Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Author: Andy Peloquin (Page 2 of 52)

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Author Spotlight: Joshua Robertson

Instead of my usual Monday blog post, I’m going to do something a bit different. I’m going to talk about an author who has done a lot to help me in the recent past—an author whose work I believe deserves attention.

Joshua Robertson is a fellow dark fantasy author, one I met through one of the many Facebook groups I’m a part of. He released his first book (Anaerfell) around the same time I released Blade of the Destroyer, and our marketing/promotion/writing efforts have run along a similar vein. Joshua also started his own press (Crimson Edge), which has gone on to publish some pretty amazing books.

I’ve also enjoyed reading his books, as you can see by the reviews I posted:

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His Short Stories

Throughout the last year or so, I’ve found myself asking Joshua for advice on all sorts of topics related to publishing, marketing, and building an author brand in general. For example, he was the one who advised me to release my short stories as a collection (coming October 2017!) rather than posting them individually on Amazon. He’s also given me A TON of excellent advice that has helped me to improve my author brand in general.

I’m sharing this with you today (not my usual Book Review Wednesday) is because Joshua is running a special promotion on Anaerfell that ends today. I figured it was a small way I could say “Thank you” for everything he’s done to help me in the past.

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Drast and Tyran might be considered a bit black-hearted, or even immoral. Drast is cunning but reckless, hunting for admiration. Tyran is calculating but tactless, searching for affection. When the two brothers set aside their ambitions to fulfill their father’s desire for immortality, they readily discover many opportunities for redemption.

Now, while wielding a powerful magic that drains their life, Drast and Tyran will embark on a maddening quest, facing skin-switchers, dragons, and the God of the Dead.

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Find the Book at $0.99 on Amazon (60% Discount)

Here’s a Taste:

The room still whirled from last night. He tried to close his eyes to keep his stomach from doing the same, but closing his eyes actually made it worse. Drast was somewhat surprised that the drink was still affecting him like this. He had been having more than his fill for—he did not know how long. How long ago did Tyran leave? His mind was too foggy to remember. And Walstan was gone, too.

Vaguely, Drast saw that the sky was just turning blue with the rising sun. At least, he was fairly certain it was sunrise. None of the hues of sunset had begun to color the sky.

“Ser Drast?”

He turned his head to the entrance into his chambers and pulled himself more upright to lean against the nightstand beside his bed. One of the serving women stood just inside of his room. “What?”

“The Arkhon wishes to speak with you.”

He was not certain what string of curses came from his lips, but the maid blanched and her face grew pink, almost to the color of her hair. The room swirled again while she spoke.

“What?” he asked again.

“I said, Ser Drast, the Arkhon instructed me to remain with you until you came to meet with him.” Her voice quivered.

She was right to fear him. Her voice was fuzzy, just like everything. But, he knew he had not been particularly kind to any of the servants of late. He had managed to avoid his father by effectively frightening the servants. Their fear, combined with late nights, ale, and sleeping until the sun set, had allowed him to avoid talking with anyone who did not enjoy a mug or two.

A few of the servants had initially joined him in drinking. He loosely recalled this maid among them. Ura? Mura? Lura?

“Kura,” he finally muttered. He had been a little too handsy and she had since avoided him like—he could not clearly comprise a simile. Like. Like? Like the moon avoided the sun? Good enough.

“Yes, Kura,” she murmured.

Drast spat at the chamber pot. He was fairly certain he missed. “Well, come on in, Kura.” He belched. “I know how we can pass the time.”

About the Authors:

Joshua Robertson was born in Kingman, Kansas on May 23, 1984. A graduate of Norwich High School, Robertson attended Wichita State University where he received his Masters in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Sociology. His bestselling novel, Melkorka, the first in The Kaelandur Series, was released in 2015. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He counts R.A. Salvatore and J.R.R. Tolkien among his literary influences.

Website: www.robertsonwrites.com/
Twitter: @robertsonwrites

J.C. lives in the Midwest with his wife and two dogs. He recently earned his MA in English Literature and is working on his debut novel for his own fantasy world. Despite growing up with Dungeons & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, and a collection of both Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels, J.C. has an abiding love of classics and spends his free time reading anything he can get his hands on.

Website: www.crimsonedgepress.com

Twitter: @jcboyd_author

 

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The Endless and Exhausting Pursuit of Happiness

In the last few years, more and more people have talked about “finding your bliss” or “doing what makes you happy”. But how realistic is that?

Every time I hear that, I get an image of the scene from Love Actually:

That would be my “bliss”: a beautiful background, peace and calm to sit and write my heart out. But that begs the question: How realistic is that? Given today’s market, not very realistic or practical.

I found an article on Psychology Today with a title that I LOVED: The Pursuit of Happiness Never Ends Well. It said something I definitely agree with “Happiness is a state of being, not a pile of stuff.”

But I’m going to take that a step further. “Happiness is a state of being, not a state of bliss.”

