Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr, 310 Pages, Purple Toga Publications, October 19th 2015, Genre: Historical Fantasy Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr is a unique burrito: hard-boiled meat, smothered in urban fantasy sauce and lovingly wrapped inside a historical fiction tortilla. Warmed to near perfection, it provides cross-genre readers with a savory new creation.

We follow Felix the Fox, a private investigator in Egretia, part of the ancient Roman Empire. A realist and a bit of a cynic, Felix accepts his lot in ancient Roman life, despite at times not liking or agreeing with what goes on around him. Corpio hires Felix to find out who is responsible for the bizarre murder of his only son, Caeso. Some cabal performed the Rite of Pelegrinus on his body, turning his heart to a ruby and ultimately killing him. The fact that his corpse is now defiled is a nefas, or sacrilege, a taboo in ancient Rome. Felix questions friends and lovers around town, but as he digs up more clues, it leads to more questions. Felix travels in order to cover the journey the young Caeso made before his death, hoping to discover the missing puzzle pieces and solve the ghastly magical murder. He meets Caeso’s uncle, aunt, and cousin, and visits a sybil on a lonely little island. Her brew gives him a troubling and curious vision Felix can’t immediately solve, a vision showing young Aemilia, Caeso’s cousin, in danger. As Felix gets more involved with a local underground cabal, he uncovers a duplicitous plan. Will Felix be able to protect Aemilia, uncover the cabal’s schemes, and discover Caeso’s killer?

My favorite thing about this book is Mehr’s loving attention to detail, immersing the reader in ancient Rome. It was fascinating to see what it would’ve been like to live in that time and place. Mehr made Rome come alive on the page. Of all the characters, we get to know Felix the best. Felix may not be the most reputable man in Rome, but he certainly has his own code of honor, one he does not betray. Magic is an integral part of life in Mehr’s Rome and it has real world effects. It’s a good thing Felix attended the Collegium Incantatorum and learned valuable lessons about magic.

If you’re looking for something a bit different and enjoy cross-genre works, this historical urban fantasy mystery will be right up your alley.

You can find it at Murder In Absentia.

Book Description:

This is a story of Togas, Daggers and Magic – for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.

“Hardcore Historical Fantasy – Felix the Fox is Sherlock Holmes in Ancient Times”

— Jonathan Maas, author of City of Gods – Hellenica

“Mehr’s imagined world based on ancient Rome feels at once familiar and dreamlike.”

— Ruth Downie, author of the Medicus series of Roman mysteries

“Mehr is a master alchemist, blending the real and surreal on a captivating flight of fantasy.”

— Cynthia Celmer

“YESSS! Harry Dresden in a toga. A bit lighter on the magic usage, but every bit as colorful and intriguing!”

— Leslie Conzatti, Erin Sky, and a surprising number of Dresden Files fans

A young man is found dead in his bed, with a look of extreme agony on his face and strange tattoos all over his body. His distraught senator father suspects foul play, and knows who to call on.

Enter Felix the Fox, a professional investigator. In the business of ferreting out dark information for his clients, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a traditional magician — but something in between. Drawing on his experience of dealing with the shady elements of society and on his aborted education in the magical arts, Felix dons his toga and sets out to discover the young man’s killers.

Murder In Absentia is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hard-boiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.

Virtual Fantasy Con Awards:

1st place: Dark Fantasy / Horror Book & Author

2st place: Urban Fantasy Book & Author

3st place: Favorite Fantasy Series

Voted #1 on Goodreads’ Indie Books Worth the Read for 2016!

About the Author:

“I have always been fascinated by ancient Rome, from the time I was in primary school and first got my hands on Asterix. This exacerbated when my parents took me on a trip to Rome and Italy – I whinged horribly when they dragged me to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.

A few years ago I randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair. I fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. When I decided to sit down and write a novel, the setting was clear in my mind.”

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and – this being Australia – assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.

