My Name Is Rodger Nicholson: A Guest Post by Martin Allen

Here’s the next character, from my friend Martin Allen!


Rodger Nicholson is the hapless protagonist in “Residents of Caer Bannog Need Not Apply” and the forthcoming “ Dr Strangeclock (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bunny-Rabbit)”, a failed author, part time alcoholic and professionally qualified in blaming everyone else for his problems. Yet despite this he has managed to go where no man has gone before. He just can’t get back…

My name is Rodger Nicholson, and I a reside in an alternate reality, I can’t complain. The people are nice enough, extremely nice; infuriatingly nice.

I hate it…

Do you know they didn’t have the Crusades? No, they had a Islamic migrant crisis on the Eastern Borders of Christendom. Pope Urban II gave a rousing speech about the common rights of man and most of the continent marched over to the Byzantine Empire to donate food, clothing and build shelters for the refugees. This was in the medieval period, half of the volunteers were starving themselves and they gave all they had to the immigrants. The immigrants in turn, when they found out about the starvation of the peasants in Europe pooled all the donations, redistributed everything in common and established the Red Cross and the Red Crescent some 677 years before our reality.

I came here in the hope of finding some source material for my writing career, which was years ahead of its time, if only I had had the opportunities the other writers had I would have never needed to leave my own dimension. I just wasn’t appreciated by the publishing industry.

The rift opened in my bathroom after a night relaxing with a drink. A drink or two, maybe three. I may have had another after that. There was a bottle and not much was left the next morning, but I probably started it some time ago. I’m almost certain I started it weeks, no months, beforehand.

Anyway, I came through the rift and there was this bloke walking a bunny rabbit! Of all things, a bunny rabbit. I was in my nightwear, I had just woken up and I certainly wasn’t expecting to travel to the outer realms of the ether from inside my bathroom.

I immediately recognised this place for what it was. A vast untapped source of new stories, they would have their own history, which I could research and base my own creations upon. It was research, it certainly didn’t cross my mind to just grab every book I could find from the nearest bookstore and attempt to sell the premise as my own. If you happen to talk to Joshua Fletcher, remember that he refused to print anything. He’s just jealous.

I returned through the now somewhat unstable tear in space and pitch these new ideas to Joshua, the only publisher now willing to meet with me thanks to my precocious writing styles, only to find out that these people had not an ounce of drama in their veins, there were no cliff-hangers, no daring deeds or intrigue. There was just cloying overwhelming niceness, amiability beyond measure and a societal obsession with bunny rabbits. To my horror, there was nothing to capture the imagination in their entire history.

So, after that humiliation I figured that I would be better off trying my luck over here, in this reality. The people were nicer so they should be willing to publish all of my works one after the other. Stopping at my flat to gather my works and a few belongings I stepped through the rift and into my new life.

I found the “nice” version of Joshua with little difficulty and procured a meeting with him. He seemed enraptured by my work but even here he would not publish it. I was completely devastated. I’m not proud of this but I did pitch the plots from a few of our classics. I would have updated them, I swear. It’s not like I was going to simply sell the complete works of Shakespeare under my own name. Other writers have updated and adapted other works for centuries. I’m not the first one to think up that scheme.

He turned them down. All of them! Shakespeare, Chaucer, Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, all of them. Every single classic text I had brought with me was rejected as too violent, dark or depraved.

I am stuck now in this hell. The inhabitants are nice enough to let me continue to write what I like as long as I produce at least once per quarter a work that details the lifecycle of rabbits at various points in their history. I once tried to bring some realism into play by telling the story of a warren of rabbits threatened by extinction from some outside source. Joshua, the nice one, vomited. He actually expelled his lunch when he got to the first fight between the rabbits. He had already turned an uneasy shade of green when faced with the visual premonitions of doom of one of the protagonists.

I must now return to the work upon which I am commissioned, the delineation of the effect of the 2nd Punic War on the treatment of elephants in Hannibal’s travelling circus. Hannibal to be fair had not intended such a journey, aiming to travel instead to Paris, but had held the map upside down when he had finished a performance at Dijon and turned right instead of left, resulting in the unfortunate detour. It’s symptomatic of the history of this place, at once familiar, and yet ultimately a more boring version of my own.

There may be a bottle of whiskey around somewhere. I’m the only one here who drinks it, but they make it for me anyway. I think they’re slightly disappointed in me, their only trans-dimensional visitor and I mostly sit around drinking. I can’t help it, it’s just so dull, dull and cute around here.

The inhabitants here have just discovered how to transmit messages by radio waves. This is going straight out into space in the hope that there are other life forms out there. I don’t care if I never get back home to my own reality. Just get me out of here!

