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Beyond the stain

The astonishing debut novel of Akinola Peace

Beyond the stain, Akinola Peace, 2023

The book opens in 2003. Little Rose Peace is at church with her mom. She is too young to understand what’s happening, but she notices her mom is not acting like her usual self. Folakemi Oyindamola Chukwuma cries, doesn’t stop to chat with other worshippers after the service, she keeps herself to herself. Dad went away for work, but Rose doesn’t know where, nor when he’ll make it back. Maybe her mother is sad because of that. She is sure something’s wrong when her mom calls Janet, her father’s sister, and hears her say “he’s gone!”

2009. Rose is a teenager and she is living a totally different life than she did when she was six. Rose’s mom had to go through what it’s known as ‘a widow’s rites’: her father’s family took her hostage at their place for ten days, shaved part of her head, her eyebrows and her pubic hair, kept her on one meal a day and forced her to only dress in black and repeatedly interrogated and intimidated her, until she falsely confessed to be responsible for her husband’s death, giving them the power to strip her and her daughter of the house they lived in and any other belongings in her husband’s name. They never liked her and when she only produced female offspring, they accused her of being a witch and fought her even harder. As they are left homeless and penniless, Folakemi and Rose move into a smaller house, Rose transfers from a fancy private school to an average public one, and since her mom is forced to have two jobs to make ends meet, Rose has to help with housework on top of school homework. This has a huge impact on her, she isolates herself and despises her absent mother. One day, though, things change. A classmate of her, a big girl named Sandra (who is not only physically bigger than Rose but also couple of years older) approaches her, introduces herself and then introduces Rose to her clique, the Soul Sisters. It’s a nice day for Rose, who goes back home feeling lighter and in a good mood, which is soon spoiled by the fact that her mom left her another list of housework on the table. She is annoyed and frustrated, but soon her mood changes when she finds blood in her underwear and believes she is bleeding to death. She cries and panics, having no one to ask for help, until, exhausted, she falls asleep on the kitchen floor, only to wake up the following morning to yet another message from her mother, saying that since she was sleeping so peacefully she let her sleep. Rose is now scared and angry: she still doesn’t know what’s happening, she still has no one to help her and now she feels like her mother abandoned her. The only person she can think of is Sandra.

“Oh my God!” she yelled and laughed. “Is that why you’re crying? Wait, let me see it,” she said, still laughing. I turned around for her to see the stain of blood, but the volume of her laughter increased instead. I had never felt so ashamed in my entire life. “Rosie, dear, you’re only menstruating,” she said amidst laughs and hit my side playfully.

Sandra not only helps her, but also invites her to her place after school. Rose is impressed: Sandra lives in a huge house that looks expensive. During the afternoon, her friend serves snacks and soft drinks mixed with spirits, and while they all swear allegiance to the Soul Sisters clique, soon after the bonding ritual, Rose passes out. She is only 12, after all. Before she is out completely, though, she witnesses the girls kissing, moaning and groaning and she is intimidated and not comfortable with the situation. They wake her up hours later, looking scared. It’s 10 in the evening and Rose realises she is very late. She rushes home, to find her mother worried sick. Despite the reprimand, she thinks it’s a good moment to open up about the last two days, but her mother tells her she is very tired and if it was so urgent she could have come back home earlier, deepening the fracture between them.

Rose is now part of the Soul Sisters and soon she finds out that they all come from broken backgrounds: divorced parents, parents that left them behind to move to the States, families so religious they’re almost cult-like. That helps her feel more accepted. She finally has friends that supply for the lack of a family.

2013. Rose brings a girl back to her place. She is one year younger than her and knows nothing about being a lesbian, but she is quickly learning from Rose, who looks back at the past 4 years as the biggest bliss of her life. According to the Soul Sisters, the best way to get rid of menstrual pain is to sleep with a boy.

So, the girls set up a guy in senior class for me. He was mature, gentle and sweet. The initial stage of the encounter was harrowing, but not as much as my menstrual pain. Also, the boy was a pro. At 17, he already knew all the right styles, words, and positions to make me happy. The first 30 minutes were discomforting, but after my wall of purity was broken, the rest was a hell of a fantastic ride to cloud 9. I’d never been happier. Since then, I couldn’t stop. When I couldn’t have sex with anyone, I masturbated instead. The girls opened me up to a world of new things that I stayed glued.

