Thursday, 31 March 2011

Fantasy, Dreams and Heroes: A Review of Becoming

My Review of Becoming by Marc Johnson:

I found the book an allegorical and metaphorical banquet, full of symbolism, with many of its characters standing as fantasy archetypes. Part myth, part dark fable, Becoming by Marc Johnson is a swirling gathering of lyrical thoughts, characters and images dancing outward in a non-linear story.

Becoming follows the quests of several characters: a boy, his father and their companion, a sister and brother and a hero as they wander through dreams and darkness. They embrace and fight against destiny but are inevitably drawn to their fate.

The book is a wonderful exposition that muses on the concept of the epic fantasy, while telling a rousing tale of good and evil laced with a sense of the unreal. It is a caprice of obscure complexity that makes your head spin (in a good way). Threads of thought on culture, religion, human nature and society seem to float through the pages as well, sweeping into the mix and blending well.

The book is poetic prose, imagery, parable, and character study strung along a twisting surreal road, and the narrative is beautiful to read. I had no problems with the existential nature of this book, but it may not be for all tastes. But if you are in the mood for a mind-bending, thought-provoking voyage, I recommend Becoming.

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Wonderful Mystery: A Review of Madness and Murder

My Book Review of Madness and Murder by Jen Hilborne:

Madness and Murder by Jen Hilborne is a taut crime mystery, with a terrific underlying narrative of character interaction and a theme of second chances. There is a splendid interweaving of subplots, overlaid with a chilling murder spree.

In Madness and Murder the plot unfolds on twins recovering from childhood tragedy, a homicide detective, and a girl who met the wrong guy. Their lives intertwine on the streets of San Francisco headed straight for a collision course with a serial killer.

The novel is well-plotted with some nice twists and turns, red herrings and multiple possible suspects that keep you guessing and in suspense. The characters are realistic and human, plus the female characters do not come off as helpless victims even when targeted by less than scrupulous people. The flow of the book engages and keeps the pages turning effortlessly.

The plot does hinge on a couple of coincidences of fate, but nothing that stretches the bounds of credibility and the author’s style makes it believable. Also, there were a couple of minor plot points that left me wondering a bit, but they don’t distract from the overall quality.

Madness and Murder is a great mystery novel and recommended.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Chilling and Thrilling Paranormal: A Review of Dead Man’s Eye

My Book Review of Dead Man's Eye by Shaun Jeffrey:

Dead Man’s Eye by Shaun Jeffrey is a nice, solid paranormal thriller, with a strong engaging plot. The prose is realistic, well-written and the story holds your attention from start to finish.

Joanna Raines has enough problems with failing eyesight, a troubling cornea transplant when she discovers she’s seeing strange shadows. She thinks she is going mad, only to discover there’s something far more sinister and supernatural is happening. And she may be the only person who can stop it.

The author does a splendid job of throwing a poor ordinary person into an extraordinary, unbelievable situation and making it both realistic and logical. The heroine reacts and behaves in a genuine, plausible manner that grounds the narrative beautifully. I also found the simple motivation of the antagonists (they’re just looking to wreak mayhem) refreshing; sometimes old-fashioned evil is enough.

Some readers may find the ending unsatisfying, but I loved it. I thought the unresolved, dark closer was the perfect finish. I look forward to reading more novels by this author.





Dead Man's Eye is also available on Smashwords

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Unique Sci-Fi: A Review of 300 Nights

My Book Review of 300 Nights by Kriss Perras Running Waters:



300 Nights by Kriss Perras Running Waters is a high-tech cyberpunk end-of-the-world story with a style that fluctuates between tech-speak and hard-boiled thriller. It even has some surreal and satirical musings in the mix.

300 Nights tells two parallel stories set in the near future: one in the underground cyber security complex of COG and the other above the surface in the everyday world. Both places come under threat, one from a horrific natural disaster, and the other from a hacker breach.

The pace of the novel is fast and hard (if occasionally disjointed) with information popping at the reader rapidly. Normally I might find such a narrative disconcerting, but it does seem to work as a whole for this book. The author does a nice job with the tension and suspense and maintaining the forward momentum.

The tone of the book is distinctive, perhaps even experimental, and this is definitely not a character driven novel with deep angst and moral conflict. The characters here all about action and reaction; it is the plot that’s the primary focus. However, you do get suitable characterization blended with some nice metaphor and social commentary.

I think the story could have benefitted from a little more background on the interconnected government and security complex as well as the world catastrophe; I was left with some questions and I thought there were a few loose ends dangling. Also, I felt the narrative lagged a bit towards the end, but it did pick up for the taut finale.

Overall, 300 Nights is an intriguing sci-fi novel with an interesting voice and I enjoyed reading it.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Interview with A. M. Harte

We're welcoming author A. M. Harte to the blog today, who (much like me) writes dark, speculative fiction.  Come and enjoy this wonderful interview:


Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself and your books.

