Judgment Day is the fourth and final installment in the Days of Atonement series by Martin Berman-Gorvine. The book separates itself from the three previous books by a substantial distance in years and geography. The main characters: Amos, Suzie, and Vicky, are now in their forties and living far to the south of their old hometown of Chatham’s Forge, on an island in Maryland, where they are somewhat removed from the newest god to take over up north, Ba’al, and his High Priestess, Cindy, who seeks revenge against the Israel clan, which Amos’s band is now called. While Amos is the Headman, or leader, of this band that lives peacefully except for the occasional assaults by the punks that have followed them south, it is Vicky who has taken on the role of Rabbi and devoted follower of the Jewish God Amos’s family secretly believed in back in Chatham’s Forge when Moloch was the god in charge. The trio have formed a somewhat awkward family unit, with Amos married to both women and producing a large blended family. While he is admired and respected by the small community of more than a hundred refugees that have joined them over the years, Amos still retains the wishy washy and indecisive nature that has not only frustrated the women in his life, but this reviewer as well. He is a good man, but he struggles to make decisions and be an assertive leader, allowing one of his wives and a son to dominate their community with less violent, but similar rigid ritualistic expectations put upon the followers of the barbaric gods of the north.
While the group has been at peace for years, Cindy and Ba’al are prepared to get their vengeance against the Israel clan. At the same time, Vicky has become convinced that the Jewish God has taken physical form and their much smaller group is destined to go to war with the demonic gods, like Ba’al and Mote, the god of death. Amos struggles to keep his two families and two wives, who have been at odds with one another all these years, at peace and their community whole. It’s clear that is a failing effort, and war is coming.
This is a fitting, and somewhat surprising, ending to this series. I had my doubts as to how the author could effectively end this tale, given the direction it has been heading and with the world filled with so many dark and demonic gods, ghosts, and only hints of the benevolent, if somewhat absent deity of the Jewish faith. I felt satisfied in the end-that the author didn’t use a (pardon the use of the term) deus ex machina to bring things to a conclusion, as it were. The ending fits and while this alternate universe can seem somewhat baffling at times, it has its own logic to it, and the characters who survive are not left with easy answers or solutions to their lifelong problems.
While the big picture story of this series deals with a hell-wrapped apocalyptic world, the real story is more personal, dealing with the conflicts that face the challenging love triangle Amos, Suzie, and Vicky been a part of since their high school days came to an end. It is hard to say that any one of them is a hero or a villain in this piece. Instead, they are just three humans that have tried, and often failed, to do the right things for themselves and those they care about. This is not a tale of redemption or vindication for any one of them. It is a tale of realization-understanding who you are (for better or worse) and that while this particular story may end, the greater story continues to unfold endlessly into the future. Whether that is frustrating, or satisfying, is perhaps all in how you look at it. For me, this series was both frustrating and satisfying, like the characters, and like life itself. It is the same whether you live in the ‘normal’ world or (apparently) in a demon and ghost-infested post nuclear apocalyptic world.
Judgment Day can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Judgment-Days-Ascension-Martin-Berman-Gorvine/dp/1609752430/
Wild, Dark Times by Austin Case is a very trippy journey into a world of magic and monsters that had my head spinning at times. Elizabeth Megalos is a bank teller and a former art student who is bored with her life until one of her coworker friends shows up at her doorstep and attacks her. She doesn’t just attack like a normal person, she attacks like a possessed lunatic. Moments later, in steps Eddie, who saves Elizabeth from the assault and then claims he is a sorcerer. Bewildered and somewhat stunned, she reluctantly follows Eddie as they flee and later head to a local native American burial ground. Here is where she witnesses more solid proof that Eddie does have magical powers and his urgent believe that she has something to do with stopping the impending apocalypse might possibly be true. Later, they meet up with Hugh, a college professor who is even more skeptical than Elizabeth about Eddie and his claims of magical powers, though he too is saved from certain death from a magical assailant. Things continue to get even crazier when they jet off to Europe to meet with some of Eddie’s magical friends, all in an effort to discover what apocalypse they are supposed to prevent and to figure out what role Elizabeth has to play in stopping it from happening.
The author keeps things moving along at a rapid-fire pace in a story which is described as occult fiction or urban fantasy. While those terms do a good job of describing the book, another descriptive word is the one I use in the first sentence of this review: trippy. The author clearly has an extensive knowledge of the occult and a history of magic from a wide array of ancient cultures, but he also knows his hallucinogens. That a variety of intoxicants would be used in tandem with magic to achieve desired results perhaps isn’t very surprising-communing with other planes of existence and the supernatural likely requires a much more fluid and open mind. Acid, mushrooms, and other hallucinogens play as much a role here as the magic itself and Elizabeth’s initial and a later experience with these drugs provide us with some very existential stream of conscious poetry that had me tripping just reading it.
The characters in this story are well developed-Eddie’s magical friends are musicians and artists who each have their own unique perspective and unique magical talents. Eddie is the only one who seems to have skills not restricted to a specific area of magic. He is also a mystery. He does not remember anything about himself before he met up with his friends a few years earlier. Each one of these friends encourages Elizabeth to regain her lost passion for art and to overcome the fear and self-doubt that challenge her at every step as she is coming to grips with being a potential savior of humanity. Especially since she has no magical abilities of her own.
