People say I make strange choices, but they’re not strange for me. My sickness is that I’m fascinated by human behavior, by what’s underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people”
~ JOHNNY DEPP
Good day, my friends, and welcome back. With Halloween well back in the wake, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’m going to lighten up on the horror promotions. Alas (or hooray, depending on your outlook), that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. You see, my chosen genre to write in is horror. It’s a new choice, and I can’t show you any of my work just yet, as a publisher is still considering it, and will want exclusive rights should he accept it. I’ll keep you posted on that, but the simple fact is that the groups I belong to, the pages I follow, the teachings I study are increasingly in the field of horror. There is still a healthy dose of steampunk in my writing DNA, but horror is spreading like an insidious infection that eats at the brain and takes control of the will . . .
All right, that’s enough of that! The point is that a lot of what I’m exposed to is horror, and it will continue to show up here in what is likely to be disproportionate amounts. I don’t necessarily want to cultivate an exclusively horror audience, and will actively endeavor to include a variety, but this just stands as an explanation of why things are the way they are around here. So, with that mission accomplished, let’s get this party started.
~ Books ~
I thought I’d do something different today, and start us out with a book I’ve actually read. Oriental Vagabonds by Richard Regan is a rollicking tale of a tramp steamer plying her trade in the Far East on the eve of World War II. Hitler is finalizing his plans for the conquest of Europe and flexing his muscles in Spain, while the Japanese are poised to invade China and eyeing the resources of the East Indies and Indochina to fuel their war machine. Dangerous times, but there are still profits to be made by men like hard-bitten Skipper Bill Rowden and his vagabond crew, as they work their aging steamer around the treacherous waters of the Far East. Uncharted reefs, tropical storms, corrupt officials, smuggling and piracy are all in a day’s work to Rowden and his crew, which includes an embittered hard drinking aristocrat, a knife wielding Welshman and a hot-headed, hard-fisted Australian. On what begins as a routine voyage to New Guinea, Rowden discovers an illegal shipment of arms concealed in his ship, setting off a chain of increasingly dangerous events that drag him unwittingly into the centre of Nazi, Soviet and British attempts to gain the upper hand, before war finally breaks out. Entangled with Chinese warlords, triads, and a beautiful Russian adventuress, Rowden narrowly escapes Shanghai before the bombs start to fall, but his enemies are closing in. Deep in the Pacific, in a remote coral fringed lagoon, Rowden and his crew face a violent and explosive confrontation, with little more than fists and wits to keep them alive.
Perhaps this novel spoke to me so strongly because I have lived this life myself, cruising the Orient of the deck of a tanker in the late 1960s. For that reason, though, and the similar background of the author, I can attest to the authenticity of the settings and characters, and if you’d care to join a crew for a life-and-death adventure that doesn’t depend on supernatural creatures or technologically superior aliens for its chills, pour a mug of strong coffee, add a dash of your favorite “creamer,” and settle back on a quiet evening for the voyage of a lifetime. 268 pages; $2.99 on Kindle.
Before Safe Haven: Alex. 81-page novella by Christopher Artinian. A virus has infected billions all over the world, turning its victims into vicious zombies. The UK and Ireland have remained uninfected . . . until now. Alex Munro’s city is put in lockdown as an outbreak of the zombie virus takes hold. Each day the government broadcasts claim a new victory in the fight. Each night more shots are heard as the undead begin to stake their claim to the streets of Leeds. What will he do? What can he do? For Alex, family is everything. Survival is everything. Heroes aren’t born. Heroes are made. Today we need a new hero. Today we need Alex. This is his story. $2.99 on Kindle.
Lost Christmas Memories. 224-page novel by Dana Mentink. Can she trust this Gold Country Cowboy with her life? Tracy Wilson witnessed a murder — but after a head injury, she can’t remember what she saw. Now someone plans to silence her for good, and only cowboy Keegan Thorn believes her. With a killer after her at Christmas, Tracy is running out of time to remember, and falling dangerously hard for the cowboy who could break her heart. $4.99 on Kindle.
The Crossing. 128-page novel by David Heilwagen. In the summer of 1983, Rafael Gregorio, a poor Cuban fisherman, loaded his small family into a makeshift boat and escaped Communist Cuba forever. Their ultimate destination: Key West, Florida – a mere 90 miles away. But first they had to cross the treacherous waters of the Gulf Stream. This is their story. An epic adventure that has Rafael and his family battling deadly sharks, fighting hunger and thirst, as well as nearly being tossed into the ocean by a massive tropical storm. The Crossing is a story of classic simplicity in every way, reminiscent of Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea, or Steinbeck’s, The Pearl. The story explores the themes of love and family, courage in the face of danger, triumph in the face of loss, as well as showing us what one family is willing to endure in their quest for freedom. 99¢ on Kindle.
