Tesla and Holmes: An Interview with Author Martin Hill Ortiz

Martin Hill Ortiz has written many novels that explore the thrilling side of history. Açedrex editor Jessica Knauss asked him about his process and his literary heroes.  A Predator’s Game debuted on March 30.


JK: What’s special or different about writing a prequel? Was the inspiration or process the same?

MHO: While putting together the publicity for the first book, A Predatory Mind, I assembled the research I had undertaken into the lives of Nikola Tesla and Henry H. Holmes and I realized just how fascinating they are. They had taken up maybe ten percent of the first novel and they were the best part. I decided to devote an entire novel to their interaction.

Instead of a prequel, I chose to take an event that was mentioned in passing in the first novel—that Holmes had gone to New York and stolen Tesla’s invention—and make that into a full story. The form is sometimes called a “throughquel,” but that’s an ugly word.

JK: Do you feel a special responsibility to get it accurate because you’re using real people as characters?

MHO: My answer might seem strange: with Tesla, yes; with Holmes, no.

Tesla was wonderfully contradictory: two parts saint, a man who set as his goal the betterment of the world; and one part intolerant who couldn’t deal with individuals. As Linus Van Pelt once said in an old Peanuts comic: “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” I wanted to be true to Tesla’s character.

Holmes, on the other hand, was an inveterate liar and exactly who he was is up for debate. It is possible he was a rank, measly sadist and I didn’t want to write him out that way—I didn’t want to spend time with that character. It is possible he was not terribly bright. Medical education was different in the nineteenth century. In 1869, when some at Harvard Medical School proposed to include a written final exam, the dean complained that “more than half of them [the students] can barely write.” I created a Holmes character for my novel who was more suave, more intelligent, and more self-disciplined than the murderer. I made him reflect Moriarty.


I have posted extensively on my blog about the lives of Tesla and Holmes.

JK: Do you write for yourself or for your readers?

MHO: I write for my readers. I want to tell a good story and I am happy enough when that is accomplished. I am the first of my readers, so I am demanding in satisfying myself.

JK: What is your least favorite word?

MHO: Unmicrowaveable.

JK: Do you have a favorite author?

MHO: I used to. I used to read up everything a particular author has written. Two of these were James Thurber and Milan Kundera. Now I find myself author jumping, trying to sample a hundred and one authors to see more of what’s out there. I spent a considerable time last year reading selections from the list of the all-time best mysteries. It was a topic of my blog and I managed to scratch off my reading list another forty of the hundred best.

This year I have told myself I will read up on the works by female fiction authors and more contemporary novels. So I’ve been reading Laurie R. King, Sarah Waters, and Marisha Pessl, along with some others.

JK: What are you currently working on?

MHO: I have the sequel to Never Kill A Friend almost finished. Then I’ll crank a short story or two I’ve been waiting to write. After that I’ve been plotting a Y/A magical realism novel in the back of my mind.

JK: We’ll all look forward to those!


A Predator’s Game is available in ebook and softcover in the following venues:

Kindle | NookKobo

Indiebound SoftcoverSoftcover | Amazon Softcover

Thrilling! A Predator’s Game Now Available


A Predator’s Game, long-awaited prequel to A Predatory Mind, was released March 30. You can order it now and get it instantly for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo. Be sure you’re ready to chase clues all over turn-of-the-century Manhattan! For slightly delayed gratification, order the softcover at the links below (more coming soon) or request at your local bookstore or library.

Kindle | NookKobo

Softcover | Amazon Softcover | Indiebound Softcover

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on a different, evil Holmes. Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the city. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger, and invention, Conan Doyle, Tesla, and the madman engage in a deadly game of wits.

Surprises at every turn and many moments that are so clever, you’ll wonder how the author came up with it. He must’ve had Arthur Conan Doyle at his shoulder as he wrote. Don’t miss it!


Bestsellers 2015 and What’s to Come in 2016

It hasn’t been a great money year for Açedrex Publishing. But Açedrex was founded for the love of books, so in 2016 we’ll persevere and get even more great reading material out to you readers of the world.

As usual, our best selling book of 2015 has been


These journals are fascinating reading, whatever your opinion of Columbus. You should read his story in his own words in order to make better arguments for enshrining his achievements, vilifying him, or forgetting about him all together.