I’m a London-based chocolate addict and avid reader, with a penchant for dark speculative fiction tales. On top of being an indie author, I’m a strong webfiction (or online fiction) enthusiast, and am writing several ongoing series available for free online: Above Ground, a post-apocalyptic fantasy; and DarkSight, a contemporary horror serial.

How long have you been writing?

I like to say I’ve been writing far longer than anybody’s been paying attention -- although I imagine that’s true for most writers! Ever since my early teens, I’ve been scribbling out stories, although it is only in the last couple of years that I decided to take the next step and approach writing from a more professional point of view.

Can you to tell us about your latest book?

“Hungry For You” is a zombie love speculative fiction anthology which takes a hard look at love and death, because at the end of the day, what else is there to write about? The collection is a study of extremes, from all-enduring love to twisted relationships, from traditional brain-eating zombies to thinking, sentient creatures.

Perhaps my favourite description of the book is from one of my reviewers, Lauren Smith (from Violin in a Void) who said: “Hungry For You makes zombies less scary, more revolting, but also morbidly fascinating. It’s smart and spunky, bringing together horror, tragedy, romance and dark humour.”

Why did you decide to write in the speculative fiction genre?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision -- speculative fiction has simply always fascinated me, and the books that have moved me the most have nearly always fallen into this genre. Perhaps it is a question of escapism, being able to daydream about what my life would be like in an alternate universe where magic exists, or demons are real, or everyone lives in space. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a daydreamer!

What do you find different about writing short fiction as opposed to longer novels?

I like to think of short stories as the summer flings and novels the long-term relationships. Writing a short story can be very quick and intense, because your space is limited – you need to convey a lot in very few words, which means it’s a constant challenge to tighten your prose and hone your writing. But overall I would say more of my heart and soul goes into writing a novel; the characters are dearer to me because I’ve invested so much more time in them.

What is the hardest part of writing speculative fiction?

Making everything seem plausible. As much as a reader of speculative fiction is looking for something different, your story always needs to be coherent and consistent. You may have werewolves or cabbage-eating fairies or cars that run on toothpaste, but they’ve all got to make sense in the world you’ve built, and you need to remember what the rules are so that you don’t contradict yourself later. For example, you can’t say that cars only run on fluoride toothpaste and then have someone fill up their car with mouthwash (unless the car then breaks down or explodes).

How did you research your books?

I don’t, mostly! Actually, that’s a lie. I generally end up asking unusual questions on twitter, or otherwise Google odd requests like, “What does snake poo smell like?” (Yes, really.) I don’t know how writers in ye olde days managed, but I rely heavily on the wealth of expertise available online. And if worst comes to worst, I’ll invent an answer.

What advice would you give beginning writers?

Read critically. Write furiously. Experiment with ideas and styles; don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one plot, one novel, one genre. And accept all feedback and criticism graciously, no matter how much you may disagree.

Who has inspired you as an author?

One of my favourite novels of all time is “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman; I would love to write a novel like that. Other favourites include “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Margaret Atwood), “The Postmistress” (Sarah Blake), “The Bell Jar” (Sylvia Plath), and Dune (Frank Herbert) – very much an eclectic mix, I know!

As for fellow indie authors, I’m very much inspired by fellow 1889 Labs author MCM’s professionalism and dedication. Horror author Zoe E. Whitten deserves recognition for being enviably prolific; I wish I could write as quickly as her! And from the online fiction community, MeiLin Miranda (historical fantasy) and MCA Hogarth (science fiction) are absolute stars, lovely ladies, and great writers.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently editing my first novel, “Above Ground”, which will be released as an ebook and in print in September 2011. It’s a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy where humans live underground and monsters live on the surface. “Above Ground” follows the adventures of Lilith Gray, a human girl who is trapped on the surface, and struggles to survive as she fights to return back home.

After that, who knows? I still have many stories to tell.



A.M. Harte is a speculative fiction enthusiast and a chocolate addict. She’s a writer, editor, practical joker, and the author behind the online dark fantasy publishing project Qazyfiction. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and enjoys procrastinating over at http://amharte.com.

On Twitter: @am_harte

And for more on her book, Hungry For You, check out this spotlight: http://afstewartpromotion.blogspot.com/2011/03/book-spotlight-hungry-for-you.html

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sharp, Clever Science Fiction: A Review of Ebocloud

My Book Review of Ebocloud by Rick Moss:

I’m not certain whether Ebocloud is science fiction, social commentary, a literary novel or a wonderful amalgamation of all. Some of my favourite things are in the book: art, jazz, subversive, satirical and philosophical thought on science, science fiction and family. Throw in a little society altering technology, a mysterious arsonist and you have a superbly fascinating novel.

