Spotlight, Author Interview & Excerpt & Playlist: No Land For Heroes + Giveaway

No Land for Heroes blog announcement


Cover - No Land For Heroes

No Land For Heroes
by Cal Black
Published: May 10, 2022
Series: Legends & Legacies
Genre: Fantasy Western/Gaslamp Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 373
Publisher: Bearberry Studio (Self Published)

Content/Trigger Warnings:

Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader):
Civil era warfare (but with magic) managed PTSD symptoms (insomnia, triggers), Animal death: dragon facing former abuser, Violence (similar to a 14AA or light R for mention of blood), drug use (medicinal, recreational)

Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):
Physical Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Domestic violence, Death of older children during war, Child abandonment, slavery, mild sexism, fictional racism (humans vs elves vs orcs, etc)


Mildred Berry is down to her last four bullets…

In a wild west where the only things more dangerous than outlaws are dragons, Deputy Berry is struggling to protect her town and keep her family fed. As a last resort, she robs a train for ammunition only to find that the cargo she needs so badly was owned by war hero Frederic Rousseau.

The same Frederic Rousseau whom she served during the Amelior Civil War. The same Frederic Rousseau she’s been hiding from for the last five years.

Millie knows a secret that could ruin Rousseau’s life, and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her from telling the truth. With her violent past bearing down on the life she’s built for herself, Millie has to decide how far she’ll be willing to go to keep her town safe.

Universal Link



Chapter 2: Red Hands

The train was still burning when the sun peeked over the horizon, painting the ugly clouds of smoke golden. The four women had offloaded the crates of ammunition and horses before the fire reached them. But now, exhausted and standing in the middle of a scorched patch of prairie, they watched what remained of the famed Blue Bullet burn.

“You’ve outdone yourself, Mildred,” Annie said, sucking on her teeth. The dark-skinned elf rested her hands on her hips as she studied the wreckage. “I used to think Auntie’s stories about you were made up, but destroying a whole train? Impressive.” Annie’s braids were pulled back, though one had caught a stray ember and smouldered where it rested against her broad shoulder. The smell of burning hair was masked by the heavy sulphur-musk of dragonfire and the far more pleasant scent of burning prairie. Either Annie hadn’t noticed, or she didn’t care.

“You shouldn’t believe everything your aunt says.” Millie winced as Sweetpea worked the piece of shrapnel out of her back and the elf scraped the heel of her moccasin against the crate she sat on, trying to get rid of the maker’s mark branded into the wood. The stylized initials ‘F’, ‘A’ and ‘R’ were ones she’d hoped to never see again, but kept turning up like a bad penny. If she were younger, the feeling of ‘getting back’ at the owner of those initials would have been the best thing in the world. Now, a tired, scarred, weary, Millie wondered if she was inviting more trouble into her life. The town needed those bullets. It didn’t matter who Millie had to steal them from.

“Now that’s not fair,” Sweetpea said, continuing to work on Millie’s back. The arroyan woman’s tail swished against her skirts as she concentrated. Somehow, despite all the fire, Sweetpea’s ruffles remained unscathed. “Millie didn’t ask the dragon to come attack the train.” She paused and leaned around to look at her patient with her big mismatched eyes: one blue, one gold. Sweetpea’s expression was warm and kind, despite the smear of Millie’s blood across her pink nose.

“You didn’t ask the dragon to help, did you?” she asked, lifting her eyebrows. High arroyans were interesting if you’d never met one before. They looked a little like elves and a little like orcs until you saw their horns and tails. Sweetpea’s horns were delicately curled, like her hair. Other than her eyes, Sweetpea was entirely pink: her skin was rosy, her freckles a shade or two darker, and her hair was the softest shade of blush.

“No,” Millie said slowly. “I did not plan on the dragon attacking the train while Ryan and I were on it.” She looked over at Ryan. The human was no help, grinning at Millie from where she sat on another liberated crate with the massive dog leaning into Ryan like he hadn’t seen her in years. His massive head rested on her shoulder while he was still sitting on the ground, his tail sweeping ash back and forth.

Fyodor was unnaturally big, even for a mastiff.

“In hindsight,” Ryan said, patting her oversized baby of a dog. “It’s a good thing the distraction went off early. Otherwise, things could have been much worse.” Fyodor whined when Ryan stopped petting him and he shoved his face into her shoulder, nearly knocking her off the crate she sat on.