Other great things that happened at Açedrex this year:

New releases

Our first nonfiction from Rook’s Page, Skinny Zen, is revolutionizing the diet scene. Unpredictable Worlds was published and recognized with a five-star review from Reader’s Favorite. Tree/House is out in a new edition and is our first foray into audiobook!

Something else great coming in 2016:

New release early 2016

A Predator’s Game by Martin Hill Ortiz from Rook’s Page Publishing.


You’ve heard of Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle, and maybe even H. H. Holmes. You haven’t seen them like this. This is the thrilling sequel to Ortiz’s fantasy thriller A Predatory Mind, coming to you in early 2016.

Açedrex and Rook’s Page will keep on bringing you books we love and that we hope you love, too. Happy New Year!

New Preorders for November

Two of Jessica Knauss’s masterful works have been in limited distribution until now. We’re proud to announce that at last, as well as the Kindle editions you’ve come to know and love, Tree/House and Unpredictable Worlds will be available on all the other ebook platforms, too!

Both books of fiction have received critical praise and are perfect gifts for the book lover in your life during this holiday season.

The magical day is November 20. Let these books be your other literary activity as you get ready to watch the last installment of the Hunger Games.

Tree House NEWTree/House is already available in softcover in many venues:

Softcover | Softcover at Indiebound | Softcover at Amazon | Softcover at Barnes and Noble

And in Kindle and Nook.

It will be waiting for you at your favorite alternative ebook retailer on November 20, or preorder today at Apple iBooks and Kobo and it will download to your device on release day.

Unpredictable 5StarUnpredictable Worlds has a lovely softcover edition available now:

Softcover | Softcover at Indiebound | Softcover at Amazon | Softcover at Barnes and Noble

And is ready for you in Kindle and Nook.

As with Tree/House, Unpredictable Worlds will be waiting for you at your favorite alternative ebook retailer on November 20, or preorder today at Apple iBooks and Kobo and it will download to your device on release day.

Please note that because all the stories (and more) from Rhinoceros Dreams have been revised and included in Unpredictable Worlds, Rhinoceros Dreams will no longer be available after November 20.

Thank you for supporting Açedrex Publishing’s mission to bring original books to a wide audience.

Unpredictable Worlds Releases in Kindle and Softcover Today!

Unpredictable Worlds

Unpredictable Worlds, the book of anything-but-cookie-cutter short stories you’ve been waiting for, releases today!

A teacher controls her students with an edible microchip. A reporter turns into a rhinoceros. A couple’s efforts to eat local go frighteningly awry. If you’re looking to be surprised, puzzled, or just plain entertained, pick up this omnibus. There’s something for everyone!

More than twenty years in the making, Unpredictable Worlds contains all of Jessica Knauss’s published and prize-winning short fiction as of March 2015 and a few of her best stories never before seen in print or ebook. Zany plots and outrageous characters will stretch your belief and tug at your heart.

WARNING: These stories contain exaggeration, elision, and disregard for “the real world.” Some even exhibit a tone of blatant optimism. However, they respect human speech patterns, admire good grammar, and hold proper punctuation in the highest regard.

If you had the foresight and good sense to pre-order the Kindle version, Unpredictable Worlds is already on your device, ready to read.

If you waited for release day, please feel free to get it now on Kindle, in paperback, or paperback at Amazon.

And don’t miss the Unpredictable Worlds blog tour, which uncovered a few secrets the author never knew she was keeping.

Dragons and a Princess with New Artwork


The Trossachs, Scotland by Shirley MacKenzie

I asked Seymour Hamilton, author of The Laughing Princess, how it came about that he met Shirley MacKenzie, who did the lovely new cover and many other drawings for that book. This is how he explains it:

I met Shirley MacKenzie at a reading soiree at a now defunct indie bookseller which had our books on consignment.  Shirley had written and illustrated a moving account of her search for her birth mother and father. The emotional impact of Shirley’s story was in her drawings, which are at the intersection between personal and universal.  She does not tell her reader what to think or feel: she presents evocative images of loss, longing and fulfillment that haunt me still.

