ordinary scam
Until Mizz Mink discovered
They might really be her fam!
Mink is seeing dollar signs
She thinks she's got it made
She's counting up her duckets
Hoping Viceroy's 'bout to fade
But when a chick from Philly shows up
Lookin' like her twin
The competition's on,
So may the sexiest liar win!
A grip is on the line
Yo, what's a Harlem chick to do?
Here's another misadventure
In the life of Mink LaRue!


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Urban Erotic Noire Publications
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Guest Post: 8 Ways to Get Reviews That Aren't Fake by Penny C. Sansevieri

Penny C. Sansevieri
We've always had a problem with "fake." Whether it was a fake Kate Spade handbag or a knock-off clothing line, fake has always been a part of our culture. Most of this is made popular by the "don't you want to have it, too?" mindset that often surrounds celebrities: "Get the dress Jennifer Aniston wore for only $200!" Most of us, however, can spot fake. Or, to help avoid litigation, many reputable companies offer knock-offs of celebrity Oscar gowns and what-not. Fake, however, is not limited to fashion anymore.

Now, fake and counterfeit has begun permeating the publishing industry. We've seen things like 35 Shades of Grey and other knock-off titles that seem to circumvent any legal challenges, but there's a new challenge on the frontier, that of fake reviews. Do you believe reviews? A majority of us don't, but more often than not we believed the consumer reviews. Not so much anymore, especially now when reviews can be bought, or in some cases, simply faked. The message seems to be: if you want to get noticed, you'd better be prepared to "fake it till you make it." That's a nice saying, in theory, but when you're talking about polluting an Amazon page with a bunch of dummy reviews, that's another story.

So, what's an author to do? I'm sure as time wears on it will be tempting to buy into this but what happens when we do? We end up with a cluttered market packed with "I loved this!" and we're left to wonder, did the person really love it and, even worse, did they even read it? We all want to be liked, or, rather, we want our work to be liked, but to what end?

Several years ago we were on a team retreat. At that time a savvy team member came to me and said, "We can't put our stock in reviews, these folks are inundated with books to look over, we need to find other channels." And so we did. Where we used to do review-centric programs (meaning that the success or failure of a marketing campaign depended on the number of reviews we got), we now offer campaigns that are balanced, and yes, we like to get reviews for our customers, but that's not always the best way to grow your market. Here is perhaps a different set of ideas (and maybe a few you've heard before) about getting exposure and (if you're lucky) getting reviews:


  1. Stay engaged: I see a lot of folks who aren't engaged in the process or their reader. I'm not talking about running through your to-do list of marketing activities. I'm talking about staying engaged with your reader. Talking to them via your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, whatever. Your reader is your end user, you want reviews to get to them, but in the absence of reviews, guess what? Your outreach to your reader will have a far greater impact on your market and your sales.
  2. Know the rules: The rules of the game are important. Part of what's so discouraging to bloggers (and eats away at their time) is that authors don't often take the time to know who to pitch. That's what makes paid reviews so tempting (among other things); you can send in a check, and then you get reviews. Real, honest, and thorough reviews take time, but keep this in mind: When this shakes out and presumably "consumer" reviews don't have the credibility they once did, where do you think authors will start to go? To the long-time, credible reviewers -- where it all started. So, get to know them now. They have a following, and people who read them know they can't be bought.

