Monday, June 30, 2014

Interview with Bev Allen (Science Fiction author)

Good morning all, and welcome to the next in our series of interviews with the authors of Thorstruck Press.

This week we're sitting down to chat with Bev Allen, author of the military space opera thriller, Jabin.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Bev. For those who haven't yet had a chance to check out Jabin, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

I’m married, I've got two kids and I’m old enough to remember the first series of Star Trek being shown for the very first time. I’ll leave you to do the numbers. I've been a published winner of SFX’s annual Pulp Fiction competition and I was commissioned by Big Finish to write a Dr.Who story for one of their anthologies.

I fell in love for the first time at a very young age, he was a Coldstream Guardsman on guard outside Buckingham Palace and I was four. He never wrote or phoned, but my life long adoration of the military has never failed. I married a military historian and work for a military history research society.

I like sci fic and the sort of “ripping yarn” you get from people like George MacDonald Fraser. I thought it would be fun to combine the two. My book follows the trials and tribulations of a teenage boy (Jabin) as he struggles against injustice and a load of really nasty pirate slavers, combined and contrasted against the story of the soldiers sent by Earth to deal with said nasties.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

I was always trying to write, but I’m dyslexic, not badly, but enough to make writing the old fashioned way difficult and unsatisfactory. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the wonder that is a Word Processor that I had the tool I needed. I wrote five novels in five years. Were they any good…not really, but like the curate’s egg, they are good in parts.

I also wrote a lot of short stories and it was one of these my son talked me into sending to SFX. I had no expectations and no-one was more gobsmacked than me when it was picked as one of the 10 runners up to be published in their anthology.

A bigger smack in the chops was when Big Finish commissioning me, on the strength of the SFX story, to write a Dr. Who one. They published under license from the BBC and there were strict rules on what you could and could not write. It was a real challenge, but also huge fun.

Armed with this ego boost, I re-wrote one of my five novels and “Jabin” is the result. It made the desk on Authonomy and I went looking for a publisher.

I found one, an indie, but things didn’t work out there. When I left them I approached Thorstruck and they accepted me.

Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

I find dialogue the easiest. In fact, I sometimes feel like a bit of a cheat because I can hear my people talking to each other and all I do is write it down.

I struggle with place, I’m not good at describing landscapes. I’m working on it, but honestly, it’s the people and how they react to each other which is most important to me.

My other main worry is titles – it took me six months to come up with “Jabin”. I think that sums up ability with titles.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

I don’t think any of them took the story in a direction I didn’t want to go, although I will admit a couple of them tried. What did surprise me occasionally was the layers of emotions I discovered in then, nothing and no-one was black or white, everyone (by and large) was a shade of grey.

I think Antonia surprised me. She should have hated her captor and she did hate the things he had done to her and made her do, but she had lived with him for a long time and she couldn’t hate him, not entirely. I hadn’t expected that, I had imagined her triumphant at his downfall and jubilant at his fate, but she wasn’t and it was only as I was writing it I realised how right and how normal her reactions were.

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I write for me, I write the sort of stories I would like to read. I am delighted when others like my stories, I adore sharing them, but I don’t think you can write if you are constantly looking over your shoulder for approval from a stranger.

Even with the commission and the constraints it posed, I wrote the sort of Dr. Who story I liked.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

Possibly the reviewer who condemned me roundly for the bad language, sex and violence. To be fair to her, it was the first edition of “Jabin”, the one brought out by my previous publisher. He had added “and the Space Pirates” to the title for some reason and she thought it was a book for kids.

Poor woman was shocked.

Fortunately, Thorstruck have removed the add-on and I no longer sail under false colours.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

Too many! How much time have you got? I would list George MacDonald Fraser, Patrick O’Brian, Arthur Ransome and Robert Heinlein as influences. Also Georgette Heyer, Ben Aaronovitch and Dorothy L Sayers…oh, dozens and dozens of others, many of them non-fiction writers.

The one who refreshes me and the one I go to in times of trouble is Terry Pratchett. In my heart of hearts I want to be Granny Weatherwax.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?

I have absolutely no idea. I would be a casting director’s dream candidate - they would have to lead me by the hand.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

Not in Jabin’s world, but I have just finished a tale of eco warriors and tattooed tribesmen all set on a forest world, where the bad guys are out to destroy a fragile and beautiful environment. The juvenile lead is called “Lucien” and unless someone comes up with a better title…..:-)

Sounds like an interesting read coming up - thanks for joining us!

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About the Author

I fell in love with my first soldier outside Buckingham Palace. He was a Coldstream on guard and I was four. Later I fell in love with reading and writing, and later still with scific and tales of fantasy and high adventure, but that first admiration for the military has never faded. Now I am married to an amateur military historian who drags me around every military museum he can find. We are both members of The Victorian Military Society.

I’ve always told stories, but I am dyslexic and the process of writing them down was always hard, and the results unsatisfactory, until I discovered word processing, and for a  few years I  just wrote and wrote and wrote. Most of it wasn’t good, but I was learning my craft and eventually I sent a short story to SFX for their Pulp Fiction competition and I was a winner! One of ten authors whose story was printed in an anthology. Soon after I was contacted by Big Finish, who published Dr Who stories under licence from the BBC. On the strength of my SFX story, they commissioned me to write for one of their anthologies. It was a real thrill.

I have always loved pulp sci fic and adventure stories, the sort of book that is now called YA, but I still think of as FUN. My small success made me take a serious look at what I had written during my learning time and one story stood out as having potential and after some extensive rewriting “Jabin" was the result

You can find Bev on her Website and Twitter

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About the Book

Jabin
by Bev Allen

The space colony is rife with religious and political rivalry, and prey to the vicious maraudings of pirates whose cruelty is savage. In New Wales the pirate attacks are relentless and merciless. Having lost both his parents Jabin is adopted by malicious relatives.