“It went off too early?” Sweetpea asked, mismatched eyes going wide. “What happened? The spell starts when you set it. Was the train late?”

“I thought West-Colfield always ran on time,” Annie said, sarcastically. She was still staring at the tangle of metal that had once been the locomotive. Millie wondered which stories her aunt had told her if the other elf had thought they were just stories.

“New ownership,” Ryan offered. “The train was late leaving Plainfield. They added the horses at the last minute and they had yet to update the manifest.” Ryan glanced over at where the horses waited a safe distance away, grazing on what grass survived the flames. “Do you have enough room for them at the ranch, Annie?”

Annie’s ears flicked at the question. Turning, she studied the new herd with pursed lips.

“Should be fine for a while, though we’re not going to keep them all, are we?”

“It was fine, ‘Pea. The charge worked like it was supposed to.” Millie said, letting Ryan handle the horse issue. Right now, Millie was mostly concerned about the fingers that were still working on her back. “Could we please finish pulling that metal out?”

“Oh! Yes, sorry!” Sweetpea said, disappearing from Millie’s sight. “It’s caught a bit on an older scar, sorry Millie. This is going to hurt.”

“I’ll be fine,” Millie said. She winced as Sweetpea dug her fingers in a little deeper to grasp the shard of metal. The pain of Sweetpea wiggling the shard loose from Millie’s back was enough to make the elf suck in a breath and hold it deep in her chest. She compressed the air in her lungs until she felt the last bit of metal give up its hold on her flesh. A warm trickle of blood ran down her back, but at least now the metal was out and Pea could stitch her up.

“Here you go,” Sweetpea said, cheerfully dropping the twisted piece of metal into Millie’s palm.

“Oh,” Millie said, staring at it. Whatever it had been, the metal was now twisted beyond recognition. It’d felt larger than it looked, too. “Thank you?” She tossed the bloody shard aside. Soon this would just be another scar, another story. She didn’t need to keep a memento.

“You’re welcome,” Sweetpea chirped, settling in to stitch up the wound. She poured something over it that made Millie’s eyes water from how much it stung. Whiskey, from the smell of it. Millie wrinkled her nose.

“This will stop the bleeding, but you should see if your grandm—”

“She’s not my grandmother,” Millie corrected. “It’s her title. Like ‘Sheriff’, only ‘Grannie’. I figure I’ll stop by in a few days to see if they want any of our new horse friends. And get Grannie to look at my back while I’m there.”

“Well, what do we have here?” a male voice called out. “The Scorched Bluffs ladies having high tea?” Millie’s ears perked and twisted toward the sound. Dressed only in her camisole and with the wound in her back still open, she was not eager to entertain guests.

“Now if you’d all turn around real slow-like and put your hands up,” the man continued. His voice sounded familiar, but it took a moment for Millie to place it. The strange drawl was something she heard most often at Plainfield. Usually in the saloon ordering drinks.

“I’ll be taking them horses,” Isaiah Willard said. Isaiah was the youngest and dumbest of the Willard Boys’ gang. Millie waited a moment to see if any of his older, more dangerous brothers were around to interrupt him.

Ryan sat, calmly holding back Fyodor, who had stood and raised his hackles at the new arrival. His growl was low, warning the stranger to behave. Annie sucked on her teeth and watched Isaiah, hands on her hips. She didn’t look impressed. Sweetpea, living up to her name, had lifted a bloody hand to wave hello.

Turning on her crate to stare at the Willard, Millie let out a tired sigh. Isaiah had gotten a growth spurt, most of it going to the Adam’s apple at his throat and his legs, which ended in mismatched boots. Whoever had given him the confidence to try stealing the horses had done him a great disservice. But there he was, in his moth-eaten jacket and with a clunky revolver pointed their way.

“That won’t be a problem, will it, Sheriff Collins?” Isaiah asked. He grinned, his attempt at a beard made him look like he had mange. “You keep your attack dog over there with your furry friend, and I’ll be happy to pay you with a good time.” He reached down with his free hand and wiggled his belt buckle suggestively. Ryan made a face at the suggestion.

“You bring a babysitter with you?” Millie ‘the attack dog’, asked.

“One man against four women. Odds are still good,” Isaiah said. He looked at her and pulled a face as he noticed the heavy scarring on her back. “Messiah’s tits, Deputy, do you fight bears for fun?”