Overall, this is a fun story with a far dose of humor peppered in with action, drama, and horror. While it was enjoyable, some of the dialog was awkward and stiff and occasionally the motivations of certain characters seemed a bit off. And if you are turned off by the use of hallucinogenic drugs, this probably isn’t a story you will fully appreciate. Otherwise, it is a magical adventure filled with some wild occult oddities.
You can find Wild, Dark Times here: https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Dark-Times-Austin-Case-ebook/dp/B07SHC8FRN/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=wild+dark+times&qid=1566439993&s=gateway&sr=8-1
The concept of transporting an average person into an alternate realm for high adventure has been around about as long as stories have been told. Authors such as Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs all took swipes at this concept over a century ago. Science fiction and fantasy writers have followed that route time and time again ever since. With the advent of table top role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Gamma World, Call of Cthulhu (among many others) in the seventies, the concept of transporting oneself into a fantasy realm took on a whole new meaning. Since then, more and more writers have embraced this concept, including the likes of Terry Brooks (Magic Kingdom for Sale), Joel Rosenberg (Guardians of the Flame), and Stephen R. Donaldson (Thomas Covenant). Time marches on, and more recently, a new subgenre has been gaining popularity, thanks mainly to the influx of MMOs, or massively multiplayer online games, such as Everquest, World of Warcraft, and numerous other computer (or mobile ap) based games where a player can craft a character in a strange fantasy world and join thousands if not millions of others endlessly questing for new adventures. This subgenre is known as LitRPG, though another variation is called Game Lit. Much like with their predecessors, the characters in these written works are tossed into a fantasy realm, though in this instance, it is a computer game universe. It may be a virtual reality, but it is with real world consequences-the characters are in true mortal peril with no reboots or extra lives to spare.
This is where J.E. Reed’s first novel, Running With The Wolves, lands. We are introduced to Kiuno, who wakes up one morning in a strange, primordial forest realm, separated from the real world where she lives in with her husband, working a regular job, and living a regular life. She can remember her life back home, but not her true name (Kiuno is her online ID-the one she created for the games she plays). Searching for anyone else in this wild and strange place, she comes across other survivors who are struggling to come to grips with this strange and dangerous place. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that she has somehow been thrust into a game she played with numerous others online called Chronopoint, where she was an expert at building alliances and facing enemies both human and inhuman. With that in mind, she forms bonds with others with the goal of finding her online friends (including her real life husband) and to discover a way out of this lethal place, which is made of ten different realms, each one far more dangerous than the one before.
While the story is filled with fantastic creatures and strange magic (Kiuno has to figure out how to manage the extremely potent and dangerous magic she possesses), this boils down to a story about survival and finding those around you who you can trust and build friendships with. Everyone you didn’t know before, when it was just an online game, is a potential threat that might be willing to kill you to survive and find a way to the tenth realm where they might find a way to get back home.
For a first novel, this is a very solidly written work of fantasy, with a main character that is well fleshed out and worth rooting for, along with the friends she connects with, both new and old, in her journeys. The editing is solid, though I did have a gripe with an overabundance of pronouns and some confusion, at times, as to who was speaking a given line-words are spoken but the actions in the same paragraph are that of someone else. Overall though, the writing and editing is crisp and the action moves at a rapid pace. It did seem a bit odd that Kiuno seems to be about the only female character of any relevance in this, the first book of what is likely a trilogy. There are other females, but none seem to take up more than a paragraph here or there, while there are numerous male characters to challenge and engage Kiuno in both battle and friendship.
Another minor criticism is that while each of these realms are quite perilous, with the introduction of several creatively fiendish monsters, it seems as though there isn’t a vast amount of difference from one realm to the next, except that each is inferred to be incrementally more dangerous. Much of the terror in this tale lies in the nightmares that Kiuno is going through-hoping her husband still lives while watching those around her die gruesome deaths as she learns how to control the lethal magic the realms has gifted her with. The monsters she faces represent only brief interludes on occasion.
The story does draw you in, despite the universe the author has created being a bit sparse when it comes to the fantastical (again, there are a few run-ins with some quite fantastical monsters, but they are somewhat limited). The hope is that as our protagonist and her band of loyal allies move deeper into the ten realms and closer to the ‘front lines’ where the war to find a way home is being fought, that there will be more to see, and more to challenge her beyond her own fears and insecurities.
Her closest friends are well thought out characters that I grew to both appreciate and enjoy, though the villains in this book were fairly uninteresting. While there are inhuman monsters that come in many shapes and sizes, none serve as more than a passing danger. The human monsters are a far greater threat and much more vicious, but unfortunately, none hold the reader’s attention for very long. As the author continues to shape this world and crafts more and greater challenges for the heroes of the piece, it is my hope that Kiuno becomes more of the natural leader her companions believe her to be.
Again, this is a solid debut novel and I look forward to checking out the second book in the series.