To contact Assaph visit


The Fate Healer by Noel Coughlan

The Fate Healer by Noel Coughlan, 26 pages, Photocosmological Press, March 30th, 2016, Genre: Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery/Short Reads. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“The Fate Healer” is a short, entertaining fantasy read. We meet the personal genealogist to the tyrannical King Hamvek, a man named Draston. Anyone who displeases King Hamvek in the slightest ends up dead, or worse, so Draston knows he better do whatever it takes to deliver Hamvek’s royal lineage. There’s just one tiny little problem- Hamvek comes from pig farmers, not a trace of noble blood anywhere.

Realizing he can’t very well tell the king the truth, Draston does the unthinkable: he alters and forges genealogical documents. These documents prove the king is descended from one of the gods. Draston believes his fortunes are made and he’s off the hook. However, as curses begin befalling the king and his sons, Draston is charged with finding a solution to the problems plaguing the king’s household. Will Draston succeed without his forgery being revealed? Or will he perish as have so many others who angered the king?

Although it is a short read, I felt the characters were true to form. I enjoyed watching the cowardly but kind Draston squirm, the machinations of the “Fate Healer” reach fruition, and the ultimate fate of the king. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a short Fantasy read.

You can find this at The Fate Healer.

Book Description:

A five thousand word short story where the quill proves to be more dangerous than any sword.

The genealogist Draston is charged with the impossible. His master, Hamvok the Merciful, craves a royal ancestor or two to legitimize his tyranny. But every avenue of Draston’s research comes to a dead end. Nobility has never sneezed on Hamvok’s ancestors, much less married into them. And now Draston’s time has run out.

To save himself from Hamvok’s violent displeasure, Draston promises to prove the tyrant is descended from a god. In doing so, he commits himself to a path of forgery and sacrilege. His enterprise will risk the wrath of gods. But, far worse, it will draw him to a shadowy figure more terrible than all the gods combined, the Fate Healer.

About the Author, From the Author:

My name is Noel Coughlan. I am married and have a daughter. I live in the west of Ireland.

From a young age, I was always writing a book. Generally, the first page over and over. Sometimes, I even reached the second page before I had shredded the entire copy book.

In my teenage years, I wrote some poetry, some of which would make a Vogon blush.

When I was fourteen, I had a dream. It was of a world where the inhabitants believed that each hue of light was a separate god, and that matter was simply another form of light.

I tinkered with the idea for a couple of decades, putting together mythologies, histories, maps etc. but world building isn’t worth much without a gripping story.

And then I finally found one, a tale so compelling I had to write it.

The Golden Rule Duology consists of A Bright Power Rising and The Unconquered Sun.

Soul Siphon (A Soul Stones Story) by T. L. Branson

Soul Siphon (A Soul Stones Story) by T. L. Branson, 23 pages, September 29th 2017, Genre: Kindle Short Reads/Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

I love a good short read, something I can finish by the time I’m done with lunch. I finished this read in about 15 minutes. The story is an excellent start to the series. King Drygo is practically a god, but no matter how much power he may possess, he couldn’t save his wife. Torn apart emotionally, the King of Sunbury lacks the will to fight, his motivation weakened by his deep loss. However, he finds the will to defend his city and his own loyal men against the vile invaders. During the process, his valuable diamond is stolen by the enemy, prompting him to take more drastic action against the enemy.

The story blends dark magic, battles for the fate of kingdoms, and a love stronger than death. It’s engaging and the pages turn fast. I enjoyed this short read immensely and I’m looking forward to more in the series.

You can find this book at Soul Siphon.

Book Description:

Alexander Drygo, king of Sunbury, is reeling from the loss of his wife. Despite his best efforts using an incredible power, she is no longer among the living.

When a rival kingdom seeks to take advantage of this delicate time in Drygo’s life, he is thrust into a battle for the future of his kingdom.

Can he save his people where he could not save his queen?

About the Author:

T.L. Branson is the author of the upcoming Soul Stones series. Branson started writing when he was eighteen and has contributed articles to several blogs and websites over the years. His debut novel, Soul Render, is the first book in a planned trilogy and will publish in 2018. He finds his inspiration from the kings (and queen) of story, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas, and J.K. Rowling. Born in Pennsylvania, he currently lives in California with his wife and two children.

