In RADIO, the god Marduk finds himself trapped within the body of an opium addicted jazz guitarist. Sharing a mind is difficult enough but having to fight both the previous owner’s will and the physiological call for the drug makes Marduk’s situation even more dire.

While often thought of as a Victorian drug, Opium use was still prevalent, if waning, in 1920’s Paris. Montmartre was the main location of most of the Parisian dens. While booze and cocaine were much more fashionable, opium dens supplied the drug, imported from France’s former Southeast Asian colonies, to customers looking to chase the dragon or le Brune Fée (brown fairy) as the french would say.

Opium is a drug that grew ever more dangerous as its method of use grew more refined over the ages. The sap from the opium poppy (known to the Babylonians as the joy plant) was first eaten as a pain-reliever and mood booster over six thousand years ago. This practice was wide spread. From Roman gladiators dulling fear to Alexander the Great’s armies medicating themselves, opium eating survived for thousands of years. Then, as tobacco was introduced to China in the 14th century, opium began to be added and smoked. This process evolved. Opium sap was cooked down into a paste and smoked over an open flame. The vaporized narcotics entered the system in new more potent ways, and both its effects and addictiveness increased. Today we see it in its most refined forms such as heroin and other opioids. Its ability to help and hurt have been driven to their max.

Opium has always been a mythic drug and there are many, many assumptions and exaggerations attributed to it. Let’s dispel two of its most persistent.

First, opium is often linked to and depicted as causing hallucinations. Opium is non-hallucinatory but does effect perception. High quality opium, known as chandu, causes the user to experience hyper-sensitized senses and acute focus. Poor quality opium, called dross, contains high amounts of morphine and causes the drowsy, dead to the world, effect so often shown in depictions of opium dens. Opium is also notorious for causing incredibly vivid and wild dreams, which may be the origin of the hallucination myth.

The second myth that often surrounds opium is actually a combination involving addiction and withdrawal. Namely that opium is relatively easy to become addicted to but also relatively easy to withdraw from. Nothing could be further from the truth and that is part of what makes this drug so insidious.

Unlike heroin where addiction is rapid, most opium smokers need to have a daily habit for more than a week before addiction takes place. This often lulls users into a false sense of security. Occasional smoking is very unlikely to lead to addiction but what counts as occasional? Once a month? Once per week? Per day? When the definition of occasional becomes too often, addiction can set in.

Ease of withdrawal is also often reversed when comparing heroin and opium. While heroin withdrawal is an awful, long, terrible experience, somehow, opium withdrawal is much worse.

I’ll leave the details of such a withdrawal for you to read in RADIO or for a much more in depth account, I highly recommend Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction by Steven Martin. What started out as research turned to addiction and resulted in this modern, accurate account of what the cycle of opium addiction is actually like. This book helped my research immensely and I couldn’t recommend it more.

It’s been a couple weeks since RADIO got its first SPFBO6 review from Travis over at The Fantasy Inn and I want to revisit it here now that I’m finally done squee-ing.

I’m thrilled with the success RADIO has had in the competition thus far. Fist came the recognition of my wife’s spectacular cover design in the SPFBO6 Cover Contest and now I have this excellent review to celebrate. It’s great to know that RADIO has more than just good looks!

What makes me most excited about the review is that the reviewer found the story to be unique and that its uniqueness worked. On the surface, this might not sound like much but we’re talking about a fantasy writing competition. In a genre filled with voracious readers who want their dragons, paladins, wizards, and magic, it can be risky to try something outside the mold. It seems I’ve pulled it off and that is truly rewarding.

To see the full review, click here and I definitely encourage you to do so. To see where all the books in the competition stand currently, go here.

Finally, to give you a small sample of what The Fantasy Inn had to say, and to sum up my happiness, I’ll leave you with the final paragraph from the review.

“RADIO by J. Rushing is a book that will pull you in with the spectacular worldbuilding and keep you invested with the wonderful character arcs. Overall, it was a damn fun read. I’ve never read another book where an ancient opium-addicted god gets a guitar solo in a jazz club while an immortal demon mind controls the crowd… and somehow I suspect I never will again.

This book is also a contender for one of the Fantasy Inn’s SPFBO semifinalists.” 

Travis – The Fantasy Inn

Can’t ask for better than that.

Welcome all to the first of hopefully many posts about my journey in the battle royale that is SPFBO. SPFBO (Self_Published Fantasy Blog Off) is a competition comprised of 300 self-published fantasy books that are either stand-alones or the first in a series. The competition officially stared on June 1st 2020 and I’ve already had some early success so here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on with RADIO.

After entering RADIO in this year’s SPFBO, I was sorted into one of ten blogs who will be judging. RADIO was placed with The Fantasy Inn and I can’t be more pleased. Their reviews are top notch and I can’t wait to see what they thin. Here’s a link to their SPFBO Introduction post explaining their review process and showcasing the top three covers from the 30 books they were allotted. RADIO was one of them!

The Fantasy Inn

Now, RADIO has joined the other top 30 covers out of the 300 entrants in the SPFBO cover contest. Public voting is live now and you can vote for multiple covers. The link to the poll is at the bottom. Even if my cover doesn’t float your boat, there are some amazing covers on the list so get voting!

SPFBO 6 Cover Contest

The covers will also be judged by the bloggers/judges of the competition to find the best cover of the year.

To my surprise and delight, another of the blogs involved in SPFBO decided to do the first of a number of posts where they call out books from the entire competition list that caught their eye. Again RADIO was included in these first 27 books and I’m thrilled. Check out the article below.

Fantasy Book Critic

Spotlight: Intriguing Titles in SPFBO Part I

As the for book itself, over the coming months, the bloggers will read through their allotted books and update the world to their status, post reviews, and reveal who will be going on to the finals. Ten books will enter only one will win.

Stay tuned for more updates on RADIO’s progress through SPFBO. This year is going to be wild.