Running With The Wolves can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Running-Wolves-Chronopoint-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07CH47MVW/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1551067659&sr=8-6&keywords=running+with+the+wolves
The Legacy of the Sky Pendant is Jonathan Crayford’s first novel. It tells two stories, with the first being the tale of Marcus, who lives in the village of Soulwind. The village is under assault by dark strangers who have slowly engulfed the Kingdom of Termelanor and who intend on wiping out his village before marching on the capital. It will be up to Marcus to do whatever he can to save the village, whether that means fighting to the death or racing against time to convince the King of the dire threat they all face. The second tale takes place nearly a century later, when Cruise, a young man in the same village, is bound and determined to win the annual foot race that takes place there every year. His family is poor, and the prize money will go a long way in helping them fight their way out of poverty. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against him with an elite band of champions who come from the capital city every year to compete and always win.
What ties these two stories together is the necklace both characters wear. It is the mysterious sky pendant, with metal that fell to earh and seems to have strange powers that influence and give the wearer great strength in times of need.
It was clear from the first word of this book that this was the authors first attempt at writing a novel. There is great enthusiasm here, but there is a significant disconnect between the story he wants to tell and the story that ends up on the page. The primary issue, especially with the first story, is that it suffers heavily from the author telling vs. showing. The best way to describe this effect is to imagine having someone tell you about a book they read instead of reading it yourself. The author volunteers a great deal of information, whether it is truly pertinent to the tale or not, and in many places, it reads like an information dump. We are not experiencing the story through the eyes of the main character, or even as though we are there with him, watching breathlessly as he deals with countless life and death situations. We are reading a news report of what is happening to him. While this issue also hinders the second story, it is clear the author had already made great strides in his writing skills by the time he crafted the tale of the race and there is more of a sense of being present in the moment along with Cruise, rather than feeling like you are reading a book report on what is happening at the race and when he is training.
The book could have benefited greatly from an editor spending some time going over the story with the author. The dialog is often choppy and awkward, especially in the first story. While it does improve in the second part of the book, it still doesn’t feel quite natural. The stiffness subsides a bit the further we go, but it hangs with us to the very end. Many of the characters also don’t feel very real-in what they do or how they act. Simple caricatures instead of in depth, drawn out people you would take an interest in…perhaps except for Cruise and the man who chooses to coach him for his race, but even there, more character development would have been necessary for me to really invest or truly care what happens to either of them. The villains are obvious, the King is a simple-minded idiot, and so on. The plot is overly basic in the first story, and yet again the second story gains in complexity. The author invested quite a bit more energy in turning Cruise’s experiences with the race into something dramatic and worthwhile, though it still left needed more for me to really believe in it. Finally, an editor could have saved the author from his zeal for somewhat odd descriptors and an overabundance of adverbs. You cannot look at someone sarcastically, and yet that description pops up numerous time throughout the story.
I realize how brutal this review may seem, but I was asked by the author for a fair and honest review and to his credit, he knew what to expect since I shared many of my critiques with him before I had even finished the first part of the book. More than likely he will be surprised with my reaction to the second part of the book, which showed a few signs of someone getting closer to crafting a story that would draw you in and make you care for the characters.
The author wants to continue to improve as a writer and wants to continue this saga as a series. Hopefully he will also continue to sharpen his skills as a writer and seek out a professional editor and some brutally honest beta readers to support him on this path, because despite the many issues I may have seen with this work, I can also see potential in the author as a storyteller.
Legacy of The Sky Pendant can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Sky-Pendant-Jonathan-Crayford-ebook/dp/B07K4DV13M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1549575938&sr=8-3
I am happy to announce that I have contributed to another charity anthology that will be released on February 1st with all proceeds going to hurricane relief. Houston and Florida were hit with massive deadly hurricanes in late 2017 and Felicia Sullivan, who edited my revised versions of my Dark trilogy for Permuted Press, put together this project and got a ton of authors together to contribute to the project along with the artist who created the impressive cover you see below. My short, “The Collective”, appears within its pages and it is a story I have worked hard to find it a good home for several years after it was to be published in another anthology that didn’t come to fruition. The Collective is one of my ‘babies’ as it were-a story that is near and dear to my heart in many ways. This story has no zombies in it (it is more science fiction with perhaps a slight horror bent to it) and is a personal journey for one man faced with making an almost unbearable decision. It is one I could never imagine having to make myself, which is what made writing this story so challenging and yet compelling for me.
So please consider making an investment in this book-the kindle or paperback version when they are available. You will be helping a couple of wonderful charities and you will get a lot of bang for your buck with 22 different stories from some very impressive authors. Please check out the amazon page here: The Will To Survive.
When normal life collapses, peril waits around every corner, and one small slip could mean certain death. In THE WILL TO SURVIVE, twenty-two unique and brilliant voices bring to life stories of post-apocalyptic danger sure to make the heart race, the flesh creep.
It’s the end of the world. Do you have the will to survive?
NOTE: THE WILL TO SURVIVE is a collective effort by a great group of authors, born from the desire to help their fellow citizens suffering the devastating effects of multiple hurricanes. 100% of proceeds are being donated to two charities, One America Appeal and Global Giving Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
Twenty-two stories of tragedy, hope, and survival in one volume.