Rescue me, for the love of all that’s holy get me the hell out of here!




About the Author

Martin Allen graduated from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle in 2003 with a Law LL.B (Hons) Exempting L.P.C. Degree. He has worked in many different areas of the Legal Sector and built up a wealth of experience.

Martin enjoys reading and writing Science Fiction but has taken the time to wrote a few Legal pieces, one of which is available in E-Book format through Amazon (The Prosecutor’s Fallacy: The Reliability of DNA and Fingerprint Evidence).

The Phoenix Series is a Science Fiction series set in a world where a Theocracy has come to power. “Phoenix: Penitence” is a short story set in this world. The first Novel “Phoenix: Rising” charts the rise of a new interpretation of the theological teachings of this Empire and the lengths this Empire will go to protect itself from it. The story is told from the point of view of an Imperial Investigator caught in the middle of the Empire’s manoeuvrings. The Prequel, “Phoenix: Ashes” tells the story of the Seven Thousand, part of the mythology of the Empire in Phoenix: Rising and tells their story. “Phoenix: Dark Eagle”, first published by Muddy Boots Press in “6 Points of Contact: An Anthology to Benefit Wounded Veterans” is the origin story of Terenitus Catilina, who will return in the forthcoming “Phoenix: Deliverance”.




Photograph courtesy of

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Other titles by the Same Author


The Prosecutors Fallacy: The Reliability of DNA and Fingerprint Evidence



Science Fiction:

Phoenix: Penitence (short story)

Phoenix: Rising

Phoenix: Ashes

Phoenix: Dark Eagle

6 Points of Contact: An Anthology to Benefit Wounded Veterans (An Anthology Containing Phoenix: Dark Eagle)


 Residents of Caer Bannog Need Not Apply (short story)


 Beorma (short story)

Urban Fantasy:

The Trial Of Dr. Fautus

Gromer the Green — Wild Warlock of Wales: A Guest Post by Debbie Manber Kupfer

Here’s the latest in the characters series! My friend Debbie Manber Kupfer wanted to write about her Wild Welsh Warlock for you guys, and she threw in an excerpt from her new novel!

Gromer the Green – Wild Warlock of Wales

(The P.A.W.S. Saga – Argentum, Umbrae, Londinium)


“The world is full of wonders for those who can see it truly.” — Gromer the Green

Many of my characters that populate the pages of P.A.W.S. emerged from people that were close to me. Celia and Max, for example, are based on my own omama and opapa who played a huge part in my early years. Sometimes, however, a character writes himself into my world and this was the case with Gromer the Green.

I met the old warlock in the same way as Quentin did in Argentum, a strange old fellow in a long green robe filled with pockets bulging with all sorts of odd stuff that he picked up in his rambles. Some of the pockets seemed to be moving, and Gromer was muttering to himself. Quentin watched him through his hawk eyes and was drawn to the old magic maker.

He looked harmless, but Quentin knew that sometimes strong magic dwelt in unlikely places. Gromer invited Quentin into his “castle” in a rugged part of Wales. The castle was just a cave, but a more comfortable cave you would never visit. Every corner was covered in books and the air was filled with the smell of the glorious pea soup that was always bubbling on the stove.

From the beginning it is clear that Gromer is lonely. There was once a second wild warlock of Wales, Caradog, but he wandered off into Umbrae (the shadow world) many years before. So Gromer lavishes his attention on his guests. During the course of Argentum and Umbrae Gromer welcomes not just Quentin, but Max and Celia into his humble home. All find a refuge with Gromer and though they eventually leave they will forever hold a place in their heart for the warlock.

And me too. If I was asked where in my world would like to go, I would not say one of the P.A.W.S. Institutes, no my first choice would be to hang out with Gromer the Green in his cave, listen to his stories of the endangered Wizzlewoop, drink tea (from “proper tea leaves, none of those new-fangled tea bag thingies”), and share a bowl of sumptuous pea soup.

Here’s a little snippet from Umbrae. In this section Max Katz (Miri’s grandfather) is meeting Gromer for the first time. He’s in his tabby cat form and has just (mostly) climbed down a mountain.

“Ooph! A puss, from the mountain no less. Pretty puss—but smelly, too? What was you doings up there?”

The man spoke in English, which was a language that Max had been taught. Still he had a strange accent that Max did not recognize. He was oddly dressed in a tattered robe covered in pockets and wore his hair long and straggly.

“I’ve always wanted a puss,” he muttered to himself. “A familiar—a magician should have a familiar, or so I’ve been told. Here puss, puss, come with me. You look hungry. Do you like pea soup? It’s almost ready. I was just gathering some more wizzlewoop.”

