Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror Review: Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

In hindsight, as much fun as the Bubba Ho-Tep movie was, I realize I enjoyed it more for Bruce Campbell's performance than the story itself. It was fun, but not enough to drive me to seek out Joe R. Lansdale's original story.

Having said that, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers has a lot of things going for it, and was actually quite brilliant in some respects, but it's far too uneven a read for me to recommend it. For every paragraph of blood-sucker horror, we're forced to wade through pages of cosmic weirdness, and for every snappy bit of banter, we're made to sit through one tired Elvis-ism after another.

The concept is fantastic, and I would love to read more about the government's secret monster-hunting unit, just not with Elvis at the helm - or, at least, not with this fat, pill-popping, flatulent, overstayed-his-welcome, embarrassing Elvis.

Read the first 12 pages of drunken Mr. Positive and the screaming balls of human flesh crammed into the cars of the junkyard, and you'll be hungry for more . . . but by the time you get through the next 65 pages of introductions and celebrity banter, and you'll start to get a feel for what kind of balance to expect. Personally, the novelty of the Colonel, Nixon, and all the rest wore off pretty quickly for me, so much so that I was already starting to skim by the 30% mark, which never bodes well for a book

Expected publication: October 31st 2017 by Subterranean Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sci-Fi Review: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Although I don't read a science fiction anymore, I am still easily hooked by a cool concept and an interesting author. Even still, I nearly gave The Stark Divide as pass, but I'm glad I let my curiosity get the better of me, because J. Scott Coatsworth weaves a fantastic story.

First off, even though this a big story with a lot of world-building behind it, it never info-dump and never feels overwhelming. Coatsworth keeps the story well-balanced and well-paced, using flashbacks and memories to fill in gaps that tantalize rather than frustrate. What we are looking at here is a not-too-distant future where Earth is on the verge of collapse, leaving humanity to take to the stars in 'living' ships.

For a story that deals with a lot of heavy social themes (politics, religion, immigration, capitalism,etc.), it never feels heavy. Instead, this is a story where things just are, where people are allowed to just be, without making a big deal out of it. In fact, you'll come away from it thinking far more about the ship-mind, station-mind, and world-mind than you will the character's gender, sexuality, faith, or politics . . . and that's precisely how it should be.

Like so many of the golden age science fiction authors, Coatsworth tells his story in pieces, separating the book into 3 interconnected stories, each of which moves the overall narrative ahead by decades. It makes for an interesting read, with the character in each segment getting just enough page-time to develop and make themselves memorable, while injecting new life into the story along the way. Where it differs from those golden age authors, though, is in its resigned pessimism regarding humanity. This is not a story of an enlightened people taking the best of themselves to a new Utopia, it is a story of humanity transplanting its struggles to somewhere new, without seeming to have learned anything in the process. Don't get me wrong, there is hope to be found within it, but as a race we're going to have to earn it.

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by DSP Publications

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yesterday’s Future by J. Scott Coatsworth

Yesterday’s Future
by J. Scott Coatsworth 

I just finished the first draft of my next novel, The Rising Tide. It’s the sequel to The Stark Divide, the book just releasing now and is the first in the Liminal Sky series.

I started writing The Stark Divide in 2014 and completed it in 2016, just as the US elections came to a close and we found out who our new president would be.

What a different world we live in now.

As a sci fi writer, I am tasked with writing both probable and improbable futures, some that are connected to the here and now, and some that are more distant or, in some cases, entirely divorced from Earth and our present day issues.

The Liminal Sky series take place on a future Earth, starting a little more than a hundred years from now, and so the stories in it are strongly influenced and informed by the trends I see happening around me today.

Climate change, human denial, and greed all play a role, as do the bending arcs of justice that our last President was so fond of talking about.

The Stark Divide, while doubtful about the ultimate future of the Earth, had a fairly hopeful tone for humankind as a species.

But as I started writing The Rising Tide, I found that some of my optimism had flagged, and the result is a more complex, sometimes darker story. We live in a world that is changing so rapidly that the future I saw just three years ago now seems much less likely. This sci fi writer has changing future whiplash.

So what am I supposed to do?

On the plus side, I have the chance with each new book to address the future I see at that moment in time. Sometimes it’s hopeful, and sometimes it’s a little more dark and twisty.

If I’m any good at this job, I’ll figure out a way to make it all work together, and create a series that has lasting relevance for many possible futures.

Only time will tell if it all works out, for the series and for the Earth and humanity as a whole.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow’s future will bring.


About the Author

J. Scott Coatsworth spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Ushered into fantasy and sci-fi at the tender age of nine by his mother, he devoured her library of Asimovs, Clarkes, and McCaffreys. But as he grew up, he wondered where the gay people were in speculative fiction.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would write them himself.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently—he sees relationships between things that others miss, and often gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He transforms traditional sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He also runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring LGBTIQA communities together to celebrate fiction that reflects queer life and love.




About the Book

The Stark Divide
Liminal Sky | Book One
J. Scott Coatsworth

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

Monday, October 16, 2017

Top 5 Video Games I Played Between Writing Sessions in 2017 by Glynn Stewart

If you spend all day writing, you pretty quickly learn to come up with a system that works for you. I write a book every six weeks or so, and for me, the trick is timers: write for a set time, take a break, repeat until I have 3000-5000 words.

For me, the breaks in between writing sessions are usually taken up by playing video games, because it’s the easiest way for me to “switch off.” Here are my top 5 writing companions for 2017:

1) Overwatch. I’m usually a little leery about multiplayer games, but my friends finally dragged me into this one in fall 2016. It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s incredibly pretty. You can team up with your friends to complete missions, or—if your friends are the kind of people with day jobs that don’t allow video games—you can let the system randomly assign you to a team. The sheer variety of characters and play styles to learn means that you’ll never be bored, but I’ll admit that my current favourites are Junkrat and Mercy.

