Monday, June 24, 2013

Character interview with Sabre from The Cyber Chronicles

Interviewer: Vanessa Finaughty

Series author: TC Southwell

I’ve recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sabre from best-selling author TC Southwell’s sci-fi fantasy series, The Cyber Chronicles. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Sabre is a cyber warrior – formally known as a cyber-bio combat unit. Sabre’s metal-plated bones and internal body armour render him practically indestructible, with the downside that he can be controlled by a micro-supercomputer embedded in a brow band attached to the skull plating under his scalp.

It was rather daunting meeting Sabre for the first time, knowing that beneath his gentle features lies what is considered to be the most dangerous weapon ever created. He has split-second reactions and is trained in every art of combat, able to use any weapon, speak every language and operate any craft, plus the data stored in his brain, intended for the supercomputer’s use, is updated at regular intervals. He is so dangerous, in fact, that Cybercorp has ensured no cyber will ever gain a sense of self, with all the ramifications that stem from it.

When a freak accident freed Sabre from his control unit on the post-holocaust world of Omega Five, he befriended Queen Tassin Alrade whilst rescuing her from her enemies. Thanks to Tassin, Sabre has become what Myon Two has always dreaded: a free cyber. All Tassin and Sabre want is to live in peace, but Cybercorp’s enforcers will never stop hunting them.

The first things that struck me about Sabre were his impeccably good manners and gentle mannerisms – I expected a brusque, unhappy person, knowing what he is and how angry he must be about what was done to him, but the man I met seemed quite content.

No longer under cyber control, Sabre had discarded the cyber-issue uniform in favour of a well-fitted royal blue velvet jacket over a black shirt, matching jeans and boots. After introductions, he sat on the couch with the lithe grace usually only seen in felines, his eyes scanning the room with alert vigilance before coming to rest on me. He appeared shy and a little ill at ease at first. The control unit was off for our interview, with only a tiny amber light flashing at short intervals, indicating that it was in standby mode. This gave me some form of relief, knowing I was talking to Sabre, not the control unit.

Over tall glasses of fresh orange juice, I brought up the first time Sabre saw Queen Tassin, when she opened his casket in her castle dungeons. When asked if he recalls having any thoughts about her voice the first time he heard it, Sabre smiles and says, “She sounded young and kind of pissed off at the time, but it was a nice girl’s voice.” He gazes across the room, his smile fading and expression distant. “The first time I saw her clearly was in the cave. I thought she was beautiful, but she looked a bit scared. I didn’t want her to be scared of me. Most people are wary of cybers, with good reason, but I knew she didn’t really understand what I was, so I hoped she wouldn’t be too scared. I was afraid that if she ran off she could be hurt or captured by Torrian’s men. I wasn’t in any condition to go after her at that stage.”

Sabre’s answer reminded me of my own unease at being in such close proximity to a cyber, and it hit me again how much his past must haunt him. I couldn’t help but ask if there’s ever been a moment in time when he felt truly human without the thoughts that usually torment him. He shakes his head and says, “Not really. It’s hard to forget that I’m a freak when I have a supercomputer welded to my forehead. Even now that it’s switched off most of the time, I’m still aware of it. The only time my inner voice shut up for a while was when I was Cybercorp’s prisoner. Somehow, being treated like a cyber again made me feel more human. I don’t know why.”

I suspect this is because, when one grows up being treated a certain way, it feels more normal, thus more ‘right’. I asked if he can recall any other thoughts while under cyber control, specifically when he rescued Tassin from the first battle for her kingdom and she threatened to have him roasted over hot coals. I wanted to know if he imagined that happening and how it would feel, like most humans would. Surprisingly, he chuckles, then says what I’m thinking: “It’s ironic that I can laugh about it now.” He adds, “At the time, the cyber was in full combat mode, so my mind was full of targeting data, battle schematics and mission solutions.”

Sabre goes on to say that he didn’t take much notice of Tassin’s threats at the time, because a person with command privilege can’t deliberately damage a cyber, and he didn’t imagine what it would be like to be roasted over hot coals when Queen Tassin threatened it, although he pretty much found out when he was at Cybercorp.

When one wears something often, such as a watch, and neglects to wear it one day, one often feels naked without it. Sabre feels the same way when his scanners aren’t working. “My combat abilities are compromised when I’m not using the scanners; enemies could sneak up on me. So I feel a bit exposed, which makes me tense. Tassin doesn’t like me using the control unit, so I switch it off when she’s around, mostly. There are times when I forget to check the scanners, though.”

When asked how he feels about so many strangers reading all the intimate details of his life in The Cyber Chronicles, Sabre says, “Kind of weird. I doubt they can relate to what I went through, even though the author did a fairly good job of explaining my feelings and motivations.”