The Agben School (The Legend of the Gamesmen Book 2) by Jo Sparkes

The Agben School (The Legend of the Gamesmen Book 2) by Jo Sparkes, 384 pages, Oscar Press, July 19th 2014. Genre: Sports/Fantasy. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

(I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Birr Elixir, the first book in the series. I didn’t think the next one could get much better, but it did. The descriptions painted vivid imagery, the characters were relatable and their actions and reactions very human, and there were plot twists I never saw coming. This is shaping up to be a unique and highly enjoyable fantasy series.

In this installment, we follow Marra and the Gamesmen across the sea to the capital of the Skullan people, where the major games and tournaments for Comet take place. Among them is a new character, Tryst, a Skullan pretending to be a Truemen. He was originally under a strong sleeping spell. Having rescued Tryst from men who were up to no good, the Gamesmen dragged his sleeping body along for the ride while Marra, their ‘Brista’ or herbalist, continued to try different potions to break the sleeping spell. Tryst gratefully helped the group in any way he could, such as teaching them self-defense, new Comet moves from the main continent, and joining the team for games when they needed another person. Once they arrive at the city, Drail and the team realize things are tougher in the big leagues than back home. They encounter prejudice from the Skullan teams for their Truemen racial heritage. The Prince of the Skullan people has been missing and is presumed dead, at the hands, they say, of Truemen, heightening racial tensions within the city. Drail starts to lose heart, but regains his determination and drive to succeed at Comet, despite the obstacles and hard work it will take to get where he’s going. As the story moves forward, twists occur that keep you reading on.

What’s unique about this series? This series blends a fascinating fantasy setting with team sports. The sport is called “Comet”, a game in which teams of men try to sink balls in different hoops. The tricky part is you may not know how many points a particular ball will be worth until after you sink it, however, that just adds the element of strategy and keen wits to the game. It’s not just about physical prowess, it requires real thought behind the plays and a study of the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Jo Sparkes brings the sport to life, making you feel as though you were in the stands watching the game, rooting for your favorite team. I found myself yelling “Sink that ball!” and “No!” at my kindle a couple of times, as if the players could hear me.

If you haven’t read The Birr Elixir, the first in the series, I recommend starting with it and getting them both. If you enjoy sports and love fantasy novels, this series is right up your alley. Even if you’re not that into sports, you’ll still enjoy it as a fantasy genre fan.

You can find this book at The Agben School.

Book Description:

Agben had stood for a thousand years. A mysterious school housing more than students, it was the seat of the powerful Women of Agben, and the center for harnessing the potency of herbs. Few knew all that transpired within the walls.

And now Marra stood at its gate.

With friends and support stripped from her, the fragile life she’d built for herself now lay in tatters. And the source of this evil hunted her like a deer culled from the herd.

The gateway before her was her only hope.

For as the city itself crumbled, all depended not on a prince trying to save his people, nor the valiant men who’d brought them this far. Everything depended on finding a magic powder in the vaults of Agben itself.

Everything depended on her.

About the Author:

Check out my interview with Jo Sparkes!

From television shows to football articles, Jo Sparkes can’t put the pen down. She’s interviewed Emmit Smith and Anquan Boldin (as Arizona Cardinals), taught screenwriting at the Film School at SCC, and went on camera to make “Stepping Above Criticism”.

An award winning writer, she lives happily in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their dog, Oscar.

Oblivion’s Forge (Aona Series Book 1) by Simon Williams

Epic Fantasy

Oblivion’s Forge (Aona Series Book 1) by Simon Williams, 346 pages, May 12th 2012, Genre: Epic Fantasy. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Oblivion’s Forge is the first in a four book epic fantasy series by Simon Williams. In this installment, we follow four viewpoint characters whose destinies are irrevocably intertwined with the fate of Aona, their world. Each chapter follows a different character along their path. While some readers may find this style difficult to follow, I adjusted to it rather quickly and enjoyed the focus on the characters.