There are many, many ways for you to “find your bliss” in life. God knows I LOVE being a writer, being able to sit down and tell my stories and actually make money doing so. But is it a state of bliss? Absolutely not. Writing is hard work, and that’s before I get into the editing, proofreading, marketing, and everything else. Plus, seeing as I’m still near the beginning of my writing career, I have to have the “day job” to pay the bills until I’m making my millions off my novels.

But if I was to spend all of my time on the “bliss”—in this case, writing the fun stories—I doubt I’d live very long. I’d end up starving because the “fun” doesn’t pay the bills. No, to do that, it all comes down to good old fashioned hard work.

I’m firmly of the opinion that you should find your bliss, but you can’t spend your whole life in the endless, exhausting pursuit of happiness. Happiness is something you find in small things in your life. For me, it’s being able to write dark fantasy novels. For someone else, it’s the time they spend fixing their car on the weekend. For still others, it’s gardening or playing with their dogs or taking their kids to the park. The state of being that is happiness doesn’t have to be your entire life.

I believe that many people end up unhappy as a result of their pursuit of happiness. They focus all of their time and energy on finding that one thing they think should make them happy. When they don’t find it—or they discover that one thing isn’t enough to make a person happy for the rest of their lives—they are dissatisfied and thus expend even more energy in the vain pursuit of something else they latch onto as their bliss.

Look for the things that make you happy. If you can find a way to make those happy things pay the bills, even better. But don’t make that pursuit of happiness your life’s mission. Find a way to be happy where you are with the things you’re doing. Don’t be bouncing from passion project to passion project just because you’re not deriving the sense of satisfaction you think they should give you. Nothing will ever be 100% blissful. Happiness is a temporary state; a deep-rooted sense of contentment with your state in life is what really matters.

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Book Review: Cloak of the Two Winds by Jack Massa

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and today I’m going back to my roots with a fantasy novel that feels like something with a bit more of an “old school” feel. The flavors of sword and sorcery are always a treat for me!

Cloak of the Two Winds

Pirates, sorcerers, and witches battle for an ancient magical treasure

To the Iruk people of the South Polar Sea, the crew of a hunting boat is sacred—a band of men and women warriors bound by oath and a group soul. But when Lonn leads his crew away from the hunt to pursue his dream of a treasure ship, they find more than an easy bit of piracy.

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The ship belongs to the witch Amlina, and after the Iruks carry off her possessions, they are robbed in turn. Worse, one of their band is also taken—Glyssa, the woman Lonn loves.

To rescue her, the Iruks must join forces with Amlina on a perilous voyage far from the seas they know. To Lonn and his mates, nothing matters but saving Glyssa. But Amlina knows much more is at stake. Among her possessions is an object of ancient power. In the wrong hands, the Cloak of the Two Winds can unravel the age-old magic that keeps the world from chaos.

My Review: 4 Stars

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review, and I must say that I found it a well-crafted story with interesting, well-developed characters. I LOVED the “Inuit” flavor of the protagonists, as it was something rarely seen in other novels. Everything from their long-distance ice-skating to their ice boats was original and enjoyable.

If I liked the book so much, why did I give it four stars? I had to dock a star because I had a hard time reading it. The book didn’t draw me in and hold me spellbound. It was a well-written story, but I had to force myself to keep reading through to the end.

However, I have to say that it was an interesting book that is worth the read. With the fresh take on fantasy worlds and the old school “sword and sorcery” feel, it was a book I’d highly recommend.

Here’s a Taste:

The freezewind had blown in the morning, changing the sea to ice. Under an overcast sky the ice stretched in all directions, gleaming with a light of its own—a pearly light born of witchery. So all the seas had gleamed for an age on the world of Glimnodd.

Two of the Iruks had climbed from the hunting boat and were skating around on the ice. Two others could be seen on board the open, forty-foot craft, at the helm and atop the mast. The Iruks wore garments of deerskin and fur, with leather harnesses and hooded capes. Curved hunting swords and long knives hung at their sides. The skaters moved on ivory blades cunningly strapped to their sea boots.

Leaning on the massive bone tiller, the one called Lonn glanced at the two skaters from time to time. Otherwise his squinting gaze stayed fixed on the north, where a low dark ridge marked the Cape of Dekyll, the only visible land in all the bright emptiness of ice and sky. The Iruks had been lying off the cape for two days now, waiting. They had sailed to this spot because Lonn had dreamed that a merchant ship would pass this way, unarmed and laden with treasure.

“I don’t believe that ship is coming,” Karrol declared. The taller and brawnier of the skaters, she had glided up alongside the stern and stopped, looking pointedly at Lonn.

“I still believe it will,” Lonn said. “Didn’t the freezewind blow this morning? Haven’t I said all along that in my dream we captured this galleon on ice?”

