An Interview with Flynn Cole: A Guest Post by Mirren Hogan

Below is a character interview with Flynn Cole, from Nightmares Rise, book 1 of the Dark Shores trilogy, by Mirren Hogan and Erin Yoshikawa. I’m excited to welcome Mirren today (she did the interviewing!), and I hope you enjoy Flynn!


Today I sat down with my good friend and character Flynn Cole.

Me: Hi Flynn.

Flynn: Hello.

Me: Nice Australian accent you have there.

Flynn: Thanks, I like yours.

Me: You do sound a bit like me.

Flynn: So, you had questions?

Me: Yes. I understand you went to Hawaii on holiday?

Flynn: Not so much a holiday. It was more a working holiday.

Me: So– a holiday?

Flynn: (laughs). The point was to take some photos and then sell them. I a photographer. Okay, budding photographer.

Me: Why Hawaii?

Flynn: It’s about as far from my family as I could get. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but a guy needs a break from being asked when he’s getting a real job.

Me: So when are you?


Me: Okay, okay. So tell me about Makani,

Flynn: (grins like an idiot). She’s amazing. She’s strong, independent, funny, sexy, smart, and likes Angry Birds and Dr Who.

Me: Danger seems to follow her around. Are you okay with that?

Flynn: Well – to be honest I could do with less of that. I mean, it’s nice to have a bit of excitement, but to be followed around by vampires – sorry, manangaal – and other monsters get tiring after a while.

Me: What’s the difference between a vampire and a manangaal?

Flynn: Have you seen those guys? They don’t sparkle, and they’re not civilised. They’re more like flying gut-sucking dogs.

Me: Woah, they sound like fun. Not.

Flynn: I know, right? But we hold our own against them. Mostly. Kind of…

Me: (laughs sadistically) And then some of your family tracks you down.

Flynn: I told you not to ask about that. (turns in chair). Where’s my manager?

Me: I’m your manager. Now answer the question.

Flynn: (sighs) Fine. Yes they did, my sister, her husband and their kids.

Me: Did they get eaten by monsters?

Flynn: I wish. I mean, you’ll have to read and find out.

Me: I heard there was no Vegemite in this book. Why should I read it?

Flynn: There’s pizza. There’s also beer and bacon. And sandwiches. everyone loves those, right?

Me: I like a good sandwich. I hear Makani likes them too?

Flynn: Oh yes, she loves a sandwich.

Me: What else do we need to know about this book?

Flynn: It’s funny, and urban, and sometimes a little gross, but in all the right ways.

Me: Well there you are folks: funny, urban, has monsters and sandwiches. I guess you better read it for yourself.


Find out more, or hang out with Mirren, at these links:



Twitter: @MirrenHogan


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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

Connect With Martin on Facebook

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






One Last Quest, Part Six

The conclusion!


Lachlan’s stomach clamped over his pickled-herring sandwich and four cups of coffee. He nearly wished it were empty, except that then it would probably feel worse. He swallowed, and again, as the carriage moved toward Adeon’s address. He didn’t want to look out the window. The boy’s reaction—why had he never considered it?

It was entirely possible Adeon was simply finished with him. His stomach clenched tighter, but he supposed he would sooner that than the alternative: that Adeon had been somehow incapacitated, or worse, killed.

No. He couldn’t bear it. If Adeon didn’t want his company anymore, well, he could bear that, though not with good grace. And what of the boy’s mother? She might see him as nothing but some filthy Revanar predator come to harm her son. His worry climbed the scale, pitching high until he shook, and in the absence of his chair arms to grasp, resorted to clenching his fingers over his stumps, the tips digging cruelly into pinned-trouser ends. There were so many things he hadn’t thought of in his haste to get to Dreamport. His mind spun wild scenarios, and wilder ones, until he could hardly breathe for panic.

The ride felt endless. What would he do? What would he say when he saw Adeon? The whole thing was a fool’s errand, and all his thought for better was a fool’s dream. The cab stopped again and again, and each time his heart leapt into his mouth. After a minute or two it would roll on—they must be stopping at crossroads—and sometimes take a turn, but Lachlan’s pulse never settled all the way, and his chest never quite unknotted.