Jabin altruistically surrenders to a raiding gang, he does so believing nothing can be worse than his current suffering. He discovers circumstance does worsen when megalomaniacs rule. When the King of New Wales is assassinated the colony threatens to collapse into total anarchy, leaving the pirates free reign to mutilate, kill, and profit. Earth's law enforcement are ready for retaliation. Jabin has a vital role in the ensuing war, if he can survive the current mayhem.

Interstellar espionage is visceral in this masterpiece of cosmic suspense.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: Memory Collectors by Menton3

You know, I think I may have to give up on reviewing graphic novel ARCs. With all of the efforts to thwart digital piracy, the books themselves are ruined. Between the low quality images, the fuzzy text, and the watermarks that obscure the content, some of these are almost unreadable. What's more, graphic novels are all about visual appeal, and it's hard to fairly review the work of the authors and artists when that appeal is deliberately hindered.

Having said that, Memory Collectors was a great concept, a great story, and (I suspect) a great looking book - without, of course, all the copyright measures. It's really unlike anything I've ever read before. Menton3 is really to be commended on doing something so drastically different. Where I was expecting something campy and awkwardly titillating, this was haunting . . . gothic . . . creepy . . . and darkly appealing. The interplay between the visually erotic (i.e. fetish supermodels) and the visually horrific (i.e. the monsters around them) is absolutely superb, almost in glossier, flashier Clive Barker sort of way.

Unfortunately, it's not clear what the overall story arc of the series is, or what the larger implications of the events in these three issues might be, and that's the story's only drawback. What was on the page was great, no question about it, but it felt like there should have been (and may very well be) more. We do get some back-story, and we do get a little mythology, but it still feels unfinished.

While the story had a very dark, Batman-like vigilante vibe to it, there was also a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel - minus the teenage angst and hipster humor. This is one book I would very much like to pick up in a glossy hardcopy to get a better look, and to spend more time admiring the detail - without having to squint and tilt my head.


Hardcover, 120 pages
Expected publication: July 15th 2014 by IDW Publishing 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mailboxes, Shelves, and What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

Just two new review titles this week, but both look like great ones:



Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown
Expected publication: July 29th 2014 by Solaris

Jani and the Greater Game is the first book in a rip-roaring, spice-laden, steampunk action adventure series set in India and featuring a heroine who subverts all the norms...

It’s 1910 and the British rule the subcontinent with an iron fist – and with strange technology fuelled by a power source known as Annapurnite – discovered in the foothills of Mount Annapurna. But they rule but at the constant cost of their enemies, mainly the Russians and the Chinese, attempting to learn the secret of this technology... This political confrontation is known as The Greater Game.

Into this conflict is pitched eighteen year old Janisha Chaterjee who discovers a strange device which leads her into the foothills of the Himalayas. When Russians spies and the evil priest Durja Das find out about the device, the chase is on to apprehend Janisha before she can reach the Himalayas. There she will learn the secret behind Annapurnite, and what she learns will change the destiny of the world for ever...


Published May 26th 2014 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

In July of 2012, Celtic coins over two thousand years old and valued at sixteen million dollars were found on an island off the coast of France. Learning of the discovery, amateur treasure hunters, Mick and Joelle Scott, begin their research. Believing that they might find additional Celtic treasures in the same area, they decide to travel to western France. 

At the same time, Marcus Demetrius, a wealthy shipping mogul who believes he is related to Julius Caesar, becomes obsessed with acquiring the same antiquities. He will stop at nothing, including murder to obtain the treasure he desires. 

Demetrius’s associates begin sending death threats and the Scott family soon realize that they are all in danger. After a kidnapping takes place, Interpol, an International Criminal Police Organization, gets involved. A complex double-cross is planned that will lure Demetrius into the open, but not without placing the Scott family more deeply into danger. 

Will they find more Celtic treasure that has been hidden for over two thousand years? What ancient secrets will be revealed? In this fast-paced novel by DC Johnston, the Mick Scott Adventure begins.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With an eye towards my scheduled reviews for the next few weeks, I'm currently turning pages with:

• City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett 
An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city - sounds good to me!

• Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell  
A swashbuckling adventure to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats. Can't wait to dig into this one.

• The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson  
The side-tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are always great reads, a bit lighter and less dense than the main novels, so I'm looking forward to it.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Interview with Jo Sexton (Romantic Suspense author)

Good morning all, and welcome to the next in our series of interviews with the authors of Thorstruck Press.

This week we're sitting down to chat with Jo Sexton, author of Rich Girl, the first in her romantic suspense series, The Saucy Girl.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Jo. For those who haven't yet had a chance to check out The Saucy Girl series, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

Thanks for having me. I’m an Australian romance writer who tries to fit in writing love stories, between being a mother and working. What to expect? Adult fairy tales that hopefully get the reader caught up in the story. I’m a sucker for a good romantic story so when I write that comes through.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

I started writing seriously in 2008. I started my writing journey with Rich Girl, which was very rough at first. I then joined authonomy, and received a review from a Harper Collins editor. They gave me a good review and this gave me the courage to look for someone to publish my work. Before joining Thorstruck Press, I was published by Taylor Street Books. This came about after I won a poll for best chapter of the month. I was with them for several years, until they decided to shut down, this was when Thorstruck Press took me on. It has been an exciting journey with my new publisher and I feel positive about my writing future with them.

Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

Titles, first chapters and last chapters are the easiest. I struggle with the middle of a book sometimes, I have a beginning and know where I want to go but I’m not always sure how to get there. Inspiration usually comes eventually though. I also don’t like writing blurbs and synopsis. I end up rambling when trying to condense the story.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

I mostly follow the plan I have for a book. On occasion I will be thinking about a story that I need direction for and an idea will pop into my mind and then the story forms itself. This can be in the form of a character wanting to pull me a certain way, it can also be the twist in the story that I needed.

Q: When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I write mostly for my satisfaction, I go where the story takes me. When editing I think more about the reader and reviewer, making sure it will be what the reader would like and that I have a swoon worthy male that my readers can fall in love with.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

The most surprising thing is when someone loves my work and feels compelled to write a review. This is always a good thing for a writer.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

Paullina Simons is my inspiration. She refreshes my batteries and keeps me in awe.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?