A Change of Rules. 226-page novel by L.L. Thomsen. There is not much that Solancei, life-shield and cousin of Princess Iambre, will not do to protect her oldest, dearest friend. In fact, there is not much that Iambre will not do for her salty-tongued, martial arts-loving cousin either, yet when Solancei finds herself trapped by an unpredictable opponent in an illegal, back-yard duel, little do either young women understand how their golden ideals are about to be tested in ways neither could have conjured up in their darkest nightmares. Facing hard choices, Solancei must dig deep to extricate herself from a bad situation before it can escalate, but can she escape the trap awaiting her? Iambre is nothing if not a demanding heiress and if Solancei misses their scheduled appointment there could be worse than daggers to pay. Without Solancei’s temperance, the headstrong and spoiled Iambre could well seize the opportunity to renew her indelicate association with Bilan, the Captain of the King’s own Lancers, and Solancei knows this can lead to nothing good. With everything to fight for, the Princess’ life-shield does not realize that this one rainy day will be the first in a world that’s about to be turned upside-down – because destiny and chance are calling, and they will not take no for an answer. $2.99 on Kindle.
The Protector. 334-page novel by Danielle L. Davis. Detective Sydney Valentine is more than willing to sacrifice a normal life to put ruthless killers behind bars. But even the seasoned detective can’t quite shake the image of Scrabble letters stuffed into a dead social worker’s mouth. With a puzzling crime scene and no immediate suspects, Valentine’s trail threatens to turn cold. When another suspicious death hints at a shadowy past, Valentine suspects she has a clever serial killer on her hands. As the investigative noose tightens and the body count rises, will the determined detective piece together the clues in time, or will she become the next victim of the murderer’s deadly game? The Protector is a gripping police procedural novel. If you like psychological crime thrillers, complex twists and turns, and gutsy heroines, then you’ll love Danielle L. Davis’s captivating book. 99¢ on Kindle.
The General Theory of Haunting. 299-page novel by Richard Easter. Winter, 1809: Lord Francis Marryman’s wife, Patience, is dying. In the madness of his grief, desperate to keep Patience’s memory alive, he’s compelled to build a memorial in the form of a remote country Hall. But as the plans move forward, Marryman Hall seems to become alive with more than just memories. Francis, a brilliant mathematician and scholar, has built more into the walls than just bricks and mortar. Autumn, 2018. Siblings Greg and Lucy Knights, owners of K&K Publishing Company, are seeking a venue to celebrate the 18th anniversary of their company’s inception. At such short notice, there is only one option that still has vacancies: Marryman Hall. Winter arrives and as heavy snow falls, the guests drop out until a much depleted party of just 6 reach their destination and soon find themselves snowed in. As the guests’ private lives and demons are exposed in the increasingly awkward, claustrophobic atmosphere , the secrets of Marryman Hall and her history are also brought into shocking light from the darkness. In his grief, it’s possible that Lord Francis Marryman may have made a terrible mistake. The General Theory of Haunting is the perfect ghost story to curl up with on the long winter nights – like Marryman Hall’s guests, you won’t know what’s truly happening until it’s way too late. £1.99 on Kindle.
Paradigm Shift. 238-page novel by S.T.K. Chan. What if the battle for good and evil were being fought just out of our sight, beyond our reach? How far should one go to seek out the good and destroy evil, and what consequences might their choices have? After Lisa barely manages to escape an invasion from the Rebel army in her home of Malta, she discovers Exo. This ancient dimension is made of memories from the past and brings forth all the strong echoes we leave behind. Lisa desperately wants to resolve the conflicts of this inner world peacefully, but quickly learns she must fight the shadows in people’s hearts, materialized through battle re-enactments, warfare and emotional turmoil. 99¢ on Kindle.
Zombie War. 323-page novel by Nicholas Ryan. It was conceived in the deserts of Iran – a monstrous terrorist plot that would change America forever – and it was unleashed in a football stadium one sunny Sunday afternoon. Zombie War is a detailed account of the zombie apocalypse as it sweeps through the southern states of the USA and how the American military struggles to contain the infection. Written as a combination of narrative followed by interviews with the combatants, the book is a chillingly realistic portrayal of the devastation and the dreadful cost to all those who survive. $3.99 on Kindle.
Things. 350-page novel by Francine Garson. Jenny Gilbert is what you might call a hoarder, but she’s a neat hoarder. She’s a clean hoarder. And she’s keeping it all a big secret. To everyone who knows her, Jenny is a successful young college counselor. But secretly, she is also a collector, some may even say a hoarder. As a former military brat, she is on a mission to find and reacquire the many relics of her childhood that she was forced to leave behind with each of her family’s moves, and she has rented a secret second apartment to accommodate her growing obsession. When Jenny reconnects with Nick, a man from her past, a romance begins. But, as she tries to hide an increasingly complicated web of secrets from the man she’s falling in love with, she becomes enmeshed in a messy tangle of omissions, half-truths, and lies. Then, when Hurricane Sandy adjusts its course, aiming itself directly at both of her apartments on the New Jersey shore, Jenny finds herself catapulted into a truly desperate situation. At its heart, Things is the story of a young woman searching for a sense of rootedness, a sense of home. But she needs to learn that amassing physical things is not the way to find it, and that what she seeks is not an external thing at all. Her quest is aided, as well as complicated, by Nick’s arrival and the looming threat of the most destructive hurricane in New Jersey’s history. $3.99 on Kindle.