"Ryll's Fortune"

“Ryll’s Fortune”

Shirley bought a copy of my book, The Laughing Princess, and was moved to draw a scene from one of the stories, “The Wizard and the Fire Dragon,” and later another, “Ryll’s Fortune.” I was amazed to see how close her vision came to the one in my mind when I was writing.  Her charming rendition of The Littlest Dragon, the character that ties the twelve stories together, is now the cover art for both The Laughing Princess and the Spanish edition, La Princesa valiente.

Cover art for Shirley's book, Orphan Sage

Cover art for Shirley’s book, Orphan Sage

Shirley’s search for her birth parents took her to England and Scotland, where she travelled with sketchbook in hand.  In London, her paintings feature views of and through the peculiarly English iron railings that most people see but do not notice.  In Scotland, she captured the muted colours of a Scottish autumn with a vividness that refreshes the memories of those who have been there.

Back in Canada, she continued to find ways of taking us through the picture frame into the world that she sees in such vivid detail.  Her paintings of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have the quality of a shared experience, when one person says, “Look at that!” and both enjoy the moment.

Illustration is Shirley’s latest enthusiasm.  She started with well-known children’s classics such as The Little Prince, Charlotte’s Web and Treasure Island.  Her drawing of a pivotal emotional moment when Jim Hawkins makes an important step towards manhood illuminates the text, making us aware that Robert Louis Stevenson was not just writing adventure: his story has emotional depth that we often lose in the many films, cartoons and re-interpretations of the famous tale.

The most poignant example of Shirley’s ability to read into the deeper dimensions of a story came when she drew a couple of incidents in stories by Spider Robinson.  I was impressed by the appropriateness of her treatment of these emotion-laden scenes, and sent copies of them to Spider, who I have known since we both lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory concept by Shirley MacKenzie

Here is a part of his response:

“I am seriously mind-boggled.  I just sat and looked at that sentence for ten minutes, trying to figure out what to follow it with.  I failed, but have decided to keep on typing, anyway.  But mind-boggled pretty much sums it up. The surely accidental resemblance of Erin to my granddaughter Marisa is uncanny.  (For which reason I have forwarded it to her mom in Connecticut.) And that happens to be the way I was wearing my hair and beard when I wrote that book.  And I lived in converted school buses on Stephen’s Farm long enough to recognize the interior of one when I see it.  Right down to the inevitable tape-patches on the seats. What a beautiful piece! If we ever succeed in getting the e-book rights to that book back from Bantam, that’s the cover I’ll recommend for it to my agent. Please tell Shirley I am highly pleased and deeply moved.  And thank her from me, big time.  It never fails to awe me when some words I stuck together end up inspiring a work of art.  Especially one that good.”

9781937291464The Laughing Princess is available with its beautiful new cover in soft cover: Soft cover | Amazon US | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound (shows the old cover, but never fear!)

And in ebook:  Kindle  | Kindle CanadaKindle UK | Nook | Kobo | Sony | Google PlayBook Country | and Apple iBooks

Y en español: Amazon | Amazon España | Barnes & Noble | Pídela en tu librería preferida

Kindle | Kindle Canada | Kindle España | Kindle México | Nook | Kobo

All images in this post are © Shirley MacKenzie and must not be used without permission. Please see Shirley’s other work at artspace59.com.

¡Los más vendidos de 2012! Bestsellers of 2012!

Para terminar el año y empezar el 2013 (número con suerte) con mucha esperanza, parece interesante presentarles los libros más vendidos de Açedrex del 2012.

To finish the old year and start a a lucky 2013 with lots of hope, it behooves us to list Açedrex’s bestsellers of 2012.

Juana cover1. Historia de la célebre reina doña Juana de España, llamada vulgarmente “la Loca”

¡Muchas gracias a este autor anónimo! Me sigue sorprendiendo el entusiasmo por este título, pero es natural, después de todo, que los lectores de hoy quieren leer una biografía corta y fácil de leer de este personaje histórico tan importante.

El Abencerraje Esp Cover2. El Abencerraje

La primera versión electrónica de este libro clásico, que nos puede enseñar tanto hoy en día. ¡Muchas gracias a otro autor anónimo!

Novelas cover3. Novelas ejemplares / Exemplary Novels Español & English – Miguel de Cervantes

La mejor literatura en dos idiomas. The best literature in two languages.