I have a cast for every book I've written but I’ll talk about my first release ‘Rich Girl’. Mila Kunis would play Chelsea and Josh Hartnett would be Lucas.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

Rich Girl is the first in a series. The next three books are coming soon, as are my fantasy romance and a gir/girl romance, all being published by Thorstruck Press soon. I then have another in the current saucy girl series that is almost ready to go. I have a few that I've started that need to be finished. They all have the romance side of things but are unique in their own way.

Sounds like you are going to be busy! Thanks for joining us!

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About the Author

Jo Sexton is an Australian romance writer and mother of two. She always dreamed of writing novels and has been an avid reader most of her life. In between being a mum and writing, she runs a small bookkeeping business. Published with Night Publishing in 2011 Jo's novel Spoilt quickly shot up the Amazon charts, fast becoming a bestselling novel around the world. Jo also recently become a qualified florist.


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About the Book

Rich Girl
by Jo Sexton

Chelsea Summerville has a stalker who is kidnapping and murdering women resembling her, just to carve them up with a message. Judged unfairly by the sociopath Chelsea fears for her life.

The murders sting Detective Lucas Huson's raw nerves. In order to save Chelsea they become partners, intimate partners. Lucas recalls the past, determined to prevent the mayhem unfolding, and this time to stop a killer before he loses the woman he loves.

Chelsea is hunted, passion blurs lines, and drama ensues. Romantic suspense follows the knotted curve of love whilst she is pursued by madness. There's a fine line between love, obsession, and hate.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Art of Writing: A Guest Post by James A. Moore (author of The Blasted Lands)

I have been asked to do a guest blog here at Beauty In Ruins regarding my writing. Specifically, I've been asked to discuss my writing and how it has changed over the years and equally important how working in an established universe is different from creating one of my own.

I’ll see what I can do to come up with a proper answer.

On the first front, let’s look at how my writing has changed and why it has changed. The why is easy enough, actually: I’m a seat of my pants writer. That means that I don’t actually outline much of anything. It also means, in my case at least, that I started out without many preconceived notions about how things are supposed to get done.

I did not go to school to become a writer. Heck, let’s be honest here, I barely even finished high school. Seventeen schools in twelve years of schooling basically meant I was walking around with my nose in a book and ignoring the world around me as much as possible.

The end result of those years spent not doing my homework more than absolutely necessary was that I read a great deal of fantasy fiction—everything from Piers Anthony’s XANTH series to Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER and bloody near everything in between—and that I had to teach myself the rules of grammar a couple of years later. I had help, of course. A very good friend of mine who was also an English teacher at the time suggested a handful of books and I read them voraciously and then practiced what they preached.

Back when I started I planned on being a comic book illustrator. I did not achieve that goal, but I did have an editor from Marvel Comics point out that I was telling a good story with my very bad artwork. He suggested trying my luck as a writer. Four months later he also bought my very first professional sale.

My history in comics is limited. Aside from a love of the medium I managed to sell an eight-page story for THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN that to my knowledge was never printed. I managed to sell a story the exact same length to CLIVE BARKER’S HELL-RAISER (Issue fifteen, I believe), an issue of CLIVE BARKER’S NIGHTBREED (Issue twenty-three), a script for a comic at the front of a video game that had been licensed to Marvel Comics and I was supposed to take over as the regular writer on both NIGHTBREED and CLIVE BARKER’S ECTO-KID when both series got cancelled. I even got paid for a full script for ECTO-KID that never came to print because the series was canned before it could go to press. My entire education in comic book script writing came down to seeing a copy of the script for the first issue of THE WATCHMEN. Alan Moore’s script was heavily detailed. I followed his style, much to the dismay of a few comic illustrators, I imagine.

Aside from those scripts I did a few for White Wolf Games on various and sundry sourcebooks, including the GET OF FENRIS TRIBEBOOK and the NUWISHA sourcebook and a few others. They were always fun and I’d love to do more someday.

I got a little better direction when it came to writing for the role-playing games. I did a lot with White Wolf and a little with a few other companies. White Wolf’s editors were good to me and they also taught me a lot about the difference between an active voice and a passive voice. In short, they redlined the sin out of my manuscripts. Working in that particular field also taught me a lot about probabilities. The thing is, in role-playing scenarios. You have to consider all alternatives and write about most of them. The players will not, as a rule, do anything at all like what you might predict. Sometimes I think the come up with new and different angles of approach just to make the person running a campaign go a little crazy, but that’s a story for another time.

Do you know what all of those parts have in common? Aside from me writing them?

If you said, “They are work for hire,” you are right. We’ll not get into the pros and cons of that right now, if that’s all right with you. Instead I’ll just lay out a quick explanation: Work for hire means you are paid to write something that belongs to someone else.  I wrote about Tony Stark/Iron Man and I got paid for it. The work belongs to Marvel Comics. I wrote about werewolves, vampires, demons, demon hunters, fairies, sorcerers and a dozen other supernatural entities for White Wolf Games and the work belongs to White Wolf. I got paid to play in somebody else’s sandbox. Know what else? I LEARNED while I was playing there. I had a chance to push myself on deadlines and I had several very good editors looking over my work and making suggestions on how to make it better. Most of them were spot on, too.

For a while I wrote and submitted at least one 1 page outline for a comic story for Marvel Comics per day. About twenty for Spider-Man (because if you’re gonna dream, you should dream big), a four issue mini series proposal for The Punisher (because I thought it would be fun) and a few more besides. At one point I carefully laid out a 24-issue series proposal complete with a detailed outline of the first four issues of the comic and the completed script of the first issue. I spent a good amount of time on it and I sent it off to Marvel and through a series of catastrophic events I might detail for you should we ever meet over a beer, I knew exactly as soon as I paid for the postage that I was never going to have any success with that particular pitch.

That’s the way it goes sometimes.