Complete list of authors:
Sean T. Smith
Shards of Reality is a story written in a new fantasy subgenre that I haven’t been exposed to previously called LitRPG. Given that I spent several years buried in the world of Norrath via Everquest, the Sony Online Entertainment massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG for short), this seems like a natural extension into the realm of literature for me to check out. This of course means I haven’t been exposed to other LitRPG works before reading this book so I don’t know all the tropes or rules involved.
Of course, if you’ve read fantasy, you are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of leaving our reality and entering an alternate fantasy universe, whether it be something along the lines of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever or Magic Kingdom for Sale. Those are tales not attached to any sort of game, though Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series took that step with a Dungeons and Dragons type game where the characters/players are involuntary thrust into the world where they role played warriors, wizards, and rogues. LitRPG takes this a step further, at least with Tim Long’s new series (this book is Enter The Realm Book 1) by making it so those entering the realm realize they are still actually in the game, not some alternative universe, and this game is an MMORPG, similar to the likes of Everquest or World of Warcraft. Furthermore, the game elements stay intact. There are still levels, experience to gain, stats to get from weapons and spells, mana pools to be used when casting spells, hit points, and all the lingo gamers are familiar with, like ‘Ding!” when a character gains a level, “mob” which is short for mobile, or a non-player character that you can attack, or in many cases, a monster, and plenty of other bits and pieces of jargon.
Our main character, Walt, is a game tester and slacker who has been thrust into a version of the MMORPG his company made and runs, Realms of Th’loria. He has no idea how he got there, and when he discovers another co-worker, Oz, is there with him, they set out to figure out what the heck is going on. While Walt is intrigued by the idea of being in the game he has played for years, he isn’t his favorite high level character that took him years to build up, he is instead a “noob” or a level one character with no skills or weapons. Oz, who is even less happy with this situation, is in the same boat. Being familiar with the game environment and monsters gives them some advantages, though they quickly realize that this is a rundown, grungier version of the world they have played in their virtual reality helmets back in the real world. After hooking up with another co-worker who is stuck in Th’loria with them, they discover that this isn’t just a different version of the game they’ve played, but that there is plenty more mystery involved with this place, and why they’re here. Of course, this is the first of a series of books, so more questions are posed than answered as these unwilling heroes of the realm are forced to venture forth to gain the experience needed to provide them with a few answers and the skills they need to survive.
I’m not sure how much I like the comparison and contrast between LitRPG and the more immersive, for lack of a better word, fantasy realms that people from our world end up stumbling into. The idea of looking at a weapon and knowing its stats because they are emblazoned on the hilt, having a HUD inside your skull that shows your health, mana, and how much experience you need to hit the next level does take a bit away from the fantasy aspect of it for me, though I appreciated being in the know as a former gamer, as it were. Reading this book made me nostalgic for those times, a decade ago, when I was grinding experience and was the leader of my own guild of players in Everquest, all of us striving to get better loot and gain levels so we could unlock new skills and go on even tougher adventures. Of course, we weren’t trying to escape the game like our main characters here, and their whining complaints, especially Oz’s, was a bit annoying, though realistic; a character on a screen getting hit and taking damage is a whole lot different than feeling it when a dagger gets shoved into your back.
Overall, this story was fun. Someone who hasn’t gamed in an MMORPG may feel a bit confused at points, and for those who want full-fledged escapism from reality, they might find this type of book a little bit too self-aware, but if you enjoy the idea of being thrust into an adventure and a mystery to boot, the LitRPG subgenre and Shards of Reality in particular is something to check out.
Shards of Reality can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/SHARDS-REALITY-LitRPG-novel-Enter-ebook/dp/B075RSCJZ3/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
Mists of the Dead, by Travis Adkins, takes the tradition of high adventure and adds a liberal helping of modern day zombie horror to bring something to the page that is both familiar and yet fascinatingly unique.
We are introduced to Warrel, a roguish charmer of a bard who has it made being the house balladeer in a tavern run by man of questionable means. Still, Warrel yearns for a life of adventure. His chance for something more occurs when Kogliastro, the most famous wizard in the world, decides to leave his fortress behind and venture out into the wide world once again. With a bit of finesse, Warrel is able to convince the magic user of his potential usefulness as a scribe on his journeys, and thus begins a saga that will take the old mage and young, impetuous bard (along with their dwarf warrior companion) to a strange new land filled with both mystery and the eponymous mist.
Being someone who grew up on Dungeons and Dragons, this tale has much that was familiar to me, from the magical items and spells the character’s use and discover, to the chosen professions of not only the three adventurers but others they meet in their travels. The world the author has created is filled with gods and monsters of his own creation as well as those taken from the pages of the manuals I devoured as a fanatical fantasy gamer in my youth. Adkins puts his own spin on the mix, in particular related to the gods of Erda, the world in which Warrel lives, and how his characters communicate. Warrel in particular uses an entertaining mix of the classic ‘ye olde’ common tongue and modern vernacular that put a smile on my face at is creativity.
While the story can be easily classified as traditional fantasy, Adkins does not forget his own history, which includes at least two traditional modern-day zombie apocalypse novels. The zombies our adventurers meet don’t share the traits of magically enchanted undead, raised up by dark priests and necromancers, but adhere in many ways to the zombies we are familiar with these days-those who die within the mists rise up and are compelled to devour the brains of the living.