The book begins with Ellison Luber, a successful artist and his girlfriend, Charlotte. His life changes radically after an unexplained fire destroys his home and Charlotte goes missing. In his search for answers he finds Charlotte’s secretive family, the enigmatic Radu, (the genius behind the social network revolution, ebocloud), and more questions. Slowly the threads of the mystery unravel and threaten to topple everything.

The author of Ebocloud, Rick Moss, has built multiple layers and delights with each turn of the page, and immerses the reader in world both cerebral and gripping. The characters and the underlying narrative of collective techno-culture are the best parts of this novel, but the style, told with an innovative and juxtaposed form, lends the book an intelligent tone. This author uses several plot devices, including imparting the story of a fictional sci-fi novel, to deftly propel the tale to its conclusion.

There was some minor discontent, as I sometimes found the “novel within the novel” slightly less interesting than the main plotline -although it made an intriguing contrast and parallel- and I’m not certain I agreed with the well-written ending. But on the whole I loved the book and highly recommend it.

For more on the book and author check out my spotlight: http://afstewartpromotion.blogspot.com/2011/01/book-spotlight-ebocloud.html

Monday, 7 March 2011

An Interview With Author Thom Reese

Today, I have the privilage of presenting an interview with writer Thom Reese, author of such books as The Demon Baqash and 13 Bodies: Seven Tales of Murder and Madness:

So, please welcome Thom Reese,


1. Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I’m a native of northwest Indiana just outside of Chicago, but have lived in Las Vegas for over a decade now. I’ve got a wonderful wife and three fantastic daughters. As to writing, my supernatural thriller, THE DEMON BAQASH, is my first novel. My short story collection, 13 BODIES: SEVEN TALES OF MURDER AND MADNESS, has just been released as well. I also have three additional novels due for release in 2011, so it’s a very busy year for me. Previously, I was the writer and co-producer (along with my wife) of 21st Century Audio Theatre, a weekly audio drama radio program here in Las Vegas. Fourteen of those dramas have since been published by Speaking Volumes.

2. How long have you been writing? Did you always desire to make it your line of work?

Looking back, I suppose I always did want to be a writer. Or, I suppose I should say, I always was a writer at my core. I don’t think I really realized that it was my passion until late into my twenties. But, as early as grade school I wrote my own little comic strips. In middle school I wrote sketches my friends and I would perform on cassette tapes. I also wrote a movie script in middle school. I wrote, and still do write, songs. In high school I made my first attempt at writing a novel. As a young adult I wrote short stories. So, I think the inner drive was always there, but I needed to refine my skills and make it a priority. Now, I can’t imagine going a day without writing; it’s such a part of me.

3. Can you tell us about your latest book.

THE DEMON BAQASH is a supernatural thriller centering on the characters of Trent Troxel and Baqash himself – and yes, he is a demon. I take the position that demons are fallen angels and through Baqash’s own journals chronicle his fall and much of what happened thereafter. Due to corruption in his life, Trent has taken quite a fall himself, losing his position and nearly his family as well. He’s then drawn into Baqash’s world when the demon threatens to kill Trent’s family unless he helps the demon to undermine Satan. At its core, THE DEMON BAQASH is about our propensity as humans to make choices that we know are destructive to us and to those we love, but yet we choose those roads none-the-less. Deeper meaning aside, the novel is a fast-paced thriller and a truly scary read with plenty of twists and surprises. If you’d like to check it out, here’s the link: http://speakingvolumes.us/results.asp

4. Why did you decide to write in the thriller genre? Specifically supernatural thrillers?

I tend to write the types of stories that I enjoy reading. I’ve always been intrigued by the supernatural. I find it an exciting genre and one wide open to new interpretations and ideas. I also love a fast-paced story, and so, I suppose thrillers fulfill that need. To me, fiction is about telling a story. It doesn’t really matter what genre a writer picks. What really matters is that the author connects with the reader, drawing that reader into the world of the novel, whether it be a haunted house, a depression-era vineyard, or an alien civilization. A good novel connects on both a human level and on the story level, and leaves the reader feeling both satisfied and anxious to read more.

5. Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

As to a routine, I wake up early every morning – four or five A.M. – sit down with a cup of tea, and start writing. I’m very alert in the morning, my mind is fresh and not cluttered with the issues of the day. Depending on the day, my writing time could be as little as an hour all the way up to six or eight. I really try to get a minimum of two hours of uninterrupted writing done each day. I always begin by going over what I wrote the day before, doing some edits, and getting back into the flow of the story.