“Yes,” Karrol said, “the freezewind blew this morning. And because we were lying at anchor the boat got frozen in, and it took us half the day to chop free. The freezewind often blows this time of year. That is why Tathian merchants don’t sail in this season. Their galleons are slow and too easily caught in the ice.”

Lonn made no answer, but continued staring toward the Cape of Dekyll. He was starting to regret convincing the others to follow his dream.

But the dream had seemed so vivid, the opportunity so rare and vast. The Iruk people believed in dreams, especially ones that came during a hunt. And as leader of the klarn, the hunting band, if Lonn had not argued forcefully to follow such a dream…Well, what kind of a leader would he be?

“This is senseless,” Karrol said. “One day we are hunting yulugg with twenty other boats, chasing a good-sized herd. Then Lonn happens to dream of a ship. Now we lie off an empty point of land, alone, and nothing happens. I’d rather Lonn had dreamed of yulugg.”

“Perhaps Lonn will dream of yulugg,” Eben called from the masthead, “when the season comes for hunting ships.”

Karrol snorted, and out on the ice Draven chuckled. Lonn clenched his jaw and glared at the north. He was beginning to wish he haddreamed of yulugg.

There were six in Lonn’s klarn, three women and three men, all of them young, none older than twenty, though all were full-fledged warriors. At the start of the season they had taken a sacred oath, to sail and hunt and fight together, share warmth, food, and shelter. A klarn might last for many years, or it might be ritually dissolved at the end of any hunt. The way things were going, Lonn thought gloomily, he’d be lucky if this crew lasted the season—a sorry outlook indeed for his first voyage as a klarn leader.

Karrol hoisted herself over the rail and sat down heavily in the stern. “I think we should go back to the hunt. I’m going to call a meeting.”

“We’ve had a meeting on this already,” Lonn said.

“Yes.” Karrol was unstrapping her skate blades. “We agreed to come here and wait for the ship. So we’ve waited two days, and the ship hasn’t shown. I say it’s time to reconsider.”

Laying the skates aside, she rose in a graceful movement and stalked toward the forward end of the boat.

Sliding by on the ice, Draven threw out his arms in a shrug, then let them drop, slapping his sides as he showed Lonn an amused smile. Draven never seemed to lose his sense of humor.

Lonn shook his head. Pointlessly, he glanced at the windbringer, a four-foot fern-like creature that stood near him in a bucket of seawater. The windbringer looked back at Lonn through its single green eye. Though capable of understanding and making human speech, windbringers seldom had much to say to people.

Karrol stopped in front of the mast and lifted the flap of a low tent of white and gray hides. “Brinda, Glyssa. Wake up! Eben, come down from there.”

“I can hear you plainly from here,” Eben answered. “And one of us keep lookout, in case Lonn’s dream comes true.”

Brinda and Glyssa had kept the late watch until sunrise, then worked all morning to help chop the boat free of the ice. Still, they scrambled from the tent immediately, tightening loose garments. Their hoods were back, revealing typical Iruk faces—tawny complexions, high cheekbones, slitted eyes accustomed to squinting.

Brinda, lean and muscular, was Karrol’s older sister. “Why did you wake us?” she demanded, looking around sleepily.

“I want to have a meeting.” Karrol said. “To decide if we should stay here or go back and hunt yulugg.”

“You could have waited till we’d finished sleeping,” said Glyssa with irritation. She was smaller, delicate for an Iruk woman.

“We’ve wasted enough time here already,” Karrol said.

“We can hunt yulugg any time,” Glyssa said.

“You can sleep any time,” Karrol answered.

Not if you keep waking us up!” Glyssa said.

“Your argument just became pointless,” Eben called from above. “The ship of Lonn’s dream is rounding the cape from the east.”

About the Author

Jack Massa grew up in New Jersey and attended college in Florida and Massachusetts, earning an MFA in creative writing. His Master’s thesis was a science fantasy novel, Mooncrow, which was published by Berkley Books in 1979.

Jack spent the next 30 years in Atlanta, Georgia, learning and practicing the magical skills of the digital age. Bits of his fiction and poetry also surfaced from time to time. His science fiction story, “PrayerWare,” was published in the first Bantam Books Full Spectrum Anthology in 1988, and was later selected for a British Best-of-the-Year collection.

In 2013, Jack returned to Florida, where he lives with his magical wife, wonderful son, and a pet orange tree named Grover. He continues to practice technical prestidigitation while also focusing on writing stories.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cloak-Two-Winds-Jack-Massa-ebook/dp/B01GD9X3XC
Connect with Jack on his website: www.triskelionbooks.com
Chat with him on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/AuthorJackMassa/
Tweet at him: @JackMassa2

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The Key to Success: Failure

That may sound like a pretty odd way to succeed! After all, isn’t failure the exact opposite of success?

There’s a lot to be said for a perfect record. Someone who has never failed will definitely have a lot of confidence in their abilities. However, remember the old saying, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” The more success you have, the harder you’ll be hit by failure.