But this time of bliss is not meant to last. The Soul Sisters, all older than her, soon graduate and they leave for university, some of them go abroad. She tries to keep in contact, but she is always the first one to start a conversation, that usually didn’t pass the opening pleasantries. “Distance weakens relationships, and no friendship lasts forever. I got the message and stayed in my lane.” Rose finds herself alone again. One day, during a walk, she stops in front of the Church she attended with her mother and after the service she speaks to the pastor who tells her that God is good and understanding and if she is ready to submit to Him, she is more than welcome in His house.

2015. Rose is taking the university access exam for the fifth time. She is still a Church worker, but the pastor’s sessions and prayers help that much, because she soon went back to the old ways. Rose has now a boyfriend, Joe, who she defines the companion she needs. Things between them are good, until Brother Demola, the choirmaster, approaches her offering some private singing lessons at his place. Rose, who finds him extremely fascinating – she is secretly attracted to him – accepts. The private singing lessons clearly transform into a sexual encounter, but the picture Rose had of Demola in her head and how he actually is as a lover are very different and leave Rose disappointed.

Finally, good news: she has been admitted to Lagos University. Here she is assigned a room with 3 other girls. One of them, Tara, is very devoted, while the other two are more into parties and enjoying life. Rose goes with them to a freshmen party, where she meets this guy, Fred, who is studying Computer Science at Lagos university too. After exchanging numbers and talking on the phone for a little while, he asks her out. They start dating intensely and they have a good time, so Rose feels like opening up to him about her past and he feels like opening up to her about his life. He admits to be a cybercriminal, a fraudster that scams white women, but he also adds that he is making good money out of it that actually helps his family and put his sibling through school. She feels she should support him no matter what.

At the same time, though, she accepts Tara’s invitation to a worship group on campus and she feels drawn to God again. It will be short lived again, because it will only last until she receives her exam results, which she failed. This means God is not really helping her, no matter how much she prays.

This is the leitmotif that will accompany her along her university years, a continuous bouncing between a debauched life and her faith, until she will devote herself completely to God, despite all the hurdles that life will put on her path.

This is an incredible book, a brilliant read beginning to end. It’s captivating, far from our ‘Western’ culture and at times tricky to understand, but up to this point in the year, the best book I’ve read. The prose is linear, clear and accurate, enriched by a series of sayings and filler words that sound obscure but fascinating, of which you don’t need to know the meaning to understand what they signify. It definitely put the spotlight on a culture we know little about, if nothing at all, which only leaves the reader thirsty for more. Rose is an amazing character, whose personal development is incredible and who has an adventurous but totally realistic life, and so are the other people orbiting around her. Akinola picks her words carefully and puts them together in a targeted direction: forward, just like Rose, who, no matter what, keeps going through thick and thin in life.

This is a book that deserves a special mention and definitely space on anyone’s bookshelf, no matter what your beliefs are in life.

‘Beyond the Stain’ is available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3IrfIAn

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Self-promo 2023 (ep.16): Jonathan Cerruto

The creator of Joshua Bane introduces the series in his own words. Read his interview here.


Joshua Bane is the first openly LGBT+ superhero. The desperate search for his twin sister, will force him to re-evaluate the meaning of family. A tsunami of emotions. Twists and turns are the main ingredients of this, spectacular dark fantasy saga, that will keep the reader glued to the chair.
Filled with adventure, magic, and action. Solving murders, is a daily routine for Joshua.
Will he be able to finds his sister? Will Joshua be finally happy?


The unique selling point of my books and stories is the morale and the message. I want to spread a message of love and hope. Regardless, of body shape, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. I have filtered, all my life experiences, true life experiences, for everyone to read, and I want to share them with the world. For so many years I have struggled with anxiety and depression, because of my sexual orientation and how people made me feel. My mission in life is to make sure that, all kids and grown-ups are out there in the world, and provide a beacon of hope, a beacon of light in those darkest of days. We are all beautiful, smart, and powerful, regardless of what society forces us to believe.


My name is Jonathan A. Cerruto. I was born in Canada and moved to Italy when I was a toddler. I moved to Milan at the age of 18, where I graduated in Fashion and Design. I have always loved to write, since childhood and, after many years, of trying to figure out who I really was, I finally found my real calling. I discovered, what sets my soul on fire, and that is writing books and lyrics. I decided to move to the UK, with just a luggage and many ideas. Once I moved to the UK, I studied Creative Writing, in London, and I have also attended The Berklee Boston Music Academy, where I have polished my lyricist skills. I now also write and co-write lyrics, for artists and music producers in Italy, and all over the world.

Find more about Jonathan and his writing on his social media channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok) and find his books here: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Jonathan-A.-Cerruto/author/B09FQ3RGGY?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true.