  3. Start early: As with anything in marketing, start early. I'm going to run through some networking tips in another section but for now, start thinking in terms of early, early, early. How soon should you start? Six months at a minimum.
  4. Review other books: Reviewing other people's books works great on a number of levels. First and foremost, it's important to support other authors in your market. You want reviews? Guess what? So do they. Get out and review their books; they'll appreciate the effort. Then, when it's time for your book to come out, let them know you're published, offer to send them a copy and (if they have the time) encourage a review. Keep in mind that they may or may not do it. You aren't trading reviews here; you're paying it forward.
  5. Please and thank you: When was the last time you thanked someone for a review? If you haven't, you should. You'll write more books and may want to pitch them again, and even if you don't, saying thank you takes no work at all. Show them your appreciation. Consider this: Midwest Book Review has worked tirelessly to do reviews for years, they ask for nothing. Occasionally I'll get a letter from them saying, "if you want to help out, we could really use stamps." It's a small thing, with a huge impact. We're all in this together; help out the people who help so many others. Spread the word about the review, thank them, be gracious. You'll be glad you did.
  6. Network: If the idea of networking makes you think of long, boring events where you hand out your cards like candies out of a Pez dispenser, take heart... it doesn't have to be like that. You can network on a variety of sites. Let's take LinkedIn for example, which is a great place to network with the media. Join groups in your area of expertise and contribute once a week or so, connect with media and bloggers in your market and then comment on their updates and posts. See? You don't even have to leave your house or, for that matter, attend some boring, colorless event to stay connected.
  7. Social media contacts: When was the last time you went through your social media contacts, your Likes on Facebook, connections on LinkedIn? Part of your monthly networking outreach could be to send a quick note to 4 contacts on each social media site. Why? Because there's a big likelihood that you are connected to a blogger, bookstore buyer, or reviewer. You simply never know who is part of your network unless you take time to explore them! 

  8. Reviews aren't the end game: At the end of the day, reviews may not be the way to greater sales. Consider this: have you ever pitched yourself as a contributor to bloggers or blogs? Have you reached out to any newsletters in your industry? Have you considered excerpting your book online somewhere? Consider other options, brainstorm with other authors who are facing the same challenges.

While we love easy, easy isn't always best. A slew of five-star reviews on an Amazon page is now considered suspect. If you want to build your credibility you'll need to work harder. Consumers want authentic, they want transparency. By looking outside of the norm and really maximizing what you already have access to you, you can rise about the review noise and, in so doing, will begin to build much more credibility for yourself in the long-term. Credibility breeds respect, and that could bring you more legitimate reviews than you know what to do with.

We now live in a world where anyone can publish at anytime. With one click of a button you can become an author. But I believe the journey is much greater than that. It's more than just putting words on paper and hitting a few buttons. It's an effort and it requires time, patience, persistence and passion.

Someone asked me once "Wouldn't it be great if everyone loved your book?" Not really, I said. Not everyone's going to love what I write or what I do. I love the love, but it's in the criticism that I often find my biggest growth.

Realms of Gold: Ritual to Romance Reviewed By Ruth Ann Hixson for Bookpleasures.com

Realms of Gold by Terry Stanfill is a novel in which the author cleverly weaves two plots together. It begins in 1953 with the discovery of major archeological find at a dig in Vix, Burgundy, France. The team digging at the site discover the burial site of a queen or priestess. Among her grave goods is a large bronze cauldron called the Vix Krater.

The first plot involves Italian archeological professor, Giovani Di Serlo, and an antiquities writer for an American magazine, Bianca Caldwell, who meet in Venice as guests invited to a wedding. His cousin is marrying her cousin

The second plot begins in the mountains near the Black Sea. Volcanic eruptions force the people to move west. They are forced to move farther west as the fresh water lake becomes inundated by salt water from the Mediterranean Sea.

Giovanni does not particularly like Bianca. She is not pretty and her clothes are sloppy, her shoes worn down. However, she possesses two things that attracts him: her great-grandmother's diary and a propensity toward visions and dreams.

Bianca returns to New York to find her apartment ransacked but nothing seems to be missing. Except the painting her great-grandmother did of the Campanile in Venice. Then she finds the painting in her raincoat pocket. She had taken it to Venice with her without realizing it.

She returns to her work of writing for a magazine about antiques.