Rather than write any more outlines I settled down at the computer one day and wrote out a scene that had been bouncing around in my head for weeks on end. Just a quick image of a pudgy kid running through the woods and being chased by a pack of teens determined to beat him half to death.

That scene became the first chapter of my first novel, UNDER THE OVERTREE. There was no plot. There was no planning, but, by God, I was writing something other than another outline that I knew would never even get noticed. I liked the idea so much that I spent the next three months writing ever day after or before I went to the day job. Sometimes both. And when I was done, I had an 187,000 word book manuscript.

I had no idea what to do with it, but I had written it and it felt might fine, indeed. What I did with it, later on, was edit that bloated mess repeatedly, because the typos and grammatical errors were numerous and the prose was about as purple as a shiner delivered by the heavyweight champion of the world. Sometimes I look back and cringe. Most times I remember that I was doing something most people will never do. I was writing my first novel. I was finishing my first novel.

I liked the notion so much, I sat down and I did it again. And then I did it some more.

Mostly I wrote about this world. I wrote my own stories, because I had already limited myself to other people’s sandboxes and I wanted to play in my own, with my toys and my own time limits.

It was enlightening. The rules are simple. There are no rules, well except the following: Write for you and you alone. Later, if you must you can try to rewrite for other people, but first and foremost write for yourself. Finish what you start.

Horror is a different field. I work in this world, I make a few changes and it’s all mine to play with.

Fantasy, as I have stated before, is a different beast. I am still learning the rules as it were. I know that building your won world is a lot more complex. I also know that I’m enjoying the heck out of it.

I’m liking it so much that I started a new series with a friend of mine. It’ll be fantasy. It’ll be violent and dark. I will likely cackle evilly at several of the scenes I write. And I have no doubt that I will enjoy the heck out of it.

I still play in other people’s sandboxes, by the way. I did a story for the ZOMBIES VS. ROBOTS anthology from IDW. I am now working on my third story for the V-WARS series edited by Jonathan Maberry. It’s fun stuff and I love it. And they pay me to do it. And next month I have a novel coming out called ALIEN: SEA OF SORROWS, which is a tie-in to the ALIEN franchise of movies. Believe me, I had a blast. Once I got over the geek factor of working on one of my favorite franchises of all time.

The rules are very different for work for hire and I’m okay with that. I enjoy the playing in my sandbox and in someone else’s and in the event that I do not enjoy it, I do not go back. As I am on the second novel in the SEVEN FORGES series, I think you can safely assume I like writing fantasy and building new worlds.


Thanks very much for having me over here at Beauty In Ruins!

James A. Moore

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About the Author

James A Moore is the author of over twenty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Deeper, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) and his most recent novels Blind Shadows as well as Seven Forges and the forthcoming sequel The Blasted Lands.

He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.

The author cut his teeth in the industry writing for Marvel Comics and authoring over twenty role-playing supplements for White Wolf Games, including Berlin by Night, Land of 1,000,000 Dreams and The Get of Fenris tribe. He also penned the White Wolf novels Vampire: House of Secrets and Werewolf: Hellstorm.

Moore’s first short story collection, Slices, sold out before ever seeing print.

He currently lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Meet him on his blog.

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About the Book

The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore
Published June 24th 2014 by Angry Robot

The Empire of Fellein is in mourning. The Emperor is dead, and the armies of the empire have grown soft. Merros Dulver, their newly-appointed – and somewhat reluctant – commander, has been tasked with preparing them to fight the most savage enemy the world has yet seen.

Meanwhile, a perpetual storm ravages the Blasted Lands, and a new threat is about to arise – the Broken are coming, and with them only Death.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Horror Review: The Last Town by Blake Crouch

With The Last Town, the final (or so we assume) Wayward Pines tale, Blake Crouch continues moving beyond the creepy, Twilight Zone spirit of the first book, through the post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama of the second, and into a realm of pure post-apocalyptic horror.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of this installment. For a long while it felt an awful lot like an extended epilogue that got cut from the final pages of Wayward, only to be restored here, padded out, and artificially extended with a series of flashbacks. It was interesting, but so far removed from the spirit of the original novel that I had a hard time finding the hook. Fortunately, the hook drops at about the halfway point, when Crouch reveals a new layer to the story – an ever deeper, darker secret as to why Ethan Burke and his family found themselves in Wayward Pines.

Some readers might feel a little bit cheated by that reveal, given that it involves a character who conveniently finds his way back into town just in time to help save off the apocalypse of abbies, but it helps shift all the pieces into place.

This is a violent, bloody book in which we really explore the consequences of Burke’s decision to expose Pilcher’s secrets to the town. In fact, there’s a lot of discussion here about intentions and consequences, with that thread touching the lives of multiple characters. Once again, Crouch subtly philosophizes here about a number of topics, including free will, the right to choose, diplomacy, trust, responsibility, the so-called greater good, and the fine line between monsters and men. Those themes actually underlie the entire trilogy, but it’s not until this installment that it all becomes clear.

As it turns out, Crouch’s decision to weave so many flashbacks into this chapter not only makes sense, but it actually makes for a much stronger novel. Watching men, women, and children run for their lives can only carry a story so far, and even the most gleefully sadistic of readers will find that the carnage wrought by hungry abbies begins to wear thin after a while. Those flashbacks are important in a narrative sense because they help break up the violence and pace the story, and they’re even more important from a plot sense because they add weight to those struggles.

The final climax is well-played out, with one last secret forcing one last difficult choice upon the people of Wayward Pines. To say any more would be to spoil the final twist, but I really don’t think there was any other way Crouch could have wrapped up our clean-up of The Last Town.


Expected publication: July 15th 2014 by Thomas & Mercer

Thriller Review: Apex Predator by Kelvin Kwa

Despite having a very heavy load of titles to review, Apex Predator was just one of those books I couldn't say 'no' to. I mean, you've got a secret Chinese satellite crashed in the arctic, a group of Navy Seals racing against the Chinese Special Forces who are sent to retrieve it, a submarine crew on the way to rescue (with a Captain who has lost his nerve and the support of his XO), and a giant prehistoric monster awakened from beneath the ice. With Kelvin Kwa willing to send over the doorstopper paperback, it became one of my first beach reads of the early summer.