Sunset distortion

The debut novel by Californian author Paul Bahou

Paul Bahou, Paul Bahou printing, 2021

LA, summer. Georgios Hassan is wearing leather pants at noon on a Tuesday in a bar in West Hollywood. He’s a heavy metal musician that only answers to the name of Lazers (‘with a z’ he will specify more than once along the book). He and his band, the Killer Orca almost made it, back in the days, but then grunge hit and so did families and personal stuff and they simply fizzled away. They continued to play, but more for pleasure and a hobby rather than with the dream of becoming famous rock starts who toured the world. Despite a series of misunderstandings and some very bad arguments, Lazer kept on the rocker bad boy aura: he wears leather pants no matter what the weather, lives in his van at the back of a bar where he’s a a regular, and always has sunglasses on.

One night, while Lazer is going back home, ‘a bit drunk but not so drunk’ as per his words, he falls and passes out on the pavement. When he wakes up, he is in an anonymous and unrecognisable white room. He’ll soon find out he woke up on the John Smith Seven, a missionary ship part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day, a space ship. An embarrassed and inexpert young and pretty woman welcomes him. She introduces herself as Qiti, and explains that it’s her first day as a converter of humans to the religion. What kind of religion, asks Lazer. We are the Smormons, replies Qiti. They are Mormons – same beliefs, same way of spreading the word of God – but in space, instead of Earth. Hence the name.

While Qiti is still making sure Lazer is fine and she is explaining to him a few basic concepts, an alarm goes off, creating some panic on board. A multi-legged behemoth, with hooks instead of paws, is attacking the ship and its population. It’s not possible, thinks Lazer. I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up I was somewhere in Vegas, he tries to convince himself. But when he looks out of the window, he realises he’a not: outside the sky is black and it’s the only thing he can see, along with stars. He is in deep space. When he meets Qiti again and asks her what’s going on, she tells him they are under pirate attack and tells him to be careful, but the pirates still manage to capture Lazer, confirming they have the asset.

Once peace is re-established on board, Qiti starts doing researche on the space ship computer, and she finds out that her ancestors descend from the human race, but they have been abducted many years before and genetically modified by a superior species to be used as cheap mining labour. They are known as ‘the Olympians’.

In the meanwhile, Lazer is brought to the Galactic Union. When he asks what it is, the answer he has from a pig named Miley Katy Obama-Kardashian sounds like a series of squeals that make no sense for Lazer. Apparently, humans and the human world are very liked, studied, copied and highly regarded in the Galactic Union:

‘pretty much all of the planets in a million light-years in any direction that host interstellar life are members,” she replied with a wide wave of her hoof. “And all of them use Earth culture in some way. Well, except for maybe the Cloud People of Gomnitak 7 who don’t really have ears or eyes or brains, and they’re mostly made out of water vapor, so they’re kind of hard to interact with—snort.

From Miley Katy Obama-Kardashian, Lazer discovers that they are at the market and they will probably be sold, as pets if they are lucky, as food if they are not. But since he is a human, he will probably be kept alive, the pig reassures him.

In the meantime, Qiti is still researching Dr Quant’s old files and medical cases. She was one of the Doctors on board of the Star of Zeus, an old research ship, and kept a video logs of her research, but then she stopped. Why did she? What happened after? In one of the security footage, she sees that Dr Quant is checking on a patient’s vital, a little girl inside a preservation capsule that keeps her in a suspended state. There is a small accident, the ship loses energy and Dr Quant is forced to check on the panels manually to restore its functions. When she is back in the medical bay, the patient is awake and the video stops.

Lazer is auctioned and bought by a demon called Gorlack, who has no intention at all to keep him as a pet. All the contrary. Gorlack brings him home to his wife and two kids to actually serve him as a delicacy for dinner. Sadly, and quite suddenly, Gorlack passes away right before eating Lazer, since the man blows a puff of cigarette smoke in his face. For non-humans this is lethal. In the general confusion that ensues, Lazer manages to escape with a companion, an Octopus-like creature named Streek who had also been bought to be consumed by Gorlack and his family. They are rescued by a Clicklaxia ship, whose commander is Dex Rotho, an Olympian. Here, Lazer discovers that Qiti is a highly technological and particularly advanced computer, created to translate the information contained on an ancient piece of technology, the Bakuma Key. Eventually, Dax and a band of mercenaries at her command set sail to hunt this precious treasure and Lazer will go with them, crossing a nice and variegated array of different creatures.