The plot is straightforward and, for Aona, inescapable. What happened long ago is happening again. People are falling prey to a strange malady that imparts dreams and visions of beings of light, the Marandaal, emerging from a gate. The malady drives its victims into despair, madness, and eventual death. Ancient lore says that these beings of light will wash over the world of Aona and seek the destruction of all life. They’ve been here once before and were defeated. However, lore did not record how they were defeated. What will the characters do when the Marandaal come?

My favorite characters were Jaana, the human healer, and her traveling companion and friend Lyya. Jaana was relatable, kind-hearted, friendly, and compassionate. Lyya is a loyal friend and knows her own flaws and strengths. I also liked Vornen, an exile from his home city who is attracted to The Gates, the gateway through which the Marandaal will arrive. Although I didn’t much care for Iyoth, I’m curious to know if he changes over the course of the rest of the books.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of epic fantasy novels. It’s a promising beginning to the series.

You can find this book at Oblivion’s Forge.

Other reviews of this book:

Bewildering Stories


Book Description:

Close to death, a loner who lives a life of slavery to geomantic forces tries to forget the horror he glimpsed and the god-like beings that threaten the very existence of the world.

A young woman cursed by a witch seeks shelter in a castle as winter closes in- only to find herself propelled into a nightmare.

A healer who has reached the limit of her abilities and endurance when she struggles with a mysterious, incurable disease, seeks help from her mentor but is swept up in events beyond her control.

In each of these people and many others, ancient forces stir in response to the existential threat facing the world of Aona. A suffocating darkness to stand against the destroying light; a raging torrent of power bestowed through a thousand years of blood.

Oblivion’s Forge is the first book in the Aona series, which tells of a monumental struggle between two great powers, an unparalleled existential war.

“What if all of this- our powers, our world- is that last light hanging in the void?”

About the Author:

Simon Williams is the author of the Aona dark fantasy series, which is attracting growing acclaim for its fusion of different genres and atmospheric, character-driven narrative. Three books in the series are out so far, and the fourth is due out early in 2015.

He has also written “Summer’s Dark Waters”, a sci-fi / fantasy /supernatural novel for all ages 10+ and aimed more at the younger market. A sequel is already underway and the aim is for this to be published later on in 2015.

How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather, 368 pages, Knopf Books For Young Readers, July 26th 2016, Genre: Young Adult/Horror/Fantasy/Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Samantha Mather’s returning to Salem to live in the old family homestead. When her father went into a coma, her step-mother Vivian sold their New York home to save money so they could afford her dad’s medical treatment and to be closer to him as he had been moved to Boston. Sam is resistant, but feels a bit better once she meets their bakery-owning neighbor Mrs. Meriwether and her son Jaxon, a dreamy upperclassman at Salem High.

Salem has a dark history, never buried, always vibrant and a source of tourism and pride for the town. Unfortunately for Sam, being a descendant of Cotton Mather marks her as the least liked person in town. She draws the ire of “the descendants”, a tight knit mean girls group directly descended from the accused witches of the Salem Witch Trials. When bad things start happening and people start dying, everyone starts whispering that Sam’s cursed. Sam also befriends a ghost who helps her solve the riddle of the town’s curse.

Our culture is fascinated with winning, power, and violence, so I’ve always wondered why some people are so surprised that some kids bully. People bully others when they feel they’ve been wronged or are jealous. They do so when they are or were bullied themselves, trying to escape a constant feeling of powerlessness by forcing powerlessness onto others. They may have low self-esteem, or be influenced by being part of a pack led by a bully. Sure, plenty of people suffer these things and don’t turn to bullying. But bullies haven’t developed mechanisms to express themselves or seek confidence and self-empowerment through less damaging means. For them, winning is all that matters, and the methods they employ to win are always justified in their own minds.

The hysteria among kids and adults builds slowly over the course of the book, giving insight into how mass hysteria starts and spreads. Mather does an excellent job of linking the theme of modern bullying with the motives and events of the Salem Witch Trials. The plot was engaging, the pacing was perfect. There is a love triangle which added to rather than detracted from the book. The mean girls were mean, but they were human. I could still feel for them when bad things happened to them. This book features Salem, witches, ghosts, an old curse, high school rivalries, and secret rooms. What’s not to love?