As to where my ideas originate, I get asked that a lot and am still not sure I have a solid response. I’m inspired by life and human interaction. I’m inspired by news stories or little incidents that happen in the course of each day. That said, I always seem to find some bizarre twist and take that seed in an entirely different direction than where any actual event may have gone. I keep a spiral-bound notebook for story ideas and am always jotting things down, sometimes just the germ of an idea, other times a full-blown concept. I think part of it is that I’ve gradually trained myself to exist in that mode. Story ideas flit through my mind all day long, some new, some for a current project.

6. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Life itself. None of us live in a vacuum. Bills need to be paid, cars break down, groceries don’t buy themselves, families have conflicts. I’ve never actually faced writer’s block – yet – but sometimes daily events can make some days a tougher go than others. My biggest challenge is finding the time to get everything done. As well, as a published author I find a tug between the two sides of the role. One, the writer, the other, the marketer. If it was up to me, I’d spend the majority of my day writing, but being with a small publisher, much of the marketing falls on me. I need to make calls to set up book signings or to get my books placed in stores. I need to actively get the word out. This can be very time consuming and seems like it could be a full time job in itself.

7. How do you research your books?

I do most of it on the internet. Occasionally I’ll check out research material at the library or buy a book for research, but there is so much available online it makes the job much easier. When possible, I’ll talk with an expert in some field, but honestly, most of my research is done online right in the midst of my writing process.

8. What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write every day. Read every day. The best way to hone your skill is to write. And the best way to think like a writer is to read. Don’t just stick to reading your genre, but mix it up some. Maybe read fifty percent in your genre and then expose yourself to good writing from other areas – both contemporary and classic. Allow yourself to absorb the structure and flow of a quality piece.

The next thing is to be persistent. Submit, submit, submit. Don’t let rejection letters get you down. It’s all part of the process. As well, utilize social networking. There’s a fantastic network of writers both published and unpublished on Facebook who will encourage and inspire. Become part of the greater writing community. Learn about the current publishing trends. The industry is in flux right now. Publishing is facing the same shift that the music industry did a decade ago. The digital revolution has hit. Embrace the opportunities it presents.

9. Who has inspired you as an author?

I don’t think any one person inspired me to be an author. I think that came from somewhere inside. But, I think my overall love for reading set me on that course. I am always reading – and listening to audio books. I find those a great means to “read” more books per year than I ever could otherwise. Every time I’m alone in the car, I’m listening to a book. As far as inspiration, some of my favorite authors have been, Ken Follett, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Victor Hugo, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Alexandre Dumas, Clive Barker, Clive Cussler, even Stan Lee. I could go on and on. I’m sure each, along with many more, have inspired me along the way.

10. What’s next for you?

I have a very busy year ahead of me. THE DEMON BAQASH and 13 BODIES, have already been released. I’ve just completed the manuscript for the first in my Marc Huntington Adventure series of novels, this one titled DEAD MAN’S FIRE, which is set for a summer release, and have begun work on the sequel, CHASING KELVIN, which is due to the publisher in July. As well, my thriller, THE EMPTY, is set for a fourth quarter release this year.


Thom Reese is the author of the novels, THE EMPTY, THE DEMON BAQASH, DEAD MAN’S FIRE, and CHASING KELVIN, along with the short story collection, 13 BODIES: SEVEN TALES OF MURDER & MADNESS. Thom was the sole writer and co-producer of the weekly audio drama radio program, 21ST CENTURY AUDIO THEATRE. Fourteen of these dramas have since been published in four collections. A native of the Chicago area, Thom currently makes his home in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Empire Rises

My Book Review of The Empire by Elizabeth Lang:


The Empire by Elizabeth Lang is accomplished, multi-layered entertainment, unfolding strategic plots, subplots and characters to the delight of the reader. It is a strong, skilful entry in the world of science fiction.

The novel is set in a future where the human race is in the middle of a galactic war and the military complex all but runs an Empire. Caught in this tangled web is Adrian Stannis, a pawn in the games of the military who want to use his genius to build weapons.

The Empire is intricate, intriguing, and full of fascinating characters while the author twists her plot threads admirably. Like all good science fiction the narrative ponders controversial issues and questions, but it deftly maintains balance between plot and character. You are pulled into the story effortlessly; her world is well-realized. The author seems to be comfortable with science fiction, and I had the sense of influencing echoes as I read her prose.

One of the more appealing aspects of the book, for me, was the characters. Lines were drawn in the beginning of the book that appeared straightforward, but as motivations and personalities came to light antagonists became sympathetic, reasons less black and white. The interaction of characters highlights the tension, romance, rivalry, and unhappiness adeptly.

The ending was a bit open-ended with some sub-plots left to speculation (leaving me hope there will be a sequel) but it was still satisfying. I enjoyed reading The Empire and hope to read more of this author’s work in the future.

The book is available on Amazon

For more information on this book and its author please check out this book spotlight:
http://afstewartpromotion.blogspot.com/2010/12/book-spotlight-empire.html


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