This weird ensemble of superior race tech and human objects somehow may remind the reader of ‘Back to the future – Part 2’, where what we know and what we can only imagine blends majestically, just like in the pages of ‘Sunset Distortion’. The lightness of the narrative, the fast actions, the paced plot and the numerous encounters also bring to mind ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, where a human is suddenly catapulted in space without batting an eyelid, just like Lazer, whose adventures will lead to an explosive, no holds barred final battle.

On a personal note, I really appreciated the rock music reference!

‘Sunset Distorsion’ is available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/42BFPN1


Self-promo 2023 (ep.15): Molly Fernandes

From the author of ‘Owen’s afternoon tea’, another incredible book that mixes nature, science and adventure, shared exclusively with Not for Vanity!

Call of the Boodier, Europe Books, 2023


Call of the Boodier, a youth adventure novel set in the Boranup forest, tells the story of a tiger relocation project.

On route to a brand-new state-of-the-art tiger sanctuary in one of the most remote forests in the world, a tragic accident interrupts their perilous journey. The one surviving tiger finds herself lost in the Aussie bush, injured and dependent on the help of the ancient wisdom of the Wadandi Noongar people and a boy whose courage shines brighter than the Australian sun. Readers will be captivated by the vivid imagery of this adventure. A story that transcends the boundaries of time and place as the protagonists are whisked back in time to face the dark truths of a land rich in heritage.


Call of the Boodier is a unique work of historical fiction combining science, history and adventure leading the reader into a deep understanding of the ancient magic of the Australian bush. Twelve-year-old Riley is a boy of true sensibility facing dilemmas with high stakes. He must look deep within, make big decisions and understand his own strengths as he encounters the deceptions of people he knows and trusts.


Molly Fernandes is part nomad, part immigrant and part Western Australian. She grew up in 1970s Perth, after spending the first two years of her life in war torn Beirut. The daughter of parents that drifted, she gathered stories as she grew. These tales began to unfold on the shorelines of Cosy Corner and Emu Point where she spent her summers as a young girl. She gained a deep respect and appreciation for the power of the written word from a young age, as she visited many remote places and began exploring story writing. Spending time in the Kimberley, Southwestern Australia, the most isolated city in the world, and traveling the globe has given her a unique fascination with people and places, resilience, challenge and struggle.
She began her apprenticeship reading Enid Blyton, Kenneth Grahame and Ernest Hemingway. Her passion for writing and art inspired her to become a primary school teacher. She has published two books; Owen’s Afternoon Tea and The Call of the Boodier.

Editor Note: ‘Call of the Boodier’ was exclusively shared with the Not for Vanity team but it is yet to be published. However, you can find Molly’s previous books here: https://amzn.to/3GEgJUP


The king of Gravesend is dead! Long live the king!

Book Three of ‘The King of Gravesend’ Series

We start with a funeral. Charles – Chuds – Douglas is dead. He had a long and fulfilling life, he experienced a lot, met some amazing people along the way and made a fair share of enemies too. He fought a lot of battles, including a fatwa against his person for allegedly killing the brother of one of his enemies, but he lost the one agains cancer [the term fatwarefers to an edict or ruling by a recognised religious authority on a point of Islamic law. The process of issuing a fatwa usually begins when a Muslim, confronted with a problem of life, belief or law, is unsure what to do, ed.]. He had recently been diagnosed, and contrary to his doctor’s opinion, he decided to refuse any form of treatment. This left him with 3 to 6 months to live and he decided to live them the way he wanted, enjoying every single minute surrounded by the people he loved and whom loved him back.

So, here we are. Time has ran out for Chuds, and his friends and family are surrounding his burial site. Everyone’s there: Ro, his partner, Brian, Anil, his lawyer, Wrong Way Ronnie, Deepa, Poncy Pete and Big Man. They do their best to gather around Ro and cheer her up, or at least make her feel less lost.

In the following pages, we step back a few months and from Gravesend we go back to the Philippines, where Chuds and Ro are operating a restaurant/night club, with plans to expand the business. It’s their baby, they are are happy there, they are creating their own support system, making friends and having the time of their life. So, when Agent Smith and Agent Darby knock on their door it’s a shock to the system. During one of his trips, Chuds managed to wipe out a terrorist cell that was raising money to fund the indoctrination and subsequent radicalisation of young people all over the world, including the UK. The brother of the cell chief is the one who issued the fatwa and Chuds was enlisted as a Home Office agent, meaning he is under their protection. When he doesn’t check in with them, as he is supposed to do, Agent Smith and Agent Darby decide to travel to the Philippines to make sure he is still alive and kicking. He is and they are somehow reassured. Chuds’s life can go on.