Excerpt: At 32nd and Madison, she turns east...As she nears the corner of Third Avenue, she sees a man in a long black cape standing at the stoplight. Pulled down over his face is a slouch hat like an old fashioned Borsalino.The hat hides his eyes and nose. A muffler covers his chin and mouth. He seems faceless. He reminds her of the man in the old Sandeman Sherry ads. Or of the description of the black cloaked man in Nina's diary. She shivers. And not from the cold.

As she crosses Third Avenue, she thinks she hears his tread behind her; her legs take longer strides towards Grace's. But before she pushes open the door, she turns around. He's across the street, his head bent. Then he disappears around the corner....

Is the figure in the black cape a vision, a phantom from Nina's diary lodged in her mind like a bullet in her brain? Or has she been followed by a flesh and blood man?

....Just after she's gone to bed around one in the morning, she hears the doorbell ring. She won't answer it. Officer De Vita might have been right. Maybe someone is after her--or something in her apartment. The bell rings four more times. If she had a panic button, she would push it. Without turning on the lights, she tiptoes to the door and waits the until the ringing stops. After a few long minutes she peers through the peephole. Nothing. Moving to the window, she sees the back of a man in a black cape crossing the street. Now she's convinced that her visions are crossing over into reality. She grabs the phone. Six hours difference. In Italy that means seven in the morning. She dials Giovanni's cell phone and leaves a message. She's coming.

She hastily packs her bags and books a flight. Before she leaves New York she goes to Bloomingdales for makeup lessons and new clothes. Giovonni meets her in Naples.

From Naples they travel south through Italy. He shows her a drawing on an ancient workshop wall. She recognizes as the Vix Krater. They decide to follow the route the krater would have taken from Sybaris, a destroyed but one time famous trading center, on the southern coast of Italy. Certain that the krater was cast near that city, they set out to follow the route that could have taken it to central France.

The author cleverly twists the threads of the two plots until they can be knotted together in Vix, France. Bianca reveals to Giovanni the visions she has had about the queen with whom the krater was buried. Her name was Zatoria she tells him. She insists the krater was the Grail. She declares that King Arthur was the Roman General Riothamus.

They visit a dig on the top of a hill and the leader of the archeology team tells them that he thinks he has found Camelot. He also tells her that the Avallon i
n Arthur's legend is at the town of Avallon, France. "There is no Avallon in England," he says.

 Reviewed by Ruth Ann Hixson

Reviewer Ruth Ann Hixson: Ruth has been an avid reader since she first learned to read. When she was forty-two, she went to college to become a journalist. She started out as an assistant editor and reporter and later graduated to Lifestyles Editor. She is now retired and enjoys writing, editing and book reviewing.

PUTTING CLIENTS TOGETHER: Story Merchant Client Robert Dembik Interviewed by SM Client Diane Maroney For her IMAGINE PROJECT

Ordinary folks tell extraordinary tales

by  Mike Cejka

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Sometimes it's a good thing to pause and take stock in life's lessons.

This week the "Imagine Project" came to Buffalo to do just that. The soon-to-be-published book will highlight some ordinary people with extraordinary stories.

According to Dianne Maroney, book editor and nurse, "We realize everybody has a story and that there will be more compassion and less judgment and more kindness in the world. And just to make the world a little better place."

What sparked the idea was the emotional and physical toll that Maroney dealt with after giving birth to her three-and-a-half month premature daughter.

"I would tell people stories about their premature infants using the word "imagine." So, it was very impactful," Maroney said.

West Seneca native, Robert Dembik is among three from the area that will be featured in the book.

"My guardian angel was coming by," Dembik said. "A doctor saw the whole thing, started CPR on me immediately and it took a couple months to find out that the CPR the gentlemen was doing, was 25 minutes long. So anyone in the health industry knows that 25 minutes, you really shouldn't make it."

According to Tyler Kellogg from Watertown, who will also be profiled in the book, "I found myself depressed and overweight in my sophomore year of college. Instead of going on antidepressants, or down that road, I decided I'd live out of my car for a summer and just commit random acts of kindness for people."