Den of Antiquity. 190-page anthology edited by Bryce Raffle. When one thinks of a den, one tends to think of comfort. A cozy room in the house – a quiet, comfortable place, a room for conversation, reading, or writing. One doesn’t tend to think of high adventure, dragons, vampires, airships, or paranormal creatures. And yet, that’s just what you’ll find in these pages. Stories of adventure and mystery! Paranormal, dark, and atmospheric tales! The fantastical and the imaginative, the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, and everything in between! So settle in to the coziest room in your house, plop down into your favorite armchair, and dive in to the Den of Antiquity. Featuring stories by Jack Tyler, E.C. Jarvis, Kate Philbrick, Neale Green, Bryce Raffle, N.O.A. Rawle, David Lee Summers, William J. Jackson, Steve Moore, Karen J. Carlisle, B.A. Sinclair, and Alice E. Keyes. $2.99 on Kindle [all proceeds go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund]. This anthology was great fun to be a part of, and my story, Brass & Coal, can be read in its entirety at the tab above. There are a dozen more of like or superior quality between these covers, so check it out and climb aboard; it’s a grabber of a ride!
~ Blogs ~
With one holiday down, another looms ahead, and Michael May’s Adventure Blog isn’t one to ignore a holiday. With Christmas in the offing he presents a new feature, Sleigh Bell Cinema. The first podcast looks at a modern classic, The Muppet Christmas Carol, a treat not to be missed, nor is Michael’s discussion with fellow podcaster Mike Westfall.
I’ve mentioned Inmate Blogger several times recently. It’s a powerful site that probably isn’t what most of you are used to, and I generally wait a week or two before repeating promos, but they have posted the history of how the site came to be, how it works, what it aims to accomplish and so on, and it’s very much worth a read if its contributors have caught your attention at all.
An interesting site I’ve encountered for the first time this week is Roger Floyd’s Blog. Roger has been at it for a long time, since 2010 in fact, and he writes of science, sci-fi, writing, and the environment. His latest post concerns itself with the distressing and increasing habit of agents and editors of not responding to correspondence. Worth a read, and maybe a follow.
C.W. Hawes is celebrating four years and 29 books this month, and has posted all about it, including sales figures and marketing strategies. This is a very worthwhile read for anyone getting into the indie business who wants to look at the inner workings of a successful indie’s machinery. Be careful though; this has also shone a light on how amateurish my own efforts have been, and that may have some repercussions later. Stay tuned . . .
The other C.W., this one C. William Perkins, operates a blog called The Home of Lorna Lockheed, which is very much worth a look. He has written a most entertaining collection of three novellas featuring Lorna Lockheed, a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed female version of Commando Cody. Also on the blog, he is in the midst of a review series of contemporary classic books including works by Vonnegut, Steinbeck, Melville, Fleming, and Hemingway; these are interspersed with reviews of TV shows. Maybe I should move his listing from Writing to Popular Culture . . . Or I could wait a bit on that.
Penelope Burns of the blog Write, Blog, Create, is offering up tips for new bloggers this week, so if you are one of those, I recommend a read; there’s a lot of good information there for the new folks who are still finding their way.
It’s time to give Karen J. Carlisle another shout-out. Among Karen’s accomplishments are Viola Stewart, Aunt Enid, and The Department of Curiosities. I have partaken of her work and it comes highly recommended. Slide over and check out her site if you’re looking for some interesting reading.
The Christmas holidays are looming on the horizon, and Michael May has caught the spirit, adding a feature called Sleigh Bell Cinema to his Adventure Blog. If seeing classic Holiday Movies subjected to the sort of in-depth discussion he has previously applied to westerns and superheroes is for you, this could be a very enjoyable stop on your reading rounds.
Sunday is Veterans’ Day. We here in America, and I think most free nations, owe our veterans, well, everything. If you’re somewhere that celebrates November 11th (the end of the First World War) as a holiday, or even if you aren’t, take a moment to thank someone who wrote a blank check to their country for anything up to and including his or her life; they’re the reason we have what we have. Richard Schulte devoted an issue of his photoblog to this, and is a stirring look at patriotism in action.
And that’s 30 for this issue. Join me Sunday for a WTF belly laugh from the past, and until then, read well, and write better!