Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday

Stacking The Shelves is a new weekly meme being hosted by Tynga over at Tynga's ReviewsStacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. Mailbox Monday, meanwhile, is a similar meme being hosted by Book Journey this month (check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see who's hosting next month).

It's been a rough couple of weeks since my e-reader died. I've been using a cheap tablet I bought last xmas (and shelved in frustration a week or two later) to stay on top of those books that I have scheduled for various book tours, but I definitely can't read as comfortably or for as long. I am waiting anxiously (patiently went out the window after my first tablet read) to get my hands on one of the new Kobo Glo readers, so this week's haul of paperbacks couldn't have come at a better time.

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
The Duchess of the Shallows by Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto
Faithful Shadow by Kevin Howard
Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution by Ann VanderMeer
Shades of Souls Passed by Teresa Andrews

What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What is the BIGGEST word you've seen used in a book lately - that made you stop and look it up? Might as well leave the definition & book too.

To be honest, I can't remember the last time I had to reach for a dictionary. I think, after all these years, I've come across just about every word or term I'm likely to encounter in a book. Neal Stephenson's Anathem, however, was a difficult book, with its made-up mish-mash of scientific, religious, and Latin terms. It didn't leave me reaching for a dictionary, but definitely kept me flipping back to the glossary for words like:

amanuensis (\uh-man-yoo-EN-sis\), plural amanuenses, is a person employed to write or type what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another, and also refers to a person who signs a document on behalf of another under their authority. The term derives from a Latin expression made up of a suffix, -ensis, "belonging to", and prefix, manu-, "hand".

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.


18 and Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines. This one is aimed primarily at bloggers and books for the 18 and over crowd.

Question of the Week: 
Pick up your current book, turn to a random page, and jot down the first few sentences that pop out at you. Make sure to share the author & title of the book with everyone!

This comes from Bone Wires by Michael Shean:

He wondered if she’d been forced to do it that way and got used to it or if she’d been one of those hypersexualized girls who grew up early and decided to wield themselves like weapons at the public. Maybe it was survival, maybe it was mental illness, who the f*ck knew. He wasn’t Vice and he wasn’t a saint, so it’s not like he could help her. He stared at the park from across the street once more; she had vanished as quickly as she had appeared, like some kind of bizarre nymph that might have sprung from one of the dying trees.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution by Ann VanderMeer

"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:

Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution edited by Ann VanderMeer

Playfully mashing up the romantic elegance of the Victorian era with whimsically modernized technology, this entertaining and edgy new anthology is the third installment in a bestselling steampunk series. Featuring a renegade collective of writers and artists—from beloved legends to rising talents—the steam-driven past is rebooted and powered by originality, wit, and adventure. 

Lev Grossman offers a different take on the Six Million Dollar Man who possesses appendages and workings from recycled metal parts, yet remains fully human, resilient, and determined. Catherynne M. Valente explores a new form of parenting within the merging of man and machine while Cherie Priest presents a new, unsettling mode of transportation. Bruce Sterling introduces steampunk’s younger cousin, salvage-punk, while speculating on how cities will be built in the future using preexisting materials and Jeff VanderMeer takes an antisteampunk perspective as a creator must turn his back on an utterly destructive creation. 

Going beyond the simple realms of corsets and goggles, this engaging collection takes readers on a wild ride through Victoriana and beyond. (Dec 1, 2012)

I've been looking forward to this one for a while now, and since I just got my ARC in the mail, I figured this week was a good one to celebrate it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel (REVIEW)

A welcome throwback to the days of high fantasy - complete with idealized medieval communities, kings and queens, monstrous races, dragons, and magic - Shadows of Kings is a rousing adventure that makes the most of its brevity. Coming in at just under 250 pages, Jack Whitsel's tale engages the reader early on and then manages to sustain the interest (not to mention the pace), until the very end.

This is a mature tale, one which doesn't shy away from its more adult elements. The violence is graphic (although not gratuitous), with a very real risk losing limbs, heads and lives, and the romances are pragmatic (although not explicit), with marriages of convenience warring silently with mistresses of desire. Jack doesn't necessarily glorify the excesses of men at war, but neither does he shy away from exploring the acts of necessity that often accompany such campaigns.

Similarly, the duelling magical systems employed in the tale manage to be innovative and exciting, even while maintaining a semblance of familiarity. Jack doesn't demand that the reader go through any mental gymnastics to grasp how his magic works, but neither does he rely on the reader to fill in the blanks. Whether it's the magic of necromancy or that of dragons, he allows his imagination to run free, filling the story with fantastic moments of magical extravagance. What ultimately makes it all work, however, is the characters to which the magic is attached. They are well-rounded and dynamic, drawing the reader in and forcing us to choose sides, even if we may not be entirely comfortable with the potential for betrayal.

In terms of the narrative, I will admit that the tendency to change perspectives within the same scene bothered me, but once I got used to it, I settled in fine. There are several viewpoint characters to the story, on both sides of the war, and they all get their chance to shine. Fortunately, Jack doesn't allow us to get too far inside their heads, maintaining the suspense needed to drive the central mystery that underlies the story. The twists work well when they come, presenting the reader with some genuine surprises while, in hindsight, being entirely justified.

A refreshing addition to the genre, we can only hope Shadows of Kings will be followed by the second book of the Dragon Rising soon.


Author Bio:
Jack is a native Californian, but has made Oregon his home since 1982. He holds a Bachelor's Degree of Finance from Portland State University, but studies medieval history in his spare time. His favorite genres are fantasy and historical fiction with a medieval emphasis. Shadows of Kings, the first novel of the Dragon Rising Series is the love child born of these two passions.

"I love the elements of fantasy when mixed with the gritty aspects of a medieval society. In the worlds I create, there are neither citadels of shimmering glass nor any utopian realms."
The final contributing catalyst to Jack's creative process comes from his boys, Josiah and Noah They remind him how important an active imagination can be, and are the first to hear his tales of diabolical wizards and valiant knights.

"Because of my boys, I still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy."

Author Links:
     Website: http://www.jackwhitsel.com
     Blog: http://jwhitsel.wordpress.com
     Facebook Fanpage: : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shadows-of-Kings-Book-one-of-the-Dragon-Rising-Series/119975978113722

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Face in the Crowd By by Stephen King Stewart O'Nan (REVIEW)

I'll admit it. As much as I'm a huge fan of Stephen King AND the game baseball, I have never read his first collaboration with Stewart O'Nan, Faithful . . . and likely never will. It looks like an interesting read, but the Blue Jays fan inside me just will not allow me to indulge nearly 500 pages of Red Sox rhetoric. :)

Fortunately, with A Face in the Crowd they have turned their attention away from the Sox, and away from the realm of fan-based non-fiction. Instead, they've written a short little Twilight Zone type slice of fiction about an elderly widower, banished by retirement (and his dearly departed wife) to the land of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The concept here is pretty simple. Basically, each night, as he sits down to watch the game on TV, Dean Evers spots somebody from his past sitting in the same premium seat behind home plate. The problem is, each of them is well and truly dead, passed on before his time. The prospect of watching another game begins to fill him with dread, as each face brings back painful memories, but his efforts at mental distraction do nothing more than delay his viewing by a few innings. Where the story really begins to get interesting is when his phone rings . . . and the woman behind the plate motions for him to pick it up.

It's a fun story, written with the baseball fan in mind, full of names and stats that definitely anchor it in the current season.Dean Evers is your typical King character, a nice guy with flaws, who is haunted by regrets and past indiscretions, but you do feel for him. There are 2 nice twists to the story - the phone call, plus one other - and an ending that's definitely a bit melancholy, but fitting.

Available at Amazon
Available at Kobo

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Erotic Fantasy Short-Stories by Pat McCraw (REVIEW)

When Pat McCraw asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing her Erotic Fantasy Short-Stories collection, her first work to be translated into English, I was curious . . . but hesitant. Depending on context, the phrase "erotic fantasy" can have two very different meanings. On the one hand you have fantasy stories that happen to be erotic, and on the other hand you have . . . well, erotic stories that happens to involve fantasies.

So, I took at look around her Duocarns site, which incorporates some amazing fantasy artwork, noted that she mentioned Marion Zimmer Bradley as her favourite author, and took it for granted that there would be at least some fantasy element to the stories. Besides, I was in the mood for something different, so I let my curiosity get the better of me - and I'm glad I did.

There are 6 stories in the collection, half of which embrace Pat's love for fantasy. For starters, we have Like At Mothers, an odd little science fiction tale with an final scene that comes as a bit of a shock, but which is an altogether amusing surprise. The Monster offer up a tale of duelling wizards and magical destruction, complete with a monstrous lover who could have crawled straight out of the Bizarro genre. At first glance, Lizzard Love is a pretty straight-forward adventure tale, featuring a woman with a pet iguana fetish, but despite being the most subtle and suggestive of the stories, it packs a final scene that both shocks and amuses.

As for the other stories, they all do something interesting with the whole concept of fantasies. The opening story, The Visit, features a dominatrix who invites the reader into her head, sharing the personal fantasies that drive her professional sessions. In the the two shortest stories of the collection, Black Devil introduces us to a woman who only discovers the power of her own fantasies through her husband's indiscretion, while Cat Food introduces us to a man who has physically become his mistress's feline fantasy.

While the English translation is a bit imperfect, with a few awkward word choices and grammar oddities, it doesn't detract from the stories themselves. They are carefully constructed little gems, completely original, with some exceptionally entertaining moments. For the price, it's definitely worth checking out, especially with the amazingly obscene artwork that accompanies the stories.

Available at Amazon
Available at Kobo

Waiting On Wednesday: Witchbreaker by James Maxey

"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:

Witchbreaker by James Maxey

Five hundred years ago, the famed Witchbreaker, Lord Stark Tower, launched a war against the cult of witches, nearly wiping them out. Today, only a handful of women still practice the craft in secret. A young witch named Sorrow has dedicated her life to changing this reality, vowing to wipe out the Church of the Book and launch a new golden age of witchcraft. In pursuit of her goals, she bonds her soul with Rott, the primal dragon of decay, giving her nearly limitless powers of destruction. 

Unfortunately, tapping this power comes at the cost of her humanity, leading her into a desperate quest to find the greatest witch of all time, Avaris, in hopes of mastering her dark magic before it destroys her. But she's not alone in hunting Avaris, as fate throws her into an uneasy partnership with a man who wants to be the new Witchbreaker. Can either of them survive their mutual quests when their journey leads them into battle with Tempest, the primal dragon of storms? (Dec 26, 2012)

I've heard good things about Maxey's series, and since the release of the final volume is still 3 months away, I just may have time to get through the first two books, which I picked up over the summer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sweat by Mark Gilleo (REVIEW)

With its heady mix of corporate wrongdoings, political scandals, family betrayals, blackmail, and murder, Sweat is a slow-burning thriller that relies largely on the strength of its characters to propel the story along. The plot itself is straightforward and familiar, borrowing from a number of standard scenarios, but the strong thread of morality and justice running through it all keeps the reader engaged beyond the page.

Jake is a responsible and upstanding young man, the kind of dutiful son who puts his education, his career, and his very life on hold for the sake of family. He's not perfect, and never come across as holier-than-though, which is why he works as a protagonist. More importantly, in a world of CEOs, senators, spies, billionaires, and sweatshop owners, he and his new girlfriend, Kate, serve to provide the reader with somebody they can identify.

Peter, Jake's absent father and CEO of Winthrop Enterprises, is the kind of selfish, arrogant, manipulative, amoral man to who nothing and no one is sacred. He's the kind of man you want desperately to hate, but he's so honest about his own shortcomings, so open about his motivations, that he demands a certain grudging acceptance. On the surface, Senator Day is a bit more human, and a bit more sympathetic, but he's no less despicable for being so opportunistic and ready to betray trusts both public and personal. As for Lee Chang, sweatshop manager, slave-runner, and whore-master, he's just about as stock as villains come. You can almost hear him chewing the scenery.

Gilleo knows how to set a scene, and has a flair for dialogue that manages to keep the cultural elements from being trite or blatantly stereotypical. I liked the fact that the emphasis is on the characters, on the human element of the story, as opposed to the gun-porn or techno-absurdity of others in the genre. An altogether solid read, and one with some real moments of excitement and intrigue.

Mark Gilleo holds a graduate degree in international business from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in business from George Mason University. He enjoys traveling, hiking and biking. He speaks Japanese. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he currently resides in the D.C. area. His first two novels were recognized as finalist and semifinalist, respectively, in the William Faulkner-Wis- dom creative writing competition.


TuesDecay - Schoellkopf Power Station

This week's edition of #TuesDecay (follow along on Google+ to see all the posts) features the ruins of the Schoellkopf Power Station in Niagara Falls, New York. It's s one of those near-mythical locations that have obsessed me since my early childhood, with the ruined architecture clinging tenuously to the wall of the escarpment, darkened tunnels leading to hidden wonders I could only dream of, and the sheer, seemingly unclimbable wall that not even my father (who got me hooked in hiking and exploring) knew how to traverse.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What hyped up book do you think was not worth all the talk?

A Feast for Crows was a huge disappointment, so much so that I abandoned it after 3 attempts. The only way I'm moving on with the series is if I skip that entry. The Long Earth was another one I was looking forward to - I mean, Pratchett AND Baxter? Oh, yeah! - but it was weak, lazy, and altogether not worth the hype.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.


18 and Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines and Kelly at Secrets of a Book Lover. This one is aimed primarily at bloggers and books for the 18 and over crowd.

Question of the Week: 
Do you listen to music while writing reviews or do you need quiet? 

If I'm at the computer, then the odds are pretty good I've got music playing. My playlist over the last few days has been very Canadian, with the new Platinum Blonde album, the last Honeymoon Suite album, the re-releases of Gowan's 2 biggest albums (Strange Animal and Great Dirty World), and the latest from Fraze Gang (who were once known as Brighton Rock).

Jesus was Hung on a Tree? by Richard Rhys Jones (GUEST POST)

Jesus was hung on a tree?

      My book, "The Division of the Damned" deals with the imaginary idea that Himmler sent a squad of SS to Transylvania to make a deal with a vampire count, Count Dracyl. The soldiers, already disillusioned with their part in the war and the treatment of the conquered nations, then turn on the vampires and fight them using silver swords and bullets and the power of a tree.

   "The power of a tree?" I hear you ask yourself. "What on earth is he on about, what power does a tree possess?"

     Well, I proposed in my book that a tree could be used as a Christian symbol and therefore a point of belief for the soldiers to rally to. In fact, why a tree at all? How did I get to a tree being the anchor of their faith to fight the Dracyl? Why not a fish, a spear, a mummified head, a turnip, a sock? And, perhaps more importantly, was it right for me to make up a Christian symbol, or am I going to be cast to the fires as a heretic??  


     Ever since I read Sepulchre by James Herbert as a young soldier, I've been interested in the interweaving of ancient legend and religion. I devoured that book and was fascinated when he introduced the fact that a whole rook of Old Testament legends, stories I'd always accepted as Christian history, were in fact Sumerian. This shocking revelation opened up a whole new aspect of religion to me.
     I'd never given the church any thought up to this point. Church to me was a duty I performed when my name was up on orders to turn up. Sunday morning parade, inspection, bit of a mumbled sing song, snooze during the sermon then back to barracks, job done. I simply accepted it as a part of life. Then along came Mr. Herbert and in one smart passage he managed to rattle me out of my spiritual coma.
     The Creation, Adam and Eve, The Flood, the Tower of Babel were originally put down in texts that stretched far back to the dawn of true civilisation. Not direct copies but stupendously close. Christianity, the creed I'd so blithely accepted with nigh on bovine indifference, had simply robbed 'em!
     Now, at that time my thinking processes were very much different to now. Yes, I was interested in the idea that Christianity held ancestry in other religions, just as I was interested in the Third Reich, learning the drums and Warsaw Pact arms and equipment. However, those enthusiasms wilted like lettuce in a microwave under the glaring intensity of my social life at that time I simply couldn't find it in my self to leave the bar and pursue these interests.
     So nothing more happened in that direction, especially as none of my mates would have been interested anyway. Imagine the scene:

Kev, (Drinking buddy): Beer Reg?
Me: Yeah, Guinness, did you know that a lot of the Old Testament stories were based on other even older religious texts?
Kev: Go to bed mate, you've had enough.
 Get the picture?

     Then, fifteen years later, I discovered the internet and a whole world of information, both good and bad suddenly opened up to me. Old interests were sparked, ideas took flame and I unexpectedly learned that you could type with two fingers just as well as with one, if you practised.
     Whilst bumbling through Wikipedia I came across the demon Lilith. Lilith is mentioned in so many cross-religious threads that I had to use her, so I did. She was, apparently, the first wife of Adam but was banished from Paradise for being too assertive as she refused to lie under Adam, (as in, nudge nudge wink wink). Intriguingly, Lilith was supposed to have been the first Biblical vampire who drank the blood of Abel after Cane had slain him. In the Sumerian texts she was a sort of demonic hand-maiden to the Sumerian Goddess of love, Inanna, and bizarrely she also lived in a tree.
     Now I knew I needed an artefact to focus the fight against the Dracyl and the. "Lilith's tree" idea attracted me right from the start. Right there, with a tree as the focal point, I had a link to Lilith and Sumeria. However, the only Christian bark-wrapped greenery I knew of was a Christmas tree, and that was hardly the dark, brooding force of all-conquering power I was looking for.
     So I started to dig for something else. There was of course the Tree of Knowledge, the shrub that Eve took the fruit off for Adam's dinner, (the naughty minx), but that seemed so... lame, somehow. So I dug some more and I'd almost given up when that Eureka moment struck again! I found some passages relating to Christ being hung on a tree.
    Acts 5:30      "Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree"

    Acts 10:39     "whom they slew and hanged on a tree"

    Acts 13:29     "they took him down from the tree"

    1 Peter 2:24   "who his own self bare our sins in his
                   own body on the tree"

    Paul: Galatians 3:13 "Christ... being made a curse upon us...
                   Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree"

     The inspiration was saved, now I just had to sell it.

So, is it alright to do it then or am I in the doodoo?

     It would be wrong on so many levels for me to claim that Jesus wasn't crucified. Just as it would be wrong for me to say that he was hung on a tree and cite these tracks from the Bible as proof. For me, there is no proof to be had from a book that was written two thousand years ago; a book born out of the strife, egos and schisms of an upstart cult.

     In my humble opinion, the modern Bible is not the word of God as the fundamentalists would have us believe.
     There, I've said it now and I can't take it back. 
     Why do I say that? Well here are my reasons and believe me, this is an extremely superficial glossing over of what is an exceedingly deep topic.
     The oldest known Bible to date is the "Sinai Bible" in the British Museum. There are, unbelievably, 14,800 differences from the modern Bible in its ancient bindings. Think about it, 14,800 divergences from what is written in the contemporary text. Imagine being asked to copy a book and you make that many changes?  You'd be fired, or sued even! So what does that say about the claim that the Bible is "The word of God"?
      Let's dig deeper.
     If we look back, the basis for the Christian doctrine as we know it today was set down by Constantine the Great, at the Council of Nicea in AD 325. However, the decisions on which stories or gospels should actually make it into the New Testament weren't made until AD 367, forty two years after!

    " Uhu." I hear you asking yourself, "so why was it necessary to edit the Bible?"

    Well, before that time, the Hebrew bible wasn't essentially seen as the word of God, it was more of a guide as to how to be Christian. In an effort to hone their course, Saint Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, in his Easter letter of 367, listed the books that were to be included in the New Testament. His main reason was to exclude his favourite hate, an offshoot of the faith called Arianism, (named after its founder Arius and not some discredited, laughable racial theory), nevertheless, his suggestions stuck.
     So even here, not 500 years after Christ's martyrdom, we have discrepancies and arguments as to what he truly did in life and more importantly, what should actually go into his biography. So would it really be wrong of me to suggest that Christ was hung from a tree and not on a cross? Would everyone be up in arms about it, bearing in mind the slip shod way his life was recorded?

     Then we have the saga of the translation.
     The King James Bible is often toted as the original Bible (or word of God?) and all subsequent English versions as cheap impostors. So how was this paragon of translating purity actually reworked into the English language?
     In 1607 King James 1st commissioned a gaggle of translators to render the Bible into English. Two years and nine months later, the work was ready for the printing press but James was still not happy. Himself a minor scholar of limited ability, it was clear that he did not have the talent, skill, time nor inclination to read and prepare it for publication. So he gave the manuscript to the most celebrated whiz kid of that time; enter Sir Francis Bacon.
     Bacon took a year to pound the differing styles of the translators into some kind of uniformed pattern, employing the rhythms, syntax and mannerisms that were so popular in Shakespearian England at the time.

     Mmmmm.... wait a minute, so he changed it then? 
     Well, yes.
     Over fifty translators had slaved over the wording for nigh on three years to perfect the conversion of its ancient passages into the English language, and Bacon changes it, using the "Dictionary of Slang" of that time to make it more, "Popular"?

     Yes, but wait, it gets better. 
     The Bible used by those fine English scholars to translate into English, (before it was so horribly molested by that pervert of the written word, Bacon), was in Greek. The Greek copy was originally translated from the Aramaic ... which was translated from the Hebrew; do you see where this is leading? See a pattern here?
     So basically, who knows what the original word of God was?
      Nobody, that's who.
     The original scrolls that held the words that have conquered the world have long been lost to the annals of time and nobody, this side mortality, will ever know what they truly said.

     However, I digress. The Tree.
     So where did the Christian connection for the tree come from? Well, the Greek word for the object used by the Romans to kill Jesus is Staurus, which Mr. Bacon changed to cross. However, the actual translation is not Cross, it's Pole, or... (ta da!) TREE!!

     Look, it's vague but if Dan Brown can change places, people and facts for his books, then I'll gladly use someone else's inaccuracies to help me, because that's how we role in fiction-land :-)
     I have merely dipped the tip of the toenail of my little toe into the subject and anyone who knows the field of study will probably point out a rook of mistakes in "Division, (not 14,800 though, I hasten to add).
    "Division of the Damned" is a story, a work of fiction and I just wanted to highlight the reasons and the facts (coughs) behind the legend of the book.
    Thanks for reading this and I hope you enjoy the book, (if you buy it).

    Richard Rhys Jones


Division of The Damned
By Richard Rhys Jones

It was a brilliant plan to win the war.

What if the Third Reich could own the night?

What if they had a Division of Vampires?

And if those Vampires didn't stop?

If they had plans to conquer the whole world?

Even Heinrich Himmler hadn't thought of that. But in Transylvania someone had. And on the Winter Solstice of 1944, the world would be at their mercy.


Find the Author at:



The Division of the Damned by Richard Rhys Jones (PROMO)

Division of The Damned
By Richard Rhys Jones

It was a brilliant plan to win the war.

What if the Third Reich could own the night?

What if they had a Division of Vampires?

And if those Vampires didn't stop?

If they had plans to conquer the whole world?

Even Heinrich Himmler hadn't thought of that. But in Transylvania someone had. And on the Winter Solstice of 1944, the world would be at their mercy.


Chapter 1

They flew from tree to tree, as silent and cold as the churning snow around them. Armed only with blade and tooth, they darted through the night with supernatural grace. The dark held no secrets for them as the day held no mercy and, slick and practised, they spread into formation as the quarry neared.

On a densely wooded hill five miles away from the German lines, a lone Russian guard stamped his feet to ward off the cold. It was the dead man’s stag, two till three, and he was bone tired. They had driven all day before halting to set up the communications post, then he had serviced his wagon, set up the tented area for the officers and helped position the radio masts. Now, after only three hours sleep, he was back on guard duty and he couldn’t see further than his dire need of a cigarette.

The war would soon be over. he reckoned. A couple more months and then he could go back to his hometown. There he would find a wife, start a family and work on a farm or in a factory. He would be a hero and, on family gatherings, he would regale them all with stories of how he single-handedly took on the might of the Fascist army and conquered them.

Like pouncing arachnids, they dropped from the trees on the unsuspecting camp. The lone Russian’s last sensation was the warm gush of blood spurting from his now lacerated throat and the voracious teeth that greedily violated the wound. As the blackness of death dimmed his sight, he heard the first screams of the officers and men he had been guarding as the enemy wreaked carnage and death.

With steel and fang, they killed and fed the way they had always done.

No mercy, only butchery and then gorging on the blood of the fallen.



Find the Author at:



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Help Kickstart The Writers' Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy is a collection of essays and interviews with some of most influential names in the industry; each article covering a specific element of the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy.  The collaborators in this wonderful anthology include:

  • Neil Gaiman – “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”
  • Orson Scott Card – “On Rhetoric and Style.”
  • Lou Anders – “Nebulous Matters, or Speculations on Subgenre.”
  • Lucy Snyder – “Ursula K. LeGuin Talks About A Lifetime in the Craft.”
  • James Gunn – “Beginnings.”
  • George Zebrowski – “Middles.”
  • Jay Lake – “Endings.”
  • Nayad Monroe – “Tim Powers Talks About Writing Supernatural Awe and More.”
  • Pam Sargent – “Talking Too Much, or Not Enough: Dialogue in Science Fiction and Fantasy.”
  • Geoff Fuller -- “How Alien the Alien: A Primer on Viewpoint.”
  • Nancy Kress – “The Green-Skinned Zorn Laughed With Grief: Character and Emotion in Science Fiction and Fantasy.”
  • Harry Turtledove – “Alternate History: the How-To of What Might Have Been.”
  • Kelly Green – “Larry Niven Talks About the Collaborative Process.”
  • Joe Haldeman – “Hemingway Talks About Writing.”
  • Nisi Shawl – “Unbending Gender.”
  • Alan Dean Foster – “Reverse Engineering: Writing Novelizations.”
  • Alethea Kontis – “Kevin J. Anderson Talks About Spin-off Novels and Prequels.”
  • Elizabeth Bear -- “Tactics of Worldbuilding.”
  • Jackie Gamber–”Ann and Jeff Vandermeer Talk About Weird Fiction”
  • Michael Knost – Short fiction editors Ellen Datlow, Stanley Schmidt, Gordon Van Gelder, James Patrick Kelly, Mike Resnick, and John Joseph Adams discuss what they are looking for when reading submissions.

Bram Stoker Award-winning Editor Michael Knost is giving Seventh Star Press a chance to release this amazing book for writers, but it requires additional resources that they have to try and raise, hence the Kickstarter campaign.

Check out out HERE.

Waiting On Wednesday: The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington

"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:

The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington

On a stormy night in 1421, the North Sea delivers a devastating blow to Holland: the Saint Elizabeth Flood, a deluge of biblical proportions that drowns hundreds of towns, thousands of people, and forever alters the geography of the Low Countries. Where the factions of the noble Hooks and the merchant Cods waged a literal class war but weeks before, there is now only a nigh-endless expanse of grey water, a desolate inland sea with moldering church spires jutting up like sunken tombstones. For a land already beleaguered by generations of civil war, a worse disaster could scarce be imagined.

Yet even disaster can be profitable, for the right sort of individual, and into this flooded realm sail three conspirators: a deranged thug at the edge of madness, a ruthless conman on the cusp of fortune, and a half-feral girl balanced between them. If they work together they may find reward beyond reckoning, but such promise is no guarantee against betrayals born of greed, rage, and lust.

In a topsy-turvey world where peasants feast while noblemen starve, these three uneasy confederates will learn that theft, fraud, and even murder are simply part of politics as usual in the island-city of Dordrecht, and even if their scheme succeeds they may not live long enough to enjoy it... (Dec 18, 2012)

If I weren't already a fan of Bullington's first two novels, phrases like "a desolate inland sea with moldering church spires jutting up like sunken tombstones" alone would be enough to win me over. Looking forward to another inappropriately humorous adventure, full of wit and wonder.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TuesDecay - Barn Storming

This week's edition of #TuesDecay (follow along on Google+ to see all the posts) features an old barn out along Hwy 3. I don't know what it is about barns that seems to require they be allowed to descend into ruin, or what it is about me that finds that so attractive. Maybe it's the old stone used in the foundations, or the way the landscape seems to echo that slow decay.

Friday, September 7, 2012

18 and Over Book Blogger Follow

18 and Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines and Kelly at Secrets of a Book Lover. This one is aimed primarily at bloggers and books for the 18 and over crowd.

Question of the Week: 
If you could beta read for any author who would it be and why?

Okay, I'm going to cheat a bit here and go with 2 authors - not because I can't make up my mind, but because I'd want to beta read for them for 2 very different reasons.

First is Clive Barker. The man is a genius, the perfect mix of literary talent, artistic talent, and sheer imagination. He is a man who is very free with his ramblings, musings, and thoughts on upcoming projects . . . but he's also a man who goes where his muse takes him, and who does so at his own pace. As a result, we're left teased with the glorious promise of Black Is The Devil's Rainbow (the finished short story collection that his publisher has left in limbo), The Scarlet Gospels (his epic 'Pinhead versus Harry D'Amour' novel that has gone to a beta reader/editor), The Art 3 (the final book of the trilogy begun with The Great and Secret Show and Everville), and books like Cabal 2 and 3, Galilee 2, etc. I'm not saying that a beta reader could do anything to move these projects along, but it'd sure be nice to be a part of the process.

Second would be Brandon Sanderson. The man is a machine, turning out more work - and quality work, at that - in a year than should be possible for any human being. He is also quite probably the most exciting author in the realm of fantasy right now, and I have to admit to being a little impatient for the likes of the final Wheel of Time novel, the sequel to The Way of Kings, and the series due to begin with Steelheart.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mordenhof by Stephen Barnard (REVIEW)

Stephen Barnard's Mordenhof is a short but effective trio of stories, each of them putting a subtly horrific twist upon the fantasy genre. The world of Mordenhof is one of dark magic, darker monsters, and darkest deceptions.

In Sigdom’s Idol, a cursed dagger turns already uneasy allies against one another, eroding what little desperate trust exists between them, and putting them at the heart of a battle that extends deep into the spiritual world.

In Dead Meat, a group of condemned men are offered a chance at survival, if they can just make it through the night and across the haunted ruins of Mordenbald. It's a tragic tale, one where hope seems to triumph against all odds, but where a cruel twists adds a note of finality.

In Uraboh’s Curse, nothing and nobody are quite what they appear to be, with the rescue of a young boy proving to have unintended - and potentially world-shattering - consequences.

At just over 40 pages, the three stories can (and probably should) be read in a single sitting, as the shared world, themes, and atmosphere links them nicely together. Although definitely dark, the inclusion of a little morbid humour manages to keep the collection from being depressingly grim, giving it a guilty-pleasure kind of edge instead. Here's hoping Barnard has another volume to offer up soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Insecure Writer's Support Group - Sept Edition

The Insecure Writer's Support Group in a once-monthly blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. The idea is to provide authors with an avenue to share their doubts and concerns, and to offer one another encouragement and guidance. Every first Wednesday of the month we gather to connect with one another and share our insecurities.

No insecurities this month - instead, it's time to stop procrastinating, to stop thinking about being a writer, and start being a writer. No more excuses, no more distractions, and no more good intentions. I've thought long and hard about what I need to do, and I've put together a 3 step plan.

#1 - 30 Day Plan. I've given myself until the end of September to revisit, polish, and submit two of my unsold short stories for publication. I've researched the markets, matched a list of magazines and anthologies to the stories I feel have the most potential, and started the hard part - editing. I took one of the stories with me on a hike this weekend, sat down by the whirlpool rapids with nothing more than those pages and a red pen, and took no mercy on the manuscript. Next step is to make the edits on the screen, polish once more, run by a beta reader, and then submit.

#2 - 90 Day Plan. Not sure if this should really be a 60 day plan, since it overlaps with my 30 day plan, but I've given myself until the end of November to collate all my scraps of paper, my digital notes, and my margin scrawls into a revised story arc for my novel. Again, time to stop thinking about rewriting it and actually do it. I know where the weak points are, I know what I need to do to fix them, and I know what threads I need to splice, trim, or twist to make it all work. As much as I'd love to just start writing, I know I need that plan, that visual diagram on my wall to keep me focused. By the end of November that will be done.

#3 - 6 Month Plan. Again with the overlap, but this time only with plan #2. I've given myself until the end of March to get a next draft of my novel done and ready for a beta reader. I'm thinking that's realistic, especially once I have that visual road map in place, starting back at me from the wall. The first two chapters and the last four need to be scrapped and rewritten from scratch, and I think there are two or three new chapters to be added throughout, but otherwise the story is solid.

Will everything work out perfectly? Of course not. Will there be things that come up at work or at home that will impact my plans? Of course. Does that mean my plans have to change? Absolutely not! No more tweaking my plans because life got busy. I made plans for a reason. I need to stick with them, follow them, and find (or make) time to keep myself on track. I'm not saying it will be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

Waiting On Wednesday: The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

"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:

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantis. Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead. 

Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception. Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit. (Nov 1, 2012)

Okay, so it's not the final Wheel of Time novel or the sequel to The Way of Kings, but it is a new tale set within the world of Elantris, which I think few people expected to see revisited. Definitely looking forward to this, even if it does make me wonder where the man  finds the time to sleep or eat!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan (REVIEW)

Equal parts creepy and amusing, Haunting Obsession is actually the second Rebecca Burton novella from R.J. Sullivan, although you don't need to read the first (Backstage Pass) to enjoy this.

Daryl Beasley is a man fortunate enough to find his heart's desire twice in one day, but foolish enough to risk them both. While out shopping for his girlfriend's birthday present, he spots a framed photo of Maxine Marie (a Marilyn Monroe clone) that comes with the first cheque she ever signed under that name. It's a pricey bit of memorabilia, and one that threatens to drive a wedge between his girlfriend and himself, but the temptation proves too much.

That night he discovers that the memorabilia comes with an added bonus - the ghost of Maxine herself. Before long, he finds all his fanboy dreams coming true, as Maxine seduces her way into his life . . . slowly draining him of that life in the process.

The culture clash between celebrity and fanboy, between 1950s innocence and 21st century excess, drives the humorous side of the tale. It's an odd couple pairing, and one that hits all the right notes in playing up the emotional, physical, temporal, and spiritual divide between them. Meanwhile, the slow descent from obsession into possession drives the chills and thrills, ultimately putting Daryl's life at risk. In the end, true love proves to be his only hope for salvation, but it doesn't come easy, or without a cost.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall: A Novel by Nancy Kress (REVIEW)

A relatively short (under 200 pages) but interesting novel that puts a unique spin on the apocalypse. As the title suggests, each chapters carries us backwards or forwards in time, telling three intersecting stories:

AFTER THE FALL: A claustrophobic, emotionally charged, post-apocalyptic tale of dying adults, damaged adolescents, and stolen children.

BEFORE THE FALL: Cold and efficient, a contemporary drama surrounding one woman's struggle to decipher a mystery while preparing for single motherhood.

DURING THE FALL: Brief, tantalizing, and the heart of the story, these mini chapters offer a terrifying glimpse into just how simply catastrophic change can begin.

This is a book where execution is everything, where the telling of the story trumps the story itself. Personally, I saw the 'twist' revelation coming very early on, but that's OK. Instead of being something that hooks the reader or sets the stage for an earth-shattering climax, the twist is more a key to unlocking the melancholy truth behind the end of human civilization.

Fortunately, the telling is solid, populated by characters who may not be entirely likeable, but to whom we can either relate, or with whom we can sympathize. Pete (AFTER) is a spoiled teenager, a sad, angry, lonely young man who fills his time by having emotionless sex with teenagers as damaged as himself, and with secret, painful, unrequited longing for an older woman who serves as teacher, mother, doctor, aunt, and friend. His only escape from The Shell (a sterile bubble in which the human race has been preserved) is through brief jaunts into the past, where he steals supplies he doesn't understand . . . and young children to help repopulate the race.

Julie (BEFORE) is a lonely, independent, brilliant mathematician who has been helping the FBI to find a pattern in the bizarre string of child abductions and store thefts. Having become too close to her FBI partner, she chooses to embark on a path of single motherhood, even as she finds herself cast adrift by an agency that doesn't believe her theories. Driven as much by her need to find a purpose behind the pattern as she is by the need to protect her child, she sets herself on a course that will ultimately see her cross paths with Pete . . . before it's too late to satisfy either need.

A solid effort, with a well thought out, appreciably detailed, yet somehow understated catastrophic end to humanity's reign in the final chapters. I would have like a bit more insight into the aliens, but that's a minor quibble and doesn't detract from my appreciation for the story Nancy Kress has crafted here.

Available at Amazon
Available at Kobo

TuesDecay - Blue Ghost Tunnel

This week's edition of #TuesDecay (follow along on Google+ to see all the posts) features the Blue Ghost Tunnel (Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel) - a long, winding, abandoned train tunnel that runs under Lock 18 of the 3rd Welland Canal. Dark, damp, and sporting icicle stalactites throughout the winter, it's also said to be haunted . . . which is what first took my camera and I there.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday

Stacking The Shelves is a new weekly meme being hosted by Tynga over at Tynga's ReviewsStacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. Mailbox Monday, meanwhile, is a similar meme being hosted by BookNAround this month (check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see who's hosting next month).

It's been a couple of weeks since I did my last post, so I've got  few titles to catch up on. Starting with the most recent arrivals, I found this on my doorstep today, courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada:

While I had almost forgotten about requesting this one, I got approved  by Macmillan-Tor/Forge yesterday (via Netgalley)for:

Dropping into my inbox on the electronic front these past 2 weeks were:

What's topping your shelves this week?