The "Imagine Project" has an inspirational message for all of us:

"We all have challenges, big and small, and certainly some days are better than others. If you think in terms of having the mind set that this too will come to pass," Dembik said.

"Some us live out of a car and help people, some of us play bass guitar in a band, some of us work at a gas station, but it's all important whatever you do. Do it well and make this place a little better for the people who are around," added Kellogg.

Kellogg provided 115 acts of kindness over 65 days during his travels across the eastern United States. Everything from tarring a driveway and planting trees, to just listening to a widower reminisce about his wife.

Newtopia Magazine Interview

Mongrel Patriot Review: Producer and Writer Kenneth Atchity

A dreamer who realizes his dreams and helps others do the same, Ken Atchity has impressive credits in the worlds of film, television and publishing.  His long list of academic achievements and awards include a Fulbright Professorship of American Literature at the University of Bologna, the Faculty Achievement Award at Occidental College, grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mellon Awards, and he was consultant on classical drama for the Mark Taper Forum.  He’s published over a dozen books, everything from academic studies of Homeric literature to essential self help for writers.   He edited the Classical Roman Reader and Classical Greek Reader for Oxford University Press.

Ken left academia to create a series of hybrid ventures that on the one hand develop inexperienced talent and on the other make deals for major projects in the boardrooms of studios and networks.  He has developed a flock of writers, at first shepherding them to book publishers, now guiding their entry into the wild world of e-books.  He’s also produced TV and feature films, one starring Angelina Jolie, and indie films, including Hysteria the hit of the Toronto Film Festival in 2011.  His documentary The Kennedy Detail (2011) was nominated for a daytime Emmy.

Ken serves on the board of directors of Yogagivesback.org whose mission is “to mobilize the global yoga community to empower women in India to build sustainable livelihoods,” which is awesome.  Kayoko Mitsumatsu, a Japanese documentary director, understood the power of micro-loans after producing a doc about Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and creator of the micro-loans culture.  Having gained so much from yoga herself, Kayoko found a way for yoga students to return some good karma to India.  Mothers and children can be given the resources to lift themselves out of poverty for the cost of a yoga lesson.

I recently caught up with Atchity to discuss his projects.

Your new thriller the Messiah Matrix is based on your research, which has led you to believe that the origin of the Roman Catholic Church can be found in the cult of Augustus.  You point out the numerous similarities in timeline and beliefs between the cult of the first emperor and the Jesus mythology, including titles Augustus had that included Christ, and savior. You propose that Augustus convened the great minds of Rome to gather together the greatest myths of history up to that point to create a paradigm of the perfect human. How did that Roman ideal become wed to the rabbi hanging out with hookers and lepers?  

The novel suggests that the cult of Iasius actually began in Judea, launched by King Herod in gratitude for Augustus sparing his life after he made the mistake of siding with Antony against Augustus. As a Judean cult, it gathered local details before being spread throughout the empire by the emperor himself. I always thought the parallels between the history of Caesar and the myth of Jesus were uncanny, and in this story I found a way to challenge the reader to examine them for himself through the eyes of the characters.

Why is Augustus Caesar the central historical figure of The Messiah Matrix?

Augustus Caesar was the most powerful ruler in the history of Rome, and perhaps the most powerful ruler in the history of the Western World.  His Pax Romana, the two hundred years of peace he established throughout his empire after taming the entire periphery of the Mediterranean, which the Romans referred to as mare nostrum, “our lake,” remains unrivalled in world history.  Known in his monuments through the empire as “savior,” “father,” “the mighty God,” “God and son of God,” “shepherd,” and “prince of peace,” he was all-powerful and exerted vast, pervasive influence throughout his Empire, an influence that remains with us to this day. His shrewd policies concerning religious tolerance, celebrated by the construction of the Pantheon in Rome, initially led him to allow continuance of the religions of the nations he conquered. He eventually realized that a multi religious empire would lead to civil unrest and violence so he took measures to create a single religion based on individuals honoring the God within us all that he believed would engender peace among the nations.