The happiest, most content people in the world aren’t the high-powered, driven, hopeful, and passionate youths (teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s). Instead, research has shown that people in their mid-life and beyond tend to be the happiest. Their lives are more settled and stable, and they’ve achieved a lot. They’ve also learned a lot, usually through all their great successes and epic failures.

Think about how you learned ANYTHING:

  • You learned not to touch a hot stove by burning yourself. FAIL!
  • You learned how to interact better with people of the opposite sex by embarrassing yourself. FAIL!
  • You learned how to be a better writer/lawyer/orthodontist/leprechaun-wrangler by being terrible initially. FAIL!
  • You learned how to drive by knowing what would happen if you crash. FAIL!

Everything you learn in life is either driven by previous failures or the fear of failure. You become better at everything in order to avoid that failure.

Basically, in order to succeed, you need to fail first. You need to have a taste of that failure to see what it’s like and know you NEVER want to suck on that particular lemon again. Once you’ve tasted failure, you’re going to do your damnedest to succeed, no matter what.

One social worker says, “Success in life is a process of elimination. You make mistakes – be it in changing the oil in your car, handling a job interview, hanging wallpaper, or dating someone outside your typical comfort zone – and walk away with one more lesson learned.”

As you push your comfort zone, you inevitably fail—perhaps not always, but definitely more often than you’d like. But that failure teaches you a vital lesson, one you can carry over into every other area of your life. As time goes on, each new failure builds on the lessons you’ve previously learned, and you walk away from each situation with a greater understanding of how NOT to fail.

If you never fail, you’ll never learn anything. Failure teaches you both the good and bad and prepares you for success!

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Everyone Has a Unique Sense of Smell

One thing I’ve found  about the best books is that the writing engages ALL the senses. You’ll read about the sights, sounds, sensations, tastes, and even the smells of the location where the book is set. Using these senses helps to draw the reader into the book and makes it more compelling.

In The Last Bucelarii series, the Hunter of Voramis (the protagonist) is a half-demon assassin with heightened senses. In addition to keen hearing, he has a strong sense of smell (a very animalistic trait, a part of his demonic heritage). Smell plays a very large role in the story. Not only does it help to set the tone for his environment (the heady floral perfumes of the nobility, the musky stink of working men, the rotting stench of the demons, and so on), but it also enhances the way he perceives the people around him.

Some examples:

  • He has memories of his “lost love”, and the memories include her scent: jasmine and honey, cinnamon and berries.
  • The children (Farida, Hailen, etc.) have a “clean, innocent” smell.
  • The men he bonds with tend to have honest, hard-working smells (leather, sweat, horses, etc.)
  • The scholars smell of ink, parchment, leather, dust, vellum, etc.
  • The demons reek of rot and decay.

His sense of smell is much stronger, like an animal’s.

Through the books, he travels from the city of Voramis (far in the south) northward. He goes from his medieval Europe-style city to cities with more Arabian, Mediterranean, and Oriental environments. Each new city exposes him to a different array of smells, just as it would be in the modern world.

Here’s an interesting fact I found today: the scent receptors in animals’ noses develop according to the scents to which they are exposed.

There are 1000+ olfactory receptors, making the olfactory system the most complex of the senses. Genetics do play a role in the sense of smell—the genes of the mice determined which olfactory receptors were present. However, the most important factor was the environment. Mice which grew up under laboratory conditions had a different sense of smell from genetically similar mice that grew up outside a lab.

Think about it like this: every country/city/environment has their own unique blend of scents.  A Brazilian growing up in the U.S. would have a sense of smell more on par with an American than a Brazilian on the streets of Rio. The same would be true in Mexico City, Tokyo, or Riyadh.

A fascinating concept, isn’t it? Had the Hunter spent his life living in an Oriental-style city, he’d be accustomed to a totally different range of scents. The same if he’d grown up in a Viking-style city, an Arabian-style city, or a hut in the jungle.

The sense of smell is conditioned by our environment as well as our genetics. Perhaps that’s why a scent that smells nice to one person is repulsive to another, and vice versa.

 

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Book Review: The Dead City by Dylan J Morgan

For Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got something out of the ordinary for me: a post-apocalyptic military thriller. Think Resident Evil meets Alien meets the Special Forces. All in all, one heck of a book!

The Dead City

Nuclear war devastated the planet of Hemera and shattered its main city, Magna. A century later, its sister planet, Erebus, despatched a team of soldiers to the city to rescue Hemera’s president and restore that world to its former glory. What the reconnaissance team found however was a violent mutated population—all they discovered there was death. Now, four weeks after the final mayday call from her decimated soldiers, Erebus has sent a larger force to Hemera’s surface. Colonel Paden is coming with them, but his desires go way beyond the rescue of the surviving recon team. A mountain of jewels and gold is rumoured to lie buried beneath the presidential palace, and Paden is here to claim the wealth he believes is due to him.