2) Stellaris. You’ll see from this list that I love strategy games. This is one that explores my chosen genre of space opera in great detail. Stellaris has an astounding number of variables with at least four methods of space travel, and that leads to some interesting strategic interactions. I need to be careful with this one, though: I’m not worried about the number of hours that I put into it (as long as I’m also writing), but sometimes I keep playing for too long and realize I’m not having fun with it anymore. That’s the cue to put it away for a few months and come back later.

3) Crusader Kings. This is a sort of alternate-history strategy game, where you start playing with one European power and follow your dynasty through the ages. I’ve attempted to spread the Old Norse pagan religion across the globe (not very successfully) and I’ve seen some interesting royal soap operas develop. Like the time one of my queens had a daughter who was almost of age and ready to take the crown until suddenly she had a half-brother she needed to murder. I’m still not quite sure how that happened.

4) Wolfenstein: The New Order. This is a straight-up action-adventure first-person shooter, and the designers did a really good job of taking some old school gaming sensibilities and building a new game around it. It’s a fast-paced action-oriented blasting-nazis-in-the-face game, but it also uses everything we’ve learned to do better with these games in the last twenty years (especially new user interface elements) and uses them to tell a quite interesting and entertaining story.

5) Sunless Sea: This one is a “survival/exploration” game where you control a ship as it explores a vast underground ocean, and here there be much worse things than dragons. I actually had trouble getting into this game initially. A friend walked me through something at the beginning that I just wasn’t getting, and suddenly I was immersed in a game with a really unique theme and tone, and the world that they’d built was fascinating. I had a really long chain of captains that kept passing down money and a house to their heirs, and then I forgot to write a will for one… and my character went crazy and the crew murdered me. Which is pretty typical for Sunless Sea.


About the Author

Glynn Stewart is the author of Starship’s Mage, a bestselling science fiction and fantasy series where faster-than-light travel is possible–but only because of magic. Stewart’s other works include the science fiction series Castle Federation and Duchy of Terra, as well as the urban fantasy series ONSET.

Writing managed to liberate Stewart from a bleak future as an accountant. With his personality and hope for a high-tech future intact, he now lives in Canada with his wife, his cats, and a portable cast of thousands for readers to meet in future books. You can learn more about Glynn Stewart at his website, glynnstewart.com.


About the Book

Interstellar Mage
by Glynn Stewart

Mars destroyed his ship — but gave him a new one.
Mars drafted his Mage — for the good of humanity!
He should have known that wouldn’t be the end of it…

Captain David Rice has a new ship, a new crew, and a new set of Jump Mages to carry him between the stars. All he wants is to haul cargo, make money and keep his head down.

His past, however, is not so willing to let him go. An old enemy is reaching out from beyond the grave to destroy any chance of peace or life for Captain Rice—and old friends are only making things more complicated!

All he wants is to be a businessman, but as the death toll mounts he must decide what is more important: his quiet life or the peace humanity has enjoyed for centuries…

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
Expected publication: November 14, 2017 by Tor Books

The eagerly awaited sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling Words of Radiance, from epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson at the top of his game.

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together—and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past—even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

This was probably my most anticipated read of the year, and definitely one of the most prized ARCs I have ever received. A review embargo means I can take my time and enjoy it, which is a nice problem to have.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Non-Fiction Review - Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places by Chris Fitch

Abandoned ruins, strange places, and natural beauty. These are things I live for, the geography of my bucket list. Chris Fitch clearly shares that passion, with Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places the perfect first volume in that.

A collection of global snapshots that are as fascinating as they are incredible, this is not the kind of book you sit down and devour over the course of an evening. Instead, it is something you leave sitting on that proverbial coffee table, a book to be sampled, shared, and appreciated.

The Atlas is divided into six sections - Extreme Environments, Untouched Lands, Human Activity, Weird Worlds, Isolated Realms, and Nature's Wilderness. Each features 6-8 short articles of a few pages each illustrated by photographs and (more importantly) detailed maps.

Human Activity set the bar high for abandoned ruins. Here we find details of Chernobyl that are almost unfathomable, such as the fact that the process of decomposition has ceased to operate, and walk through a town in Pennsylvania that has been burning since 1962, although it took the collapse of a 100-foot deep sinkhole to finally begin its abandonment nearly 20 years later.

In terms of strange places, Extreme Environments was easily my favorite. Where else can you find shipwrecks a few hundred yards into the desert, toxic gas spewing lakes, and a cave full of massive 36-foot crystals? As for natural beauty, it's hard to choose between Untouched Lands (which tell of a cave beneath Vietnam that is not only large enough for a jumbo jet, but which has its own weather system) and Weird Worlds (with a lake in Venezuela that receives 1.2 million lightning strikes each year).

Honestly, Untamed: An Atlas of Wild Places could be ten times as long and I would still want more, but as first volumes of a bucket list go, it's a great start.

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 28th 2017 by Aurum Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner
Expected publication: November 7, 2017 by Tor Books

Monsters are real.
But so are heroes.

Sparks are champions of weird science. Boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice . . . mostly.

Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality. Doors creak at their approach. Cobwebs gather where they linger.

Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident (what else?) transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks—and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities—and (of course) to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.

Turns out that “accident” was just the first salvo in a Mad Genius’s latest diabolical scheme. Now it’s up to four newbie heroes to save the day, before they even have a chance to figure out what their team’s name should be!

I really only know Gardner from his League of Peoples series, but this sounds like a ton of fun.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Core by Peter V. Brett

Wow. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you conclude one of the pivotal fantasy epics of the 21st century. The Core is not just a fitting conclusion to The Demon Cycle, it is (by far) the greatest book of an already impressive saga. Peter V. Brett has saved the best for last in a story that is big, bold, and brilliant.

