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Author Spotlight: Hell Holes: What Lurks Below by Donald Firesmith

Welcome to this week’s Friday Author Spotlight! Today I have Donald Firesmith with his debut novel, Hell Holes: What Lurks Below.

donald-firesmithA computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.

By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.

Connect with the Author

Amazon Author Page
Smashwords Author Page
Facebook Fan Page

About the Book

hell-holes-1Hell Holes 1: What Lurks Below is book one in the Hell Holes series of modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels.

A geologist, his climatologist wife, two graduate students, a local newspaper reporter, an oil company representative, and a field biologist travel to one of dozens of huge holes that have mysteriously appeared in the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska. Their mission is to research these strange craters that threaten financial and environmental catastrophe should they open up under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline or any of the many oil wells and smaller pipelines that feed it. Unfortunately, a far worse danger lurks below, one that threatens to destroy all of humanity when it emerges. Who will live and who will die on Hell Day and as the team flees south towards Fairbanks?

Available free from most retailers!

Get it today on Amazon, AbeBooks, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, BAM!, Createspace, Indigo, Kobo, and Smashwords!

Keep reading for an interview with the author:

Why did you decide to be a writer?

I always loved writing. Back in high school, I read literally hundreds of science fiction books, often had story ideas, and wrote lots of short stories. Once I had a decade of experience developing software, I started writing system and software engineering books based on what I learned working on real projects and eventually published seven. More recently, I started writing fiction again.

Do you have a “day job”? If so, what do you do?

I work as a system and software engineer at the Software Engineering Institute, a Federal Research and Development Center. I help the United States Government acquire large complex software-reliant systems.

What genres do you write?

I primarily write modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels. I also write software and system engineering technical books.

What inspires you to write?

I often get my ideas from the latest advances in science and technology.

What authors/books have most influenced you?

I was greatly influenced by the science fiction Grand Masters: Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. I also read the works of Tolkien many times.

If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?

That’s a hard question. I read the works of dozens and dozens of authors and would find it hard to concentrate on any one author. For example, when preparing to write the second book in my Hell Holes series (which is told from the first person point of view of a strong female character), I read a very large number of books by female authors having strong female lead characters.

When did you first consider yourself an author?

For nonfiction, after my first technical book was published and I had a physical copy in my hands. For my novels, when I started getting multiple positive reviews from people I did not know (i.e., when I could legitimately say that I has beginning to have fans).

What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?

There are two obstacles: finding time to write when I have a full-time day job and marketing as an indie author. Since I enjoy writing so much, the first obstacle is more of an annoyance than a hindrance. I spend a lot of time using social media, trying to get reviews in book blogs, and developing connections with other authors.

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received as an author?

I received the following Amazon Review: “This novel follows on from the first novel, Hell Holes – What Lurks Below and is, again, written in journal form but this time by Dr. Angela Menendez, the wife of the author of the first journal. She follows on more-or-less where the last account ended, and it’s amazing that a book written by the same author (Donald Firesmith) can fool one into thinking that it’s written by a completely different person. Such is the strength of the writing that the new “author” (Dr. Menendez) shines through and her personality & writing style is quite different to that of the other journal’s surrogate author, her fictional husband.”

What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?

Reading, obviously. I can imagine being a writer without being an avid reader. I also make unique, hand-crafted magic wands from various woods and gemstones, which ties in with my book, Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore.

What book or series do you enjoy reading over and over again?

The Tolkien Trilogy never grows old. In fact, it was the one book in English that I took with me when I spent a year abroad studying at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich. Interestingly, I often listen to the German language audio books when making long solo car trips.

How many books do you have on your “to read” list? What are some of them?

I have at least 50 books that I have downloaded onto my Kindle Fire and not yet started. I typically read two books simultaneously, and finish most within a week. Most are paranormal fantasy books by new female indie authors.

What made you decide to self-publish?