We got off to something of an awkward start, with a few narrative flaws that irked me, but it all smoothed itself out and I quickly found myself settling in. I'm a sucker for both giant monster stories and submarine warfare, and I'm pleased to say Kwa pays off on both counts. This is one of those rare hybrid novels that actually works, managing to blend the genre of the high-tech thriller with that of horror. I was initially afraid there might be too much going on, especially with the tensions between Captain Marcus and his XO, the introduction of a (as it turns out) not-so-Bond-like special agent, and the tensions within the Chinese crew, but it all comes together very well.

The characters here are well-developed, with some genuine growth and surprises along the way, and Kwa smartly avoids the usual temptation to glorify the 'good' guys and vilify the 'bad' ones. This is a well-rounded cast that you get to know and like, becoming completely invested in their fate. As for the monster, I'd rather not say too much about it, but I quite like the way its cunning intelligence was explored, making it more than just another mindless super-beast. The story is well-paced too, getting off to a quick start, throwing us right into the height of the action, and then racing along from there.

With the exception of those few narrative gaffes I mentioned earlier, this is a really strong story, and one that ably delivers on what is, admittedly, a very ambitious premise. If you've ever wondered what might happen if the Red October were to come against Godzilla, and ever thought about how much darkness there is within a character like James Bond, then Apex Predator is a book I think you'll enjoy very much.


Paperback, 670 pages
Published December 9th 2013 by Createspace

Waiting on Wednesday: Fearsome Magics edited by Jonathan Strahan

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Fearsome Magics edited by Jonathan Strahan
Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: October 7th 2014 by Solaris

A cabinet of magic! A cavalcade of wonder! A collection of stories both strange and wondrous, of tales filled with wild adventure and strange imaginings. Fearsome Magics, the second New Solaris Book of Fantasy, is all these things and more. It is, we think, one of the best books you will read all year.

Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan has invited some of the best and most exciting writers working in fantasy today to let their imaginations run wild and to deliver stories that will thrill and awe, delight and amuse. And above all, stories that are filled with fearsome magic! Authors include Garth Nix, K.J. Parker, Justina Robson, Ellen Klages, Christopher Rowe, Isobelle Carmody, Tony Ballantyne, James Bradley, Karin Tidbeck, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Frances Hardinger, Kaaron Warren, Genevieve Valentine and Robert Shearman.


Strahan always puts together a great collection of tales, and with his Fearsome Journeys having been a 5 star read for me last year, I'm really looking forward to this.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WINNERS - Chasers of the Wind by Alexey Pehov


A huge thanks to everybody who entered, and to those who helped to spread the word about the giveaway.

Thanks to the generosity of the good folks at Tor Books, hardcover copies of Alexey Pehov's Chasers of the Wind will soon be winging their way to:

James - Scott AFB, IL
Tim - Chicago, IL
Wendell - Dublin, GA

Happy reading!

Interview with Jillian Ward (Dark Drama and Horror author)

Good morning all, and welcome to the next in our series of interviews with the authors of Thorstruck Press.

This week we're sitting down to chat with Jillian Ward (aka Lucy Pepperdine), author of the upcoming horror tale Offshore.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today. For those who haven't yet had a chance to enjoy your work as Lucy, or who have yet to check out Offshore, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.

My name is Jillian Ward, I stay in Old Aberdeen, Scotland and I write horror stories. I first began writing 9 years ago after moving over the border from England. I had chucked in the 9-5 rat race and settled on Royal Deeside where I started my writing career penning your every day contemporary romances, but decided to stretch myself a little by dipping my toes into different genres – horror and paranormal romance, using a pen name, Lucy Pepperdine. To my amazement I found I enjoyed writing them much more than the romances and since I’ve moved to Aberdeen I’m finding myself more and more inspired to get down and dirty in the Granite City.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and what has the journey to publication been like?

I actually began writing at school. I won prizes for my essays, but I really only began writing seriously 9 years ago when I took (very) early retirement and moved to Scotland. My first novel, a contemporary romance, was picked up by Taylor Street (now folded) as was the sequel, Keeping Christopher. Other stories were self published while awaiting the yay or nay, except On the Fly, a saucy romp down the riverbank which was only ever intended as a bit of fun and never submitted. When Taylor Street folded I was lucky enough for Thorstruck Press to consider Offshore worthy of a punt and hope I can do them proud. All in all the journey has been a bit of a roller coaster, lots of ups but also quite a few downs. Here’s to the next up!

Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

The easiest part is starting. The first scene pops into my head and I take it and run with it, making it the core around which every other part is built, adding to it like links in a chain. The struggle comes with leaving the damned thing alone when it’s supposed to be finished. I’m a perfectionist. The slightest typo, a clunky sentence, a comma out of place, drives me batty. I shall probably have to come back and edit this interview because I’ll see something I’m not happy with.

Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

The real challenge in Offshore was trying to convey to the reader in words and mental pictures what a truly awful place an oil rig in the North Sea can be – cold, windy, wet, miserable, dangerous, and how tough the workers have to be to cope with the conditions whilst retaining a sense of humour. I hope that came across okay.

Q: I can imagine that being a difficult scene to set. When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

A lot of people would say it doesn't matter if you get things wrong in a story because it’s fiction and ‘anything goes’. Not always so. There are always someone who will take issue, so while I try to write a story that I would want to read, I keep those particular readers in the back of my mind while writing and do a LOT of research to make sure I get my facts right. Although I never got to go to an oil rig to research Offshore – not that I didn't try! – I gathered a lot of information / stories / experiences from real oil workers.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?

For my contemporary romance, the oddest reaction was from one reader who claimed the story was an ‘abuser’s charter’ and a ‘guidebook to being an enabler’. Obviously they hadn't understood the story AT ALL. Other reactions have been mostly favorable, the best being from one reader who liked the story so much she demanded –demanded! – a sequel, which I duly supplied.