You know you're in for something special when the book opens with a chapter told from a demon's point of view. That's right, the first voice we hear is not that of Arlen or Jardir, not that of Leesha, Renna, or Inevera, but that of the Alagai Ka. It's creepy and unsettling, it sets the perfect tone for a story that is rife with darkness, slipping ever deeper into the Abyss . . . and, yet, we are never without hope.

That, right there, is what distinguishes Brett from the grimdark crowd. His story is about as dark as it gets, with one crushing defeat after another, but the world never feels completely lost. Even as it becomes increasingly hard to see how humanity can possibly survive the Waning and the Swarm to follow, we latch onto any one of a dozen battles, trusting in one of those heroes to show us the way. Even as the demons become smarter, finding some very human ways to undermine what once seemed impenetrable warded defenses, we look to the most unlikely characters to cast off their pasts and sacrifice themselves for redemption.

For the first time in the series, we have a story without flashbacks. The entire book is told in the now, giving it a sense of immediacy, and adding to the already palatable tension. There is nary a slow chapter to the book, with every scene advancing the story forward. Time and time again we get epic confrontations that threaten to destroy major set pieces, any one of which would serve as a fitting finale to another book. We hardly have time to catch our breath between battles, but when we do, Brett brings back a surprising cast of characters, many of whom get their moment. Evils are forgiven, cruelties redeemed, and hatreds put aside in the face of Sharak Ka.

As for the epic descent into The Core itself, Arlen and Jardir both get their respective moments to shine. There's is a journey worth of the saga itself, full of one sacrifice after another, and several discoveries that rock the foundation of the story's mythology. Without spoiling anything, we do finally learn who the true Deliverer is, and what that legacy means . . . and it is an ending so perfect, I honestly cannot find a single flaw in how it all played out.

Hardcover, 781 pages
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017 by Del Rey

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Difference Between Fantasy and Science Fiction by Julie Czerneda (#againstthedark)

Dear Bob,

I wish to make a personal response to your post about my work during Little Red Reviewer’s “Julie Appreciation Party” blog, to help launch Book #2 of Reunification, #8 in the Clan Chronicles, and my latest work of SF.

You wrote: “I know that Julie is best known for her Clan Chronicles (which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and appreciated on a number of different levels), but I have always been a fantasy fan first, and a science-fiction fan second…”


I’ll admit, I stopped there. Was I insulted? Hardly. Was I surprised? Not at all, you’ve told me - and the world - of your love for my fantasy novels which is something I treasure.

Still? Really. What’s the big deal? Fantasy. SF. I can see you shaking your head and you’re right. It is a big deal. When I thought what to do for my guest blog for you this year (thank you for hosting, by the way), I realized there was only one response.

Here, for you, Bob, is my original take on the difference between fantasy and science fiction, first posted December 29, 2011, on my SFF newsgroup. I wrote it because someone asked me then what I thought was that difference. What was the big deal? Why was I continually saying I was now writing one, not the other? I answered as I did because I was in the early stages of writing my first work of fantasy, A Turn of Light, having deliberately postponed Reunification.

I did it, to ease my heart.

The difference between fantasy and science fiction?
What's that expression? You know what's porn to you when you see it?
Silly aside, to me it's like this. There's literature that is fantastic, aka, insists on an imaginative leap by the reader from what the reader believes to be real and known about the world. (Covering the fact that advancements in knowledge constantly modify that worldview. For some, anyway.)
Within fantastic literature thus falls a vast amount of stuff--in fact, more than isn't, I'd venture. And it's not read by folks who have lost or numbed their imaginations. Kudos to us.
Horror fiction is interesting. You can argue that since horror is about how the reader feels--that dread, the scare, the twist on what's safe--anything can be horror, as anything can be romance. Yet horror writers do have their tropes and subgenres. So I'd define horror as that literature in which horror is the goal, regardless of setting. I'd define romance and mystery and humour lit the same way.
Fantasy and SF, however, are vast sprawling beasts, gobbling up all they can. Within each, there are works that wouldn't suit readers of the other. I think those are the only ones where a good definition becomes useful and certainly more helpful to booksellers, librarians, and marketing folks. There are many who will gobble up Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Twilight who will not, EVER, be interested in watching Moon, Star Trek, or Inception. (Author Note: Proof this was written in 2011.) And vice versa. Nothing wrong with that.
But why? Because of what the story does to the reader. It's always about that.
For me, the very best fantasy takes hold of my heart and conscience. My imagination soars wild and free, yet I care, intensely, for the characters working through that fantastic landscape and their choices. Once I put the book down, I've been changed in a fundamental way. Whether it's a renewed passion for life or an awareness that even a small person can change the world, I am different and love it.
The very best SF? Oh, it demands I use my mind and awareness of this world, and that I'm open to new ideas and consequences about it. It can, absolutely, engage my emotions, but--and this is key--SF can still work brilliantly without that engagement, so long as the idea itself is powerful or cool enough to come with me from the story and make me look at my world differently forever. What if. I can't be satisfied by science fiction that doesn't pose that question and answer it in a way I hadn't imagined.
How fantasy and SF accomplish the above is where we start talking about world-building and character and underlying ideas and credibility. But to me, it's about what I take away from the story. Have I been renewed inside or has the outside world taken on a new shape?
So the question of which is which does matter. When I write, I consciously choose to aim for my reader's heart or mind. The story I'm telling in TURN is about love, honour, family, and sacrifice. It's about making a new life and forgiveness for the old. To tell that story, fantasy offers the intimate power and scope I need. I hope readers put it down, cry a bit, and go hug their family. The story I'm telling in the Clan Chronicles is what if a species bred for power despite ultimate cost. It goes into the fragility of bonds among species of intensely divergent goals and will lead to consequences that destroy civilizations. SF gives me the tools I need to set this scenario in motion and to explore those ideas in a way I hope will make readers walk away and think. Okay, there could be tears there too.
Which goes back to the very beginning. A great story grabs heart and mind, no matter its genre. But not everyone enjoys or understands the same story-telling approaches. Fair enough. There are too many books for any one lifetime, so you have to pick on some level. You know what's for you when you read it.
My take on the question.