I’d recommend this book to fans of young adult fiction. This book can be found at How To Hang A Witch .

Watch the Book Trailer:

How To Hang A Witch Book Trailer

Book Description:

The #1 New York Times bestseller!

 It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in this New York Times bestselling novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

 Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials—and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves the Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real, live (well, technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries-old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

“It’s like Mean Girls meets history class in the best possible way.” —Seventeen Magazine

“Mather shines a light on the lessons the Salem Witch Trials can teach us about modern-day bullying—and what we can do about it.” —

“Strikes a careful balance of creepy, fun, and thoughtful.” —NPR

I am utterly addicted to Mather’s electric debut. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, twisting and turning with ghosts, witches, an ancient curse, and—sigh—romance. It’s beautiful. Haunting. The characters are vivid and real. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.” —Jennifer Niven, bestselling author of All the Bright Places

About the Author:

Adriana Mather is the 12th generation of Mathers in America, with family roots stretching back to the first Thanksgiving, the Salem Witch Trials, the Revolutionary War, and the Titanic. Adriana co-owns Zombot Pictures, a production company that makes feature films. In addition to producing, Adriana is also an actress. She lives in Los Angeles where she has a life full of awesome, cats, and coffee.

An Interview With Roger B. Burt

An Interview With Roger B. Burt

Today on Author Spotlight, I’m interviewing Roger B. Burt, the author of “Gaia’s Majesty: Mission Called-Women in Power”. Thank you so much, Roger, for taking the time to be interviewed.

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Perhaps the ultimate core which drives everything is my intuitive personality. I require novelty and exploration of what might be. That was a major part of the reason for me getting a doctorate in clinical psychology. The scientific/research part didn’t interest me. Delving into people’s minds was of considerable interest. One of the things I learned was that what we call reality is widely divergent across people and ephemeral. We can see it in fiction.

An odd thing is that I never liked school a whole lot. I was just tenacious. From time to time I found inspiration. A lot of the time it just had to be endured. When I had my doctorate I fled to work in the novelty of a community mental health program. That meant work in inner city poverty and lots of conflict. It was the time of the sixties revolution which included assertive women stressing women’s liberation. I was utterly engaged.

 Leigh: What inspired you to write this novel?

Given who I am and my devotion to feminism the story of Gaia’s Majesty was almost inevitable. There had to be a future unfolding and a fantasy element suited me just fine because it was liberating. And myth was included because I’ve always been intrigued with the meaning of myths and revelations about who we are. So Mermaids had to be in the story.

 Leigh: What are you working on at the minute?

I’m working on keeping my characters and the story under control. I’m revising the second book and have a draft of the third. But there appears to be a fourth book at the door and I also have to manage the insistent Andromeda women. They aren’t just warriors, they are women with depth and commitment. Even when their position is established in the book I feel more and more of their personal story unfolding. They may each get their own book eventually.

 Leigh: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from your most recent book?

I have a take on who these people are but I can’t say I have a fix on who I would like to see playing them.

 Leigh: When did you decide to become a fiction writer?

At each turning point in my life books have presented themselves. Some of them were nonfiction and some fictional stories were usually coming to life. Not all came to final form.

 Leigh: Where do your ideas come from? Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

The ideas begin as abstractions and they gradually take shape with images of characters and general form. Then I get out Dara Mark’s “Transformational Arc”. Fundamentally it is a system which is common in films. It gives the story not just a framework but also dramatic points where crises take shape and there are high and low points. For example, about three quarters of the way through comes “as bad as it gets”. We all can recognize that in films at about the same place. It is a devise which works well.

 Leigh: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? What book/s are you reading at present?