We all have intense likes and dislikes, and Sabre’s are no different to those most of us can relate to. “I most dislike Myon Two. Someone needs to blow up that shithole planet and all the shitheads who work at Cybercorp. Whoever came up with the idea of turning human clones into cyborg fighting machines should have been shot. Sure, we’re faster than robots and androids, but why is it that humans are capable of torturing their fellows without compunction? Did no one ever think that the men they use suffer horribly?” He shakes his head. “Tassin’s who I like the most, of course. Without her, my life would be empty even if I was still free, and I wouldn’t be free, so… she makes it all worthwhile.”

My eyes rest on Sabre’s scars. He notices and glances down at his hands. I know about those caused by the operations to fit barrinium to his bones, but he rolls up his right sleeve to reveal pale, swirling patterns on his forearm. “These are from my fight with the Core. The neosin was so concentrated it burnt me. The rest are from sword cuts or laser burns from all the battles I’ve been in. It would take hours to tell you about all of them, and I don’t really like to talk about them.”

Speaking of battles, I point out that it must be difficult to know who is trustworthy when one has so many enemies. I’d heard that a cyber’s scanners help with regards to that and asked Sabre to please explain how. He grins and wags a finger. “Cyber design is classified, you know.” He snorts and his grin fades to a smile. “Cybercorp would have fits if they knew I was telling people this stuff. It’s one of the reasons they’ll never stop hunting me; I know all their secrets. The cyber can detect when people are lying, thanks to the bio-scanners. The scanners are complex, but I’ll try to explain them in simple terms. There’s a row of microscopic emitters along the top of the brow band; they emit engineered subatomic particles in faster-than-light sweeps, which are designed to reveal a lot of information when they encounter matter. They’re a bit like invisible light, or X-rays. The row of receptors is at the bottom of the brow band. The cyber analyses the information, so I know what’s biological, mineral or vegetable. I can tell if it’s a man, whether or not he’s armed and with what sort of weapons.”

Sabre pauses to take a sip of his orange juice. “Since all brains have a different neural configuration, I can tell what species the scanners have detected, and I can identify individuals by their brain configuration. If I tag a brain scan result, I can recognise a person from afar. The bio-scanners’ field of detection is one hundred and eighty degrees, a little further than the brow band extends around my forehead, which is why I have to turn my head to detect things behind me unless they’re close.” He smiles again. “I hope that was simple enough.”

By now, my brain is overloaded. I ask Sabre what he thinks the most overrated trait or virtue is in a person. He laughs and says, “What a strange question. I’m not really sure. I’m still learning about what it is to be human. There’s a lot to it.” He ponders for a moment. “I’d have to say honesty, because I know when someone’s lying and that tells me a lot about them, whereas people who tell the truth are more difficult for me to read. All I know is they’re being truthful, while that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re trustworthy.”

Sabre’s closest friend is Tassin, and he trusts her completely. They met almost four years ago and she taught him that he’s human even when he doesn’t feel like one. Tassin never doubted or gave up on Sabre, and taught him what love is and that he’s capable of it. He also learnt through her that being human is more than having human DNA – it’s about being worthy, noble and honourable.

Sabre is pretty sure that Tassin returns his trust, but acknowledges that won’t always stop her from being afraid. “She gets a bit freaked out when I take off the anti-collision and fly the shuttle through a forest at speed, even though it’s perfectly safe when I’m in control. Tarl only came once. I think he’s afraid I’ll give him a heart attack. When I invited him again, he asked if he had ‘idiot’ tattooed on his forehead. Kole never had the nerve, although he tried to get Martis to try it. He didn’t, either, but Estrelle did. She knows what the control unit can do. I have to use it for that.” He chuckles. “I don’t see the problem. Adrenaline is good for you!”

The first thing Sabre tends to notice about people is their threat level, and the biggest lie he’s ever told was to Tassin, but that was in order to save her life. The only thing to date that makes Sabre queasy is beer. “The first time I hurled was after I got drunk at that inn in Arlin. It wasn’t a fun experience.”

Sabre frowns when admitting that the torture of cyber hosts makes him angrier than anything else. He would like to put an end to that, but feels there’s not much he can do about it. After being a slave to the cyber for most of his life, Sabre is understandably not fond of authority figures in general. “The freedom to make my own decisions and live my life the way I want to is a wonderful thing. Tassin tries to boss me around sometimes, but she doesn’t have much success. The rest will get thumped if they try.” He smiles and shakes his head. “I’m kidding, of course, and they know better by now.”

I have to wonder how they learnt to know better unless they’d been thumped a few times… but I don’t dare ask.