So, Bob, you can see why your post last year not only made me smile, but made me remember something precious. Why I wrote fantasy when I did, and how I did. It was to take a breath, stretch my writerly wings, and put off what was coming in Reunification until I was ready. Renewed. House toads and Jenn Nalynn gave me the strength to plunge into the final chapter of Sira and Morgan’s story, to give the past three years to the Clan Chronicles, and to complete the scenario I’d begun so long ago. They are connected, you see, despite being different.


Yours in story,
Julie Czerneda

PS. Yes, Bob, I promise there’ll be more Night’s Edge. (Three more, in fact.)
PPS. Not next, Bob. It’s Esen’s turn to shine. Or explode, depending on the moment.
PPPS. And thank you, Bob, for being a reader who “gets” the difference yet loves them both.


About the Author

For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners, the latest being SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Next out will be an anthology of original stories set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis, out in 2018. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, lands in stores October 2017.

When not jumping between wonderful blogs, Julie’s at work on something very special: her highly anticipated new Esen novel, Search Image (Fall 2018). Visit www.czerneda.com for more.


About the Series

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification concludes the series, answering these question at last. Who are the Clan? 
And what will be the fate of all?


Enter your comment below to be entered to win latest book in hardcover, To Guard Against the Dark, plus a mass market of The Gulf of Time and Stars (US and Canada only).


To enter the tour-wide giveaway of the entire nine-book series, click here:


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

NetGalley Reader Spotlight

Hey, if you happen to get a chance, check out this month's NetGalley Reader Spotlight.

It's Sci-Fi & Fantasy spotlight this month, and they happened to interview this Bob Milne guy from some blog called Beauty in Ruins.

I don't know what it is, but I kinda like him. :)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Horror Review: Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish

My third encounter with the dark imagination of Catherine Cavendish in as many years, Wrath of the Ancients is a book that (rather fittingly) has the feel of a much older story. Like the darkest stories of Poe, Stevenson, and Doyle, it is a slow-burning tale of claustrophobia, madness, secrets, and myths. It may feel oddly structured to some readers, especially with the way it so abruptly departs from Adeline's story to explore other owners of the house, but it all pays off in the end.

This is a story that starts deep in a lost Egyptian tomb, and ends deep within a secret Victorian basement. It is a story of death, obsession, and occult powers . . . a story where nothing is to be trusted, not even your senses. Although slow-burning, it does have its share of scares, with some great scenes of supernatural horror that grab you by the throat and overwhelm you with the putrescence of death.

Where the story kicked into high gear for me was in the second half, when Adeline confides in someone outside the house and they embark upon an enthusiastic purging of the basement and its haunted horrors. There is so much action and drama in that arc, so much advancement of the overall mysteries, that you appreciate the lull that follows as a chance to catch your breath.

If there is one downside to the novel, it's that it relies a little too heavily on coincidences. The fact that Adeline is such a perfect candidate to see Dr. Emeryk Quintillus' final wishes carried out is an excusable one, but there were a few later on (particularly one involving a train) that stretched the old willing suspension of disbelief to a near-breaking point. Really, though, that is a small quibble in an otherwise highly entertaining work of period horror.

If you have yet to read Catherine Cavendish, then Wrath of the Ancients is a perfect place to start.

Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Expected publication: October 24th 2017 by Lyrical Underground

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale
Expected publication: October 31, 2017 by Subterranean

Before Bubba Ho-Tep, there was Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers.

Part of a secret government organization designed to protect civilians, Elvis Presley and a handful of hardcore warriors set out to save the world from an invasion of hive-minded, shape-shifting vampire-like creatures from a dark dimension who have taken up residence in a New Orleans junkyard.

Besides Elvis, among these righteous warriors is a hammer-wielding descendent of John Henry of railroad fame, a Blind Man who sees more than those with sight, Jack, a strategic wizard, and Elvis's right hand man and journal writer, Johnny, all thrown in with Raven (real name Jenny) a female recruit who is also a budding pop star, and like Elvis, high on the charisma chart.

Their leader is none other than Colonel Parker, Elvis's cutthroat manager, and a warrior himself, directly in contact with President Nixon, or possibly one of his doubles.

It's an unnerving peek into a secret world, and a possible delusion. It's what happened before Elvis, aka Sebastian Haff, found himself in an East Texas rest home, mounted on a walker, fighting an Egyptian mummy and worrying about a growth on his pecker.

Strange monsters, wild fights, sex with a beautiful ghost, a drug-induced trip into another dimension, and all manner of mayhem ensue, along with a Mississippi riverboat ride on a giant paddle wheel, and of course, there will be 3D glasses, fried peanut butter and 'nanna sandwiches, and a few hard working zombies.

Bring the kids, but plug their ears and blindfold them. This is one wild and nasty ride to the dark side, but with laughter.

The original Bubba Ho-Tep is a brilliant piece of storytelling, and one instance where the movie was just as good as the book, so I'm eager to enjoy a Halloween revisit with the character. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Horror Review: Shadows & Teeth Volume 3

If you remember when horror was dark and supernatural, free of pop culture nods and knowing smirks to the reader, with twist endings that absolutely eviscerated your imagination, then Shadows & Teeth Volume 3 is sure to be right up your alley - your dark, foggy, cobblestone, garbage-strewn alley.