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Dropped into an unforgiving world, Ryan and the other soldiers of Erebus Superior Armed Forces soon discover everything is not as they thought. Magna’s population is more deadly than they could ever have imagined, their Colonel more corrupt than they’d ever known. Seeking refuge in the president’s underground bunker, the combatants are forced to sacrifice everything just to stay alive.

Bandit clans control Hemera’s dead lands and they’ve surrounded Magna in an effort to claim the fortune that belongs to their planet. Mutants control the city streets, but all they want is the taste of human flesh. Trapped inside the dead city, Ryan must fight against a mutated population—against the greed, betrayal, and hatred of those who stand at his side—in a desperate battle for survival.

My Review: 5 Stars

While post-apoc military thrillers aren’t my usual cup of tea, I found this one heck of a compelling read. I was given this book in exchange for an honest review and have to say it was absolutely one worth reading.

The story is mostly fast-paced and compelling, with only a few slow moments throughout. The zombies/mutants  weren’t too clearly described, but it was enough to know they were dangerous. Of course, the HUMAN antagonists were the truly interesting ones. By the climax of the book, I was only too glad to see them get their come-uppance. I haven’t disliked antagonists so strongly in a long time.

The book is dark and grim and vicious and bloody and brilliant. Definitely one I’d recommend to anyone!

About the Author

Dylan J. Morgan is the author of five novels, four novellas, and a short story collection, all in the field of horror and post-apocalyptic fiction. Now living and working in Norway, he was born in New Zealand and raised in the United Kingdom. He writes during those rare quiet moments amid a hectic family life: after dark, with limited sustenance, and when his creative essence is plagued the most by tormented visions. If you’re searching for that light at the end of the tunnel then stop looking—you won’t find it here.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LDT7F2M/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31329015-the-dead-city

 

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My StokerCon Experience

I spent this last weekend at StokerCon, a convention organized by the Horror Writers Association, held on The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

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The convention was very much focused on writers, with daily workshops, panels, discussions, and even pitch sessions for horror writers. I, however, went as a volunteer, meaning I was coordinating the Dealer’s Room (where the vendors set up tables).

Highlights of the Weekend:

– OF COURSE, getting to meet the one and only George R.R. Martin himself.

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I was fortunate enough to be roped into serving as the Kevin Costner to his Whitney Houston. Thankfully, there was no need for me to dive in front of a bullet or throw any screaming fans overboard. However, I had the chance to take a private tour of The Queen Mary with him and a few other guests.

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– I also got the chance to talk to Chuck Wendig, creator behind the Terrible Minds blog, the latest Star Wars novels, and more. I made the foolish mistake of thinking he was Max Brooks, the author of the Zombie Survival Guide. Thankfully, he’s a cool guy who only hated me A LITTLE for that. Hehe.

My fellow San Diego HWA members also joined in on the fun.

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I spent most of the three days I attended on call around the Dealer’s Room, available if something needed to be moved (people seem to think I’m good at that). It was nice to interact with other writers, listen in on a few discussions, and even get a bit of writing work done. Bonus: I got to set up and sell a few books.

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All in all, one heck of a weekend! Major props to Kevin Wetmore, Kate Jonez, Lisa Morton, and all the other amazing Horror Writers Association people for making it a whole lot of fun.

 

 

Doorway to Death

Book Review: Doorway to Death Anthology by JEA

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’m posting my review of a short story anthology published by J. Ellington Ashton Press (the publisher of my The Last Bucelarii series). I’d say it’s definitely worth reading!

Doorway to Death

The doorway stands beyond man, at the end of a long hallway filled with sights beyond reason. It is a place where the universe begins and ends, where we begin and end, and deep down within our hearts, where we keep our secrets and imagine our stories, it lives there too. Come, join us at the Doorway to Death, enter and claim your end!

Doorway to Death

From the minds of Essel Pratt, Toneye Eyenot, Roy C. Booth, Axel Kohagan, Kent Hill, Michael Fisher, Coralie Rowe, Brian Barr, Lemmy Rushmore, Michael Noe, D.S. Scott, Kevin Candela, Jeff O’Brien, Magenta Nero, Howard Carlyle, Ts Woolard, Dani Brown, Magan Rodriguez, Jim Goforth, Alice J. Black, Dona Fox, and Brian Glossup

My Review: 5 Stars

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m not usually a short story collection/anthology reader, but I found this one a pretty fascinating read. Some of the stories were light-hearted and amusing, others cynical and cutting, and still others chilling and creepy. Not every story was perfect, but I enjoyed most of them.

What I liked best about this collection was that the stories were fairly short. As a busy person with limited time to read, it was nice to pick it up and get through a story or two at a time. The shorts held my attention and kept me turning pages, so it’s a collection I’d recommend to anyone.