He is on a trip when his journey is diverted to Kuala Lumpur. It’s not part of the original plan, but he uses the unexpected diversion to say hello to an old friend, Lena. During his sojourn, though, a weird accident happens: Chuds loses his phone, someone finds it and sends it to his hotel with a courier, but the guy is found dead in a ‘tragic accident’ that doesn’t sound like an accident at all. Chuds decides to not see anything more into this: it’s been reported as an accident and for Chuds it was, weird and tragic, but nothing more than an accident. He also decides it’s high time to sever his contacts with Agent Smith and Agent Darby, and finally flies back home to the Philippines.

This is when he has his doctor’s appointment. He wasn’t already feeling too well and decided to book a check-up. Unfortunately, it’s too late. Prostate cancer, malignant tumour. Even with radical treatment, the situation doesn’t look too bright. On top of that, his project to expand the restaurant is not looking great either: the idea of having a theatre, that could eventually double up as cinema, is not making any profit. Chuds finds himself in a position where he needs to call his friend Two Dinners Terry, a former event manager, to get help.

“I stand before you ladies and gents, the fine figure of several men!  And I hear you saying to each other, ‘Why do they call him Two Dinners Terry?’  Well I’ll tell you why, because my name’s Terry, pretty simple really if you think about it. BUT, I am here tonight to give you men a warning though, consider this a PSA – NEVER cheat on your wife.  While you may think it’s exciting to get some strange on a regular basis, there are hidden dangers. The worst of which is that you have to eat two dinners, one with the bit of fluff and one with the missus when you get home. I used to be able to hide behind this mic stand I was so skinny, take a fucking look at me now!”

This quote gives you a very good indication of what to expect from this book: ‘smarty-pants’, quick-witted characters, an incredible voice and a spectacular narrative packed with action, but also tenderness. The plot is very well developed, there are no loose threads or questions that remain unanswered. Everything will become clear in the end. The pace is fast, but not rushed, the characters are a paper representation of your friends and family, they look like them, they live like them, they even talk like them!

And the end will leave you with your mouth hanging open.

This book is a delight from the first to the last line, one of those books that I wouldn’t mind to read again in the future! But for now we will focus on Peter’s next book which is no more than a bunch of jotted lines so far, but we are sure it will grow big and strong just like the others!

All books by Peter Draper are available at: https://amzn.to/41uuH2U

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Self-promo 2023 (ep. 14): Rose Marzin

Better Than This is an uplifting, inspirational story about finding love second time around, breaking free of insecurity and believing that you deserve to be happy.

Better than this, Lucid Dreamers Publications, 2022


At 33, Taamarai is sure that life should be better than this: worrying about paying rent, about her weight, about keeping in touch with her family on the other side of the Atlantic… At least she has her husband. Darren’s always got her back, always understands.

When she unexpectedly comes into some money, Taamarai knows she has to take her chance. Moving away, starting a new college course, waitressing to make ends meet – it’s still hard but it feels good to try something new. Darren will join her when he can and, in the meantime, she’s doing this for both of them.

That doesn’t mean new isn’t scary. Nervous and lonely, she is glad to meet her downstairs neighbour, a teenage girl called Ali, who seems desperate for a woman to look up to. Ali’s dad, Carl, is a different story. Rude and a bit shady, Taamarai is willing to put up with him for Ali’s sake but things are easier when he isn’t around, asking the questions she tries not to ask herself.

As her plans unfold, Taamarai begins to see her life from new angles. What if she is capable of more than she ever imagined and worthy of more than she has learned to accept?

Watching his daughter realise that maybe she can make something of her life, Carl can’t help being drawn to the shy, apologetic woman in the apartment upstairs, who never gives up and somehow finds her way past all the things he uses to keep people away. It had always seemed safer that way, but now he can’t help wondering what better might look like.


Better Than This celebrates real life and real love, with the messy bits left in: a relatable antidote to stories about perfect people and perfect lives.
It is an uplifting, empowering novel about learning to believe in yourself and value your own dreams.
Exploring the long-term power of coercive control, Better Than This digs into the reality of weaponised love, even for capable, educated women.
Multi-cultural, cross-class and full of family, this is a novel that embraces diversity and complexity.


Rose Marzin is a pen name. I live in England with my partner and two cats and mostly I write. As Rose Marzin, I write contemporary and historical romance (look out for new titles, coming soon), exploring the everyday miracle of love. In my day job, I write history. When I’m not writing, I love cooking, walking in the country, reading and learning languages.