Will Christian readers anything new about the roots of Christianity in The Messiah Matrix?

The book is written for anyone, like myself, who’s ever wondered about the historicity of Jesus and who’s been troubled by the numerous contradictions found in the Gospels. If you’ve been inspired by the core teachings of Christianity but wondered if the figurines in the Christmas nativity set are based on actual fact or are instead mythic icons this novel was meant for you and will give you plenty to think about. The literalists seem to feel that Jesus being “mythic” instead of actually historical is somehow demeaning to the Christian founder—when the very opposite is true. Nothing is more powerful than myth, which is a public dream that endures through the ages.  The true history of Christianity has been shrouded in mystery for millennia, partly intentionally and partly out of ignorance. The Messiah Matrix reveals crucial structural and conceptual aspects concerning the roots of Christianity, clouded by history through the ages that will change the reader’s understanding, possibly forever. But it should not in any way be a detriment to believing in the essential doctrines of redemption and transformation that is the seminal essence of Christian—and indeed almost every—religious faith. The challenge is stripping away the layers of organized religion to find that essence.

Swami Vivekananda wrote of a dream he had when a ship he was on passed Cyprus, an Essene told him: “This is the island where Jesus was invented.”  Whether historical or invented, from the most superstitious to the sublime, he haunts every walk of life.  What is it we’re after with this Jesus mystery that has so fascinated humans?  

We’re after the enormous transformative potential that lies within each of us as human beings—to overcome our beastly nature and transcend it to the level of our angelic (divine) aspirations. That is the true meaning of ‘the christ,’ symbolized by the fish image described in the novel.

You have an unusually optimistic view of current events, which you compare to the great Jesuit scholar Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of “the Omega Point.”  Please share with our readers this idea that we’re living at the Omega Point right now.

As I said in a recent Huffington Post, we are nearing the point of full communication among humans, which will make us ‘ubiquitous in time’ and nearly all-powerful (since governments and religions will no longer have the power to deceive us about events—someone THERE with a cell phone will transmit proceedings to the world before the press and propaganda have had a chance to spin them). All knowledge will be shared, as it is in Wikipedia; all images will be accessible. The very idea of living in TRUTH will begin to bring out our better nature as a species and eventually vanquish the evil within us. Call me crazy, but I think that’s what’s going on right now thanks to the worldwide web. One of the final hurdles is overcoming our addiction to organized religion, which blinds us to the responsibility for our own destiny, which is the essence of evolved humanity.

In 2011 you were one of the producers of Hysteria, an English comedy about the invention of the vibrator as a medical apparatus to deal with Victorian women in a culture where the female orgasm was usually dismissed as the province of prostitutes.  The film ran into the difficult film distribution market. it didn’t comfortably any genres, it’s not a good date movie, guy movie, buddy comedy, kid movie or horror movie.  What surprised you about who liked the film and who didn’t?

I’m never surprised when a great little film doesn’t reach its audience. In this case it was a combination of factors—the star being unavailable for publicity when the film was released, and the distributor being preoccupied with Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (which I loved, by the way, as a former professor of comparative literature). I believe the film will find its audience eventually thrown downloads and DVDs, and during the award season. I’m disappointed but I take a long view of the work I’m involved with—if it’s good, it will eventually be ‘discovered.’ I certainly see that happening with The Messiah Matrix, which I believe is one of the three best books I’ve written, along with my first Homer’s Iliad: The Shield of Memory and A Writer’s Time.

In 2010 you were involved in the production of The Kennedy Detail.  The film became notorious among JFK assassination conspiracy experts because it supports the lone assassin theory and even throws cold water on the rumored affair with Marilyn Monroe.  What do you think of America’s fascination with conspiracy theories?