I got tired of my traditional publishers not doing an adequate job of marketing the books. I also really appreciate the ability to put out updated editions anytime I want without waiting for the publisher to sell enough thousands of copies to ensure their profit.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I typically take 9 months to complete the first edition and another couple months of rewrites, copy editing, and beta readers.

Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?

To the extent possible, I make as much of my non-paranormal content as real as possible. I feel it makes the paranormal fantasy and science fiction aspects of the books more believable. For example, Hell Holes 2: Demons on the Dalton involved a trip to Alaska and the Dalton Highway, a visit to Eielson Air Force Base including all of the locations in book 2 and book 3. I used Google and Google Maps Street View extensively and had three major military advisors on the military aspects of the book.

Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from something really bizarre? Tell us about it.

The Hell Hole series was triggered by the actual discovery in 2014 of several mysterious huge holes in the frozen tundra of northern Siberia. I asked myself what would happen if several hundred such holes instantly appeared all around the Arctic Circle.

What are you working on now?

I am about one-fourth of the way through writing the initial draft of Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back.

I’m Interviewing My Readers!



I really love getting feedback from my readers, so I’ve decided to set up an interview just for you. If you decide to fill out the form, I will publish your interview on my blog (only if you want… it’s okay if you just want me to see it too) with a link back to any site you’d like.

It’s a simple interview, and you can answer as many or as little questions as you’d like about my writing. Of course, if you haven’t read my work yet, you can download my serial bundle, Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6) free.

And Another Bonus!

Everyone who fills out the form (honestly and without flaming comments) will be automatically entered in a quarterly giveaway for a $10 gift card from Amazon as my thanks for taking the time to give me your feedback!

So hurry and do the reader interview today!

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Virtual FantasyCon – Author Interview: Renee Scattergood

Originally posted on the Virtual FantasyCon 2016 Blog:

bratpicRenee Scattergood is the author of the Dark Fantasy series, Shadow Stalker. She lives in Australia with her husband, Nathan, their daughter, Taiya, and their four fur friends. She prefers to spend her free time with her family and reading fantasy novels.

What is your chosen genre, and why?

I write dark fantasy, though I didn’t set out to write it. I knew I wanted to write fantasy because I’ve loved reading fantasy since I was a kid, and when I started writing, it just came out the way it did. I’m still not sure if I should be worried about that.

Name of your most current book, and if it’s a series, what is the series title and how many volumes are anticipated?

Shadow Stalker is the serial I’m working on at the moment. It’s going to be 24 episodes long, and I’m bundling it into four parts with six episodes in each. I’m working on Part 3 (Episodes 13 – 18) right now, and next year I’ll be releasing Part 4 (Episodes 19 – 24).

Summary for your most current book.

Auren learns she is destined to enslave the people of her world, and Drevin, emperor of the Galvadi Empire is determined to end her life before it happens. Her foster father, Kado, has sworn to protect her and trains her as a shadow stalker. But her training is cut short, when their people are overrun by the Galvadi Empire. Now she has to find a way to help her people without succumbing to the prophecy.

Who is your favorite character in the story?



While he’s not the main character, he’s the first character I came up with. I was reading The Celestine Prophecy and he just popped into my head fully formed. I knew he would be the mentor to my main character. I can’t explain why he’s my favorite except that I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him, even when he’s being completely unreasonable.

Are there any short stories or companion novella’s?

I do have a couple of short stories I’ve written. One is a prequel story to the serial, called Escape From the Dark Isle, and it’s free to read on my blog. I also have a prequel novella called, Demon Hunt, that takes place a year before the start of my Shadow Stalker serial.

What inspired you to write it?

As I mentioned before, I came up with my character, Kado, while reading The Celestine Prophecy. Once I had the character in my head, the story starting coming together in my head. I couldn’t think of anything else, so I knew I would have to write it. Oddly, at the time, I had pretty much given up on writing because a few years before then I lost an entire completed manuscript when my computer crashed. You never think it will happen to you until it does. I didn’t feel passionate about writing since then until Kado popped into my head and nagged me until I began writing their story.