“Not bears,” Millie said, deadpan.

In a heartbeat, her revolver was in her hand, and firing a round straight into Isaiah’s skull. The man staggered backward and crumpled out of sight into the grasses, mouth agape. One bullet left until they could unpack the crates back in town.

“Millie…” Ryan said reproachfully. “Was that necessary? He was just a kid.”

Annie bit her lip, though her shoulders shook with quiet laughter. Sweetpea whistled softly, impressed at the accuracy.

“He knew who we were,” Millie said with a one-sided shrug. “Isaiah’s not smart enough to realise we were stealing this, but his brothers would be. Do you really want the smart Willards telling all of Plainfield that the sheriff and deputy of Scorched Bluffs were looting?” She tucked her gun back into her holster and reached for her shirt only to have Sweetpea slap her hand away, leaving a bloody smear on Millie’s skin. A moment later, the arroyan was back at work, sewing Millie’s wound closed.

Ryan sighed and rested her chin on her hand, fingers tapping at her cheek. She looked at the grass where Isaiah had fallen. After a moment’s thought, Ry sighed again and her shoulders drooped.

“No,” the sheriff admitted, patting her dog’s neck. “You’re right. So much for ‘no fatalities’, though.”

“I mean,” Annie said, still trying to keep a straight face. She coughed into her glove. “The Willard wasn’t on the train, so technically he doesn’t count?” When Ryan shot her a look, Annie cleared her throat. “Sorry, Sheriff. I’ll go get the cart so we can load it up.” She pressed her lips into a tight line whose edges wiggled as she hurried away, heading toward the hill with the crooked tree.

Fyodor had finally soaked up enough love to let Ryan go so he could sniff at the scorched ground. Blinking, Ryan stood and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands.

“The smoke?” Millie asked. Her own eyes were stinging from it, and while Annie’s cough had been a poor attempt to cover a laugh, they would all be glad when they left the wreck.

“Yeah,” Ryan said. “I’ll be glad when we get out of here.” She picked her through the burnt grass over toward where the Willard boy had fallen.

“All done!” Sweetpea said, patting Millie’s shoulder. “Make sure not to tear them out before you visit your Grannie.” The pink woman stood up with a swish of ruffles and wiped the blood from her hands with her handkerchief. Somehow, she’d managed to not get any blood on her skirt or blouse. Millie suspected there might be magic at play given how much red the arroyan had on her hands.

“Thanks ‘Pea,” Millie said, pulling her shirt back on, careful not to pull out any of the fresh sutures. Standing, Millie headed over to where Ryan stood. Fyodor trotted over, neatly intercepting her, and nudged Millie to the side. She tried to step around him, only to have a furry shoulder block her path.

“Fyo—” she said, trying to get around the dog. He licked at her chin and stayed stubbornly directly between her and the body in the grass. Millie could push past any normal dog, but this was Fyodor, a fancy breed of mastiff almost as tall as she was. Taller, if he stood on his hind legs.

“Ryan,” the elf said, exasperated. “Your dog.”

The sheriff glanced back, and Millie saw a smile crack through the worry on her face.

“He can’t help it. He was bred to herd animals,” Ryan said, laughing. “Especially with your hair right now. He probably thinks you’re a sheep.” The smile faltered and Ry called Fyodor to heel, finally allowing Millie to join her.

“Isaiah was a bad person, right?” Ryan asked, looking down at the dead Willard. He looked younger now that he was dead. His ‘beard’ was still pathetically patchy and the acne on his cheeks and chin was still angry and red even in death. One could easily forget what he and his brothers did for a living.

“He stole food, horses and anything he could sell for whiskey. He was not a good person,” Millie said, pulling her gloves back on. She wouldn’t lose sleep over a Willard, but Ryan was made of better stuff. If Millie could help her friend’s conscience, she would.

“Did he deserve to die?” That was a different question entirely. “Maybe not yet. A smarter man would have left us alone.”

“You don’t think he did?” Ryan asked, raising her eyebrows. “You’ve told me what the Willards do to farms.”

Nothing survived when the Willards visited a farm. Animals that weren’t mounts or packhorses were slaughtered for meat. Food was stolen and crops were set alight. If the farmers were lucky, they were killed before the fire was set. If they weren’t, the Willards just locked them inside the home. It wasn’t the worst outfit Millie had seen operate, but it was needlessly cruel.