Wizzlewoop, thought Max, there’s that strange word again. He wondered what in the world it could be. He decided to follow the odd man. He was hungry, and pea soup sounded good.

“Of course I might have a can of sardines too, Puss! You’d like that, wouldn’t you, sardines? Silly buggers, I’ve always thought. Lock themselves in the can and leave the key outside!”

Puzzled, Max followed the man along a winding path. Every so often he would reach for something on the ground. Sometimes he would pluck a plant or pick up a rock and put it in one of his pockets. At other times he would stare at an item for a moment, and then toss it aside, grumbling. Then he would turn his head and address Max, “Come along, Puss.”

They appeared to be walking towards a solid wall of rock. Max wondered where the old man lived. He thought they would veer from their path, but they didn’t. The man stopped directly in front of the rock and pulled out a small silver wand from one of his pockets.

He didn’t appear to be very powerful for a magician, but sometimes great powers were hidden in unlikely packages.

The man recited a spell in an odd language. “Agored ar gyfer Gromer y Green a’i gath newydd.”

Then he carefully drew a doorway on the rock face. The shape shone silver, and then with a single push, the door opened.

“Welcome to the castle of Gromer the Green,” the magician said with a flourish, and Max followed him inside.


Debbie Manber Kupfer grew up in the London. She has lived in Israel, New York and North Carolina and somehow ended up in St. Louis, where she works as a writer and a freelance puzzle constructor of word puzzles and logic problems. She lives with her husband, two children and a very opinionated feline. She is the author of the young adult fantasy series, P.A.W.S. which features a secret institute of shapeshifters hidden deep beneath the Jewel Box in Forest Park, St. Louis. In addition she has stories in several anthologies including Fauxpocalypse, Stardust,Always, Winter Wishes, and Sins of The Past. She has also published a book of puzzles, Paws 4 Logic, with her son Joey. She believes that with enough tea and dark chocolate you can achieve anything!

Connect with Debbie on her blogs:



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Twitter: @CiciCat42






Vanessa Ann McKenzie: A Guest Post by Reika

Today I’ve got something a little different for you. My dear friend writes fanfiction for various properties, especially games, and today’s post is about the lead character from her long-running XCOM fanfic, Taking It Back.


As a long time gamer, both tabletop and computer roleplaying, I have a lot of characters that I love. Some of them even see re-use, often from a tabletop game to computer, but sometimes from tabletop to tabletop. This is about one that went from tabletop to fanfiction based on a computer game, but oddly enough not a CRPG.

Vanessa Ann McKenzie “Van” started off as a character in a short lived CthulhuTech game. I won’t go into her history for that, except to say that she was teen from a wealthy NYC arcology that was brutalized by the Esoteric Order of Dagon. It was such a rough background that it gave my hardbitten GM pause as being almost too brutal for him, but he ultimately okayed her.

Normally characters like Van tend to not stick around in my brain for long because I have a lot of character voices clamoring for attention, but stick around she did. Every so often I’d threaten to inflict her on my GM, just to see him twitch, but also because I wanted to see what Van would be like if she was given a chance to grow.

The reasons why she stuck around in my head are that while she is a survivor of terrible things, she is still a good person who wants to save the world despite itself.

Being the cynical person that I am, that kind of character is an extreme rarity for me.

Van’s opportunity to get developed came about in a completely unexpected manner.

I was in a writing slump for a year. None of my existing projects, fanfic or original, interested me, then I played through the sci-fi turn based strategy game XCOM 2 and my Muse handed me a fully fleshed story idea.

Being stubborn in addition to cynical, my initial reaction was “you have got to be shitting me”, but the Muse insisted that it would be great.

For those unfamiliar with the XCOM series, the premise is simple: aliens invade the earth and an international coalition is formed to fight them off. The series originally started in 1994 as UFO: Enemy Unknown, had multiple sequels and spinoffs, then was rebooted as XCOM Enemy Unknown with an expansion pack called Enemy Within.  XCOM 2 takes place 20 years after Enemy Unknown where the aliens won with superior firepower, took over humanity’s fate and XCOM became a disorganized resistance movement.

With both games, the player is meant to be the Commander who leads XCOM to its ultimate fate in victory or defeat, so you don’t make a persona or avatar like you would with other games. The various characters address things to the player directly as the Commander.

While I somewhat liked Enemy Unknown/Within, it didn’t really excite me. XCOM 2 was a very different beast, especially with the story and the major NPCs.

So when I gave in to the Muse’s ridiculous idea of a romance set in XCOM 2 between the Commander and Central Officer John Bradford (second in command to the Commander) I tried to figure out the Commander. That’s when Van gave me a mental smack upside the head. So I had my Commander.