Get your copy here: https://amzn.to/44exY9o


In conversation with: Mack Little

Following our review of ‘Daughter of Hades’, we asked Mack Little a few questions about her life as a writer

Mack Little. Image Credits: mack-little.com.

Hi Mack! It’s a pleasure to virtually meet you and it’s also been a pleasure to read your book, Daughter of Hades. I have to admit that I was mislead by the title: somehow, I was expecting either a fantasy or a story set in Ancient Greece. So here’s my first question: why this title?

I don’t feel like I chose this title. Truly, I blame it on Captain Duff, who took the Dutch fluyt ship as a prize. I think because of his limited knowledge of Greek mythology, he only knew the dark and powerful connotation of the name Hades itself. And what better name for a Buccaneer ship—one that invoked fear in their prey and exploited sailors’ superstitions? The ‘Daughter of Hades’, refers to the book’s main character.

Though it was not my conscious intent, I suppose the title could speak to Dinny escaping the accepted morays of a capitalist system to find freedom in an underworld operated contrary to the unjust mainstream economy and cultural ideals. Duff, the captain of Hades and, for all intents and purposes, Dinny’s godfather, is Hades himself. Hades, the renowned. Hades the good counselor. Hades the gatherer of wealth. All these things could be used to describe Captain Duff.

The book is set in the middle of the 17th century in the Caribbean, and back then piracy was flourishing in those seas, but the players had European roots, while you are American and born in the South, another area where racism and inequalities are, unfortunately, still alive and kicking. Why then talking about European slavery of the past instead of focusing on more contemporary or local themes?

I feel that Daughter of Hades does reflect modern concepts of diversity. It foregrounds the ways race, class, gender, and sexual orientation operated in that time period. However, despite my attention to historical accuracy and the attempt to bring in sharp relief little-known details from the past, my story is meant to be entertaining escapist fare.

At its heart, Daughter of Hades is a historical romance. It features the destiny of lovers and swashbuckling pirating adventures. Of all the books I’ve read of that type, none had lead characters who looked like me. When black characters were present in books during the 17th century, they were “slaves”, not enslaved persons with agency. What is more, not all blacks were enslaved. Maroons, self-liberated persons, existed wherever there was slavery. These communities thrived and, in many cases, struck fear in the hearts of whites.

The first buccaneers were maroons, and when white sailors escaped the tyranny of the merchant and naval ships, they deserted and became hunters primarily on Hispaniola [an island in the Caribbean, Ed.]. When buccaneers took to the sea, they maintained relationship with maroons. Blacks escaping slavery were on their crews.
Maroons traded with buccaneers, hunted with them and often raided plantations alongside buccaneers. Given this history, there is space to have black characters at the forefront of swashbuckling pirating romance.

Apart from entertainment, it was important to me to show the different dimensions of black lives in the 17th century. While slavery did exist, I continue to be determined not to make it the focus of my novels, though that seems to be the main takeaway by some readers. None of my main
characters are enslaved. They actively subvert the institution. To me, that is a concept that is ripe for romance and adventure! However, I am equally determined not to ignore slavery or gloss over the injustice and the horror of the practice. It would be an insult to my ancestors not to acknowledge their sacrifice and endurance. It’s because they endured I exist.

We can see from your bio that you had quite an interesting upbringing: you studied Political Science in Spain, lived in Germany, served in the military and now you are on the Board of Directors of the Houston’s Writers Guild. How much or how little did all these choices and changes helped and formed you as a writer and affected your writing process?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve years old. Between then and forty-six years since, everything I have done has been in service to that goal.
All of my experiences, the people I’ve met, and the skills I have picked up along the way go into my writing, particularly all the things I have learned about myself. My curiosity and sense of adventure led me to Spain and Germany, and all over the world. And those character traits guide me in the stories I love to tell.
Joining the Houston Writer’s Guild put me in contact with other writers—critique groups in particular. Critique groups were essential to my finally completing a story. They motivated me, inspired me, and demanded accountability. By accountability, I mean ten pages were expected every week in order to participate. That helped me to create a habit of writing that continues to this day.

On the homepage of your website you write “Why I write. Books and movies about characters who looked like me are read and viewed out of duty to learn something about the past. Books and movies that showcased the pleasures of dreaming, imagination, and escape were stories about people who did not look like me.” Do you think this is still valid today? If so, would you like to elaborate? And what do you think should we do to rectify it?