My reading is a mess. I have no plan and take up what intrigues me. I have a rather large number of ’50 page books”. If I’m not engaged, I don’t slog on through. And what engages me is simply what engages me. And I don’t believe in rating books which are simply not your cup of tea. It might be a great book but not for me. So I may move from fiction to nonfiction with no particular plan. Recently I ran across “Postcapitalism” by Paul Mason. I could see our future opening before us. Before that I learned about Amazons from Adrienne Mayor. I thought they were myths. Not so. Both of these books were nonfiction but spoke to fictional themes stretching into the future. The bottom line, the book has to capture my imagination as I search the “what if”.

 Leigh: What is your favorite quote?

I live in a world of concepts and images so I retain quotes poorly. I don’t look back but toward future discovery. The Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy reflects my fascination with what may be unfolding. We seem to be entering a new wave for humanity and a very important part of it is the empowerment of women. We can’t be clear about what’s coming but the potential is fascinating me and I tend to think it will not be catastrophic but fascinatingly wonderful.

 Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?



Amazon Author Page:


Amazon Book Links (American)

Creating Characters and Plots –

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health


This link contains a list of my nonfiction books as well. It includes how to use Carl Jung’s personality typology to construct characters and plot, a guide to crisis management in stepfamily transitions, and the rise and fall of the community mental health movement.

Roger to Leigh:

I have a question for you. From the position of your blog and what you hear from authors, what do you perceive as the most common sources of inspiration?


The best reading experience, in my opinion, entertains as it evokes emotion within me. Each reader’s experiences will shape whether the reader will connect emotionally with a writer’s work. Each writer has an audience. That audience is comprised of the people who will connect emotionally with the writer’s work. Books will get various ratings from readers because some of the readers may connect with the work, others won’t.

Each writer has a tackle box with two larger compartments. Each of the two large compartments break down into further compartments. One compartment is everyone they’ve ever known, met, or encountered (real or fictional)- their impressions of them, the influence the people had in their lives and vice versa, the things they’ve learned from them, and the feelings they’ve experienced for or with them. The second compartment is every event they’ve ever observed, experienced, caused, or completed along with their feelings and attitudes regarding these events. That’s why many writers, when seeking a new idea, will find it by going out and adding to their tackle box of personalities and experiences.

Every author whose work has evoked emotion in me tells me they draw inspiration and ideas primarily from their own experiences or the experiences/character of people who touched their lives meaningfully. Yes, the work is fiction, but we can’t imagine anything that we don’t already have the building blocks for. It all starts with “what if?”, and “what if’s” are inspired from the tackle box. Concept evolves from there.

Thanks for the great question, Roger! Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

CLICK  here for the book review.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt, 280 pages, March 17th 2017, Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy. The Earth Mother Gaia is sentient, alive, and moving in mysterious ways to influence the life that resides in her surface. Although Gaia elevated mankind to the top of the food chain, she kept another species in reserve should they prove unworthy. This hidden species, the Tethyans, appears human when moving among humans. They’re intuitive and sensitive to the will of Gaia.

We follow Avery as she goes through life with a plan. The plan largely involves following the path laid out for her by her deceased parents. Since her parents died, she feels adrift without a compass. Avery meets Beck and they grow ever fonder of each other. Their romance is set against the backdrop of a hidden fantasy world with its own agenda. Avery searches for answers about her parents and her past. She discovers she is part of the hidden world. Avery worries about how this will affect her relationship with Beck, whom she has fallen hard for. Beck is supportive and self-sacrificing where Avery is concerned. At several points, as Avery learns more about her identity and origins, she rejects the world of the Tethyans. Yet she comes back every time, despite the uneasiness she feels, sensing she must continue on this path. Avery believes in destiny, has intuition, and follows her hunches. Avery and Beck are encouraged by the Tethyans to be together and her fear of what the path may do to their relationship fades. As we learn about Avery, we learn about the Tethyans and their culture alongside her. It’s a lot of information to impart to the reader and Burt does a great job of weaving it into Avery’s journey.