Sabre’s favourite smell is freshly mowed grass, something many of us can relate to. It’s one of the few things the cyber can’t list the ingredients of, though Sabre isn’t sure why. He speculates, “Maybe because there’s no point.”

With that, we had to conclude our interview, as Sabre had plans with Tassin that he didn’t want to be late for. Those who find Sabre as fascinating and strong a character as I do can follow his adventures in The Cyber Chronicles – Book 1, Queen of Arlin, is free, so grab your copy without delay!

A word from Sabre’s creator, fantasy author TC Southwell

The popularity of The Cyber Chronicles series has been a dream come true for me. People send me wonderful emails all the time; I love reading about how much they enjoyed the books, and I always reply. It’s especially gratifying to hear from people who say they’ve never written to an author before, but felt compelled to tell me how much they loved the books.

Ah, Sabre is a sweetheart. I just love him to bits. I love all my heroes and heroines, of course, but I have an especially soft spot for Sabre, maybe because he’s such a gentle man despite his abilities and what was done to him. It’s amazing that he survived his ordeals with his sanity intact, never mind retained such a wonderful personality. Tassin’s a lucky girl, although I know he can be a bit of a handful when it comes to feats of derring-do. He’s an adrenaline junkie, not surprisingly. Seeing him so relaxed, in civilian clothes, was a real treat. I miss our adventures together, and hope to see more of him and Tassin, and their bunch of hangers-on, in the near future.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Character Interview with Blade by Vanessa Finaughty