Don QuijoteEl Gaucho Cover4. EMPATE: El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha – Miguel de Cervantes y El gaucho Martín Fierro – José Hernández

Dos personajes ingeniosos vendieron el mismo número de ejemplares. Dos libros de los máa grandes. No hay otro que los iguale.

97819372915255. Los cuatro viajes y el testamento – Cristóbal Colón

Es importante leer las mismas palabras de esta figura tan polémica, y ahora los libros electrónicos ayudan a diseminar la verdad y que cada lector decida por su cuenta.

Nolicover6. Noli me tangere – José Rizal

Otro libro importante que no se puede ignorar.

Top 207. The Abencerraje: A New Translation

Although more copies of this book went out to the public than any other, most of them were complimentary. Enough money changed hands to put this title into seventh place.

More amazing books await you in 2013! Happy New Year!

¡Feliz y prospero 2013 a todos! En el nuevo año, podrás reír con Superhéroes sin trabajo del autor argentino Manuel Arduino Pavón y soñar con las versiones en español Un hogar en los árboles de Jessica Knauss y La princesa que se ríe de Seymour Hamilton. ¡Y muchos más!

Hogar cover

More Bestselling Medieval Work for Your Scholarly Appetite

We recently noticed that Law and Order in Medieval Spain is a huge bestseller on Kobo, reaching as high as number 1 in two categories and number 3 in a third. This came as a surprise, a very agreeable surprise!  Our new volume is conceived as a companion piece to Law and Order, and, in the same vein, is illustrated with cantigas and supporting artwork. It’s a survey, meant to stimulate interest in the fascinating social scene of thirteenth-century Spain.

In order to describe the miracles of the Virgin Mary, Alfonso X el Sabio’s Cantigas de Santa Maria show life at its worst, and this often includes violence, which may disconcert a modern audience even more than its original medieval one. This essay examines the lyrics and the miniatures of these songs in order to show how they illustrate the balance of power in thirteenth-century Spain. The role of Mary herself illustrates the role of gender and the divine in giving social meaning to acts of physical violence. Illustrated with twelve color plates.

Available now: Kindle | Kindle UK | Kindle España | Nook | Kobo

Update 10/10/12: Deu-lles o que merecian is a Kobo bestseller! Top 7 in all three categories, number 2 in one and number one in the other! Thanks for your support of this title dear to my heart.


Los más vendidos del 2011 – The Bestsellers of 2011

Para terminar el año y empezar uno nuevo con mucha esperanza, parece interesante presentarles los libros más vendidos de Açedrex del 2011.

To finish the old year and start a new one with lots of hope, it behooves us to list Açedrex’s bestsellers of 2011.

1. Tree/House by Jessica Knauss.

Due mainly to a huge promotion effort in January, this title left all the others in the dust for most of the year. Don’t forget to pick up your copy for your new reading device! ¡No desesperen! En el 2012, habrá una edición en español.

2. Historia de la célebre doña Juana de España, llamada vulgarmente “la Loca” y La guerra del moro a fines del siglo XV.

Me ha sorprendido el entusiasmo por este título, pero es natural, después de todo, que los lectores de hoy quieren leer una biografía corta y fácil de leer de este personaje histórico tan importante. Nos empeñaremos en buscar más títulos de esta índole para su agrado.

3. El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha de Miguel de Cervantes.

Es muy bonito que este libro sigue siendo tan popular. La versión en inglés no llegó a vender ni la cuarta parte de la española.

4. EMPATE: Sab y Autobiografía de Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Aves sin nido de Clorinda Matto de Turner.

Es apropriado que estas escritoras pioneras comparten la popularidad.

5. El gaucho Martín Fierro y La vuelta de Martín Fierro de José Hernández.

Además gana el galardón de haber vendido el mismo número de ejemplares en Kindle que en Nook.

6. Birds Without a Nest by Clorinda Matto de Turner.

I include this sixth place because the English version sold only a few copies less than the corresponding book in Spanish. It’s wonderful to bring this groundbreaking material to the English-speaking world.

Muchísimas gracias por leer los libros que publicamos en Açedrex y apoyar nuestro sueño. ¡Que en el 2012 se cumpla aún más!

Thank you very much for reading Açedrex books and supporting our dream. May it come true even more in 2012!