“You’re right, he deserved to die.” Millie nudged the body with her foot. “We could hang him up by Oak Creek. It’d be kinder than leaving him to the animals.” Sooner or later, the other Willards would come looking for their idiot younger brother. It would be best if they found him far from Millie’s corner of the frontier. There were plenty of people who’d shoot a Willard given half a chance. The sheriff and deputy of a tiny town in the badlands wouldn’t even make the list of suspects.

“You okay?” Millie asked. Usually condemning a kid to death would elicit an argument, but today Ryan just looked thoughtful. Millie nudged her with an elbow, jolting the human from her fugue.

“Sorry, the dragon shook me up,” Ryan admitted, running her fingers through the tail of her braid. “It had to be the blue cow from the canyons. Nothing else out here is that big. Why did she come so far out this way?”

Millie looked up at the western horizon. The sea of grass and shrub was beautiful this time of year, but the badlands beyond were a tangle of canyons and dusty mesas. That was a good question. Why had the Blue come so far out of her usual hunting grounds?

“Did you see the stamp on those ammo crates?” Ryan asked, changing the topic to something much worse than dragons. Millie scowled and crouched by the body, checking it over for anything useful.

“Yes,” she said through her teeth. The Willard kid had a flask of rotgut whiskey Millie tossed aside, some bullets that she pocketed. What had he planned to do with all those horses? And where had he left his own? There wasn’t a town nearby, and Isaiah’s boots wouldn’t have survived travelling from Plainfield on foot.

“Are you sure?” Ryan asked, crouching next to her, shoulder bumping into Millie’s as she checked Isaiah’s revolver. “You didn’t plan this specifically to rob him, did you?” She asked in a low voice.

“Sure didn’t.” Ryan was unconvinced, and Millie couldn’t blame her.


“No, I did not plan to steal from Rousseau,” she snapped. “I didn’t know who owned the crates and it wouldn’t have mattered! We needed bullets, or we’d starve. I took the best opportunity we and now I feel sick knowing where they came from.” She closed her eyes and sighed, pressing her thumb to her forehead. She’d kept her temper through a dragon attack, a train crash, and a Willard. But just a mention of Fred Rousseau and she lost it.

“I’m sorry,” Millie mumbled. Ryan didn’t deserve that.

“I wanted to make sure,” Ryan said, pulling the elf into a gentle hug. “We’ll burn the crates once we get home. You won’t have to see them for long.”

Millie leaned into the hug, resting a hand on Ryan’s arm. The idea of watching Fred’s insignia go up in flames helped. Ryan always knew what to say to make things better.

“I keep thinking I’m over everything, then I see his damn initials and realise I’m not. Is that how you feel about…” Millie trailed off and tilted her head back to the burning train wreck.

“A bit,” Ryan said. She glanced back at the tangle of steel that had once been the Blue Bullet. “All the time, actually.”

They stayed like that for a while.

“Let’s put Isaiah into the fire,” Millie said. “He might have deserved to die, but it’ll be kinder to his family to find bones instead of buzzards.”

Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma, or something else?
The story behind No Land for Heroes actually starts with Netflix releasing the teaser trailer for Godless. I was on the bus home from work and watched it, immediately sent it to some friends to yell about how exciting a women-led western would be. The premise of a women-run town that’s seen as a target was extremely My Thing, and then the mini series was released and it was all about the usual male hero struggling with father figure issues.

So I decided I would write a western that fulfilled the promise of that trailer for fun. The original version of the story borrowed characters from some friends, and was written with zero expectations. I put it up on Wattpad to make sharing easier and entered a contest that site had that was called the Wattys. (The Wattys is the company-run and judged contest, a big deal on Wattpad, as I’d learn.) A few months later, I was shocked to learn my story had won one of the fantasy awards.

I decided I wanted to rewrite the book and publish it, so despite the pandemic beginning around that time, I pulled the story from Wattpad and started on extensive rewrites. Two years later, I hit the big scary ‘publish’ button.

Not bad for a fun experiment about elf cowboys.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I ended up doing a fair amount of research into Plains First Nations and specifically the history of the Lakota people. In No Land for Heroes, there are settlers and colonies, but the presence of indigenous people is much stronger. There was no smallpox pandemic that decimated the indigenous population, and with magic at play, the guns and steel of the settlers mattered less in conflicts. I wanted to show a thriving nation that could maintain a significant portion of its original culture, which meant researching what I could.