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride. He didn't influence or inspire the content of my writing, but he did influence a change in my style of writing – the use of short sharp sentences, sometimes only one word; the use of interruptions in dialogue, people talking over one another, the addition of accents etc.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were your work to be optioned for the big screen?

I could go all clichéd and say someone like Bruce Willis for the action hero, but to be honest I wouldn't have a clue. I can see it all inside my head and can picture every nuance of every character, but could not link any specific actor with any particular part, and with the current crop of shiny youthfuls doing the rounds, it would be slim pickings (no pun intended) If Offshore ever makes it to an AUDIO presentation however, I know EXACTLY who I want to be the reader.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in your latest world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?

No more stories from the North Sea, unless I can do something with the Northlink ferry to Shetland, but I have two more land based stories on the backburner at the moment. Both are past NaNoWriMo winners. Junction 13, a drama set on a fictitious stretch of motorway at the scene of a horrendous crash, and Deep Down Dead, set in Aberdeen, the story of a retired cop turned crime scene cleaner who faces terrors and obstacles as he hunts for a missing colleague. Both have a lot of work ahead yet but watch this space.

Both sounds interesting, but I'd have to give Deep Down Dead the edge. Thanks for joining us!

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About the Author

Jillian Brookes-Ward hails originally from the North West of England but now resides in bustling historic Aberdeen, Scotland.

A former Medical/MedicoLegal secretary, she gave up the 9-5 rat race to pursue a writing career inspired by her locale and the people around her. A good move as it turns out because it has yielded nine books so far, ranging from contemporary romance to psychological drama and raunchy riverside romps, to the gut wrenching horror of OFFSHORE under the pen-name Lucy Pepperdine.

When Jillian is not writing she cares for her home and family, and takes long walks in the parks and on the beach with her dog, her writing buddy and constant companion, Wee Archie. Jillian is also an avid supporter of and fund raiser for military charities Help for Heroes and Combat Stress.

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About the Book

Offshore
by Lucy Pepperdine

Nine people, eight men and one woman, are assigned to Falcon Bravo, a decommissioned oil rig 250 miles out in the North Sea, to undertake routine maintenance.

Isolated they may be, but they are not alone. Something is trapped down in a sub-level fabrication shop, starved almost to the brink of death. Salvation comes in the form of an unsuspecting crew member, who provides the creature with its first proper meal - himself.

Once released from his accidental incarceration, the ancient Euterich, now in the form of the crew member he has absorbed, seeks only escape, until he develops an obsessive desire for the lone female, paramedic Lydia.

He wants this woman for himself, but she has eyes only for team leader Eddie Capstan. Euterich begins to moves through the rest of the crew, taking each one’s place in turn, eliminating the competition until the final stage when he can ‘become’ Eddie and claim his prize.

When he is caught in the act of feeding on one of the crew members, Euterich knows the game is up and it is only a matter of time before he is hunted down and killed. Now the demonic shapeshifter has only one desperate objective in mind - to perpetuate his kind while he still can.

He kidnaps and rapes Lydia, and has almost succeeded in wiping out the rest of the crew when his own end comes.

For Lydia and the other survivors one more deadly challenge lies ahead - making and surviving their escape from the rig.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Peter Welmerink talks Action, Adventure, Adversity and the Undead (Guest Post)

First, I’d like to say thanks for having me at BEAUTY IN RUINS. It seems rather appropriate given the world in which my latest series, TRANSPORT, is set.

There’s beauty in the ruins of the large West Michigan city of Grand Rapids. Outside the east side of the walled metropolis, on the concertina wire-lined west side, where flowers still bloom in the midst of decaying residences, is the UCRA, the Urban Civilian Retention Area. Or, as some people like to call it: the Undead Civilian Retention Area, home of the cities protected undead.

In TRANSPORT, there is a large military presence in the big city, not only there to protect, but to do the grunt work. They provide, for example, Overwatch for rail crews outside city limits trying to reconnect rail lines to and from the city and other small towns to keep goods and services flowing between populations of living, breathing folk.

The soldiers are there, in the city, to go out into the west side neighborhood and feed the local undead citizens doped meat to keep them docile. Laws are in place in which one can’t shoot a “civilian” if he or she decides to nibble on your arm. Stiff fines are dispensed should one damage any of the city’s undead family or friends.

The military is there to stop at west side inner city shelters where sisters of the Lord assist the poor, rotted denizens, or to fight off slavers who want to steal the city’s civilians for their own foul means—even hellbent geneticists from the local condemned university who experiment on any living creature they can get their hands on to potentially create more chaos in the land.

TRANSPORT is about adversity in the work place, in this case, the work place of Captain Jacob Billet and his crew and their 72-ton M213 Heavy Transport Vehicle, the HURON. From running corrupt lakeshore government officials through domesticated and feral lands to bring them home (as everyone else is looking to put the people’s head on a pike if discovered), to making “meat runs” and trying to not cross towns and villages who would rather not be governed by the big city of Grand Rapids and her mightily armed and armored “police force.”

Captain Billet and crew don’t have to stir the pot to get in the thick of it. They are already thoroughly submerged in the woes and perils of a post-post apocalyptic land.

How did I come up with the TRANSPORT story?

I have always been a big fan of the Military Thriller, of Military Action-Adventure. Since I was a kid I have always enjoyed researching military vehicles and weapons, and wrote some early, early stories with a military group. (Not necessarily a Militia group, but an actual branch/unit of the U.S. Armed Forces.)

I had written a story for an anthology a few years back, the anthology titled FADING LIGHT: AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE MONSTROUS, and a short story titled FINAL RIGHTS. It was set in Grand Rapids somewhat far-future (2075) and had heavy military aspects, the walled city of Grand Rapids, and all sorts of nasty mutated creatures who ruled the shadows beyond the city lights.