I loved the concept that the hidden species are the basis for many of our seafaring myths, such as sirens and mermaids. The world of humans is based on the traits that Western culture considers masculine: competition, physical strength, male dominance, and violent behavior. The world of Tethyans is based on what Western culture deems are traditionally feminine traits: cooperation, intuition, emotional strength, and pacifism (the exception is Andromeda, their defense forces). The book accepts this divide without question and makes the two cultures the opposite image of the other. Women are therefore in power in the Tethyan culture. There are also different groups with different missions within the culture, such as the Primals, Progenitors, and Andromeda. Chapters switch between the story of Avery, Beck, and their romance and journey of discovery, and the story of the women of Andromeda, elite female forces keeping the world and environment safe from powerful, wicked male corporate elitists. Each fighter of Andromeda is unique and has her own special powers which are often used against their enemies. I found both storylines interesting.

One of the things I found surprising was how easily Avery and Beck accepted the Tethyan world in the end after discovering the Tethyans never seem to question what they consider Gaia’s commands. They had reservations earlier, but not at this point, which struck me as odd. Tethyans will give up anything and anyone they must in order to fulfill their mission on behalf of Gaia. Gaia is presented as a goddess-force that imparts intuitions and is the source of the Tethyan mission. This zealotry was a disturbing part of their culture. There were times when I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was primarily a romance or a fantasy novel. It took a while for the two stories to connect and intertwine. By the end, I decided this is a Fantasy novel about two people who happen to fall in love while finding out they’re part of the Tethyan world and its mission.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Gaia’s Majesty. The concept was intriguing. I wish there had been more description and exploration of the underwater cities. I would’ve liked to have seen more interaction between the undersea folk and Avery and Beck. Hopefully, this will be explored further in the next novel in the series.

You can find this book at Gaia’s Majesty: Mission Called.

Book Description

From the Back Cover

Gaia’s Majesty : Mission Called – Women in Power

The first book of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

 Our earth mother, Gaia, was intrigued by clever creatures developing on her Earth. She believed they held promise but also danger for themselves and her planet.

Wisely Gaia reserved a gifted population of women dedicated to safeguarding the future of humankind and Earth. The women called Progenitors lived in the sea and could transform to live on the land if they chose. Their families on land were called Primals. Among them were a defense force of women called the Andromeda. Collectively these people were called Tethyans.

She foresaw a definitive epoch which is now upon us. Our planet is enveloped in environmental and social crises. Unless humankind serves as stewards for Earth and ourselves we may live on a despoiled planet as people held in bondage by a wealthy class of plutocrats. The empowerment of women holds the key to our future.

Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy explores if Gaia’s preparations will succeed. Is this story a myth, or like so many myths, does it reside on the cusp of reality?

Gaia Speaks

You used to adore me. You took my bounty gratefully and before my loving sight developed your skills as will a child in the sight of mother. You worshipped me and my fruitfulness. I tested you with adversity which made you strong. But in time you selfishly saw Earth’s bounty as your due. You now have a choice between stewardship or devastation.

From the Author

Women are coming to power. It is happening just as we enter a world environmental crisis of biblical proportions. We may disagree over the origins of our environmental crisis but its reality is demanding our attention. What will it mean that women are coming to power at this moment? One glorious benefit of the empowerment of women is that it opens us to a true and wonderful partnership between men and women

The Majesty Trilogy, of which this book is the first, falls on the cusp of reality. Environmental crisis and the empowerment of women are real but can be illuminated in fiction which has a mythological cast to it. In these books we embark on a fantasy journey where women take the lead in a planet which is being transformed. Whether that transformation is for the benefit of humankind or is a tragedy is yet to be decided.

Our earth mother, Gaia, knew this day would come as her most clever animals matured. She knew it might be necessary to start over if her experiment with humans failed. She created cities in the sea occupied predominately by women who could live in the water or on the land. We may have sighted them and know them as mermaids. But we have not known their import. They are at the forefront of empowerment and are opposed by powerful and immensely wealthy plutocratic men known as the Overlords.

Join us in this story as we venture to cleanse our planet and to empower women so together we may have a glorious partnership for men and women and possibly a transformative future.