I also learned a surprising amount about steam locomotives and train cars from that era, which order they would be hitched to each other for transport and more. Naturally, I only used that information for one chapter. It felt important at the time, though!

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
I think what surprised me the most was how easy these characters were to give voice to. They all had their own quirks develop, and only one or two required me to actively plan what they would be like. Everyone else, including the Willard Gang, appeared to show up fully formed.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
“No Land for Heroes” refers to a few things. Superficially, the town of Scorched Bluffs is hostile to outsiders, and has questionable motives. There are no heroes out on the frontier, other than Fyodor, a dog. If we dive a little deeper, the title also refers to the fallout of the Amelior civil war and how Frederic Rousseau became a celebrated War Hero and achieved fame from his actions during a decisive battle. Frederic is also deeply in debt, a drunk, and not the kind of guy you’d like to hang around. If Frederic is an example of what a hero is, then why would you want heroes at all?

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Nope, I’ve never been interested in using real people as inspiration for characters. Sometimes I’ll steal a turn of phrase, or a habit, but the characters are all their own selves, for better or worse. Early drafts borrowed characters made by friends, with written approval, but I overhauled a lot of personality and traits on them during the revisions.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Aside from questioning the kind of person who labels themselves a hero, and what being heroic actually means, No Land for Heroes is a book about facing your past. Everyone past a certain age has made mistakes, and while we might want to pretend those mistakes never happened, the only way to grow as people is to accept them and learn from them.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Oh, this is a hard question! I think my favourite part is the friendship between Millie and Ryan. They’re ride or die, and their friendship gets tested in many ways over the course of their history (and in the book). I wanted to show how strong and how meaningful friendship can be in hard times.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Hal Stratton. Poor Hal. I think he went through 4 variations before I found him as the thoughtful ex-priest detective who helps Gilbert track down missing cargo from the train wreck. He’s personable, friendly, and uncomfortably good at getting people to tell him secrets.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
Right now I’m working on the sequel to No Land for Heroes, No Port in a Storm. I jokingly call the planned trilogy “The Milliad” as it follows Millie’s personal journey. I have a bunch of other stories in the wings, just waiting to get written, so after ‘No Port’, I’ll have to decide what order to tackle them in.
There’s also all the personal stories of the supporting cast of No Heroes that deserve to get told, so it will continue past three books, but maybe in more of a Discworld ‘each novel is mostly standalone’ format within a shared universe.

About the Author:

Cal Black is a Canadian writer based in Ontario who enjoys writing about messy people who make an effort to improve their situation. Cal has a short story published, was a semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and won a Wattpad Watty award in 2019 for Fantasy. After realising she prefers to write novels instead of short stories, Cal shifted gears and is now writing gaslamp fantasy, cosmic fantasy, and has a bad habit of ‘trying out new genres’ when already full up on projects.

Author Photo - Cal Black

Author Site

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct link

Starts: September 8, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: September 14, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Audiobook Spotlight & Interviews: The Cruel Gods + Excerpt

The Thirteenth Hour Banner (1)

Title: The Cruel Gods

Author: Trudie Skies

Narrator: RJ Bayley

Length: 19 hours and 22 minutes

Series: The Cruel Gods, Book 1

Producer: Audiobook Empire

Publisher: Trudie Skies

Released: May 16, 2022

Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy


Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.

Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.

To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.

For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.

The Thirteenth Hour is the first book in The Cruel Gods series—a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. This is an adult book containing strong language and mature themes that some listeners may find disturbing. For a full list of content warnings, visit Trudie Skies’s website.