Would you like to share an excerpt with us?

From Shadow Stalker: The Hidden Truth (Episode 1):

Shadow Stalker Part 1 (2)“Auren, this is my friend, Cathnor.”

I shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Auren.”

Kado and Cathnor began talking in a strange language as they led the way toward a path in the woods. The island was a lot warmer and humid than I was used to. Standing in the direct sunlight was like being under a heat lamp, but it didn’t help the humidity levels, it was much cooler in the shade of the trees. The palm trees hinted at the possibility that we were in the tropics, but there were no tropical islands anywhere near the Serpent Isles. As far as I knew, closest one was several days travel from Nadiria.

The plants and flowers were amazing. They were large, as though the island was home to giants, and their honey and lavender scent made my mouth water. I felt myself drawn to them as though there was an invisible leash pulling me towards them. I started walking over to one of the blossoms when Kado caught my arm and pulled me back.

“Do not stray from the path or touch any of the plant life, Auren. Some of it is very venomous.”

I nodded, and he resumed his conversation with Cathnor. Venomous? That didn’t make sense. I scrutinized the seemingly harmless plants and frowned. They didn’t have fangs or stingers that I could see. After jogging to catch up with the two men, I attempted to listen in on their exchange. Somehow it seemed I should understand what they said. It was as though the meanings of the words floated in my mind, but eluded me when I focused on them. Kado appeared to be agitated about something, although he never changed his tone. It took about twenty minutes to reach the outskirts of a village where another man was waiting for us. To my surprise, Kado hugged him as well, although it was a bit less enthused.

“Auren, this is Sephir. He is my daughter’s guardian, and up until this moment my most trusted friend.”

Sephir raised an eyebrow at Kado, and then shook my hand. “It’s good to meet you, Auren.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

I looked around for Kado’s daughter, expecting she would be there to greet him. Kado didn’t seems surprised she wasn’t there, though. I thought about what he said about Sephir being his most trusted friend until now, and wondered if something had happened to her.

“We will talk soon, Kado. I will fill you in on everything,” Sephir said.

Kado gave him a curt nod, and waved for me to follow him. We left the two men there as Kado led me to a small hut, a very small hut. It was nothing more than a round room with a small place for a fire, a little table in the center and a cot toward the back. A young woman, with dark hair and green eyes like Kado’s, sat at the table. She looked like she could have been Kado’s daughter, but Kado didn’t seem as happy to see her as I would have expected if it had been her. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around him as soon as he entered the hut.

“Kado! It’s so good to see you. We sensed you coming late yesterday, so I’ve been freshening up your home for you. There was dust and spider webs everywhere, and I thought you’d appreciate having it cleaned. I’ve missed you so much.” She looked at me, and before I knew what was happening, she flung her arms around me. “You must be Auren! I’ve been waiting so long to meet you even though I didn’t know who you were until yesterday. I mean I knew who you were but not ‘who’ you were. It’s so great to finally meet you and have you back where you belong.”

I glanced at Kado, and he shrugged.

“Oh where are my manners. I’m Calista. You can call me Cali. I’m Kado’s niece. I haven’t seen him since I was five, except in the shadow world, but he’s my favorite uncle, and I have been so excited about seeing him again, you know…here.”

“Hi Calista,” I said, taking a step back toward Kado before she got it in her head to hug me again.

“Cali! Call me Cali. Everyone does.”

“Okay, Cali.”

Kado put his arm around his niece and guided her toward the door. “Thank you, Cali. It’s nice seeing you again, but Auren and I have something to do. We can spend time together tomorrow.”

“Okay, see you both later then. Oooo, this is so exciting!”

Kado shook his head as he closed the door behind her. “I thought she would grow out of that.”

“I don’t know. She’s given me hope.”

Kado raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Well at least it’s obvious now not all shadow stalkers are overly serious people who don’t know how to enjoy themselves.”