Fortunately that included a revised background, because there was no way I was using the original.  She was still a survivor who wanted to save the world. Only in this case she grew up in the slums of Newark, New Jersey, lost both parents and older brother to drugs, alcohol and crime at the age of 12. From there she bounced around in foster care until she was old enough to fend for herself. All that saved her from a similarly gruesome fate as her familiar is the fact she’s smart and perceptive.

Her fascination with history came about from her desire to understand how people do what they do, but had no interest in psychology. Her interest in sci-fi came about from the rare family outing to see the movie Independence Day in the theaters. Even at eleven years old she knew most of it was bunk, but thought it was an interesting idea, one that she thought over from time to time as the years went by.

When Van entered college she chose to go for a history degree with a focus on the effects of technologically superior cultures on those with more primitive tech. That eventually lead to her now infamous (to her at least) thesis during her Master’s program about possible scenarios for aliens invading the earth and likely reactions to those scenarios. That brought her to the attention of the fledgling XCOM coalition that had been formed as a just in case contingency to the very idea of an alien invasion. When she completed her Master’s, she was given a job offer at Foresight Laboratories to come up with simulations for the military to deal with. Within a few months that position evolved to running and solving simulations cooked up by other people.

It ultimately proved to be on the job training when a few years later a real alien invasion started, XCOM became activated and Van was made the Commander.

Unfortunately, they were betrayed by the very countries they were trying to protect, XCOM HQ fell to the aliens, Van was taken prisoner and the alien controlled ADVENT government began to reshape humanity.

Twenty years later, Van was rescued by the remnants of XCOM and now she’s faced with rebuilding XCOM, uniting the disparate forces of the Resistance and bring down ADVENT for an earth she doesn’t recognize anymore and for a humanity that she doesn’t feel a part.

Van is probably one of the most human characters that I’ve come up with. She’s far from perfect, and started off as a person who really only had her brains going for her to eventually becoming someone who can kick ass (my typical RPG characters start off enormously capable at the ver least, the rapidly become grotesque) She’s wounded and scarred, but tries not to let that dominate her life. When she loves, it’s a quietly intense thing. When she makes a promise, she finds a way of fulfilling it. Even if it ends up horribly delayed. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit either. After all, she once kicked a general out of her vase when he made the mistake of trying to countermand her orders.

Thus, this is how the story Taking It Back came to be and I was finally able to give Van her chance to grow and shine.

I will still threaten to inflict her on my GM though. Just because. 😉

If you’re interested in reading the story, you can check it out at


I had a lot of self-serving nonsense to spew and I wrote a post about it and deleted the post and now I’m sitting at my keyboard wondering what to say.

I mean, there’s no excuse for how long everything is taking me right now. I keep falling into this cycle of self-loathing and misery and ego, and every time I rotate back to the top, it’s like I’m starting everything over again.

I have to beat this.

I don’t know how, but I have to win, because it’s in my way. It’s interfering with my personal life, and it’s interfering with my life’s work, which is to tell stories. I want to tell stories, and I want to tell them well, and that’s basically it.

I have to win. Back to square one.

Snippet Sunday #20

If you’ve read The High King’s Will, you might remember a brief appearance from Valdyr, the Summer Wolf. Here’s a bit from The Heart of Stone (which is Eagle’s third) with Valdyr’s brother. I’ve had this sitting around on my hard drive for ages, and I can’t wait to put some more book around it.


A huge white shape bowled him over. The books he’d bought dug into his back, and he couldn’t reach his knives. Icy wetness dribbled onto his neck; a frozen wind blew into his face.

He opened his eyes and looked into the cold yellow gaze of winter. A massive white wolf crouched over him, skinny, slavering. What are you? it said in his mind.

“You must be Valdyr’s brother,” he managed.

What are you, snacklet? Answer me quick, before I eat you up! I’m hungry!

He swallowed his fear. “Lord, they call me Eagle Eye Wormsbane.”

A fine title for half a bite. The Wolf straightened and allowed Eagle to rise. Over its head, clouds stacked in the sky, great gray clouds fat with snow, darkening in the sunset. You might’ve guessed I’m the Winter Wolf, it said, or I hope you have, for otherwise you’re a useless little bit of meat and no mistake.

“I did guess,” Eagle said. At the Wolf’s back, flurries danced and skirled, and the wind that blew over its shoulders, ruffling matted fur, was so cold it burned through his jumper and shirt. He bowed. “Welcome to Rodansk, Lord.”

The Wolf gave a doggy smile, like Valdyr its brother. Ullr’s come early, and I mean to stay a good long time.