Q&A with Author Trudie Skies
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I’m still completely new to audiobooks, though I’ve written technically five books by now, three of them published. I’d been aware of how popular audiobooks are and how much more accessible they are for certain readers. But I was also aware of how expensive they can be to produce. I didn’t think creating an audiobook would be on the cards for The Thirteenth Hour, at least not within the first year of its release, but then a friend introduced me to RJ Bayley, who explained the process in a way that sounded possible.
    • With RJ’s advice and guidance, we created a contract and signed up to Audiobook Empire. From the author side, there wasn’t much I needed to do, which freed my hands to let RJ do all the hard work while I kept on writing!
    • And then one day, BAM! The audiobook was done! And it was divine.
  • Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
    • Nah, I think all fictional books have the potential to be amazing audiobooks, but it comes down to the narrator, and how they bring that world and its characters alive. Though even non-fiction books would benefit a reader who needs, say, a cookbook that can be narrated.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Honestly, it wasn’t something I thought about when writing, though the writing style of The Thirteenth Hour is well suited to narration, I think, due to the first-person voice throughout. The only difficulty comes with voices that the characters may be hearing inside their heads, but RJ managed that, and the other races, really well with differing voices and accents.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • A good friend of mine from the blogging community recommended RJ! At the time, I hadn’t been seriously considering doing an audiobook, but many bloggers had wonderful things to say about RJ and his talents. We shared a few DM’s on Twitter where RJ went over process with me, as I was still new to audiobooks. RJ was so friendly to talk with, that I thought screw it, let’s do it! And that’s one of the best YOLO’s I’ve ever done!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • RJ has an incredibly detailed guide on how he creates his audiobooks and what would be helpful for me as an author to send over, such as descriptions of my characters, what they may sound like, as well as the theme and tone of the book and any playlist which accompanies it. I sent him over a detailed description of the various characters and races from The Thirteenth Hour in return!
    • Because The Thirteenth Hour has twelve unique races and gods, I described what their personalities were like, and then gave RJ the freedom to go wild with their voices and accents. He has an impressive range of voices, and I was blown away by the finished version!
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • I take a lot of inspiration from video games. The Thirteenth Hour is set within an Edwardian British-inspired world, and I’ve tried to fit in as many Britishisms as I could, almost aggressively so. There’re a few specific references to things like Mr Kipling and the London Underground.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • I play a lot of video games! Probably too many. As I mentioned above, video games are a source of inspiration for me – The Thirteenth Hour has elements from Final Fantasy and The Elder Scrolls – but games are also a way to relax.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • What I love about audiobooks is the ability to listen while working or doing housework, which instantly makes both far more enjoyable.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • Yes! I can’t say for spoilers, but toward the end of the book, things start getting emotionally intense, and RJ’s performance really brought those emotions to life that I think sounds better through his performance than my written word.
    • Also, there is a scene where a character sings really badly. Words can only do so much to capture the awfulness of that singing, but RJ, being a professional, really delivered!
  • What’s next for you?
    • Right now, I’m finishing up the sequel to The Thirteenth Hour, which is called The Children of Chaos. Then I’ll be launching into the third and final book of the trilogy, though I expect I will be writing stories within this world for years to come. Join me in Chime!