Author Biography

When Duke University granted me a Ph.D. in clinical psychology it was time to go out beyond academia. I chose to work in the inner city of Baltimore in a community mental health program. My experience there was a wholly new form of learning. Daily I was confronted with the dire effects of deep poverty. It changed my life and view of the world.

Over time other elements in my education crept forward. The teachings of Leslie White about culture took on a new meaning and the depth of the studies of Carl Jung arose. Over decades I found myself assessing the meaning of cultural flow and the importance of myth in our lives. I took on a commitment to stewardship and came to see that the empowerment of women was essential to the future of humankind.

Later in life they all flowed together in the creation of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. Myth was not some abstraction but living elements of human existence. Psychology taught me there were elemental forces deep inside of us which ruled our lives but were largely unrecognized or at least not given their due. I wondered about such things as stories of mermaids which showed up across so many cultures. And I found issues of culture and myth showing up in my clinical work. My thoughts went deep into how they might relate to current human and ecological crises.

Much of my reaction seemed to be developing unconsciously until the day when the story of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy began to flow onto my computer. I have become convinced that deep unrecognized forces within us direct our lives and our cultures. I also became convinced that we do, indeed, live on the cusp of reality. My reality is different from your reality and we struggle to reach a workable common ground. And at this time we face unparalleled ecological crises. It seems that the rise of women and their empowerment are a crucial part of what has come to be a denouement in the story of humankind. The empowerment of women should at last lead to true partnership between men and women. Is it possible we may be moving toward a remarkable transformation? What it might be can only be the subject of a “what if”.

In these books I try to create an engagement for consideration of what may be happening to us. While the trilogy is fiction, its mythological cloak gives it a special relief and begs us to consider what may be happening to us and where we might be going. Is humankind to be led into terrible poverty and bondage where an economic elite will rule and will we also despoil the very planet on which we live and depend?

Come to the adventure in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy and join in considering what it might say about our future.

And please join us for the commentary and discussion on the website

Other Works

Other works (non-fiction) can be found at:

Stepfamilies: The Step By Step Model of Brief Therapy by Mala S. Burt and Roger B. Burt

Creating Characters and Plot: Secrets of a Jungian Toolbox to Guide Inspiration by Roger B. Burt PhD

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples In Partnership by Mala S. Burt and Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened To Community Mental Health?


Killjoy by LeVar Ravel

Witty, cautionary

Killjoy by LeVar Ravel, 188 pages, January 14th, 2014, Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland

A ‘killjoy’ is a person who takes the fun out of any event they attend. The title is most fitting for the theme of this story. The moral of this tale is to live life to the fullest, with hope, honesty, exuberant feeling, and joy. It’s a lesson mankind always seems in need of as we, throughout our generations, conform and adhere to the ‘correct and proper’ lifestyle du jour.

The assassin, whose true name is never told, is delightful with his many accents, costume changes, and faux personalities. He clearly enjoys satirizing people as well as trying to better understand them and their emotions. He’s the perfect assassin, never leaving a trace, always affecting the appearance of suicide to his victims. Everyone wonders, “How does he do it?” His clients, mostly mobsters, are appreciative and consider him to be the best in his field. He’s made a niche for himself dealing with difficult victims, such as musicians, comedians, politicians- the famous, for whom there can be no hint of foul play.

My favorite character was Elizabeth “Gwen” Orangegrave, the wife of the pseudo-religious mobster Charles Edward Orangegrave. As a young girl, she knew joy and love. Due to hardship, she lost this desire for joy and traded it in for wealth, security, practicality, and success: the things society tells us we should want. The assassin takes a peculiar liking to her also. In the end, she sees what she chose against the backdrop of what she left behind and makes a different choice, a better choice.

I felt the politician Corbin Locke represented what I imagine most of them are really like behind their smiles and speeches. Charles was a bit two-dimensional, but of course, that was sort of the point- that he would contrast the life his wife once knew and represent her choices. Written in third person narrative, the writing was enjoyable and engaging. A novella, the book can be read in about three hours. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense with a hint of darkness.

This book is presently available at Amazon at Killjoy .