The story FINAL RIGHTS received some pretty decent reviews, and it started my mind churning on perhaps a BIGGER story, maybe not so far in the future, maybe not AS dark, and heavy with big ass military vehicles, fighting men and women of the Armed Forces…and, just because… zombies.

I did not see it as a “militarized WALKING DEAD” (though I will take the comparison happily). I wanted the story line to be centered around the living, but from the standpoint of a soldier caught up in everything going on in a post-post apoc world. Yes, I’d sprinkle my take on zombies, but not with Humanity all out running away from them. The Living have survived and will survive, even with the undead wandering around. They will protect some of the undead, feeling that these are unfortunate souls who don’t deserve to be simply mowed down.

However, there are people and factions and cities and towns that do not see things the same as the big city of Grand Rapids. There are even folk with the city government who, if they can have their way without getting caught, want nothing more than to find a means to exterminate any and all undead creatures, to regain properties and places that were lost.

I wanted a story where my characters are right in the center of it all, trying to fight the good fight in a world that has been turned on its head.

And I could use all the great military vehicles and weaponry to make things go BOOM.

Action. Adventure. And adversity in a post-apoc soldier’s work place.


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About the Author

Peter Welmerink was born and raised on the west side of pre-apocalyptic Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes Fantasy, Military SciFi, and other wanderings into action-adventure. His work has been published in ye olde wood pulp print and electronic-online publications. He is the co-author of the Viking berserker novel, BEDLAM UNLEASHED, written  with Steven Shrewsbury. TRANSPORT is his first solo novel venture. He is married with a small barbarian tribe of three boys.

Find out more about his works and upcoming projects at:

www.peterwelmerink.com

https://www.facebook.com/author.peterwelmerink

https://twitter.com/pwelmerink


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About the Book

Transport by Peter Welmerink
Published May 7th 2014 by Seventh Star Press, LLC

The HURON, a 72-ton heavy transport vehicle and an army of four; tracked, racked and ready to roll, to serve and protect the walled metropolis of Grand Rapids—both her living and her undead. Captain Jacob Billet and his crew patrol the byways, ready for trouble.

William Lettner, the North Shore Coalition High Commissioner, has enemies from the mainland to the lakeshore and needs to be covertly transported home after his helicopter is shot down en route to Grand Rapids. He has no love for a city that give unliving civilians the right to survive. Lettner’s venomous outbursts assaults Billet and his crew along every mile travelled as they are assigned to safely bring him through the treacherous landscape outside the city back to his hometown.

The HURON and her crew will have to face domesticated zombies and the feral undead; marauders holding strategic chokepoints hostage; barricaded villages fighting for survival, and a group of geneticists who've lost control of one of their monstrous experiments if they want to complete their mission.

The crew will need to stay strong and trust one another in order to finish the mission and bring their “precious” cargo home, even knowing, all the while, the terrible deeds Lettner has done.

Travelling through West Michigan was never so dangerous.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Horror Review: Stars and Other Monsters by Phronk

Alternately violent and comic, with a subversive sort of satiric spirit, Stars and Other Monsters is a most unusual vampire tale. It almost feels like a Bizarro novella at times, when Phronk really rides the narrative edge, but it never quite crosses the line, remaining absurd but entirely accessible.

Where else can you find David Letterman, a down-on-his-luck paparazzi, a vampire cougar, an extraordinary clever dog, a celebrity hottie with a taste for the dark arts, and a homeless man who is not nearly as crazy as he appears? The story starts simply enough, with Stan Lightfoot sitting in his car, waiting for the aforementioned David Letterman to kiss, hug, or otherwise hold the woman with whom he's been having an affair. It's the photo that will make his career, and he's a press of a button away from capturing it when his car is bumped from behind . . . and Letterman is obliterated by the car that did it.

Taking the driver's advice to get out before the police can come is probably the worst decision Stan has ever made, but it isn't until later than night that he discovers why. It seems the kindly driver was actually a vampire, blinded by the sun, and she wants his help tracking down Damien Fox, the celebrity hottie upon whom she's developed an immortal crush. If Stan doesn't help her, she'll kill him and his dog. If he does help her . . . well, she still plans to eat them, but at least it may buy him time to escape.

What follows is a very odd sort of buddy road-trip story, as they two make their way across America, with Stan keeping the dog's directions as vague as can be. It's quite funny, and almost romantic at times (in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way), but then it gets very dark when we discover the truth about Damien Fox and his plans for his pregnant girlfriend. There vampire hunters are a nice touch, simple bodyguards outfitted with pseudo-scientific gadgets by the crazy homeless man, and his true identity turns out to be a genuine surprise, and one that brings Stan's story full-circle.

The climactic battle in Wal-Mart, with Dalla creating a make-shift army from the late-night shoppers, is definitely the high point of the story, with everything coming together in a grand finale that pays off in more ways than one. Without spoiling the fun, there's even an appearance from a certain celebrity guest star to help save the day. It's a very bloody, very violent, sometimes cruel story, but one that is also very funny - ranging from satiric snark to slapstick absurdity. Stars and Other Monsters is just that, a story of stars and monsters, but neither one may be who you expect.


Kindle Edition
Published June 13th 2014 by Forest City Pulp

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mailboxes, Shelves, and What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

I managed to behave myself this week and keep the towering TBR pile in check with just a few additions:


A Lightbulb's Lament by Grant Wamack
Published June 6th 2014 by Bizarro Pulp Press

Salad Fingers meets the Wizard of Oz

In a dark arctic wasteland, Mr. Watts, a gentleman with a lightbulb for a head, wakes up with little memory of his past. He links up with Prisma, a beautiful ex-prostitute, and Doc, an old man who can heal people with his hands. Mr. Watts helps Prisma overcome the Gutter Bitches; in exchange for his help, Doc and Prisma embark with him on a journey to replace his lightbulb head, and maybe provide a bit of generous light to the dark, apocalyptic world.

With a bloodthirsty Telemarketer on his tail, existential angst, and the world's future perched on his shoulders, Mr. Watts has his work cut out for him. No one ever said a gentleman's duty would be easy...