Naturally, given my own life-long fascination with both fantasy adventure and the undead, I am probably a biased reviewer of this tale, but I must say that the characters are solidly fleshed out, as is the world(s) the author has created. If perhaps there is an area I would be critical of, it is the length of time it takes for Warrel to go from committing to leaving his home behind to travel with a famed wizard and actually doing it. While the detail the author commits to Allswell, the city that Warrel calls home, and the cast of characters he has relationships with is tremendous, it perhaps takes a bit too long for the real adventure to begin. With that said, for me, Mists of the Dead was both an exciting journey into the unknown and to places I am very familiar with and love returning too.
Mists of the Dead can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XC5Q794
At Hell’s Gates is the initial horror volume in a series anthologies produced with the proceeds going to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The overall theme of this series is general horror, but this volume leans heavily on zombie apocalypse related tales from authors with books already out on that subject matter. The stories told here are tied in with their other works, giving a short story that sometimes lies at the periphery of the world they have created or serves as an new slant on characters a reader of those works is already familiar with.
Overall, the work here is solid and the writing entertaining. This book serves more as a sampler platter of various author’s works rather than standalone tales except in a few cases, although little is lost in translation if you hadn’t read any of the books from the author’s bibliography. For example, I have read Stephen Kozeniewski’s work, The Ghoul Archipelago and his short here is based on the world we see in that novel, but I have not read anything from Stevie Kopas, but her tale of murder and insanity stands on its own quite well, though it is a part of a bigger world the author has created in her novels. The only criticism I have of the layout of this work, at least in the e-version, is that the introduction of the authors comes after the stories, when the ‘teaser’ description of the story and how it relates to their greater works should have come prior to each tale. A minor quibble, but one worth mentioning.
Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and some stories grab you more than others. That is inevitable with such a wide assortment of writing styles, authors, and story types, and such was the case here. I didn’t dislike any of the stories, but a few stood out and will remain with me for quite some time. The aforementioned author’s tales fall into that group, as well as stories by Paul Mannering, Tim Marquiz, Frank Tayell, and Jacqueline Druga. Their stories made the leap from the page into my imagine more so than any of the others. Of course, anyone who enjoys a good zompoc tale will likely find a good primer for a larger series of books by various authors to check out-with traditional slow moving zombies as well as infected and fast moving, talking zombies being found within these pages. And while some of these stories weren’t as compelling as standalones, they did intrigue me enough to perhaps take a closer look at the bigger stories being told.
With future volumes having specific themes, it is more than likely that the stories will be standalone tales of horror rather than shorts tied into a larger saga as was the case here. This is a solid start to a promising anthology series with the proceeds going to a very worthy cause.
At Hell’s Gates can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/At-Hells-Gates-Volume-One/dp/150254539X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Phineas Cavanaugh is a hack Necromancer living near Seattle who scrapes by tracking down lost souls or by occasionally helping the police out with a murder investigation. He left his guild pretty much in shame a few years back and has had a hard knock life ever since. Things start to get interesting when he is hired to seek out the lost soul of an elderly woman’s dead husband and a demon tries to devour him in a park while on the job. At the same time the police call upon his services to track down a vicious shape shifter who seems to know Phineas and might just be hunting him as well.
Things get worse from there as Phineas’s old mentor is attacked and brutally murdered at his guild and he is called upon to return to his old stomping grounds to figure out what has happened by attempting to speak to his departed friend’s soul. That is when all hell breaks loose, literally. Phineas is thrust into a mystery where old enemies and friends are drawn into the fray with him smack dab in the middle. He has to figure out what is going on and what part he is supposed to play before demons and the dead alike tear their way into our plane of existence and destroy everything that Phineas cares about.
At The Behest Of The Dead is told in first person and one can’t help but be reminded of noir detective potboilers with its urban sensibilities and snarky attitude. Phineas is a self-effacing schlub with a good heart even if he does work with the dead and rubs elbows with demons and other questionable sorts. It has a bit of Simon Green’s Nightside going for it, as well as Glenn Cook’s Garrett Files. Urban fantasy with as much irreverence as mystery, with a bit of romance tossed in for good measure. And Phineas, like other hard luck P.I-types, seems to attract the attention of the ladies despite perhaps looking and acting like he has been ridden hard and put away wet most of the time. Even though he has rough edges (or maybe because he does), Phineas is a likable sort, making his tale easy to read and entertaining.
Tim Long stretches himself beyond the zombie apocalyptic genre he normally haunts with this one, although he gives a winking nod to his roots with a few zombies showing up, though they are not anywhere near being a critical part of the telling of this tale. He has crafted an interesting world with the magical elements fantasy fans will appreciate while putting his own slant on things, making this world his and his alone. The characters are interesting and diverse enough to make them stand out and I can imagine some pretty intriguing adventures in their future. A fun read that has excellent potential as the start of an enjoyable series of books.