Q&A with Narrator RJ Bayley
  • How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
    • I completely stumbled into it. I was working a normal job before I got chronically ill and was diagnosed with diabetes. That made my depression incredibly bad and I went through some psychosis. I had to go off work long-term sick and eventually lost my job. The next few months were spent applying for jobs I didn’t really want and then, also-depressingly, getting rejected for them anyway. It was my wife who mentioned a friend of hers narrated audiobooks through ACX. Doing community radio, I had a microphone and knew my way around Audacity so I gave it a shot. I got the first or second book I auditioned for, at a PFH rate, so I decided it was worth really pursuing as a career. It turned my world around; in part, it, and therefore my wife, saved my life.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I’m an avid listener. Unfortunately I am your stereotypical millennial who is addicted to my phone. When I try to sit down with a book my mind eventually wanders to my mobile, even if it’s the greatest book ever written. Audiobooks are a different matter. I can zone right into them but keep my hands occupied, be it walking my dogs, doing chores or painting my Warhammer 40,000 models. Usually while listening to a Warhammer 40,000 audiobook! I joke that I literally have to be paid to sit down and read a book.
  • What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
    • People have said I’m really good at making character voices distinct, so probably that. I like to narrate books in a way that I’d want to hear them, so I want the audience to know exactly which character is talking when, even without dialogue tags. I often pick up interesting voices I like from movies, video games, TV or real life and put them in my back pocket so I can give them to an appropriate character in a project.
  • What about this title compelled you to audition as narrator?
    • It was a combination of the series title and the cover. The cover artwork is absolutely gorgeous which drew my eye. Seeing the series is called ‘The Cruel Gods’ massively appealed to me as there’s little more epic than having gods as your antagonist. Reading the blurb and a sample of the book and discovering what a clearly very talented writer Trudie is, I knew I had to try and narrate this. I feel like I got a sense of her ethics in the sample and synopsis, and I think we’re quite similar in a lot of our outlooks, so that also made me want this project.
  • How did you decide how each character should sound in this title?
    • I usually send authors I work with a Welcome Pack. Part of this is a character info sheet, where they can fill in how they see the character, how they think they should sound, their education level, things like that. All of that helps inform how the major characters will sound. Trudie returned an extremely helpful one, including character portraits, which was amazing for my narration. Trudie’s audiobook gave me even more to work with, however. Her characters are from cultures who generally lean hard into certain traits, such as sinfulness or earthiness, so I was able to match them with accents I associate with those traits, be that sincerely or playfully.
  • Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
    • Yes. Not regularly, but I like to see how what I’m doing is being perceived. Luckily they’re mostly nice!
  • If so, which ones stand out to you most, positive or negative?
    • It’s the positive ones. They’re really good for my self-esteem and they confirm that my approach works for a lot of listeners. I get that typical artist thing, where I find myself wondering ‘is this rubbish? Am I screwing this up? Am I a rubbish narrator?’, so it’s nice to read that’s not usually the case.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • I would ask them if they think that’s true for the visually impaired or others who can’t read, and if they’d say the same to those people. It’s been proven that different folks take in information better in different formats. I and many others happen to find the best way to absorb something is aurally. If I forced myself to read a book rather than listen to it I wouldn’t absorb the book as well – even if I wasn’t distracted by a screen! Obviously this isn’t true for books I’m working on, as that’s a very different process than just reading for fun.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
    • Don’t be afraid to forge your own path. It’s easy to visit some industry audiobook narrator social media groups and get told ‘there is only one correct way of doing things and any other way is the wrong way.’ That’s rubbish. Test common wisdom. If you come up with a quicker way of doing something that gives equal or even better results, then congratulations, you’re an innovator. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to come up with fresh solutions.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I’m extremely fortunate that my next several projects are all with the wonderful people of Audiobook Empire. I’ve just finished narrating the first The Confessions of Pavane book, The Dragonbone sword by Steven Savile and Steve Lockley, so I’ve got the pickups to come back for that one. I’m also about to start the first Dragon Spirits book by L.L. MacRae, The Iron Crown. That’s a big ol’ epic, so I’m excited to tuck into that.

Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.

Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.

An accomplished full-time voice actor and audiobook narrator with 4 years of experience.

RJ’s voice has been described by peers as a ‘well-weighted baritone, balanced & deep at the same time.’

Natually he’s got a mild Yorkshire lilt that’s trustworthy and relatable. He’s extremely adaptable however and capable of many convincing accents, or anything you throw at him really.

RJ’s broadcast quality studio consists of a fully acoustically treated room, RØDE NT-1A microphone, Reaper digital audio workstation and Izotope RX7 for clean-up and mastering for that high end sound.

So far he’s narrated over 30 audiobooks with more currently in production. As a VO he’s been the voice of brands such as Nickelodeon, Johnson and Johnson, Network Rail, Aegon, Accord and more.

He’s friendly, reliable, professional, takes direction well and always makes sure you’re happy with your narration.

He maintains he’s not trying to ruin his own career by deafening himself with heavy metal on his dog walks.

At Audiobook Empire, audio reigns supreme, narrators are hailed as heroes, and headphones are worn with pride.

Marrying pomp and circumstance with quality you can count on, Audiobook Empire is a full-service production house that produces and promotes audiobooks with gusto.

Give your audiobook the imperial treatment by producing it with Audiobook Empire.



Click here to view the full tour schedule!

Plugging you into the audio community since 2016.

Sign up as a tour host here.

Spotlight & excerpt: The Bandalore + Giveaway



Book Title: The Bandalore – Pitch & Sickle Book One

(An MM Gaslamp Fantasy Series) (The Diabolus Chronicles 1)

Author: D K Girl

Cover Artist: Deranged Doctor Designs

Release Date: February 25, 2021

Book 4 in the series is due out April 13

Genre:  Historical MM

Tropes: Slow, slow burn, opposites attract

Themes: Loneliness and friendship

Heat Rating: 2 flames    

Length:  285 pages

It is not a standalone book. This is the first book in the Gaslamp Fantasy series, The Diabolus Chronicles.

It has an unresolved storyline, rather than outright cliffhanger.



Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK


Silas Mercer died once. He’d rather not do it again.