X-Novo by Ken Hagdal 
Expected publication: July 1st 2014 by Niflheimr Publishing

Following the discovery of the genuine Dead Sea Scrolls, women get to learn it’s a tampered-with version of the Old Testament which was used to keep their foremothers in submission for nearly two millennia. Hilarity fails to ensue.

After a first, scorned, attempt at enforcing the female-friendly newfound teachings, the not-so-weaker gender ends up revolting and snatching the reins of the US administration from the callous hands of Patriarchy. Two novelties will be born out of their reforms towards a healthy and peaceful society: the Collar, an electronic device for suppressing violent impulses in men, and the Pool, the State-run dating service for women.

The first Anniversary of the Revolution is now only a few days away. As the head of the Department of Information, Lisa Fenrich is all too aware of the stakes for her government. What she’s about to discover is that the holes she’s been plugging were trifles compared to the one about to open under her feet.

Disgraced yet unbowed, she will set out on a quest to recover the last secret fragment of the Holy Scriptures. One that would spell the end of the age-old rift between men and women if revealed to the world, but that the Presidentess she so staunchly supports intends to tweak around for her political survival; and maybe more.



Haunted Heads by Gary Canup
Published March 16th 2014 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

A novella about three young unwed couples, all brilliant liberal-minded graduate students, who meet in an isolated farmhouse on a summer weekend. Three years ago the owner of the house, the grandfather of one of the young men, died in the attic bedroom. The puritanical old man would not have approved of the hedonistic activities and the atheistic discussions that take place under his roof, and neither does his "ghost," which is stirred to a homicidal rage. But is the ghost real, or do the old man's antiquated values merely live on in his grandson's tormented mind? The conflicts lead to the dissolution of the grandson's relationship with his girlfriend, to his estrangement from his other four friends, and ultimately drive him to an extreme solution to get rid of the ghost, with plenty of scares along the way.



Inferno: Transmission by Lyka Bloom
Published June 16th 2014 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

In the sequel to Inferno: Infection, Dennis and his band of would-be saviors make an assault on Lilith's lair. In the aftermath, lives are lost and Lilith reveals a plan to turn the world into a perverse Hell on Earth.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With an eye towards my scheduled reviews for the next few weeks, I'm currently turning pages with:

• The Last Town by Blake Crouch 
The third book of The Wayward Pines Series hits the shelves, just in time for the series to hit the small screen.

• City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett 
An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city - sounds good to me!

• Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell  
A swashbuckling adventure to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats. Can't wait to dig into this one.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, June 20, 2014

No, Really…You Don’t Have to Bring That In… (Guest Post by S. H. Roddey)

Hi, everyone. My name is Susan, and I wrote a story. Obvious, I know, but that’s why I’m here today: to talk about what exactly I wrote. By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about Hero’s Best Friend, the anthology edited by Scott Sandridge. If not, you really should go out and get your copy right now. It’s a fun book, filled with stories of animal companions in interesting situations. And not just because of me.

I have a story in it called Look What the Cat Dragged In. It’s a little bit different than your standard fare animal companion stories, as this one is a contemporary murder mystery written from the point of view of a cat. And not just any cat… a talking tuxedo cat named Miko.

See, I used to have a whole collection of outdoor cats. My husband is a bleeding-heart sucker with a soft spot for furballs, and he started feeding them. So they kept coming. At one point we had sixteen cats outside who would come up to eat four or so times a day. One of them in particular was a pretty tuxedo cat, and he was a talker. He would sit and chatter endlessly regardless of the fact that we couldn’t understand a word he said. But he also had a deplorable habit: bringing me “presents” that were often still moving.

His gifts were what ultimately spawned this story. I would often find myself wondering what would happen if he brought me something more interesting than a half-dead mouse or a squirrel’s tail. As with any story, this one started with that one special question:

What if?

I would like to think that if I had a talking cat and he put me in the predicament Miko put his human in, my cat would be willing to help me out a little too.

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About the Editor

Scott M. Sandridge is a writer, editor, freedom fighter, and all-around trouble-maker. His latest works as an editor include the Seventh Star Press anthologies Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions, and the two volumes of A Chimerical World, Tales of the Seelie Court and Tales of the Unseelie Court.



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About the Book

Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions
edited by Scott Sandridge

How far would Gandalf have gotten without Shadowfax? Where would the Vault Dweller be without Dogmeat? And could the Beastmaster been the Beastmaster without his fuzzy allies? Animal companions are more than just sidekicks. Animals can be heroes, too!

Found within are twenty stories of heroic action that focuses on the furries and scalies who have long been the unsung heroes pulling their foolish human buddies out of the fire, and often at great sacrifice-from authors both established and new, including Frank Creed, S. H. Roddey, and Steven S. Long.

Whether you're a fan of Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Science Fiction, or just animal stories in general, this is the anthology for you!

So sit back, kick your feet up, and find out what it truly means to be the Hero's Best Friend.

Featured in Hero's Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions:

Joy Ward: "Toby and Steve Save the World"
Frank Creed: "Dusk"
Cassie Schau: "The Hunter's Boy"
Steven Donahue: "Grit"
Jason Cordova: "Hill 142"
Herika R. Raymer: "Dook"..
Essel Pratt: "Brothers".
Lisa Hawkridge: "Ezra's Girl".
S. H. Roddey: "Look What the Cat Dragged In."
Steven S. Long: "The Wolf Sentinel"
Laura Anne Ewald: "Memorandum"
Cindy Koepp: "The Hat".
Ian Hunter: "Scarheid in the Glisting".
Steven Grassie: "The Masterless".
David Wright: "Wind of Change"
Renee Carter Hall: "The Emerald Mage"..
Nick Bryan: "The Violet Curse"..
Lillian Csernica & Kevin Andrew Murphy: "The Restless Armadillo".
Douglas J. Ogurek: "Stuck on the Squigglybounce"
Sheila Deeth: "Passage"