Here’s a Taste:

There were no lights on in the nursery when the new family arrived home, and the altar that covered the gigantic pentagram on the floor would have to be moved before the ritual. Laura entered the house carrying her newborn twins tightly to herself. She went straight to the boys’ room and tucked Josh into his cradle. He was fast asleep and rolled over on his side immediately, dead to the world. His brother, Sean, who was literally dead to this world, was tucked away in his cradle by mom. She lit the candles that lined the walls. Their flames flickered, then brightened as a sense of ancient magical presence was growing within the confinements of the little nursery.

Preparations for the ritual would have to be made now. Laura knew the rules of the Black Arts. There were books upon books about them. She owned many. What she hadn’t learned from the countless tomes she obtained throughout her life was taught by an elder in the coven she was once a part of. Many lost rites were passed down to her. Everything from incantations to summoning of good luck demons who would grant any wish you so desired. Her witchmother claimed Laura was her best student. In time she was surpassed, and lost her value to the young pupil. At twenty one Laura became witchmother to her own coven of witches and a self proclaimed prodigy.

First, she must purify her body, starting with a hot bath and her prescription of placenta pills. It was time to begin her ritual regime.

Laura undressed in her bedroom, watching her body move in the vanity’s mirror. Slithering out of the wrinkled, stretchy maternity pants and removing the hospital gown she hadn’t bothered to change from for the ride home. Pulling the soft, velvet chair out from the vanity, she sits, placing her medications and baby bag next to her socked feet. There is a silver hair brush in the drawer that she brushes her hair with. She does this for an hour, one thousand strokes and no less. Placing the brush back in the vanity’s drawer, she takes a painkiller and a placenta pill, chasing it with the last glass of blood wine she had been saving for such an occasion.

In the stone worked bathroom of the home, Laura has a claw foot tub, centered directly over the drain in the middle of the room. A pump was attached to a rise in the rock floor, and hoses and tubes ran from it to the tub. The hot bath must be prepared before the ritual as well as her body. She enters the room and clicks the on switch to the pump. The motor buzzes, then begins pumping hot water and a mixture of illegally obtained amniotic fluids and nutrients into the tub. Once it was filled to her desire, Laura removes her socks and climbs into the sparkling potion to relax.

There were memories cascading through the dim lit stone decorated bathroom and Laura was drifting, calming herself into a trance-like state. She could feel the pills in her system, as they were absorbed by her craving body, feeding on their giving selves. Their nourishing matter mending all the broken parts, the stretched pains and pulls of the skin, healing the body, carrying it, lifting it.

There was a subtle invasion on all sides of her, beginning with a sound, and Laura listened, slowly rising through her senses. In her ears. On her skin. In her mouth. Through every cell within her wholeness, she could felt it with her soul.

“Mommy….” It said.

In an instant the pool of warm amniotic fluid quivered and held her motionless for what only measured eternity in Laura’s mind. She saw the slow swell in breasts and spirits as a dark realm arose. With her eyelids bleeding, split at the corners, and being peeling away from her field of vision, forcing her to witness the ghost of her dead son, Sean.

“Mommy….” It repeated in a whine, deep and guttural with death. It was doubled; the word was, almost like an immediate repeat, or a shadow of itself. The noise along with its own scent of decay, trailing. The eerie, shrill pitch was a continuous buzz in Laura’s head.”….Mommy.” It growled quietly.

The hold was unbreakable. Lifting Laura up out of the tub, fluid webs pouring around her body, flowing in some uncoordinated, contained manner. Not one drop spilling to the stone tiled floor, nor a splash, nor mist. There was intellect in this gathering of electrolytes and urea and proteins. This was an old entity, one that has existed in this realm, and many others. Long before man was even a glimmer in his God’s eyes, long before anything was, for that matter.

Laura was floating in a hardening amniotic sac, which was rotating around her like the universe to the sun, in an eternal continuation of the dance of life and death. And her Dead fetus Sean was speaking to her from between the worlds, from the jar of formaldehyde gel in his vacant crib, to the Dead Realm.

“Mommy…..you know what you musssst do.” Dead fetus Sean whispered, detached and dryly. The rising and falling of its ghastly words were almost unintelligible, but Laura knew what they meant, understood them clearly. She could hear her dead son’s thoughts. Feel his presence. “You musssst perform the ritual soon. Your doorway will clossssse within the day.” It gurgled from the crib.

“I know, my son.” She told him. “The preparation must be completed first. Then I will begin the ritual, and be with you both soon.” Laura was in tears. “I love you, Sean. You and Josh. I will not live without either of you this time!”

 

For more information:

Visit the publisher’s website (http://www.jellingtonashton.com/) to read about the authors contributing to the anthology.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015VLG1GY/

 

 

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Why Are We So Violent?

Here’s a pretty terrifying fact: the rate of lethal violence among humans is 7 times higher than among other mammals. Of more than 1000 species studied, humans were the ones most predisposed to violence—not only to other species (prey/food), but to each other. Humans are the only species to not only kill each other, but to constantly innovate and create new ways to do so.