Absolutely it remains true that there is a dearth of stories with black characters at the forefront in fantasy, romance, horror, and sci-fi—stories that are not predicated on racial injustice or use black pain as entertainment.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, who lost their lives to racial and police violence created a renewed impetus for gatekeepers (literary agents and publishers) to ramp up their solicitation for stories that reflect the social ills. Stories that not only retraumatizes blacks who experience these psychological wounds in their day-to-day life, but also reduce the scope of the experience to only their suffering.

No doubt stories examining social injustice are important, but there are very few alternative stories with blacks at the forefront. Indeed, most Black books that provide escapist faire are treated as less important. But I say, books that explore other dimensions of black existence and stories that allow mainstream audiences to imagine black people in a different context are equally important.
Also, Blacks, like any other person, need magic and flights of imagination. Yet stories that don’t fit the mould of black trauma are denied the time and resources needed to make them successful. They’re ignored by the industry, by librarians, by awards committees, by schools, and yes, even by certain readers.

How to solve this problem? The gatekeepers need to curate commercial stories told by black creators. Diverse writers who have already found a place at the table can mentor other writers of color. I would love to see a Black Writer’s Guild that offers workshops, mentorship, and networking opportunities. It would also provide a well of content that the mainstream gatekeepers can draw from. As a creator myself, I keep writing and creating as much as my resources allow.

We know you are ready to publish another book, set in Barbados this time. We only have the title, Shelter in a hostile world, and a brief blurb. Can you tell us a bit more about it? How did you get the inspiration?

‘Shelter in a hostile world’ features a minor character from Daughter of Hades. His name is Badu Obosi. He was once an overseer on a plantation in Barbados. It details his life in pre-colonial Nigeria and highlights Igbo culture and traditions. At the same time, I show his escape from slavery in the aftermath of the slave revolt he instigated. It also touches on the history of an Irish indentured servant, Saoirse, Badu’s wife, who is escaping Barbados along with him.

Speaking of writing and your busy schedule, can you guide us through your writing routine?

As I dream of becoming a writer who supports herself with her craft, I continue to work a full-time job as an IT Analyst. When my workday is done, I pack up my 3-ring binder and research notes and move to my patio where I write my stories longhand. For this, I must have paper made from good stock, a fountain pen, and a couple of fine cigars. Occasionally, I have a glass of bourbon. On the weekend, I type up my notes, filling in the blanks of my research.

What’s the book on your night table at the moment? What are your favourite reads and your reading habits (for example, do you like get cosy on the sofa with a drink or are you one of those readers on public transports with their nose constantly in a book when commuting)?

My favorite read is a good historical novel with lots of adventure and/or romance. I’ve made my way through most of Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series. I’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series twice. I still need to read her latest novel.

I’m currently reading My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones for 30 minutes before bedtime. I listen to Nevernight by Jay Kristoff every morning during my workouts.

Plans for the future?

I’ve written an urban fantasy/horror series for which I am currently seeking representation for a game-changer in vampire lore. A young woman struggles with the mystery of her ability to constrain human minds, her supernatural strength, and her lust for violence. However, an ancient species finds her and pulls her into a power struggle between Djinn and the Children of Lylith. As she learns the glorious source of her strength, she finds it was born thousands of years ago with the most powerful female ruler during the time of Solomon. The gifts she found monstrous before, become her greatest asset in fighting evil.
I am currently writing the 4th book in my historical romance series, ‘Love and Peace’. I hope to get that to my publisher by the end of the year.

Any last word?

Daughter of Hades is written by a black author with black main characters, but the story is told from diverse points of view. It shines a light on little known details in Caribbean history. It’s definitely worth a look.

Oh! And the best way to thank an author for an adventure you just read is to write a review. It only takes a sentence or two to support authors.

All books by Mack Little are available at: https://amzn.to/3LErPKX


Self-promo 2023 (ep. 13): Ivan Scott

Book Three of the Redhead Series, this time set in England!

A Redhead in Tottenham. 303 Productions, 2023.