Guy N. Smith's Cannibal House was a great twist on both haunted houses and cannibalistic slashers, starting and ending with creepy discoveries.

Nathan Robinson's Tree Huggers was a fun story that put a gory new spin on the concept of horror in the woods, complete with a brutally cold ending.

No Thanks, by Antonio Simon Jr., was probably my favorite story in the collection. The telling of it was fantastic, the pacing perfect, the black humor on point, and the very concept of "no thanks" simple, yet brilliant.

R. Perez de Pereda's Bernadette was an unexpected pleasure, a well-told story of a medieval priest, a deal with the devil, and a young woman who refuses to stay dead.

David Owain Hughes' Picture Not So Perfect was a slow-burning sort of tale, one with a tragically human element, an interesting twist of expectations, and a monstrous finale that has more than a few surprises.

Cruciform, by S.J. Deighan, was another favorite - a story of occult secrets, dark rituals, and the unfortunate consequences of summoning a demon to do your bidding.

A solid collection with only a few stories that didn't really work for me, Shadows & Teeth Volume 3 is a perfect read for fans of slasher flicks, splatterpunk, and Twilight Zone endings.

Published June 15th 2017 by Guy N. Smith


About the Author

Born in Cuba in 1941, Ramiro Perez de Pereda has seen it all. Growing up in a time when then-democratic Cuba was experiencing unprecedented foreign investment, he was exposed to the U.S. pop culture items of the day. Among them: pulp fiction magazines, which young Ramiro avidly read and collected. Far and away, his favorites were the Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard. Ramiro, now retired from the corporate life, is a grandfather of five. He devotes himself to his family, his writing, and the occasional pen-and-ink sketch. He writes poetry and short fiction under the name R. Perez de Pereda. He serves Darkwater Syndicate as its Head Acquisitions Editor—he heads the department, he does not collect heads, which is a point he has grown quite fond of making. Indeed, it’s one reason he likes his job so much.


About the Book


Date Published: June 15, 2017
Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.

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Out of the shadows and meaner than ever, volume three of this award-winning horror series packs international star power. Featuring ten brand-new stories by the legendary Guy N. Smith, the prolific Adam Millard, master of horror Nicholas Paschall, and others, this collection is certain to keep you up at night. Take care as you reach into these dark places, for the things here bite, and you may withdraw a hand short of a few fingers.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Blade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
Expected publication: October 24, 2017 by Tor Books

They thought the war was over. They were wrong.

Runacarendalur Caerthalien has been a master of battle for hundreds of years, but he found himself on the wrong side—the losing side—in the last war. Betrayed by his brother, trapped in a prophecy he does not understand, Runacar flees the battlefield.

Yet Runacar is no coward. In a twist he could never have imagined, the Elven War-Prince finds himself leading a new army into battle—a force of centaurs, merfolk, gryphons, minotaurs, and talking bears who can perform magic. For centuries they have been trying to reclaim their lands from Elven invaders. With Runacar at the helm, they just might manage it.

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s first collaboration, the Obsidian Mountain trilogy, introduced readers to a brilliant, continent-spanning fantasy world of high adventure and epic battle. Civilization shimmered with magic while in the nooks and crannies of the world, dragons and unicorns hid from people who believed them to be nothing more than legends.

The Dragon Prophecy, set thousands of years before that story, illuminates a time when long-lived Elves rule the Fortunate Lands. It is a time of dire prophecy, of battle and bloodshed, of great magics unlike any the Elvenkind have seen before. It is the story of the end of one world and the beginning of the next.

The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy is a definite favorite of mine, and Lackey/Mallory make a great team, so this is a must-read for me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#Horror Review: Reich by Donald Allen Kirch

A year after Hitler committed suicide, a rather cliched message-in-a-bottle was found on the beach in Copenhagen, suggesting he actually died U-boat collision that winter. Donald Allen Kirch's WWI vampire thriller, Reich, takes this obscure bit of WWII history and runs with it, adding a monstrous twist to the interesting alternate history scenario.

Hitler has been called a monster before, but never quite like this. In Kirch's tale, he is an old-fashioned vampire - supernatural, demonic, and unrepentantly evil. In public, he puts on a good face, hiding his true nature from the world, yet allowing it to drive his political ambitions. Outside the public eye, however, he lets his monstrous self loose, including yellow eyes, elongated fangs, a thirst for blood, and garygoyle-like wings protruding from his back.

The bulk of the story revolves around Hitler's secret passage to Norway aboard a German U-boat. As if life aboard a WWII submarine weren't dark, claustrophobic, and dangerous enough, imagine being trapped under the ocean with a hungry monster. What makes for such an interesting story, however, is the way in which Kirch portrays the German soldiers. He starts the story with a high-ranking soldier who sacrifices his life in an attempt to assassinate the Führer, and then carries it through with a U-boat captain whose first loyalty is to his country and his people, pairing him with a second-in-command who believes in Hitler's propaganda, but who is a good man at-heart.

The story develops slowly, with only a few glimpses of real horror, allowing the characters (and their conflicted loyalties) to carry the story. Meyer is a heroic figure from the start, and Starger develops nicely throughout the story. Add in a Norwegian clergyman, Donavon, and his daughter, and you have all the ingredients for a good vampire hunt to end the story - complete with a climactic battle aboard the Nauecilus.

Alternately creepy and thrilling, Reich was a far stronger story than I expected, and one that does justice to the novelty of the concept.