At The Behest Of The Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZCXA9M/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Well it is Friday the 13th and while many folks consider that bad luck, I think it is a great day…and the start of a great weekend. Especially for fans of great apocalyptic fiction. Permuted Press, my publisher, has decided that this would be a great weekend to promote the heck out of virtually every one of the books they offer on Kindle by having a sale that runs through Sunday. So go on over to Amazon to check things out. Just click on the picture below and you’ll be sent to the list of books for sale, including all three books in my trilogy: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark. Plenty of other fantastic books can be found on sale, including plenty of ones that I’ve reviewed here. So here is your chance to pick them up for either 99 cents or $2.99 when they’re regularly around $7.99. So check it out, and as they say over at Permuted, Enjoy the Apocalypse!
If God Doesn’t Show is a modern take on Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and the efforts of a cult to bring about his return. We are introduced to Thaddeus Archer, a secret service agent who is dealing with a wife who is struggling with mental illness and a teenage daughter who resents him for having her mother locked away in a mental institution. Things change when Casey, his daughter, is abducted by the same mysterious cult which desires the Old Ones return. Time passes and Thaddeus gets close but cannot find his daughter, and his obsession causes him to get demoted after several agents die in a bloody raid on the cult.
Then in an instant, everything changes, and the world shifts as the cult prepares to open the way for Cthulhu to return. But before he can come, the rift into the void brings with it shadows-dark creatures that makes puppets of the dead and sometimes even the living, with their only goal of destruction of humanity. But these creatures, or even the doomsday cult who accidentally let them into our dimension, are not the only forces at work trying to destroy humanity. Thaddeus will have to work not only with the few other survivors at his side who have escaped the initial onslaught of the shadows, but a man who has lived through many lives and has struggled with darkness and evil in every one of them if the former secret service agent wants to save his daughter and prevent the Old Ones from rising up from the mysterious island that now floats in the pacific ocean.
If God Doesn’t Show is an interesting take on the Cthulhu mythos, filled with action from start to finish and topped off with plenty of darkness and intrigue. What starts out as a personal tale of one man on a hunt to find his daughter abruptly changes into something far more earthshattering in a grand and dramatic fashion. We are introduced to Blount, the character who has been reincarnated time and time again, about halfway through the book. He is positioned as a possible savior of humanity, destined to struggle with all forms of evil in each of his lifetimes. When we are introduced to him, he is on a mission with a group of government operatives heading to the strange island in the pacific that has a dark, impossible city buried within its jungles.
The two main characters spent most of this tale rushing toward the same objective and the pacing is fast and intense. While I found myself rooting for Thaddeus, Blount is the far more interesting character, surrounded by the supernatural and flashing back to past lives filled with battles against darkness. Their separate treks are both filled with mystery and energy, though that energy dissipates somewhat toward the end of the story, with what I could best describe as an extended epilogue. Giving away more details would be providing spoilers, which I like to avoid, but I felt as if the story lost a bit of its momentum going into the home stretch.
The authors provide excellent details surrounding the mixture of Lovecraft and Christian elements, though there were some questions I had that were left unanswered about the cult and their choices of sacrifice, though those quibbles were fairly minor. Overall, this was a fun read-a nice spin on the Cthulhu mythos with a few twisty elements tossed in for good measure. Of the two main characters, Blount was by far the more intriguing and the brief flashbacks to his past lives were intriguing tidbits that I would have liked to have seen more of. Perhaps this story doesn’t call for a sequel, but it might be interesting visiting some of Blount’s past lives.
If God Doesn’t Show can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680560/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark is not a story that is all that easy to describe. In fact, for my period of reading at the beginning of this saga I wasn’t sure I quite understood what was going on in this fantastical tale of love, lust, and revolution, and wondered if I ever would.
The story begins with the introduction of Kay and Grace, a brother and sister who are in the Garden of Remembrance when a flight of snow bees separate them. This is a place where loved ones return from death in London, and where Kay will find his destiny in the arms of the icy Snow Queen, who will cause his demise but also receive his undying devotion.
We are granted a very slim understanding of how all these elements come together at the beginning of this tale-why there are these snow bees, which are both necessary to this world but are also a great menace to it-and why the dead come back to life.
Infatuation takes place in the far future, in a world where implants have tied the living together and granted them a form of immortality. Bodies are stowed away and the essence of a person can be transplanted into a new body after death. All of this is controlled by a mysterious religious leader who keeps everyone within the city under his control through the use of a pervasive social network.
When Kay and Grace get separated in the garden, they go on their own journeys-Kay with his new found love, the Queen, and Grace, in her efforts to find her brother, even though he has sacrificed his body for a new, dead one so that he can endure the touch of his icy maiden.
The story gets more complicated from there, but as with any intriguing story, much is revealed in time, and in the case of this tale, that is both a literal and figurative statement. The adventurers travel back and forth in time, with the meaning as to why this is happening to them not quite clear at first, or even throughout much of this tale. This story is a maze of alternate existences and discoveries of one mystery after another that intertwine Kay, Grace, Eternity (the Snow Queen), Reneta, the strange scientist who seems to be at the heart of much of the main mystery within the saga, and both her husband and son, who have rebelled against her and the religion-fueled government.