“Are you well?” Cathal asked, concerned.

Lachlan didn’t dare look up; didn’t want to see the pity on his valet’s face. He shook his head slightly, denial and dismissal at once. Cathal laid an awkward hand on his shoulder, squeezed lightly, and drew back again. They didn’t speak.

At last, the carriage came to a stop for good. Lachlan forced himself to get out, to drop himself off the seat into his chair, stiff with anxiety. Too close to turn back now, too close even to think of such a thing. It would be unfair to Cathal. If he got nothing else from the trip, at least there was Cathal. He breathed slowly, collecting himself, as the cab rattled away.

He blinked in the late-morning light. The street was so poor. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but not this, the cobbles beginning to crack, the tenements sagging on the soft ground. He could smell the wharves, the fishers’ wharves, even see them among the buildings. It stank. Old fish insulted what remained of his nose. Adeon came from this place? The light of Lachlan’s tired life? So wrong—it was all wrong—it couldn’t be.

“This one,” said Cathal from behind him. “Right here. Fourteen, you said.”

“Yes.” It came out small and shocked, quivery, unsure. He glanced a question over his shoulder.

“It’s the right place.”

“It’s… so…”

“There’s no money here,” Cathal said. He pointed out a pack of human children playing in and out of the street. “No shoes. That boy, Adeon, he never had shoes on either.”

“I didn’t think he was so poor. I thought he didn’t want to wear them.”

“Might have some for fancy dress. He wouldn’t want to mess them. Come on, Lord. We’re so close now.”

“All right,” Lachlan said, and Cathal helped him turn the chair about. The listing tenement might as well have been the entrance to Yehoram’s cavern lair. His stomach bounded and his nerves stung, just as they had then, with Rex and Mariella beside him and Kep perched on Rex’s broad shoulder. His valet was no doughty warrior, but perhaps that wasn’t what he needed just now. “Thank you,” he said.

“Oh,” said Cathal, “it’s been hardly anything at all, especially when you match it up with what I’m getting out of it. Look, there’s a bell.” He pushed Lachlan forward. Lachlan reached up and touched the faded enamel bell rune. It still worked; from within he heard a single chime echoing.

They waited forever then, or so it felt. Lachlan itched and twitched, and at last he lifted his hand to ring again.

The door jiggled. It seemed to be stuck, but then it lifted slightly and creaked wide, revealing a small Movanar woman in a plain brown dress. That was the only plain thing about her. She had Adeon’s nose, and hair the color of honey, and blue eyes that took their fill of his face—

And she smiled. “You’re Lachlan,” she said.

“Yes,” he said, strangled, searching for words. “Adeon. Where?” It was all he could force out of his closing throat.

“I’m sorry,” she said, sounding it. “He’s gone away. Just this Longday past.”


The Movanar woman took a breath. “Lord, he’s gone to be a Knight of the Air. I had a letter this last week; he’s on a ship bound for Hayed.”

“Oh,” Lachlan said. Again it was all that would come to his lips. There was a weight on his chest. It was so much better than he’d thought, and at once so much worse.

“I’m going to post this to him right now,” she said, pulling a cheap bit of paper out of her dress pocket. “I know you swore you’d never write him, and made him swear not to write you. He was so upset over it. ‘I’m supposed to see Lachlan, what’s he going to do?’ But an oath is an oath.” She moved off down the street, motioning for Lachlan to follow. “If you liked, you might write a postscript on my letter,” she offered. “Then he’d know it was all right to write you—ah—if it is all right.”

“There’s nothing I’d like more.”

She led him down around the corner, and Cathal followed, hands ready to assist if Lachlan hit a rough patch, but for the most part he managed well enough on his own.

“My name is Elain,” she said.

Lachlan blurted, “I can see why King Muirrach took an interest,” and his face burned with unaccustomed embarrassment. What would possess him to say such a thing?