Paperback, 2nd Edition, 178 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by Why Not??? Publications 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#Horror Review: Florida Gothic by Mitzi Szereto

Florida Gothic is a dark little tale, a quiet, intimate, vintage slice of horror. Even when it's at its bloodiest, it's like watching a grainy slasher flick with the sound turned down low, with just the shadows flickering about you. Having only experienced her erotic side, this was something of a change of pace for me, but Mitzi Szereto delivers.
Ernesto enjoys his little routines, his rituals. They make sense of his day, give him a purpose. But death puts an end to that.
Though it doesn’t put an end to Ernesto.
After Ernesto dies, he begins to like other things. Dark things.
Like the best horror stories, Florida Gothic is dark, creepy and violent, but it is also quirky and kind of smug. It is an altogether deceptive story, one that slithers along with the languid pacing of an alligator in the Florida heat, but which bites just as hard and just as fast. With its different points-of-view, it almost gleefully spoils the fate of its villains, letting us in on their moment of demise, before switching back to Ernesto and letting us anticipate what we already know is coming.

Similarly, while the initial deaths come quickly, unannounced and unexpected, Szereto draws out the fear and the dread of Ernesto's final victim. This is a story of dark, damaged people, of mortal men with human failings, and of one man for whom death is only an opportunity. For anybody who has ever dreamed of vengeance, ever wanted to use their dying breaths to repay an unforgivable cruelty, this is the perfect read. More than anything else, this is a book of consequences, a story where justice is rarely served, but where fate catches up. In fact, the final twist is one of the best scenes in the book, even if we know it is coming.

Part Poe, part Serling, and part King, Florida Gothic is a dark, powerful, entirely satisfying read.

Kindle Edition
Published June 2017 by Strange Brew Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the authorvin exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

#Horror Review: Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix

As the cover blurb says, take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s with Grady Hendrix . . . if you dare! Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction is a gloriously grotesque trip down nostalgia lane that works on multiple levels.

First off, let's talk about the visuals. Browsing through all those bold, garish, blood-soaked covers is worth the price of admission alone. There are so many covers here that I recognized from my younger years, many of which I still have on the shelf today - books like Isobel, Dark Advent, The Possession of Jessica Young, Cellars, Hot Blood, Animals, Ghoul, and XY. Then there were others that caught my eye, making me want to run out and hit the used bookstore to dig them up - books like The Little People, Satan's Love Child, Orca, Slither, and Obelisk. It's not just book cover porn, however, Hendrix also provides some insights and backstories of the artists behind them, many of whom have surprising pedigrees or quirks.

Next, let's talk about the narrative of horror publishing, where Hendrix walks us through the rise and fall of horror publishers, whether they be major or niche. Having read so many of them, and having followed some of them as closely as authors, it was fascinating to learn about who was behind them, how they came to be, and what market pressures and personnel changes led to their demise. As a horror-addicted teenager, the business of publishing was the farthest thing from my mind, even as I noticed the best publishers disappearing from the shelves, but in hindsight I can understand what was happening.

Lastly, and this is the true glory of the book, we need to talk about the evolution of horror themes and tropes. I remember so many of these fads coming and going, seeing similar covers on the shelves, and reading the same stories under different titles, but Hendrix does a great job of setting the stage and exploring the social/political background. From the Satanic panic, through creepy kids, man-eating animals (and plants), haunted houses, mad scientists, serial killers, and more, he explores how each came to be and how the themes develop. Thanks to his insights, I've added The Guardian, Scared Stiff, The Devil's Kiss, Toy Cemetery, and Soulmate to my used bookstore shopping list.

Although I enjoyed it as a digital ARC, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction is one of those books I need to pick up in paperback, just to have on the shelf so I can revisit those covers and dig into some of those themes.

Paperback, 256 pages
Expected publication: September 19th 2017 by Quirk Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

To Guard Against the Dark by Julie E. Czerneda
Expected publication: October 10, 2017 by DAW

The final book in the hard science fiction Reunification trilogy, the thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Clan Chronicles

Jason Morgan is a troubling mystery to friends and enemies alike: once a starship captain and trader, then Joined to the most powerful member of the Clan, Sira di Sarc, following her and her kind out of known space.

Only to return, alone and silent.

But he's returned to a Trade Pact under seige and desperate. The Assemblers continue to be a threat. Other species have sensed opportunity and threaten what stability remains, including those who dwell in the M'hir. What Morgan knows could save them all, or doom them.

For not all of the Clan followed Sira. And peace isn't what they seek.

If you're not already reading Julie's work, then you really should be. This is a series that has surprised me at every turn, so I'm curious to see how it all ends.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

#Fantasy Review: Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever (first and second) were a pivotal moment in my early fantasy reading. They were grown-up fantasy, full of moral quandaries and difficult emotions, but they were also stunning works of imagination, populated by brilliant characters. Even when he was writing gothic romance and portal fantasy with Mordant's Need, or sweeping science fiction with The Gap Cycle, Stephen R. Donaldson's work was always marked by those elements - stunning imagination and brilliant characters.

Sadly, that's precisely why Seventh Decimate falls so short. The first book of The Great God's War reads like a self-indulgent short story, big on ideas, but short on everything else. It's a heavy-handed morality tale about the horrors of war and the stupidity of racism/nationalism, couched in a thinly-veiled desert fantasy.

For a man who excels as world-building, this falls so short, it's really quite embarrassing. We get two warring countries, separated by a river . . . or chasm . . . or cliff . . . or something that's never really clear. There is an ocean to one side of them and a desert to the other, both assumed to be impassable - although it turns out the desert is simply a challenge, and hardly an insurmountable one. If there is anything else to the world (and we do get hints later in the story), neither country has the slightest idea.