“I enjoy myself plenty,” Kado said rolling his eyes, then he became solemn again. “The next phase of your training begins now. I have to warn you the next few weeks or so are going to be very difficult for you. We have a lot to catch up on and you are not used to the intensity of this kind of training. For what’s coming, I want you to keep in mind even when you can’t see me, I am there.”

“Kado, you’re not making sense.”

“You’ll understand soon.”

“You know I hate it when you say that, right?” I slumped into the chair that Cali had been occupying moment ago.

Kado gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Come with me. You can leave your things here.”

I followed him across the village. Some people waved, but no one came to greet us. It appeared as though they avoided us on purpose. Kado didn’t have his usual scowl on his face, so I didn’t understand why they stayed away. On the outskirts of the village, sitting at the bottom of the volcano, there was a huge lake with black water. In fact, the water was so dark it looked like a mirror made from onyx. The lone mountain occupying most of the central part of the island reflected on its surface.

We stopped in front of a well not far from the lake.

“Are you ready?” Kado asked me.

“Ready for what?”

He removed a wooden lid covering the well and took a rope from a hook inside the opening. “You will need to climb down into the hole.”

“And then what?”

 “Well, that will be up to you.”

“You’re not making sense again.”

He tilted his head toward the well. “Go on.”

I sighed. This seemed like a silly lesson. I had rappelled down many cliffs and into many caverns with Kado over the years. It was nothing new to me. Maybe he was going to start with the easy stuff. I grabbed the rope and sat on the wall of the well. Then I swung my legs over the side and started my descent.

It looked a lot deeper than it was. It was so dark I couldn’t see the bottom, and the opening became snugger as I lowered myself into the hole. By the time I reached the bottom, the walls touched me on all sides, but not enough to slow my progress. Then it opened up, and I found myself in a cavern of some sort. A little further, and my feet were on the ground.

I waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness and then looked around the open space. The walls were obscured from view, but I heard the burbling of an underwater spring nearby. I looked up and was almost blinded by the light shining through the shaft I had just descended. I thought Kado might be coming down after me, but I didn’t see him.

“Okay I’m down here. Now what?”

“Let go of the rope.”

I dropped the rope, and watched it disappear through the top of the hole.

“Kado, what are you doing?”

Without a word, he put the lid over the hole and left me in complete darkness.

Do you have a newsletter or blog?

My blog on Renee Writes (this is my personal blog).

Renee’s Author Spotlight (where I feature indie and small press authors).

The Weekly Fantasy Fix blog (the newsletter is a collaboration between me and two other authors and this is the blog we set up to help promote the newsletter).

Subscribers to our newsletter get 3 free ebooks:

  • Shadow Stalker Part 2 (Episodes 7 – 12) by Renee Scattergood
  • Ancient Voices: Into the Depths by Allison D. Reid
  • The Midwinter Sellsword by Joshua Robertson

What kinds of things do you write or showcase on them?

On my Renee Writes blog, I generally write weekly posts about what’s going on with me and my writing, updates on my works in progress and occasionally I also share a sneak peek. Every Friday I do an author spotlight for another fantasy/science fiction author. I also participate blog tours and I’ll host guest posts from other authors as well.

On Renee’s Author Spotlight I do features for indie and small press authors.’

On our Weekly Fantasy Fix newsletter we try to cater to both writers and readers. For our readers we share personal stories about our writing experiences, updates on our work, new releases, giveaways, and occasional subscriber only sneak peeks and short stories/flash fiction. We also share spotlights on other fantasy authors. For the authors we offer writing, editing and marketing tips and share marketing opportunities that we find.

What other places can we find you?

Amazon Author Page
Smashwords Author Page
BookBub Author Page
Goodreads Author Page
Renee’s Shadow Stalkers
Facebook Page

Where can I purchase a copy of your book?

Shadow Stalker Part 1 (Episodes 1 – 6) is a free download!

Do you have a website?

Renee Writes

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I do Author Spotlights every Friday, and I'll be glad to be a host for blog tours and guest posts. Get the details if you're interested.

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