99 out of 100 people who go to Heaven stay. Meet the one who didn’t…
American soccer player Ryan Tarkington is regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world.
However, his love life sits on the bench with no hope of seeing any action.
Scottish goalkeeper Samantha Densmore is regarded as the best female goalkeeper in the world. But her team, Tottenham Hotspur of the Women’s Super League, is about to be folded by the owner, Chadwick Sutton, and with it, her career will be shown a red card.
Little do either of them know the game has just begun.
When an overeager angel mistakenly brings Ryan to Heaven, and he cannot return to Earth because his body has been cremated, a worldwide search for a goalkeeper begins so Ryan can resume his soccer career.
After seeing several candidates, Ryan is not satisfied, until another candidate is found right in the middle of Tottenham, a suburb north of London. It just so happens to be the loathed owner of the Club, Chadwick Sutton.
Ryan will save the team, then focus on leaving Tottenham to resume his search and get back on the field. Pretty simple right? Wrong!
As he waits for another body to be found, Ryan and Samantha fall in love, so he decides to give up his career and become Sutton for good. All is well until Ryan is told a goalkeeper has been found and he has to give up being Sutton, he will have no memory of who he was, how he got there, or who Samantha is.

Will they be able to both make a save before the final whistle blows? Or will their chances of
finding love be defeated?


I think the main theme the reader will embrace is that we all get wrapped up in our lives, play safe and never realise there is a whole big, beautiful world out there for us to explore and embrace.
When we dare to be great, destiny intervenes and wants us to see what lays behind the walls of safety. When we take that chance, we grow and become an even better version of ourselves. That’s when we are able to give back to the world, and to others, to make the world a better place.
Those things will never happen if we are afraid to take that leap of faith to see what’s

The other thing about the story is there is plenty of humour and lighthearted scenes that will give the reader an escape from the everyday bleakness of the news we see and hear from the world.


I live in Atlanta with my redheaded wife, two troublemaking kids, and a rat terrier named Beesley. I am a member of the Atlanta Writer’s Club and a former college soccer player.
A little known fact about me is I am dyslexic, and I have to work harder than others to
create stories. However, when we find something we are passionate about, we find a way to
do it to the best of our ability so we can give something back of beauty to the world.

If you’d like to find out more about Ivan’s work, visit his website: https://ivanscottbooks.com

The complete Redhead Series is available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/424ukx6


Self-promo 2023 (ep. 12): Riley Cain

Book One of the ‘Benjamin Blake Series’ about a young vampire crossing England in space & time

The curse of silver and sunlight, The Riley Realm, 2023


England, 1645. In a time of sorcery and civil war, Benjamin Blake thrills to report of battle and dark magic that come from far beyond his life in rural Essex. A humble serving boy, he dreams of adventures in the wider world, seizing each moment of excitement that touches his sleepy village, from the entertainment of travelling players to the chilling display of a captured witch, Adefina Corvus.
When peace is shattered in a night of violence, Benjamin’s life is left hanging in the balance, until he is pitied by a dark visitor and offered one chance of survival, the Curse of Silver and Sunlight, a deal that comes from a vampire’s bite.
Thrown into the supernatural world, Benjamin finds himself in the company of immortal youngsters Juno, Darach, Varney and Brill. Former slaves to Adefina Corvus, the vampires have seized the opportunity presented by her capture to flee – taking with them her book of magic after they failed to decipher its secret text as a weapon against her.
Now pursued by the witch’s loyal servants, the barbarian Rok and demonic Ilemauzar, the only option for the group is to find a ship to carry them far from England. That is until Benjamin stumbles over a clue at the heart of the wicked book and offers renewed hope of turning Adefina’s magic against her.
But, all the while, the witch is regaining her power that she is using to slow the rebels down as she draws within reach of her precious book.
As enemies close, Benjamin must race to uncover the key to hidden magic and become as powerful as Adefina Corvus, if he and his fellow rebels are to survive another night.


The Curse of Silver and Sunlight presents a colourful array of characters who, although young in an adults’ world, are talented and confident in facing the thrills and spills of the story – the perfect guides for the novice vampire Benjamin Blake.

“Scarier” was a frequent request from readers of my previous book, ‘Banshee Rising’, and I’ve worked to offer scares aplenty here for those who enjoy chills in their tales.

Adefina Corvus is set to be a memorable villain. Test readers have pointed out just how unsettling she is: mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

If (when) readers enjoy this Benjamin Blake adventure, there is the promise of four
more to come (flagged in the text), each one set in a different century in London’s
history, linked not only by Benjamin, but also by his book of power.


Riley Cain was born in Dublin in 1968. Following the success of his first book for younger children, ‘The Halloween House: 31 Putrid Poems and Rotten Rhymes for October’ – published in 2020 – Riley returned in 2021 with ‘Banshee Rising’, an adventure novel for teens inspired by his love of ghost stories and Irish folklore.
‘The Curse of Silver and Sunlight’ is his first in a planned series following the adventures of the
vampire Benjamin Blake.

Riley still lives in Dublin, and haunts the internet at www.rileycain.com