One psychologist published this in 2016:

“Our violence operates far outside the bounds of any other species.  Human beings kill anything.  Slaughter is a defining behavior of our species.  We kill all other creatures, and we kill our own.  Read today’s paper.  Read yesterday’s, or read tomorrow’s.  The enormous industry of print and broadcast journalism serves predominantly to document our killing.  Violence exists in the animal world, of course, but on a far different scale. ”

“Carnivores kill for food; we kill our family members, our children, our parents, our spouses, our brothers and sisters, our cousins and in-laws.  We kill strangers.  We kill people who are different from us, in appearance, beliefs, race, and social status.  We kill ourselves in suicide.  We kill for advantage and for revenge, we kill for entertainment:  the Roman Coliseum, drive-by shootings, bullfights, hunting and fishing, animal roadkill in an instantaneous reflex for sport.  We kill friends, rivals, coworkers, and classmates.  Children kill children, in school and on the playground.  Grandparents, parents, fathers, mothers–all kill and all of them are the targets of killing…”

(Source: R. Douglas Fields, Why We Snap, p. 286, 2016.)

Pretty scary, isn’t it? So what’s causing it? Why are humans so much more violent than other creatures, even predators?

Territoriality – Primates are among the most territorial mammals on the planet, and humans are no exceptions. We have an innate need to protect “our land”. Why else do you think countries, nationalities, and territories exist in the first place? We humans have a need to “drawn a line in the sand” to mark our territory. When someone else crosses that line, violence is our instinctive reaction.

Conscious Awareness – Our intelligence and consciousness is actually one of the primary contributors to our violent tendencies. We can think beyond our basic survival needs, but that consciousness leads to violence for a broad number of reasons (personal offense, territorial disputes, entertainment, etc.).

Tight Living Environment – Too many people living close together is a breeding ground for violence. The territorial nature of humans increases the chance of violence should someone “cross that line” of our property. The fact that we’re packed so tightly together means there’s less space for us to inhabit and a greater risk someone will cross that line.

Easy Access to Weapons – Bears only have their teeth and claws, elephants only have their tusks and trunks. Humans have access to THOUSANDS of weapons (all of which we created thanks to our conscious awareness) which make it easier than ever to kill.

Freedom – Hard to believe this is true, but it absolutely is. State-run societies intended to suppress violence tend to lead to lower crime rates, but the “freedom” common in modern governments places emphasis on personal choice/decision-making. Given humans’ tendency toward violence, it’s very likely the freedoms are a contributing factor in the higher violence rates.

These are the primary factors that have led to higher incidences of violence among human, but there are HUNDREDS of tiny things that contribute as well.

Guest Post: Planning for Pantsers

Today I’ve got a special guest post written on the HIGHLY controversial topic of planning vs. pantsing/gardening vs. architecture. Basically, some people (like me) tend to take a more structured, outlined approach to novels, while others prefer to sit down and let the story flow as they write.

Let’s be clear: it’s impossible to say which of the two is better. Some people insist that pantsing allows for more creativity, while others believe that planning leads to a more cohesive story. I’m firmly in the second camp but recognize that pantsing has its benefits.

But my guest author, Justine Alley Dowsett, found a way to put the two together in a way that seems to be highly effective for her story. Read about her method below:

Planning for Pantsers by Justine Alley Dowsett

I’m a pantser. What does that mean? It means that I’d rather ‘write by the seat of my pants’ than plan anything beforehand. However, with my latest book Uncharted, written with my co-writer Murandy Damodred, we did more planning than I’m used to and I think it helped us.

Making Notes:

Since Murandy and I co-write, we use Google Drive to keep everything straight. If you’re not familiar with Google Drive or Google Docs, it’s an open platform where you can share your documents and multiple accounts can work on the same document at the same time. It also serves as a cloud drive, so your work is saved and backed up automatically and anyone you give access to the files can open them up and work on them. This helped us with planning because while writing we always had access to our notes file, which became a living document, changing as the story expanded.

Setting and Worldbuilding:

Usually I do a lot of the world building in my own head, but since Uncharted is an adventure story that takes place in a variety of settings and cultures, I made a point of writing down a handful of things to keep in mind about the settings, so I would make sure to include them.

Characters:

This is where the planning really came in handy. Before we started writing, Murandy and I wrote out detailed backstories for each of our main characters and at least a sentence or two about our minor characters as we invented them. This helped to flesh everyone out and make sure we knew where they had come from and what was important to them because of that.

Plot:

This is where our best of intentions sort of fell apart, but in a good way. Before we started writing, we formed a point form list of plot points then we proceeded to ignore them. As we wrote, we went back and added new plot points to our list and kept adding to that list to stay a few steps ahead of the story, but ultimately this was a form of pantsing more than planning.