Mariella would have slapped him sideways, but Elain only laughed. “I was prettier then.”

He said nothing, but truly, he found it hard to credit, she was so very pretty now. At least the post office was close by to spare him further humiliation. It was small and shabby, with sun pouring through grubby windows. They waited on line for some time, but while they waited, Elain gave Lachlan her letter, the sort of fussy, chatty, loving thing Lachlan had received from his own mother when he was on the road. He was careful not to read it entire, only scan it looking for the bottom.

Cathal handed him a pen. There was little space left, but between “Love, Mother” and the edge of the page, he managed to squeeze: “Write me or not, at your pleasure. Be sure to direct any hypothetical letters to me personally, and they will find me wherever I am.” He hesitated over the closing before writing simply, “Your friend, Lachlan Vistridir.”

He insisted on paying for the letter to be sent in the most expensive way, folded like a paper bird and wrapped in a bubble of force. All three of them watched the letter disappear into the distance, rapidly swallowed by the Redwood’s crown.

“Thank you,” Elain said. “For everything. You were good to my son when you had every reason not to be.” She wiped at her eyes, beaming. “Maybe another time, yes? Only I’ve got to get to work, I’m already late. Good-bye, Lachlan.”

He lifted a hand in stunned farewell as she hurried away, and watched her turn the corner. Adeon’s mother.

After a long time, he turned to Cathal. “Tomorrow I’ll take you sightseeing. Only help me get back to the inn for today, and you’ll be free to do whatever you like.”

“Yes, Lord,” Cathal said, and they rode another cab back to the inn. This time Lachlan opened the curtains on his side, but he stared out unseeing and numbly exhausted. When they reached the inn, Cathal carried the chair, but Lachlan would not allow himself to be carried, instead pulling himself up the steps. He wasn’t used to doing it, and the hardwood hurt his knuckles, but his arms were strong and he won the landing without too much trouble, there to heave his body back into the chair.

Cathal didn’t remark on it, only smiled.

Lachlan retired. He was asleep before he heard Cathal leave, and he slept dreamless and deep, and woke rested as sundown crept through the window. Cathal sat in a chair next to the bed.

“Did you like it?” Lachlan asked.

The valet didn’t speak, but there was light in his eyes.


Lachlan sat in his study, reading Giant Fleas Abroad—a fine sequel, all things considered. The room was rather larger than his study at the Palace of Green Glaciers, and rather shabbier, but he preferred it by far. An old, comfortable armchair cradled his body, and his wheeled chair stood out of the way in the corner.

The snow had come to Dreamport, and even now fat flakes drifted by the window, collecting on the sill outside—but it was warm in here, with the fire and the heat-box together, and not so damned drafty as the Palace. Cathal sat in the other armchair, mending an overcoat with tiny stitches.

In the great city, Lachlan’s disfigured face was just another in the crowd. It was far more common here; certainly not an everyday sight, but there were plenty of humans who carried scars, and they stared at him, if they stared at all, with fear rather than disgust and dismissal. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, nor—he supposed—much better, but it was different. Everything else more than made up for it.

Elain was definitely the source of Adeon’s light. She came often to Lachlan’s rooms, bringing good food and sunshine and laughter along with her. Shattered in body he might be, but the White Worm hadn’t killed his heart, and he loved her. From afar was enough for now. There was Cathal, too, always Cathal, wandering through the city on his itchy feet, with Lachlan or without him, and bringing home interesting trinkets.

Lachlan looked up from his book at the sound of tapping from the window. A little paper bird fluttered against the glass, seeking entry.

“I’ll get it,” Cathal said, laying the coat aside. A blast of cold came through when he opened the window, bearing the letter forward. It turned a lazy circle around Lachlan before settling in his lap. “Who’s it from?” Cathal asked, and shut the window.

“I don’t know yet,” Lachlan said, “but I’m about to find out.” He unfolded the paper bird and smoothed it over his thigh. His eyes flew wide.

“Come on, who’s it from?”

He grinned. “Guess.”


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