Describing this storyline in clear, precise details would be next to impossible, but at its heart, this story is about two souls destined for one another, despite so many seemingly good reasons for them not to be together. Nothing is as it seems in this story, which each chapter revealing a new twist and new surprise, both from the past, the present, and on into the future of the characters. This is a complex and layered mystery, which can be daunting at certain points, but once certain aspects of the tale were revealed, it kept me intrigued and fascinated to the very end of its pages.
Pigeon holing this story in a particular genre would be impossible. It is an amalgam of science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, and adventure, with a frosty haze layered over all of that. Admittedly, there is plenty here to confuse, and I more than likely missed a few key details in my initial reading that may require further review to understand all its elements, but I grasped more than enough to feel satisfied with its ending, though as with any tale where time travel plays a part, there is no real beginning or end, just different cycles in time and the hope that things can be changed, perhaps for the better, as they repeat themselves.
This is a tale for someone who is willing to stick with a story to the end-someone who likes it when an author doesn’t reveal more than is absolutely necessary at any given point. It is for someone willing to embrace the fantastical and magical mixed in with the technological while it has an almost a fairy tale-like sensibility.
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00946F0L0/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
I’m pleased to announce that Tough As Nails, the swords and sorcery fantasy anthology that my novella, “The Sunken Lands” has been released over on Amazon. Fantasy was my first genre and I love it today as much as I ever have. The opportunity to write what was supposed to be a short story but still have it accepted as a much more sizable novella was a great treat for me. This anthology is all about the classic slash and hack throwback to Conan the Barbarian type tales. Epic fantasy with the tagline: Murder! Madness! Mayhem!
And a further description: Murder! Madness! Mayhem! These are just a few of the delicious things you can hope to enjoy in this tome full of savage barbarians, long-forgotten magic, and vicious monsters. Strap on your battleaxe and broadsword and enjoy!
You’ve got to love it! Pick up your copy today-hit the link by clicking on the cover art below.
Not too long ago, I was approached by an author friend of mine with a request to help promote their new fantasy novel on my blog, which I did, happily. I tend to write reviews of horror novels, but I thought that since I am a big fan of fantasy as well I would also read her book, and not just promote it. So here is my review of her book, which I would say fits nicely in the realm of young adult fiction, with both fantasy elements as well as a bit of horror-with werewolves and vampires playing a prominent role.
Charming Incantations: Enticed tells the story of Lisa, a young woman whose parents were tragically killed in a fire, which thrusts her into a world she never knew existed: one with supernatural creatures that expect her to do her part as the surviving heir to the human representatives on a council that works to keep the world safe from darkness.
While the story provides a prolog explaining the alliance between the six races: human, werewolf, vampire, shape-shifter, witch, and banshee, the first chapter of this tale bypasses Lisa’s initial realization of what she must do or any revelations she has that there is an entire world that has been hidden from her. Instead, her tale begins with her knocking on the door of the meeting place of the six representatives of the six races. There she meets the five other generals, or leaders of the armies that hold back the evil known as goblins from taking over the world. One of them, Romulus, the leader of the werewolves, will take her in and protect her from danger until she can be trained to protect herself and take over her duties as a leader.
Lisa faces a great deal of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that she is falling hard for Romulus while she is trying to grasp this new world that surrounds her. She fears these supernatural races but must come to terms with them all so that she can insure that her status as protector of humanity comes to pass.
This tale is part romance and part fantasy adventure. There is magic here, and I am sure there will be passing comparisons to Twilight, but this is a tale on a far grander scale. Lisa is learning about this new world as we learn about it, and is forced into battle even though humans are deemed the weak link in the alliance. She cannot raise her own army of humans because the secrets of the other races must be kept, so the burden is even greater for her than for her counterparts. In some ways, this is a coming of age tale as well, with Lisa doing her best to find her place in a world that is scary, exciting, and quite dangerous.
This is the first book of what I believe will be a series, but this story can certainly stand on its own as a tale of a young woman coming into her own in a world filled with both dangers, delight, magic, and mayhem.
Charming Incantions: Enticed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Charming-Incantations-Enticed-Monique-Snyman/dp/0987874721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336631184&sr=1-1
Well, I’ve been doing my best to expand my writing horizons with the stories I choose to write, though many of them have been zombie tales, just like my novels. Still, I have managed to produce other types of horror, comedy, bizarro, science fiction, western, spy/action-adventure…so it was only a matter of time before I got back to my roots and decided to dive into the realm of fantasy once again. When I would write as a youngster, that was the type of stories I wrote: fantasy tales that transformed into fantasy adventures during my days of role playing. It was rough stuff that I didn’t want to share with anyone else, which was okay, because publishing was not on my mind back then-it was for the pure joy of writing. I still have some of the dust covered stories buried in a paper file, because back in those days I was using a typewriter. Yep, in the days of yore we didn’t have the arcane sorcery of computers to save our work, we got a paper copy of it and that was pretty much the best you could do. Fortunately, that means that none of my more atrocious early attempts at writing are circulating around on the internet. Now as for my more recent atrocious attempts at writing…that is a different story.