I think our fascination is perfectly understandable. It’s so much easier to believe that a pivotal world figure like JFK is assassinated through a vast conspiracy than through the machinations of a single maniac like Lee Harvey Oswald. Living is the constant working of an enormous jigsaw puzzle and nothing is more frustrating than believing that there are certain pieces that we may never find—and therefore never be able to complete the puzzle. So every possible piece—the mob, Castro, the CIA, the Russians, even the Secret Service itself—becomes a candidate for solving this great unsolved mystery. The film hopes to throw light on this process of constant assembling and reassembling that is our human nature.

You’ve had many years of experience in the film industry and have been in involved as a producer in the production of over thirty  movies.  How has the business changed?  Care to predict the future of the movie biz?

If I worship anything in life I worship change, and the divinity within it—the very spark of life. And change is what’s been happening in spades for the last five years to the point where both publishing and entertainment (not to mention, as you well know, MUSIC) are changing so rapidly no one can say at the moment exactly what’s going on. But one thing is clear on the film side: this is, and will be, for the next few years at least, the ‘age of the independent.’ Because the studios have retrenched down to making a handful of films each (instead of 20-30) each year—and those with massive budgets, over $150 million), the explosion of moviemaking has been in the indie world where I spend most of my film time. What this means for the writer is that he must find a way to become a PRODUCER, raising the money or attaching the talent needed to move his story to the front of the conveyor built. I predict that writers who become producers will govern the future of the indie renaissance.

As many years of experience as you’ve had with film you have even more as an expert on publishing.  How do you feel about the future of publishing?  Is there a place for corporate publishers in tomorrow’s world of writers or are eBooks and direct author to reader relationships the new book business?

I’ve never been so excited about the future of publishing as I have been for the past 2-3 years when it’s become crystal clear that the sea change is underway. We’re living in a time as exciting as the last decade of the fifteenth century when Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press changed the world’s access to knowledge virtually overnight. That is what the Internet is doing for publishing. For storytellers in particular—and I believe we can change the world through stories—this is the first time in centuries that we have direct access to a worldwide audience. Traditional corporate publishers may continue for another fifty or a hundred years but they will become even more focused on “established brands,” the authors whose names are household words because the cost of their overhead demands they publish books that are “pre-sold.” But for the new voices and new ideas direct publishing, via e- and print-book both, find their way to their markets without interference from the gatekeepers of old. What could be more exciting than that?

In Homer’s Iliad: The Shield of Memory you showed how the ancient bards provided cultural retrospection and a moral compass by telling the story of the wrath of Achilles and the consequences of breaking the laws of hospitality of Zeus.  Now we’re in a world where misinformation is everywhere.  So-called facts are countered by other so-called facts, all cherry picked to support economic, and political and religious agendas.  I personally believe that the laws of Zeus still apply; I see the results of its successes and failures every day, do you?

Yes, it is dizzying to hear, in clip after clip, politicians quoting facts against the “lies” of their opponents. But the good news is that we all have access to Google, and we can all research the facts ourselves and decide whom to believe. The future of culture depends on the intelligence of the computer-accessing individual. Stories still change the world. I knew that in Messiah Matrix I had a better chance of saying what I wanted to say about the ravages of organized religion if I described the theory as part of an exciting story than as a nonfiction study. My book on Homer sold a few hundred copies in the past 40 years! So its description of how culture is transmitted through storytelling went unheeded by the widest audiences. In fact, I moved from the academic world to the world of commerce precisely because the new world I’ve worked in for 25 years now is all about reaching the widest audiences. In a novel we recreate the experience of the campfire, where people gather around to hear a story and discuss what to make of it. The Internet is that campfire, with the after-postings the chatter of the gathered. The laws of Zeus allow us to gather and comment and respond to the poster and one another. How exciting is that!

From 1980-1988 you were editor of DreamWorks: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly about the relationship between dreams and the arts.  Contributors included Ursula LeGuin, Ingmar Bergman, Fellini, Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, John Gardner, Carlos Fuentes, Stephen King and Eugène Ionesco.  How do your dreams influence you and your work today?