Similarly, for a man whose fiction is defined by its characters, this falls even shorter than it did in the world-building. There is hardly a likeable character in the book, and none of them have any more depth than a background character. Most importantly, Prince Bifalt, the protagonist of the story, is even more unlikable than Thomas Covenant - a miserable, leprous man who most readers remember for a single unconscionable act. The Prince is a bland, boring, arrogant young man with a single-minded obsession. If only he had demonstrated a sliver of growth, this could have been a far better story, but if that growth is in the cards, it's not in this volume.

Finally, that brings us to the plot, which is the only thing weaker than the world-building and the characters. It is largely a paint-by-numbers story, predictable in every way, with a conclusion so foregone it should just be dropped into the cover blurb. Aside from the opening battle and the scenes involving the mysterious desert caravan of nations, there is nothing here of interest or excitement. There were moments of potential, where the story could have opened up, but it lacks the characters necessary to do so.

I had high hopes for Seventh Decimate, especially after The King's Justice proved to be such a fantastic read last year, but was bitterly disappointed. Unless the digital ARC was a rough draft that was accidentally released, I don't see myself continuing with this.

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: November 14th 2017 by Berkley

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tough Travels - Dragons!

Welcome back to Tough Travels! On the first day of every month, Fantasy-Faction leads us on a tour of the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, with the assistance of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, they guide us in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.

With no more ado, this month's topic is DRAGONS.
The Tough Guide advises that Dragons are ‘very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any colour or combination of colours, though green, red and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland aeons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous monsters that had to be exterminated. Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing.’ Or are they?
For me, the love affair with dragons begins with the original Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Said to be the original beings of Krynn, dragons were born of the elements, hence their categorization as Chromatic or Metallic. These, for me, remain the classic archetype of dragons in my fantasy - old, intelligent, full of magic, and able to be harnessed by armies as mounts (and weapons) of war.

Next up would be the dragons of Robin Hobb, which are hugely important to her Realm of the Elderlings saga. In this case, the dragons are creature of legend, magical beasts unseen by mortals for generations, with only the stone statues of their passing to remind the world of their presence. It takes a long time for readers to ever see a dragon, but there is so much mythology wrapped up within them, it is entirely worth reading through to the eventual big reveal in Assassin's Fate.

For sheer nostalgia, The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy from Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory is a series I can't praise enough. It is old-fashioned (some would say tropey and clichéd) epic fantasy, set in the forest and the mountains, complete with humans, elves, unicorns, and dragons. It is very Dragonlance-esque, which is fine, because as much as I do enjoy the grimdark genres, this is precisely what the world needs once in a while.

The Dragon Apocalypse by James Maxey is another series that immediately comes to mind, and not just because the omnibus edition is still staring me down, threatening to attack if I don't make time for a read and review. Once again, this is classic quest-driven epic fantasy, complete with magical artifacts, inhuman races, and (yes) truly epic dragons. From what I understand, dragons are even more prominent outside the first book, so I am eager to get reading.

Skipping ahead through the years, the most prominent use of dragons that I can think of in recent memory is in Marc Turner's Chronicles of the Exile. It is the second book, of course, that introduces us to the idea of Dragon Day, where the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to allow a single sea dragon to escape into the Sabian Sea, and the third book where . . . well, no spoilers, but it is a Dragon Day to remember.

That said, I think it's only fitting that we wrap this up by talking about The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan, in which dragons feature prominently. We're talking mean, vicious, bad ass dragons here, threatening to burn the world to the ground. We're also talking dragon blood, which imbues those who drink it with magical powers of their own, creating a vicious cycle of hunting and consumption.

Got a favorite line of your own? Share it below.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#Horror Review: The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford was a book I came close to abandoning to the DNF pile. There was a lot of pot use here, and aside from being disgusting, it always make me wonder if it's going to be one of those questionable tales where the horror might have been real, or might just have been stoner hallucinations. Screw that. Be stoned and paranoid on your own time. I want the horror to be real, brutal, and unflinching.

As for the story, I liked the archaeological approach to exploring an abandoned mansion, and thought the details around process and technique were actually quite solid. I was as curious as to what would come out of the pit next as I was about anything supernatural, but that horned baby skull with the vestigial tale certainly did the trick.

The supernatural element was interesting, although I am still not entirely sure I buy the explanation for what happened to the family. There were some genuine scares and some really creepy moments, and I loved the frantic assault on the old woman's house, but where it fell apart for me was at the climax. It was over far too easily, and far too quickly, concluding with a whimper rather than a bang.

All in all, an entertaining diversion, with some real ingenuity, but a little too thin to be truly memorable.

Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Expected publication: September 12th 2017 by Tor.com

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Destiny’s Conflict by Janny Wurts

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Destiny’s Conflict by Janny Wurts
Expected publication: October 12, 2017 by HarperVoyager

The long-awaited second book of the fourth story arc - Sword of the Canon - in the epic fantasy series, the Wars of Light and Shadow.

Lysaer’s unstable integrity lies under threat of total downfall, and as his determined protector, Daliana will face the most frightening decision of her young life. Arithon, Master of Shadow, is marked for death and still hunted, when his critical quest to recover his obscured past entangles him in a web of deep intrigue and ancient perils beyond his imagining.

Elaira’s urgent pursuit of the Biedar Tribes’ secret embroils her in the terrible directive of the Fellowship Sorcerers, while Dakar — the Mad Prophet — confronts the hard reckoning for the colossal mistake of his misspent past, and Tarens is steered by a destiny far from his crofter’s origins.

The penultimate volume of The Wars of Light and Shadow will touch the grand depths of Athera’s endowment, and deliver the thrilling finale of arc IV, the Sword of the Canon. War, blood, magic, mystery – and the most hidden powers of all – will stand or fall on their hour of unveiling.

I am woefully behind in this series, but it's one I intend to catch up with - hopefully before it come to an end.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford
Expected publication: September 12, 2017 by Tor.com

Three friends go looking for treasure and find horror in Jeffrey Ford's The Twilight Pariah.