1885 London, England

Silas Mercer died once. He’d rather not do it again.

On his return to the world of the living, Silas finds himself in the hands of the mysterious Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The Order has London society clamouring for their services, with tarot readings, seances and exorcisms among their arcane specialities.

Now they seem intent on making Silas their newest recruit.

But they want far more from him than cheap parlour tricks.

When the Order partners him with the scandalous rake, Tobias Astaroth, Silas’s new life is turned on its head in more ways than one.

Tobias is quick-tempered, dangerously charming, and far more than the man he seems. 

For Silas, surviving what the Order has planned for him will be a challenge.

But finding a way to survive Tobias Astaroth could prove impossible.


A slow-burn MM Gaslamp Fantasy series.

Contains: Sexual content, violence and rather a lot of cursing.

This is the first book in the thrilling Gaslamp Fantasy series, The Diabolus Chronicles




Mr Astaroth was clearly drunk. Reason perhaps why he failed to be wearing any shoes. Silas noted the large brown stain upon the white of his linen shirt with great consternation. The mark appeared not dissimilar to blood. His dark trousers bore a tear at his right thigh, and the material at his knees was notably caked with dirt.

Gilmore cried out, more pain in the sound this time. ‘You’re breaking my leg, you bastard.’

Silas looked to the bandalore, hoping there might be a musical direction sung to him. But the wood was quiet. He should go to the man’s assistance, Silas needed no magical trinket to tell him so. Man, or gnome, Gilmore was in clear distress. But Silas hesitated.

‘Dear me, do you think I would truly do such a thing?’ Tobias’s words got away from him, slipping and sliding from his intoxicated tongue. A shadow curved around his right eye, a rising bruise.

‘I know you would,’ Gilmore hollered. ‘You crave harm more than your cock craves fucking.’

With no warning, Tobias landed a punch against Gilmore’s belly. Half-hearted as it was, it at last spurred Silas from his reticence. He took a step forward.

‘Now, see here-‘

‘Tobias! Set him down, now.’ Jane moved across the green, clad in a nightgown of the most delicate white lace. Combined with her airy way of moving, it was as though a ghost rushed towards them. ‘Now, Pitch. I will not ask you again.’

The man’s smile was a cruel slash across his damaged face. ‘As you wish. Catch him if you can.’

He lowered Gilmore and seemed certain to set him down, albeit on his head, but at the very last moment, he drew back his arm and swung the frantic Gilmore straight up into the air. Without an ounce of effort apparent, Tobias’s throw sent the screaming, kicking man skyward. Soaring higher even than Silas’s cottage roof.

‘Help me!’

Gilmore seemed to hang in the air for a moment. His scream curdled the blood.

‘Gilmore!’ Silas dashed in beneath the unfortunate gnome, seeking to position himself so he might catch Gilmore when he fell. A dangerous notion, considering the speed of descent, but the man would surely suffer grievous injury otherwise. Silas glanced at the grinning man at his side. The viciousness that simmered within Tobias Astaroth’s emerald eyes was breathtaking.

‘Stop!’ Jane’s command came with a rush of violent wind. A great force swept past Silas, lifting the hairs on his head. The gust swept in beneath the tumbling Gilmore, and at once his downward journey halted in a dead stop in midair. The gnome sobbed, hanging limp against his invisible support, drifting slowly down, a leaf upon a gentle breeze.

‘Why must you ruin my fun?’ Tobias folded his arms, staring hard at Jane as she approached, a pout upon his full lips.

The sun drifted from behind a cloud, its rays setting his eyes alight once more, and marking the pronounced angles of his face. Despite his notable injuries, his odd beauty, accentuated by bowed lips and long dark lashes, was still evident. Rather captivating, if Silas were honest, but he’d just now glimpsed a ferocity beneath the delicate exterior which lent it a certain ugliness. 


About the Author  

Danielle K Girl is an Aussie who lives in stunning Tasmania with her three furkids, cats Luffy, Sweetie and Ren.

Her idea of heaven is a farm full of rescue animals, with a vegie garden that sprouts peanut M&M’s and chocolate wheaten biscuits.

When she’s not keyboard-deep in mysterious, beguiling worlds, she is binge watching K-Dramas, listening to K-Pop or hiking through the beautiful Tasmanian wilderness.



Author Links

Blog/Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Newsletter Sign-up


Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

Scroll Up