I am living my dreams, and have been since I left the academic world twenty-five years ago. So many projects I’m involved with originated with a dream—whether a daydream or a night dream—and I’ve realized that the more dreams I facilitate the more facility I have in generating them. They just keep coming, waking or asleep—and the thrilling thing for me is that I get to assist in making the dreams of others come true. That’s been my life mission: helping stories change the world by getting them to their audiences.

44 young girls who are funded now by YGB’s “Sister Aid” programs to stay in school as well as receiving out of school supplementary tutoring.

How does Yoga Gives Back work and what’s going on currently?

What is going on at the moment is that Kayoko Mitsumatsu, head of YGB and my dear wife, is in India for three weeks to document (she’s a filmmaker) the results of YGB’s support to the women and children in the villages, and is reporting back daily (see yogagivesback.org) that the program has become so popular that one wall in a rural community depicts children walking around with bags bearing the “Yoga Gives Back” logo. Again, she has taken her story—“For the price of a lesson, you can change a life”–to its target audience and is witnessing the transformation that yoga practitioners’ support can achieve in these lives.

In 1995 you wrote a little gem called Cajun Household Wisdom.  Since this interview will be live just after an election that has deeply divided America, can you offer a Cajun saying for our political predicament?

Don’t get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Seriously, whatever the outcome, President Obama represents the future of America as the dream of the melting pot come true. We are living in historical times, to have seen him be elected. We are finally reaching the potential represented by the Statue of Liberty. This remains, truly, the land of freedom and opportunity.

Written by Tamra Spivey
Newtopia staff writer TAMRA SPIVEY is a founding member and primary singer of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War and Exile Nation, and associate producer of The Gits documentary. She was art editor and west coast editor of Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation, collaborating on in depth interviews with whistle blower Michael Ruppert, ACLU and record business honcho Danny Goldberg, and grassroots political strategist Larry Tramutola. Follow her on twitter @MongrelPatriot.

Reimagining Sicily by Mark Spano

Mark Spano Communications, Inc. is seeking travel funding for the production of a feature documentary entitled Reimagining Sicily. 

Little has been produced about the cultural or historic relevance of Sicily. The most invaded place on the planet, the three-sided island’s story rivals both Greece and Egypt as a primary source for Western ideas. Sicily is more fascinating and more diverse than so many of the worn out discussions of regions in France and other parts of Italy. And, few of those “popularized” regions compare to Sicily for a story of authentic human struggle, the presence of cultural icons and the significance of so many important historical sites. But for crime, Sicily has gone unexplored.

Guest Post On Laurence O'Bryan

A short guest post: Ken Atchity – master story merchant

I met Ken Atchity on a visit to a writer’s conference in San Francisco. Ken was one of the speakers. He is both a master storyteller and a great producer. Below you will find a brief biography of Ken, and below that his answer to this question, what is your number one piece of advice for storytellers, Ken?

Kenneth John Atchity or “Ken Atchity” is an American producer and author, who has worked in the world of letters as a literary manager, editor, speaker, writing and career coach, book reviewer, brand consultant, and professor of comparative literature.

Ken’s films include the Jim Carrey movie, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Amityville 4 among others
He and his companies, The Story Merchant, Atchity Entertainment International, Inc. The Writers Lifeline, Inc, and The Louisiana Wave Studio, LLC, produce films and develop books for publication; and books, screenplays, and films for television and cinema. They also consult with writers about their career strategies and tactics.

So, Ken, what is your number one piece of advice for storytellers?

My advice to storytellers is to recognize that your stories can change the world, and that you can make that happen best by retaining control over your own career and getting your stories onto the Internet and into print without losing your publishing or other rights!
You are born under the lucky star of the Worldwide Web and it would be a crime for you not to take advantage of that piece of good fortune.

Ken is supremely positive about the impact of the web and about the opportunity it provides for writers. We are on the cusp of a new age. Thanks Ken.