Anyway, I digress. I saw a posting perhaps six months ago calling for traditional tales of swords and sorcery in the style of the classic Conan the Barbarian stories and that potential authors should draw inspiration from paintings of Frank Frazetta, among others. In other words, plenty of pounding base lines, thunderous orchestras, spurting blood, voluptuous maidens, heroes NOT with six packs, but with eight or ten packs at a minimum. We were to have fun with it and flavor our tales with plenty of fearless, steely-eyed warriors who fight nasty monsters and perhaps a dark god or two, thrown in for good measure. It was to be entitled, appropriately, Tough As Nails.
I didn’t start out with a plan to write for this anthology. I loved the idea, and thought it would be great to dive back into the fantasy pool, as it were, but I was focused on some other projects at the time, and this one had a due date that was out past the horizon, in the new year. So I put it at the back of my mind and as time has a tendency to do, it sped up and flew past me to where this submission call had perhaps a month left before the deadline. I still was hesitant until the editor, someone who I have worked with before, started asking me if I planned on submitting something for the anthology. He wanted me to do so, because he knew I loved the concept and for some odd reason he’d liked my work in the past. So there I was, scrambling to come up with an idea. I initially crafted the first scene, which takes place in a tavern (the classic locale for the start of many an adventure tale), and gave my story a name, just because I liked how it sounded: “The Sunken Lands.” It sounded cool, and I knew I could wrap a quest around the idea of my hero/anti-hero needing to get to such an ominous place.
So I kept on writing, adding one scene after another, and introducing my different characters, putting them in harms way, etc. It occurred to me about five or six thousand words into this thing that there was no way this story was going to qualify as a short that would fit within the word count guidelines set up by the editor. At that point, I was in too deep, and told him that I planned on writing this tale whether it was acceptable for the anthology or not, since I was back in the mode of writing fantasy, with all the intricacies that go along with that, including all the behind the scenes “stuff” (that is the technical term) you have to put together to make the world you have crafted in any way believable. This stuff usually starts with a map, then you add history, cultures, alliances and enemies, the habitats of strange creatures, what those strange creatures are, etc. etc. And believe me, there is a lot more than that to it, but you get the idea. Fortune smiled upon me, and the editor, Matt Nord, encouraged me to write the story to its completion and he would look at it regardless of whether it fit the size limitations he had put forth (8,000 words) or it went significantly beyond that, because he wanted to see what I had come up with.
Well, as fantasy tales have a tendency to get expansive (as anyone who has read any of the more involved fantasy series out there can testify to) and it was fast becoming clear to me that this story was in no way, shape, or form going to end up being considered a short story. The only thing short about it would be the fact that it would be shorter than a novel by a good stretch. But at approximately 23,000 words, this was definitely in novella territory. Having that high a word count was the only way to effectively tell the tale in my humble opinion (for better or for worse) and also presented me with a cast of characters who could carry on in more tales of this world I had created, if I so chose. Matt did take a look at it and I think the fact that I broke the story into two parts gave him the flexibility he needed to fit it into the book. So despite the fact that I crafted something almost three times as long as what the editor wanted, he somehow liked what he saw and took it anyway. Actually, he really liked it, which was great, because I wasn’t so sure, which is pretty normal for me as a writer. I tend to never be all that sure whether what I have written is worth a damn. I had other folks read my story before Matt ever got a look at it, naturally, and got some good constructive criticism from them, which helped shape and transform it into a sharper story than the original. They liked it to, so I am hopeful others will as well.
Below is the cover of the book, and while I have absolutely LOVED the covers of my novels and most of the anthologies I’ve been in, the idea of something I’ve written being in a book with fantasy cover art makes me as giddy as a child.
More details to come as the book is released. I hope some of you fantasy lovers out there will check this one out when it hits the shelves.
Most folks don’t know it, but I am just as much a science fiction and fantasy fan as I am a horror aficionado. Up to this point, my attempts at writing most fantasy were well in my past, and while I plan on giving it a genuine shot down the road, I am dedicated to writing mostly horror stuff for the moment.
With that said, a friend of mine who has more of a talent for writing fantasy, and in particular, YA fantasy, is having her first book released through Knightwatch Press. But it is definitely worth noting that this YA Fantasy has horror elements as well, with vampires and werewolves playing a role in this tale. So for you horror fans who are looking for something that might be something you and your kids can read, I would check this out. I know I will be, and will hopefully have the chance to review it here soon.
Who is this friend, you ask? It is none other than Monique Snyman. Monique is a South African writer and reviewer of books, movies, and games, who runs her own website over at http://www.killeraphrodite.com/. The book, the first in a series, is entitled Charming Incantations: Enticed. Here is a description of the story:
When Lisa Richards’ parents die in a horrible accident, she never thought her life would change as drastically as it did. Not only does she have to take over the family business as being the Human Representative in a supernatural council, bound to protect the world from the common threat, but she also has to deal with falling in love with a werewolf that has a vampire best friend and try to keep herself alive long enough to defeat the goblin army.
Not sure about you, but to me that sounds like the start of a pretty wild ride! And I know that plenty of horror fans out there dig all sorts of speculative tales, so keep your eyes open for this one. Monique was kind enough to get me a copy of the cover for your viewing pleasure below. I’m sure it’ll be popping up on Amazon quite soon, among other locales, so check it out!