All Maggie, Russell, and Henry wanted out of their last college vacation was to get drunk and play archaeologist in an old house in the woods outside of town. When they excavate the mansion's outhouse they find way more than they bargained for: a sealed bottle filled with a red liquid, along with the bizarre skeleton of a horned child

Disturbing the skeleton throws each of their lives into a living hell. They feel followed wherever they go, their homes are ransacked by unknown intruders, and people they care about are brutally, horribly dismembered. The three friends awakened something, a creature that will stop at nothing to retrieve its child.

I actually landed an ARC of this earlier in the month, so I won't be waiting quite as long as many of you, but I think you'll agree this sounds like a damned creepy adventure.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What Rayden Valkyrie Offers to Today's World

I've said many times that Rayden Valkyrie has become the character that enjoy the most when it comes to my writing.  With my roots in fantasy, there is no question that the world she travels and explores holds great appeal to me, as do the plots that she is a part of.

Above all, though, the things that she offers the world of today comprise the majority of reasons as to why she has become so near and dear to me.

An inspirational character is timeless. It doesn't matter if they are in an ancient world setting, such as the one Rayden Valkyrie lives in, a modern one, or some distant futuristic one in a galaxy far away.  It is through inspirational characters that light can come into the world from the page, especially during trying times.

The inspirational qualities of Rayden Valkyrie were battle-tested with me before the first manuscript was ever sent to an editor.  From the first time I grasped a vision of her character, she served as a beacon of inspiration during some personal times of trial for myself.  I have since seen her become an inspiration for many readers, several of whom have shared very personal stories that illustrate why they developed a close bond with the Rayden character.

Looking at Rayden and the world of today, I can see a number of ways in which she can have a positive impact.

The essence of Rayden is self-esteem and self-confidence.  She believes in herself and knows both her strengths and weaknesses.  She is confident without becoming arrogant, and this confidence encourages those she assists and gives pause to enemies confronting her.  In a world where so many struggle with issues of self-esteem and confidence, Rayden calls to everyone to believe in themselves, and stand tall each and every day.  Through her character, she gives encouragement to develop that inner strength that comes from self-esteem and self-confidence, and that is something I see a great need for in the world of today.

Self-determination is another key component of Rayden's inspirational ability.  When she decides on a course of action, she sets out to accomplish her aims without second-guessing or wavering.  She does not allow others to control her or tell her what she should be.  She follows her heart, something a lot of people are dissuaded from and discouraged from doing in our world.

Rayden also exudes a high level of discipline.  She trains hard, and regularly, to keep up her fighting skills and advance them.  She keeps a focus on the things that must be done, and adheres to them with a steadfast approach.

She is not one to procrastinate or do something halfway.  Her discipline and ability to take the small steps every day that build up to make major steps possible separates her from most of the crowd, but it also serves as a good model of what it takes to be successful in any kind of pursuit.  In that way, she speaks powerfully to the world of today.

Rayden is also an independent thinker.  In a world where there is a tendency or drive to categorize people, and fit them into neat boxes and apply labels to them, Rayden is a character that shuns categorization and labeling. Her moral code can find genuine connection with people of all types and backgrounds.

This core is something not driven by politics, religion, or any sort of ideology, but truly on an individual level, guided by what she finds to be right or wrong.  It is in this area of true independent thought that she stands as a major threat to the characters in her world that seek to control others.

In a similar way, she calls to the people of our world to think for themselves, question everything, make use of reason, and scrutinize situations on a case by case basis.  A person that becomes that sort of individual is not one that can be labeled or grouped, and these kinds of individuals are perhaps the greatest obstacle to the would-be puppet masters of the world.

Living with an honor code is another defining characteristic of Rayden that I find to be part of her inspirational appeal.  It is a dynamic aspect of her character, as she is always honing herself and working to live up to the ideals and values she embraces.  She is not dogmatic, but neither is she bogged down by a mindset that is afraid to identify rights and wrongs.

Rayden respects differences and the many varied things found among other people and cultures, but not to the point where she gives a pass to things that she sees as true evils.  If she encounters a wickedness, she will confront it and does not care one bit what others might say or whether her action will be popular.   This kind of honor code is not something that needs validation from others, and it is a harder road to travel, but develops the kind of people who will not stand by in the face of tyranny, abuses, and other evils that plague the lives of people worldwide.

As a character, Rayden has a lot to offer the people of today.  Through her actions, she serves as a powerful example of what an individual can be for others.  In a world that so many are finding increasingly rudderless and uncertain, she can be a beacon in the darkness, and this is why I have grown to have such a passion for her character and story.


About the Author

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Twitter:  @SGZimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7


About the Book

Thunder Horizon
by Stephen Zimmer

A deadly menace stalks the shadows of the lands to the north, stirring the winds of war. Farther south, the power of the Teveren Empire spreads with every passing day, empowered by dark sorcery. Formidable legions bent on conquest are on the march, slavery and subjugation following in their wake.

Within the rising maelstrom, Rayden Valkyrie has returned to the Gessa, to stand with the tribe that once took her into their care as a child. No amount of jewels or coin can sway her, nor can the great power of her adversaries intimidate her.

With a sword blade in her right hand and axe in her left, Rayden confronts foes both supernatural and of flesh and blood. Horrific revelations and tremendous risks loom; some that will see Rayden's survival in the gravest of peril.

Even if Rayden and the Gessa survive the trials plaguing their lands, the thunder of an even darker storm booms across the far horizon.

Thunder Horizon is the second book in the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.

Heart of a Lion
by Stephen Zimmer

Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.

A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.

The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.

Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.

Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.

Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.

Heart of a Lion is the first book in the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.