Editing:

Where the notes really came in handy was when I went to write the second draft. All throughout the first draft, instead of going back and fixing things that needed changing, I took notes instead. Then, when I went over the finished first draft, I applied the changes or checked for the problems I’d indicated. It saved me a ton of time and it also meant that Murandy and I could write quickly, without feeling like we were making a mess of things.
All in all, if you’re a pantser, like me, I suggest trying to apply some planning to your process just to see what you can learn. And if you’re a planner, take a risk and try a little pantsing!

 

Justine actually has a new book, released April 17th:

Uncharted

Fated to be a Priestess of Saegard, Meredith dreams of leading a normal life with a family and a home of her own, something she’ll never have if she swears her life to the Order.  A chance encounter with a stranger in the sacred Celestial Chamber sends her previously well-ordered life into a tailspin of adventure and mayhem as she is blamed for the theft of a legendary artifact.

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Now a fugitive, Meredith must join forces with Captain Reginald Lawrence, the son of the man who initially brought her to the Temple, and his enigmatic business partner, the charming yet at times infuriating, Grey Rhodes, to find the Celestial Bowl and clear her name. From the cosmopolitan capital of Saegard to the coast of Ismera and back again, Meredith’s journey will reveal the true nature of her past, present, and ultimately, her future.

Here’s a Taste:

The door to her ‘room’ on The Clover was just as she remembered it, although it seemed much smaller now that she was older. No larger than a water closet, the addition on the backside of the Captain’s Quarters that had been built for her was still there as though, after all this time, it was waiting for her return.

Reaching for the small brass ring that served as a handle, Meredith pulled the half-sized door open and was dismayed to find that there was no way she’d fit inside the small space. It was filled to the brim with all manner of junk. Tackle boxes, rope, a crate filled with empty bottles, and a pile of soiled linen; her ‘bedroom’ had been repurposed into the ship’s dumping ground.

This is my room. For no reason that she could fully articulate, Meredith felt indignant. Even if it’s been more than ten years, it was built for me and I’m taking it back! The irrational desire to re-stake her claim on something that hadn’t been hers for a decade took over and she grabbed the nearest thing to her and turned with purpose, ready to hoist a crate filled with empty liquor bottles over the railing and into the water below.

“Whoa, hold on just a minute!” Captain Laurent’s son grabbed hold of her arm before she could gain the height she needed to throw the crate overboard.

His noble friend, minus his navy suit jacket now, stood just behind him, almost as if staying out of her range. His white shirt was nearly clean, though she could see where brownish grey stew coloured the frills of his collar. Meredith felt only slightly guilty about her little ‘outburst’. He deserved it…he’s a jerk.

“No,” she stated, imploring him to listen, “you destroyed my room and I’m taking it back. It’s the only home I ever really had.”

“Your…room?” A light went on behind the young Captain’s eyes. “That’s why it had a bed in there…I always thought it was a dog house. Didn’t know why my dad would’ve wanted a dog aboard a ship, but he was always doing all sorts of foolish things.”

“Like taking in strays?” Meredith demanded, arching a brow disdainfully in his direction. “Is that what you’re implying?”

“Ah, no!” Reginald’s eyes went wide, his hands going up in a defensive fashion. “No, of course not! My dad was always winning strange sorts of stuff in poker tournaments. He was gambler.”

“Are you now implying that I was bought or won in a card game, like some sort of…child slave?”

His eyes bugged even further out of his head, if that was possible, and his cheeks flushed. “Ah…no…I mean…you weren’t, were you?”

“Of course not!”

“So now that we’ve established that you aren’t a stray dog or a child slave,” the noble interjected in a no-nonsense tone of voice, his grey eyes dark, “do you mind telling us who you are and what you’re doing here?”

Meredith fought the urge to laugh because the bit of mushy carrot in his hair was so at odds with his expression.

“I am here because I need passage out of Saegard. I fell in the water, got drenched, then walked here during the night. I was cold, wet, and badly bruised…from my fall. No one was around on deck, so I thought I would warm up inside. I took my clothes off to dry so I wouldn’t catch a cold and I used the silks because they were all I could find. That’s when I fell asleep. And I would have told you all of that, if you weren’t being such a jerk!”

About the Authors:

Justine Alley Dowsett

From obtaining her BA in Drama at the University of Windsor to becoming an entrepreneur in video game production and later, publishing, Justine Alley Dowsett’s unswerving ambition has always led her to pursue her dreams. She lives in Windsor, Ontario and dedicates her time to writing and publishing fiction novels. When not focusing on growing her business, she enjoys role-playing with friends and developing new ideas to write about.

Authors

Murandy Damodred

With a background in Drama and Communications from the University of Windsor, Murandy Damodred enjoys fantasy fiction with strong romantic subplots. She is an avid role-player and is happiest when living vicariously through her characters. Though she’d rather think of herself as the heroine of her next novel, in the real world she is an expert in sales and management living in Windsor, Ontario.

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