The Queen’s Blade is the story of an assassin who changes the fate of three kingdoms with his lethal skills. He is deeply embittered by his horrific past, when Cotti, an enemy kingdom, slaughtered his family and familiar, and enslaved and castrated him as a child. He escaped, but was forced to become an assassin in order to survive. His hatred extends to just about everyone, save for a few people who have helped him along the way, although he is reluctant to admit to liking or owing anyone anything.
When Queen Minna-Satu vows to end the Endless War between her kingdom, Jashimari, and Cotti, she tries to kill King Shandor and capture the heir to the throne, Prince Kerrion, in order to fulfil the Idol of the Beasts’ prophecy. Her soldiers fail, and Blade offers to do the deed, since it may involve killing some Cotti. Minna-Satu appoints him as her personal assassin, and thus he becomes The Queen’s Blade, destined to bring an empire to its knees. His name will live forever in legend for the time of strife and suffering he ushered in and the changes he brought about: the time of The Queen’s Blade.
Before the interview, Southwell admits, “I’m somewhat surprised that Blade agreed to an interview, but I should warn you, his answers are likely to be curt. If you get too personal, he’ll probably lie. I hope he’s in a reasonably good mood. You won’t see Rivan (Blade’s familiar); he’ll be on the roof, as the lookout.”
Knowing Blade’s reputation, I, too, was surprised. At the interview, my first question is: “You have a far-reaching reputation as a loner and being not much of a ‘people person’. I’m curious: what made you agree to this interview?” Blade shrugs and replies, “Boredom? Retirement is dull, although Chiana does her best to either entertain me or keep me occupied, whilst also carping about my health. I thought this might be a little entertaining, but I will answer only twenty questions. Do you have wine?”
Although he prefers sweet white wine, Blade reluctantly accepts the red wine available. While he wrinkles his nose as he sips the wine, I ask what his initial thoughts were when he first heard that the newly crowned Queen Minna-Satu had vowed to end the Endless War. He says, “I thought nothing. I didn’t care what she vowed to end as long as it didn’t affect me.”
Blade met Queen Minna-Satu for the first time when he offered her his services as an assassin. At first, she refused his offer, which annoyed him, though her refusal wasn’t unexpected. He adds, “Fortunately, the failure of her soldiers made her reconsider.”
When asked what thoughts went through his mind the first time he laid eyes on Queen Minna-Satu, Blade says, “She was young, and, therefore, probably foolish. A spoilt high-born who was accustomed to being obeyed, but her being cat kin made her a little less irritating than most.” If he had never seen the queen again after that, the one thing he’d have always remembered about her would have been Shista, her sand cat familiar, which he describes as a noble beast.
As an assassin, Blade puts his life in danger frequently. I asked how much of a risk it is for most assassins, and how much of a risk for an assassin like him, who has such superior skills. He says, “If an assassination is well planned, as mine were, the risk is minimal, although the possibility of peril does get the heart pumping and warm the blood. For most assassins, it depends on how well-guarded their target is and how skilled the assassin is. Poisoners and crossbowmen take the least risks, but dagger men must get close to their targets. Of course, the risk is greatly reduced when the target is asleep. Garrotters enjoy their victim’s struggles, but they always attack from behind when they are alone. No assassin worth his mark takes unnecessary risks, but there are dolts, who soon end up dead. A good assassin certainly wouldn’t take on a Cotti prince like he was just another well-guarded target, or he would pay the price.”
Since we were on the topic of potential death, I asked how Blade would choose to die if he had a choice in the matter when the time comes. He snorts. “I would choose a quick and painless end, obviously.”
Next, I was curious about who his greatest enemy is and how that person became an enemy. Blade ponders this question with a slight frown and sips his wine. “I think all the people I’ve met who were my enemies are dead. Cotti princes, mostly, and they became my enemies by being born Cotti, although they were also plotting, murderous little bastards. Kerrion is one such, but no one would hire me to kill him. I’d have done it for a copper.”
The qualities Blade dislikes most in other people are nosiness, stupidity, bravado, boastfulness and cruelty. It was obvious he could have gone on listing qualities he loathes, but, when asked what three qualities he likes the most in other people, he smiles and asks, “There are three likable qualities?” I tell him there are a lot more than three, and his smile fades. “Not in my experience, but if you insist upon an answer to that question, I will say perhaps loyalty. Bravery is laudable too, I suppose. Helpfulness can also be a good quality.”
I have inside information about one thing that makes Blade incredibly queasy, and, when I ask what it was, feigning ignorance, he says, “No, nothing.” His eyes narrow. “If anyone told you different, they are lying.” To protect the integrity of this interview, you’ll have to read the series if you want to discover what it is that turns this man of steel’s stomach.
Blade’s skills as an assassin are second to none, but I wondered if there’s another skill he wishes he’d learnt instead. “I should have been a goatherd, like my father. Goats are better company than people, so I think I would have enjoyed that. It requires little skill, and consists mainly of lying in the grass while the beasts graze. An excellent profession.”
If Blade could shape shift into any animal, it would be a wood cat, so he could run and hunt with Rivan, and his favourite sound is Rivan’s purr.
When asked where he goes when he’s angry, Blade’s eyebrows rise. “There’s a place I should go? No one told me of this. I’m often angry, at my life and the people in it, so I prefer to be alone. Anywhere away from people will suffice, but if it is well-stocked with wine and ale that’s a bonus. Unfortunately, those places are usually also well-stocked with people, but that’s bearable as long as they leave me alone. Chiana has tried to cure me of my anger, but so far she has had only moderate success.”
To end, I asked Blade what three words best describe him. His answer is immediate and straightforward: “Cold, lying killer.”
Those who find Blade as intriguing as I do can read his story in The Queen’s Blade – Book 1 is free, so don’t miss out!
A word from Blade’s creator, fantasy author TC Southwell
Well, that went better than I expected. I think he was in a fairly good mood, although on his guard, as always. He must be really bored to agree to an interview, and some of his answers were truthful. Seeing him here, sitting on your sofa, was quite a thrill for me. He looked out of place in his black leather and gold-trimmed velvet cloak. He still hasn’t aged a day, although I haven’t spent time with him since I finished Lord Protector. He wouldn’t have been happy as a goatherd; he just hasn’t ever thought of what else he’d have wanted to be. I think he likes being Lord Protector; it gives him the power to bully the nobles, and he’s never liked them. Of course, he’s very fond of Minna-Satu.
I’m delighted with the positive reaction readers have had to The Queen’s Blade series. The wonderful emails people send me always lift my spirits, especially when they tell me they’ve added me to their list of favourite authors. Some readers have said they enjoyed the books so much they’ve read them five or six times, while others finished all eight books in less than a week! They must have suffered from serious sleep deprivation, and some said their spouses felt rather neglected.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

New Promotion On Apple iBookstore

More fantastic news! Apple Australia and New Zealand iBookstores have done it again. I love Apple! It is presently featuring three of my free series-starter books in a campaign for free bestsellers and series starters, and the titles are The Queen’s Blade, The Broken World Book One: Children of Another God, and The Cyber Chronicles Book One: Queen of Arlin. They could even be featured in both segments.

The campaign started two days ago, and was advertised today in a huge email blast by Apple to all of its customers in Australia and New Zealand. The promotion will probably continue through June 11. I’m over the moon! Australia is Apple's second largest store after the US! Thank you, Apple iBookstore, for promoting the books to such an extent – far beyond my wildest hopes and dreams!
Also, thank you so much to Mark Coker, founder of, for recommending my books to Apple for its promotions, and to all my fans who gave them great reviews and wonderful comments! You made this happen. Apple iBookstore is, in my humble opinion, the greatest promoter of indie authors in the world, along with, and its help in spreading the word about indie books is greatly appreciated! The free books can be downloaded on the following links: