Waiting on Wednesday (19)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases bloggers are eagerley anticipating. These can be debut novels, sequels, eBooks,…as long as they aren’t released yet.

Click HERE to view all my ‘Waiting on Wednesday‘ posts.

   

Starter Day Party The Escape of Princess Madeline

bannermadeline
I’m hosting the starter day party for The Escape of Princess Madeline today, a YA/MG fantasy novel.

Tour Schedule

October 29th: Starter Day Party
@ I Heart Reading

October 30th: Book Excerpt
@ The Book Daily

November 2nd: Book Review
@ Bookaholic Ramblings

November 4th: Author Interview
@ Majanka’s Blog

November 6th: Book Review
@ Forever Book Lover

November 7th: Book Excerpt
@ Selkie Reads Stories

November 9th: Book Review
@ I’m an Eclectic Reader

November 11th: Book Excerpt
@ Hollow Readers

November 13th: Author Interview
@ I’m an Reader Not A Writer

November 14th: Book Review
@ The Single Librarian

November 16th: Book Review
@ The Book Daily

November 17th: Book Review and Excerpt
@ Emily The Bookish Worm

November 19th: Author Interview
@ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

November 22nd: Book Review
@ I Heart Reading

November 23nd: Book Review and Excerpt
@ Books, Books and More Books

November 25th: Book Review
@ Step Into Fiction

November 27th: Author Interview
@ Forever Book Lover

November 29th: Book Excerpt
@ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

The Escape of Princess Madeline

16093271Title: The Escape of Princess Madeline
Author: Kristin Pulioff
Genre: YA Fantasy

The Kingdom of Soron is known for many things, its rolling landscape, haunting history, fiery sunsets, and its beautiful princess. Princess Madeline woke on her sixteenth birthday to realize that her future had been planned out, a life full of privilege, royalty, and boredom… a life with a husband and knight champion that she did not choose. Using her charm, strength and stubbornness, she defies the King at every turn, determined to keep her freedom on her terms.

Freedom quickly turns to disaster as she finds herself seized by a group of wandering bandits. With the kingdom in turmoil over her capture- her Knight Champion eager to prove himself, a group of dedicated suitors determined to win her hand, and a group of exiled wizards join forces to rescue her. Follow Princess Madeline in this adventure to find freedom and love.

Author Bio

Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in North Plains, Oregon, and enjoys being a stay at home mom. When she’s not writing, she is busy with her kids, church and the family business.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Starter Day Party The Chick Flick Project

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I’m hosting the starter day party today for The Chick Flick Project, a romantic comedy by author Courtney Elliott.

Tour Schedule

October 29th: Starter Day Party
@ I Heart Reading

November 1st: Book Excerpt
@ Bookaholic Ramblings

November 3rd: Author Interview
@ Majanka’s Blog

November 4th: Book Review
@ Crossroad Reviews

November 5th: Guest Post
@ Forever Book Lover

November 7th: Book Review
@ Openly Honest Reviews

November 8th: Book Excerpt
@ The Book Daily

November 10th: Book Review
@ Bookaholic29

November 12th: Book Excerpt and giveaway
@ Enchanting Reads

November 13th: Author Interview
@ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

November 14th: Guest Post
@ I Heart Reading

November 15th: Book Review
@ My Bookmark Blog

November 18th: Book Review, Excerpt and Giveaway
@ Debbie Jean’s Blog

November 20th: Book Review and Giveaway
@ I Heart Reading

November 22nd: Guest Post
@ I’m an Eclectic Reader

November 23rd: Book Excerpt
@ Hollow Readers

November 25th: Guest Post and Giveaway
@ Night Owl Reads

November 27th: Promo Stop
@ Blooding Reviews

November 28th: Guest Post
@ The Single Librarian

The Chick Flick Project

13570404Title: The Chick Flick Project
Author: Courtney Elliott
Genre: Romance, Comedy

Ally Nichols is fed up with constantly putting herself out there to only be rejected again and again. After her most recent failure, she comes up with a solution. She decides to start modeling her love life after all of the big screen’s most recognizable love stories. Hilarity, heartbreak, mishaps and mayhem ensue. She hopes that maybe one of them actually figured out the secret to true love. The only problem: no one ever told her that sometimes your Hollywood Happy Ending is where you least expect to find it.

Author Bio

Courtney Elliott lives in a small town in Texas called Cleburne. She has been writing stories since she was eight years old. She’s an easy person to get along with. She loves making jokes, most of which are self deprecating. She’s not ashamed of who she is therefore not afraid to be herself. She may be young, but does not believe age should be a factor, her writing should speak for itself.

Links

Goodreads | Author on Goodreads | Facebook | Courtney’s Blog | Senzuri Books Facebook

Book Review: Shades: Eight Tales of Terror by D. Nathan Hilliard

16187498Title: Shades: Eight Tales of Terror
Author: D. Nathan Hilliard
Genre: Ghosts, Horror, Short Story Collection
Publisher: Amazon
Publication Date: March 18th, 2012
Goodreads | B&N | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Here there be ghosts…
Within these pages lurks a cast of phantoms who have returned from the grave with a vengeance. You will find no friendly ghosts here, just eight deathly horrors with their own personal bones to pick with the living. These are the ghosts of our nightmares. Whether driven by madness, vengeance, pain, bloody evil, or primordial rage…they are all specters that are as dangerous as they are frightening. So get comfortable, get that night light ready, and find out who survives and who doesn’t in this anthology of the baleful dead. Stories within include…
Death and White Satin – A young bride-to-be unearths the wrong wedding dress and discovers that horror and madness can echo down through the decades.
An Echo of Blood and Mirrors – A young man is surprised in the boy’s bathroom by the head cheerleader. But things quickly take a turn for the worse as he discovers she’s on the run from a triple murderer who has been dead for over a century.
Dance of the Ancients – Three lawmen search for a missing state trooper on a hill doomed to disappear under the rising waters of a new lake. Fearing the worst, they find something even worse than they feared.
A Memory of Me – A night spent in a forgotten graveyard lands three college boys in a situation that none of their classes have prepared them for.
Legacy of Flies – A young woman discovers she is the heir of a vast family fortune. But she also finds her inheritance comes with a ghoulish legacy that may very well be the death of her.
Storm Chase – A hurricane approaches and Bernie March’s wife is standing down the hill beside the tractor he needs to bring in ahead of the storm…exactly where he buried her three years earlier.
A Singularity of Purpose – A callous young punk discovers that returning from the dead isn’t just the prerogative of humans when he finds himself in one last desperate race with the dog he tormented in life.
A Long, Cold Forever of a Night – On a humid July night, a middle-aged couple find themselves alone in a deserted rural intersection…with the deadly phantom of a high school classmate who died in an ice storm decades earlier.

Shades: Eight Tales of Terror is a collection of short stories that focus on ghosts. Some of these ghosts are terrifying and murderous, while others are less frightening. What these stories have in common is that all of them leave shivers running down your spine. I had to glance behind me several times while reading this collection, in order to make sure a phantom wasn’t standing behind me, breathing down my neck. Scariness guaranteed.

“Death and White Satin” is the first story of the collection and immediately starts out strong. Jessica is getting ready to get married to the love of her life, when she discovers an old wedding dress from a dusty box on the attic of her mother-in-law’s home. The mother-in-law, Marge, is anything but pleased to see the wretched thing belonging once to the woman who murdered her brother, Priscilla Hatcher. She tells Jessica the story of Priscilla, a young woman who was beautiful and superficial, and murderous on top of that. When Marge leaves afterward to go to the shop, Jessica is alone in the house with the wedding dress…And Priscilla’s ghost decides this is the perfect time to pay a visit to the future bride-to-be. I liked this story, mainly because it gave an original spin to the supposed ‘haunted wedding dress’ urban legend I’ve heard plenty of times before. It’s great when an author manages to take things that have been done before, but add an original spin to it.

“An Echo of Blood and Mirrors” is a dark, gruesome story. Corvin and his classmates visit a museum located in a house once belonging to a supposed mad man, nicknamed The Necromancer. One of his class maters decides to impress his girlfriend by stealing a pen from the museum, thus unleashing the spirit of the mad man. Since she has the pen, Laura’s been chased by strange apparitions in mirrors and glass windows, apparitions of the murderer. Although Corvin is initially convinced the dead can’t harm them, he may have to rethink that assumption…This story was a bit too bloody for my tastes, especially toward the end. I did enjoy it though, but it wasn’t my favorite.

“Dance of the Ancients” however, was one of my favorite stories in the collection. Sherrif Carl Gartner is forced to go to a small island, once called Deerhunter Hill, to recover a missing trooper. The island is inhabited by a man named Luther Cole, who was always a bit eccentric, but grew crazy during the time he spend on the island. What the Sherrif and his officers find on the island however, is a lot more than they bargained for. Mutilated corpses and ancient spirits are only the tip of the iceberg. What I liked here was the originality of the plot, and Sherrif Carl – he was an intriguing character, complex and well-developed, which isn’t an easy feat in short stories.

“A Memory of Me” added another nice twist to a well-known story. Three friends spend the night at a graveyard, and one of them, Jack, destroys a grave marker. Unfortunately, that sets loose a murderous spirits who will kill them one by one if they don’t remember her name. I’ve heard plenty of times of teens spending the night at the graveyard and then being chased by a spirit, but never because they destroyed her grave marker and she doesn’t want to be forgotten. It’s a nice twist, and this story was fast-paced and enjoyable.

“Legacy of Flies” was disturbing, horrific, and exciting at the same time. Janie is asked to come to the large, majestic estate of her family, a family she’s never known, being the bastard child of one of its ancestors. The current ladies of the house need her help: the family fortune will keep decreasing unless there is a ‘master of the house’, a descendent of the family, present in the house. Persuaded by luxuries and money, Janie agrees. She goes outside to sit near a tree where something horrible happened centuries ago, not expecting to be tormented by the spirit of the boy who had his father murdered by Janie’s ancestor…Because of its originality and unique approach, its great descriptions and oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere at the end, this was my favorite story of the entire collection. I actually read it twice – that’s how much I enjoyed it.

“Storm Chase” went more down a familiar road than the previous stories, and left me with a lot of questions. One day, Bernie sees the spirit of his deceased wife – a wife he and his mistress murdered – down the hill of his house. Convinced his wife has come to claim him and take her bloody revenge, he flees. It’s not a bad story, it’s definitely scary and fast-paced, but continuously I wondered: why now? Why does Charlotte decide to rise from the dead after being dead and buried for three years? It’s never properly explained – or if it is, then I missed it – and this kind of made me like the story not that much. It makes no sense, unless something strange happened to anger her spirit, that she’d come back now of all days.

“A Singularity of Purpose” is about a ghost dog, and well, I never thought ghostly animals could be scary as well, but I’ve now changed my mind. Russell takes the same route home every day, straight through the territory of Purvis, a dog who likes nothing more than to chase Russell and try to bite him. This day though, he’s not being chased and soon after, Russell finds out why: the dog is dead. Unfortunately that doesn’t keep Purvis from following him home, and appearing seemingly out of nowhere, ready to do in death what he couldn’t accomplish in life. I loved this story. Purvis may not be the typical villain one has in mind when thinking ghost stories, but he’s delightfully creepy. I didn’t like Russell – he could’ve just stopped going through the neighbor’s territory – and I actually liked Purvis’ revenge on him (I wouldn’t like it in real life, of course, just saying that as this is a story, the revenge seemed fitting).

“A Long, Cold Forever of a Night” brought me on the verge of tears. A ghost is haunting the road Carol and her husband stranded on, the ghost of a girl who died there many years ago, a fellow schoolmate of theirs. A terrible accident happened on that road, and while all students helped each other, they all forgot about the poor girl. She was found with her face half frozen. Her spirit still haunts the road, but soon enough, Carol and her husband will learn that all the girl wants is not to be left alone…This story isn’t as horrifying as it is saddening, and I really felt for the girl ghost. It must’ve been terrible to be left all alone, in the coldest night in history, slowly dying with no one around to safe you.

As a whole, this collection offers a wide variation of ghost stories, from surprisingly original ones to stories offering a surprise twist to more classic tales. Some of these stories left chills running down my spine, while others, especially the last one, brought me near tears. The writing throughout the collection is strong and solid. The characters are well-developed, and come from various social and cultural backgrounds as well. There’s variety here: something for everyone.

I highly recommend this collection as a Halloween read, and to all fans of ghost stories.

Author Interview

I asked author D. Nathan Hilliard some questions about his writing, his short story collection Shades and his upcoming work.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

After I came down with Charcot Marie Tooth in my forties, I started hunting around for something new to do since I could no longer do any of the jobs I had held in the past. I remembered that I had been pretty good at writing in high school, so I decided to try and approach that with the same seriousness that I would any of my former jobs.

2) What was the inspiration behind Shades: Eight Tales of Terror?

Having grown up in assorted small towns in Texas, I was exposed to different tales of ghosts and hauntings that had a decidedly local flavor to them. They usually involved ordinary, small-town people and combined a sense of local history with a flair for the ghastly. These tales were usually told by kids to each other, although I imagine they were handed down from their elders. I tried to capture some of that flavor in this anthology.

3) Which short story in the collection did you enjoy to write the most?

‘Storm Chase’ came the easiest, because I actually incorporated a lot of elements from a recurrent childhood nightmare in that one. I used to dream as a child of looking out my bedroom window and seeing a distant ghost getting closer and closer to the house. So I got to get that one out of my system.

4) Which story was the most difficult for you to write?

I would say ‘A Long, Cold Forever of a Night’ due to the issues and emotions involved in that story. Life is sometimes monstrously unfair, and takes things from people in the cruelest ways. Yet in the end, it’s up to us to find a way to make things right as best as we can and go on. Because this story dealt with those issues, it ends in a different tone than the rest.

5) How long did it take you to write Shades: Eight Tales of Terror?

About eight months. It was originally going to be a simple anthology of horror tales, some of which I had already written, but about two months into the project I decided to make it a more focused work that dealt exclusively with ghost stories.

6) Which story did you find the scariest?

Depends on the setting. ‘Death and White Satin’ is the one that comes to mind when I’m alone in a house, but if I’m taking a walk outside alone then ‘A Singularity of Purpose” is the one I don’t want to think about. That’s the one my sister complained about when walking down to mailbox out at her house in the country.

7) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Right now may be one of the most exciting times in history to be a writer. The opportunity to get your work published has never been greater. So go for it, because the only thing that is holding you back is you. But it’s also important to remember that due to that opportunity there is a lot of poorly written and edited work out there, so it is vitally important to take the time and effort to apply that extra layer of polish and editing to your story. In this field, your work is your resume.

8) Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I have just released my latest novel, Dead Stop. It is the story of a diverse group of people trapped in a rural Texas truck stop during a howling storm by the denizens of a nearby graveyard. The dead are now staring in the windows and they discover they only have until dawn to escape. Now that I have that one published, I’m studying different ideas, and also a couple of unfinished novels, before starting on my next project.

Thank you for answering my interview questions!

Giveaway

Mr. Hilliard was kind enough to offer an eBook copy of Shades: Eight Tales of Terror for giveaway. Fill in the Rafflecopter form to participate!

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Book Review: 13 Horror Stories by John McDonnell

9476932Title: 13 Horror Stories
Author: John McDonnell
Genre: Short Story Collection, Horror
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 21st 2010
Goodreads | Smashwords | Amazon | B&N

13 bone-chilling stories about ghosts, vengeful lovers, scary mothers, and crazy girlfriends. In these stories time and space are no barrier to some truly horrible happenings. Each story is short enough to be read in a few minutes, but they’re guaranteed to haunt your thoughts for a lot longer than that. Whether it’s subtle horror or downright blood-curdling God-help-me fear, you’ll find it here. This collection is a good introduction to the horror writing of John McDonnell.

13 Horror Stories is a short story collection with several short stories written by author John McDonnell. This book is a very fast read – I think it was just under thirty pages. The stories are more like flash fiction than actual short stories, but I definitely didn’t mind. It’s my first time reading a flash fiction collection in the horror genre, and I definitely had a blast.

I liked “The Beauty Part”. It was well written, and left me in the dark until the end – I love this in horror. “Stuck” was dark, horrifying and scary, one of my favorites in the collection. “The Thing in the Basement” was my absolute favorite though. We’ve all been scared of basements at some time or other, and little Billy is no different, but his uncle’s basement holds more sinister secrets than mine ever did. “The Box” touches a bit upon myths and legends, and I didn’t like it that much. I didn’t think it was scary enough to be considered in a collection named 13 Horror Stories.

“Conclusions” isn’t exactly horror. It’s more like…weird. It would perhaps be scary if it happened in real life, and it’s a great piece of flash fiction, but I wouldn’t classify it as horror. I did enjoy reading it though. “This Won’t Hurt a Bit” on the other hand ventured back into horror territory, and did so very well. We’re all paranoid at some time or other, and maybe we have good reasons to be so, if you take this story into account. “Sin of the Flesh” was a nice, disturbing read as well.

“Don’t You Just Love Weddings?” was very short, a bit too short for me to get an exact grip on the horror elements of this story. I enjoyed “Heart Stopping Beauty” a lot more, it was a mysterious, interesting story. “Prime Cut” was one of the absolute top stories of this collection though. It was truly, wickedly disturbing, and left me wanting to read more. Definitely a nice warning for guys who decide they want to cheat on their girlfriends.

“The Smell of Love” was another nice one, and reminded me slightly of the book “Perfume”. I liked “Tick Tock” as well, the next story, although it could’ve probably been a bit scarier. It did make me think about how people would react to immortality. The last story, “The Returning” was one of the bests as well. It was your typical ghost story, but bloody and horrific.

All in all, I thought some of these flash fiction stories were outstanding, while others didn’t give me chills. I think it’s natural for all story collections: you’re bound to like some stories more than others. These stories were ideal to tell while sitting around a campfire, or on Halloween night when you want to spook your friends. I’m definitely going to use one or two of these to scare my friends on Halloween.

If you want a quick read before you’re leaving to somewhere, or if you’re a fan of flash fiction horror, you don’t want to miss out on this collection.

Author Interview

I asked author John McDonnell some interview questions to go with the review.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always loved reading and writing, since I was a little kid. One of my favorite things was to ride my bike to my grandparents’ house and stop at the library on the way, pick up a few books, and then read the books in this little room they had near the kitchen, while my grandmother was making supper. In eighth grade I won a citywide essay contest, and in high school I had a lot of encouragement from an English teacher. It just seemed natural to me to write, and I always thought I’d be writing in some fashion.

2) What inspired you to write short story collections as opposed to full-length novels?

Short stories have always been my favorite form. I like the immediacy, the condensed form, the way short stories can grab you from the first word. I still prefer reading a short story by Hemingway, Flannery O’Conner, Stephen King, or one of my other favorite writers to almost any novel.

3) Why did you decide to write in the horror genre?

I always liked to be scared. I remember reading a short story collection by Stephen King years ago when I was alone in a house, and realizing all of a sudden that it was 3:00 in the morning and I was all alone, and it was very quiet. . . I just like that feeling.

4) Which story in “13 Horror Stories” did you enjoy to write the most? Which one was most challenging to write?

I enjoyed writing “Heart Stopping Beauty” the most, because it has a sense of urgency, the main character has to get his watch fixed, and I liked creating that sense of urgency. The most challenging one was “The Returning” because it has a dreamlike quality, and yet it takes place at two separate time periods.

5) Which story in “13 Horror Stories” did you find the scariest?

I found “The Returning” the scariest, because of the last scene, which I thought was truly terrifying.

6) How long did it take you to write “13 Horror Stories” from start to finish?

I wrote the stories in “13 Horror Stories” over several years. A lot of them started out as exercises in writing groups I belonged to, and I’d continue to edit and refine them as time went on. I have a lot of stories on my computer, and when I put out another horror collection I choose the ones that I think will fit best.

7) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

My advice for aspiring authors is to just keep writing and publishing. There’s so much going on that you can spend all your time just reading about the new opportunities out there, or interacting with other writers on social networks, or marketing yourself. If you love to write you should just keep writing, and getting better at your craft. Don’t get distracted; just write.

8) Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I’m actually working on a novel now. I love short stories, but I know that the majority of readers like to sink their teeth into something longer. I’m working on a historical novel with some romance in it, and maybe a few supernatural elements. It will be part of a trilogy, and the first book will come out in early 2013.

Giveaway

I’m glad to host a giveaway for another short story collection by John McDonell, “13 Scary Stories”. The giveaway is for an eBook copy of “13 Scary Stories”. If you want to participate, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below!

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Release Day Party The Bone Knife

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We’re celebrating the release day party of The Bone Knife today. The Bone Knife is a YA Fantasy Short Story by author Intisar Khanani, who you can find on Thorn The Novel Website.

We’re hosting a giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card, spread across all blogs participating. Scroll down to participate!

About The Bone Knife

TBK-thumbnailTitle: The Bone Knife
Author: Intisar Khanani
Genre: YA Fantasy, Short Story
Blurb: Rae knows how to look out for family. Born with a deformed foot, she feigns indifference to the pity and insults that come her way. Wary of all things beautiful, Rae instantly distrusts their latest visitor: an appallingly attractive faerie. Further, his presence imperils the secret her sister guards. But when the local townspeople show up demanding his blood, Rae must find a way to protect both her sister’s secret and their guest. Even if that means risking herself.

Author Bio

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Her approach to writing reflects her lifelong love for stories from different cultures. Her next project is a companion trilogy to her debut novel Thorn, with Rae as her new heroine.

Links

Intisar’s Website and Author Newsletter | Goodreads | Facebook |
Twitter: @IntisarKhanani

Giveaway

We’re hosting a giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card. This giveaway is international! Fill in the Rafflecopter form to participate.
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Book Review: Undead on Arrival by Justin Robinson

15733320Title: Undead on Arrival
Author: Justin Robinson
Genre: Horror, Zombies
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Publication Date: June 21st, 2012
Goodreads | B&N | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Today is the last day of Glen Novak’s life.
Five years after the end of the world, the few remaining humans are barricaded in a small vacation town on the California coast, beset by hordes of the undead.
A single bite turns a man into a walking corpse. There’s no cure and no hope.
Someone made sure Novak was bitten and now he has one day to put things in order, protect his people and, most importantly, exact revenge.

Undead on Arrival isn’t your typical zombie Apocalypse book. It takes place after the end of the world has happened, and focuses on the remaining survivors. The protagonist, Glen Novak, isn’t a person you’d normally like, or would even talk to. He has a position of power in this new world, but he’s still coping with the guilt he’s carried with him all these years – guilt over his dead wife, guilt over the children he abandoned when the world crumbled apart. He lives in a secluded village, slightly more than a compound, and tries to survive. Unfortunately that may become a hassle when someone lets a zombie head loose in his house, and the zombie manages to bite him. The rule is to kill everyone who’s been bitten. There is no cure to becoming a zombie. There is no hope for those infected. But Glen Novak is determined to find the man or woman who did this to him. And by extracting his revenge, he may end up causing more harm than he initially bargained for…

What is so unique about this book that I liked it from the moment I started reading is the author’s fresh take on the zombie apocalypse. Usually when I read a zombie book or watch a zombie movie, I see people running for their lives practically three fourth of the time. Here, not so much. Humanity has settled down. They’ve made make-shift cities, they’ve tried to survive in a world that’s suddenly become hostile. They still have memories of life before, and are trying to place those. Some are overwhelmed by grief. Others by guilt. Everyone has their story and the burden they carry, but they work together, as good or as bad as the circumstances let them, and try to make it through another day. They come across a large number of problems: food shortage, gasoline shortage, no electricity, no internet. And the most difficult thing of all: some of them have lost their family, and have no clue whether or not they’re still alive. Maybe they’re wondering out there somewhere, still human, looking for their loved ones as well. That thought along is chilling, it’s such a strong, thought-provoking idea it lingered in my mind during the entire read.

Undead on Arrival spans little more than twenty-four hours, but a lot can happen in that time. Glen Novak gets to the bottom of the secrets buried at his new home, at The Athena, a mighty and large hotel overlooking the compound, and the people behind it. We see the worst in humanity, as well as the best. All characters Glen meets during his search for vengeance are well-defined, complex human beings. They could walk straight out of the book. Some of them I hated from the start, others I grew to like as the story progressed. Hardly ever have I seen an author put that much care and thought into the side characters, developing them until the point they could become protagonists themselves.

The first half of the book sets the mood. It begins slow, painting for us the circumstances of the afterwar of the apocalypse, the daily life of survivors, and the quest to solve the mystery Glen Novak wants to solve before he dies. But then a zombie attack happens, and we’re thrown in the middle of the action, fighting along with the characters for our lives. It’s a vivid experience for a reader when you can say action scenes are so well described you feel like you’re playing in them – and that’s the case here.

The writing is sublime. It was spot on, every single time. Slow when needing to set the mood, fast and relentless when the action started. Mr. Robinson is obviously a very talented author, and one I hope to read several more novels from. He has described the zombie apocalypse in a way no one else has, and I’m truly amazed at how well he portrayed all characters in this book.

If you want to survive the zombie apocalypse, you better read Undead on Arrival.

Author Interview

I’m delighted I could ask Mr. Robinson some interview questions about his book, Undead on Arrival.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever an exact moment. I’ve been writing all my life, but there were periods where I stopped. I decided to write novels after working as a script doctor for an animation studio, and working in the comics industry. Writing novels is more rewarding because you’re writing for people who legitimately love to read.

2) What inspired you to write Undead on Arrival?

I love film noir, and am a huge fan of DOA. I wanted to do a riff on that classic story using zombies.

3) Which character did you like to write about the most? Which was your least favorite character?

The first is Pulaski, with Cheeseman a close second. I really liked the concept that the biggest bad ass in town was a transvestite, and his voice was a lot of fun to channel. With Cheeseman, he sort of symbolized the main character’s self-loathing, so I had a good time giving voice to the fact that Novak really isn’t a good guy.

I had trouble with Calomiris and Rippey, the other two town fathers. They’re noir villains so they had to be pretty reprehensible, but I also didn’t want them to be cartoonish monsters. It was a tough line to walk and I’m not sure I succeeded.

4) How long did it take you to write Undead on Arrival from start to finish?

Outlining and the first draft took about three months, and I think I took around three months on subsequent drafts.

5) What was the most challenging part about writing Undead on Arrival?

Writing the main character, Glen Novak. He had to be a bad guy, so that there were enough people who wanted him dead. But I also had to make him sympathetic enough so that the reader wasn’t actively rooting for him to die. I tried to do that by making him a bad person by our standards, but maybe not as much for his time and place. I tried to use Novak’s self-awareness to mitigate some of his worse qualities.

6) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read every day. Write every day. And always use outlines.

7) Are you working on something right now? If so, please tell us more about it!

I just finished a draft of a comedy noir novel that’s sort of like The Big Lebowski if David Huddleston was a giant eyeball.

I’m looking forward to reading more of your books, and thanks for answering my interview questions!

Giveaway

On top of that, Mr. Robinson agreed to give away a paperback copy of Undead on Arrival to one lucky winner. And guess what? The contest is international. If you want to participate, just fill in the Rafflecopter form!

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Book Review: What Hides Within by Jason Parent and Author Interview

15828555Title: What Hides Within
Author: Jason Parent
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Mystery
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Publication Date: July 25th, 2012
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Inside all of us, there is darkness. Inside Clive, it’s tangible, and it’s aching to get out.
What Hides Within tells the story of a man held captive by an unknown evil. Clive Menard is a spineless slacker leading an ordinary existence. But when Chester enters his life, it becomes far from ordinary.
A disheveled Clive stands alone in a hospital waiting room. A series of incidences have led him to undergo unnecessary neurosurgery. A voice inside Clive’s head nags him to kill the doctor.
Weeks prior, a murder investigation and an unrelated kayaking excursion set the story’s interlocking events in motion. When a remorseful killer, a bomb-happy psychopath and a mysterious widow spider converge upon Clive, they bring with them destruction and death. Clive must discover who or what is steering his very existence before he, too, is consumed by the carnage around him.
With a driven detective following his every step and a vicious killer hiding within his circle of friends, Clive must walk a narrow and dangerous path, teetering between salvation and damnation. He must confront Chester and his own demons. But is he powerless to overcome them?

What Hides Within borders on the line between several genres: it’s horror at its very core, but there are also hints of romance, mystery, and thriller aspects. I also found myself chuckling here and there throughout the book. The author manages to throw in some humor even when circumstances get dreary.

Clive, the main character of this novel, is a slacker with little or no reason to get up from his bed in the morning. He does his job half-heartedly, and is basically withering away, waiting for the day he dies. One night he goes out with his friend/girlfriend for a kayaking trip, and a mysterious arachnid crawls inside his brain. Naturally, he tries to get rid of the thing inside his mind, but when brain surgery proves nothing is wrong, Clive begins to suspect he may be delusional. He calls the arachnid Chester, and eventually gives up on trying to remove the spider. What Clive however doesn’t know is that Chester’s plans are a lot more sinister than they appear at first glance…

As far as premises go, this book certainly has an unique one. I’ve always been terrified of spiders – they’re disgusting, and they move way too fast – and to see them used in an original way in a horror book definitely worked for me. I’ve seen that movie where the entire earth gets swamped by gigantic spiders, and although that left me scarred for life, the story wasn’t all that intriguing. What Hides Within has an intriguing plot, likeable and relatable characters and so much mystery it had me on the edge of my seat during the entire read.

As I said, main character Clive is a spineless slacker, a nobody, a lazy bun who can’t get up and fix the million things wrong with his life. It’s not a protagonist everyone would’ve chosen, but it works surprisingly well in this case. Clive needs Chester. Chester brings him to do things he would’ve never imagined otherwise. And truth to be told, Clive’s personality isn’t that far-fetched either: there are plenty of people on this planet just wasting their life away doing absolutely nothing. I could’ve never befriended Clive, but I did enjoy reading about a different type of protagonist for once. Instead of the protagonist being the one to decide his own fate, everything here was decided for Clive. Chester was the puppet master and Clive the puppet, and that role he played surprisingly well.

The writing is great, and the author definitely has a large vocabulary. The mystery elements of the book were executed well, and the author clearly did some research in how the police would lead an investigation. I’m usually quick to unravel the mystery, but here I had some trouble at first – my first guess was completely different than how it turned out to be, and that’s always a nice surprise.

The book isn’t that scary, unless you’re afraid of spiders, like I am though. But the scariness is in the afterthought: what if you were Clive? What if someday a parasite, be it a spider or something else, decided to invade your brain? Now, that’s a scary thought.

Recommended to people who enjoy reading across genre-boundaries, fans of supernatural mysteries, and of course, horror fans.

Author Interview

I was lucky enough to be able to ask the author some interview questions about his writing process, the book and his upcoming work.


1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote my first short story for a class. It was a fantasy piece, and I remember being immensely proud of it. I also remember my brother getting hold of it, and to this day, he still makes fun of it on occasion. He was right: the story was terrible. But it was my first indicator that writing could be fun . . . as long as my brother never saw it.

2. What inspired you to write “What Hides Within?”

I’ve always been fascinated by spiders, but like most people, I don’t want them crawling all over me, much less living in my ear. I read a news story about a kid who went to his doctor for an earache only to find a spider had made a home inside his ear canal. Apparently, it happens, and it’s gross, but there’s nothing inherently evil about it. But I started thinking–what if that spider had a more sinister agenda than trying to solve its housing dilemma? My imagination took off from there, and several years later, What Hides Within is published.

3. What was most difficult about writing “What Hides Within”?

Writing is fun for me, so the biggest obstacle is finding time to do it. With What Hides Within specifically, sharing such an off-beat story with others was most difficult. Would readers find it weird, revolting, dark, sinister, disturbing? Given the genre, I kinda hoped so. But I admit that a talking spider living in someone’s head can be a tad . . . peculiar. So, it was difficult to gauge whether readers would find it genius or insanity, brilliant or ludicrous? Guess the verdict’s still out on that. Either way, I hope readers will find Clive’s journey a whole lot of fun.

4. How long did it take you to write What Hides Within from draft to finish?

A long time. I work on a couple of things at once, so it’s hard to estimate. I would say somewhere between three or four years.

5. Who was your favorite character to write about? Who was your least favorite character to write about?

My favorite? That’s easily Chester. A clever and malevolent spider with a hidden motive made for an exciting villain of small stature but great import. Conversely, Kevin was a weak-minded, lowly villain. Everything about him is pathetic, and purposely so. While some readers might find wicked delight in cheering on Chester, no one will root for Kevin, not even me.

6. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I’m still learning the business myself, but I would advise them to seek out other aspiring authors to form read and review groups and get all the constructive criticism they can. If one’s goal is to be a bestseller, he/she will likely need the right agent and a Big 6 publisher. If one’s goals are more modest, there are plenty of small presses, often genre specific, that are interested in seeing work from new authors.

7. If you could drink a cup of coffee with three authors (they can be alive or dead), which authors would you choose?

Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and Dr. Seuss. In addition to being three of the greatest authors in their respective genres, I could learn a hell of a lot from all three. Poe and Wilde are two of my biggest inspirations. But the real enjoyment would be in seeing dreary Poe and dry Wilde squirm through a reading of Green Eggs and Ham.

8. Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I have two short stories due out in anthologies next year. Beyond that, I have three novels at various stages of development, one science fiction thriller and two horror/thrillers. It’s too early to tell which one will be released next. And if my readers want it, perhaps my favorite spider will return. Stay tuned!

Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women

13587206Title: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women
Author: Marie O’Regan (editor)
Genre: Anthology, Ghost Stories, Horror
Publisher: Running Press
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Review copy purchased by yours truly.

25 Chilling Short Stories by Outstanding Female Writers
Women have always written exceptional stories of horror and the supernatural. This anthology aims to showcase the very best of these, from Amelia B. Edward’s ‘The Phantom Coach’, published in 1864, through past luminaries such as Edith Wharton and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, to modern talents including Muriel Gray, Sarah Pinborough and Lilith Saintcrow.
From tales of ghostly children to visitations by departed loved ones, and from heart-rending stories to the profoundly unsettling depiction of extreme malevolence, what each of these stories has in common is the effect of a slight chilling of the skin, a feeling of something not quite present, but nevertheless there.
If anything, this showcase anthology proves that sometimes the female of the species can also be the most terrifying.

The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women is an anthology you have to own. One by one, I found the stories mentioned to be breathtakingly unique, and each of them deal with the subject of ‘ghosts’ in their own, distinct way. Some stories are pure horror, spine-chilling, offering goosebumps. Others are more mundane, and talk about the departure of loved ones. Others are set in a purely fictional world, with necromancers and warlocks.

Because of the length and the diversity of this anthology, it’s hard to say something about it as a whole, apart from the fact the editor picked strong, varying stories with interesting premises. The first story is “Field of the Dead”, which talks about a haunted cathedral and a pack of ghost busters trying to exorcise the ghosts and poltergeists. I thought it was an entertaining read with rather prosaic prose, very descriptive as well. “Collect Call” is the next story and one of the best in the anthology. Lee calls collect, and then makes a phone call to his Dad who promises to pick him up. But the call, and the desolate town Lee sees from across the street, may not be what they seem. This was an absolutely wonderful read, one that gave me chills at the end – I love a story that keeps me guessing, and this one definitely succeeded.

Next is “Dead Flowers by a Roadside”, by author Kelley Armstrong. It’s a short, but intriguing read. I liked “The Shadow in the Corner” better though. That story definitely had me spooked. It’s about a lonely, middle-aged man living in a large mansion where someone allegedly killed themselves plenty of years ago. When a young new maid comes to work for them, she has to spend the night in the room of the suicide…Deliciously creepy! “The Madam of the Narrow Houses” left me more confused than anything else. It’s about a self-proclaimed medium whose visited by spirits. A nice read, but like I said, it was a bit confusing.

“The Lost Ghost” was another awesome, spine-chilling read about a girl who goes to live in a house where a small girl died several years ago. Now the little girl’s spirit inhabits the house. This was my second favorite story in the entire anthology. The writing was not too flowery or descriptive, but it did give off that great, old-fashioned vibe. Next up is “The Ninth Witch”, which was, at least in my opinion not much of a ghost story, but more of a messed up fairytale. A girl is raised in a village where women are considered dirt. All eight of her sisters die, and she’s doomed to die herself, unless she manages to do something about it. It’s all told in a very fairytale-like way, but it’s a dark, wicked story with gore and blood flying off the pages.

“Sister, shhh” had a nice twist at the end, and the premise was highly original as well. It’s about a girl who runs away from a cult, to a new, vibrant city, only to be discovered. While that was a good one, the next story, “The Fifth Bedroom” went above and beyond that. Another nail-biting horror story, this tells us about Chloe Benn, retired supermodel and divorced from a billionaire husband who moves into the room of a former prima ballerina who lost her career when she couldn’t walk anymore. Growing into a bitter old woman, the ballerina occupied the fifth bedroom, a mysterious room Chloe can’t seem to find.

“Scairt” was a bit confusing, but not a very scary story. It was actually more a sweet story, although I didn’t like the prose that much with the Irish sentences here and there – for a non-native English speaker, those were annoying. “Seeing Nancy” was another shot in the rose for me though. The creepiness sipped in slowly throughout that story, about a house where people got murdered, and an author who sees her family change the longer they spend in the house.

“The Third Person” left me wanting to strangle someone. That story just didn’t work for me – what was real? what wasn’t? Usually I’m all for these stories, but at least they have to give me a hint. “Freeze Out” was a lot better – a mother has died, and her family is grieving – especially with the surprise twist at the end, one I didn’t see coming at all. “Return” was an excellent read as well. Not that scary, but touching, heartbreaking. “Let Loose” was nice, but not as good as some of the other stories in the anthology. It was about a guy who went into a crypt, unknowingly releasing an evil into this world. “Another One in from the Cold” had me at the edge of my seat. It was a beautiful, moving story, but deliciously frightening at the same time.

“My Moira” was probably my least favorite story in the entire anthology. It was fantasy, and the ghost only played a minor part. “Forget Us Not” was touching, and brought me on the verge of tears. Definitely an excellent short. “Front Row Rider” left me guessing till the very end, which makes me rank it highly in this anthology. It was a mysterious, but well-executed story, with a fast pace and some nice prose. “God Grant That She Lye Still” once again fell in the ‘scary’ category, and it definitely had me spooked. A Doctor meets a woman he might fall for, but she tells him she keeps on losing herself, and she can’t find the “Me” part of her. “The Phantom Coach” reminded me of many old, urban legends I once heard, when people get lost during the night and stumble upon a place where a terrible accident happened many years ago.

“The Old Nurse’s Story” was an excellent read. Delightfully frightening, the descriptions were so vivid I could practically imagine the ghosts standing in front of me. “Among the Shoals Forever” didn’t do anything for me though. Once again going on the more fantasy-like tour, I didn’t enjoy this story very much. “Afterward” was a nice read, although I figured out early on – as opposed to afterward – what was happening. Even though “A Silver Music” wasn’t scary at all, I did think it was an original story, with an unique premise, some nice protagonists and well thought-through.

All in all, The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women proved a varying, intriguing read. Of course I liked some stories more than others, but the general quality of stories in this anthology is very high. I recommend it to all ghost stories fans.

Book Review: The Fleshless Man by Norman Prentiss

15848313Title: The Fleshless Man
Author: Norman Prentiss
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Publisher: DarkFuse Publications
Publication Date: October 30th, 2012
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Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for honest review.

“The Fleshless Man wants to kill me,” his mother said.
Curtis never enjoyed the cool, oppressive atmosphere of his childhood home, and that atmosphere is even worse when he returns as an adult. His mother is dying, and her illness seems to infect everyone around her: Curtis’s brother has developed a nervous habit that might indicate more serious problems; the attending nurse exhibits puzzling, possibly sinister behavior; and Curtis himself suffers from nightmares and uncharacteristic dark thoughts.
It’s as if the house itself wants his mother to die more quickly—and it will achieve that goal however it can.
Even if it must inspire Curtis to imagine harming his own mother.
Even if it must summon the intervention of a strange entity called the Fleshless Man.

The Fleshless Man is a well written novella, portraying an oppressive atmosphere, bordering on claustrophobic, and an intriguing premise. When Curtis comes home to take care of his mother, whose suffering from terminal illness, he finds not only his mother fighting an illness, but his brother as well. Curtis feels guilty over abandoning his brother for so long, and failing to see the illness that has gotten hold of him. But while he spends his days at home, trying to come to terms with his guilt, he begins having dark, terrifying dreams about murdering his mother, his brother and even his partner. He also has a strange dream about his mother’s nurse telling her a creepy bedtime story about a nightmarish creature called ‘The Fleshless Man’. His mother, delusional from meds or maybe not delusional at all, says she’s afraid the Fleshless Man will kill her.

This book plays well with what is reality and what is not, and in my opinion, it plays this game a little too well. At times, I had trouble figuring out what was really happening, or what was Curtis’ distraught way of dealing with his mother’s illness, or coping with him not being there for his brother. I thought it could’ve been a bit clearer. I like to be left in the dark, but not about everything.

I also didn’t like the nurse’s story about The Fleshless Man. This kind of took away the scariness for me. I think the story could’ve done without, and instead focus more on the present. I don’t need to know the origins of The Fleshless Man, I just need to know why he’s here and what he wants.

The characters were well-described though, and I loved the elegant, lyrical, but sometimes hard and suffocating prose. A nice novella, decently written, but could’ve benefited from a little more explanation.