Thursday, August 29, 2013

Terror, Temptation, and Tentacles - it's Tuesday Apocalypse (#bookreview)

It's funny how our literary tastes change as we get older. I remember trying to read Dracula when I was young and finding the style boring, and then trying again as a teenager and finding it far too literary, and then reading it a third time as an adult and being delighted by it. The epistolary format is an unusual one, and I think Vicy Cross takes some liberties with it here, but it's absolutely perfect for the tale she tells.

Personal, intimate, and full of atmosphere, Tuesday Apocalypse is a magnificent story that works on so many levels (or perhaps layers) - romance, drama, erotica, and horror. This is not a story that bounces around between those genres, but which embraces them all, and blends them together, often within the same scene.

Reading this reminded me very much of enjoying Stoker's masterpiece for the first time. I was unsettled by my reactions, uncomfortable with my own thoughts, and often unable to reconcile my heart with my head. I fell in love with Sister Barbara. I wanted to reach into the book, cradle her softly in my hands, and carry her to safety. At the same time, I wanted to drop into the book, hide behind the bombed out ruins, and watch her being violated by Tuesday's alien tentacles. It's not easy to titillate and terrorize within the same scene, but Cross does a lovely job of forcing us to see both sides of the encounter.

The slow, creeping madness . . . the insistent, wanton seduction . . . the gleeful violation of vows . . . the tortured desire to succumb to temptation . . . the desperate pleas for salvation . . . the anguished attempts to hold onto something of one's true self . . . Cross offers us all of that and more. I loved the many layers beneath which she allowed her evil to creep, robbing Barbara of her sexuality on so many levels. Here we have a young woman already tempted to betray her vows by a handsome young man, who suddenly finds herself lusting after - gasp! - another woman, and who ultimately finds herself fighting the urge to surrender to tongues and tentacles. Wow . . . and oh, my.

I don't imagine Stoker ever dreamed of writing something this explicit, but there's no denying that the two tales share a lot in common. For him it was teeth that pushed the edge of taboo, while for Cross it's tentacles that do the same thing. His seductive sense of evil may have come the grave, rather than from beyond the stars, but they both have the same horrifying impact. This was just a gorgeous story, and one that is bound to give you the chills - and I mean that in every sense of the word.

(as posted by Sally on Goodreads)

Exploring the dark side of the Mountain with Appalachian Undead (#bookreview)

Admit it. When you hear the title Appalachian Undead, you immediately start thinking of a zombie Deliverance, don't you? As S.G. Browne writes in his introduction, there is a definite "stereotype of the region as poor and desolate and culturally backward" that fiction has done as much to perpetuate as to dispel.

Some of the stories here are far removed from that stereotype, but others absolutely wallow in it - sometimes to the point of self-parody. Faced with the difficult task of playing to reader expectations, while still being respectful to the inhabitants of the region - living, dead, and undead - editors Eugene Johnson and Jason Sizemore have done a good job of collecting stories from both ends of the spectrum.

As for the zombies themselves, they run the full gamut from mindless shuffling to fast-moving aggression, and everything in between.

Highlights for me included 'Calling Death' by Jonathan Maberry, in which a survivor makes a claustrophobic journey back to the surface; 'Times Is Tough in Musky Holler' by John Skipp & Dori Miller, in which community service takes an unsettling turn; 'Long Days to Come' by K. Allen Wood, which explores a household's duck-and-cover sort of reaction to an outbreak; 'We Take Care Of Our Own' by John Everson, which deftly blends corporate greed with the fear of the outsider; and 'Twilight of the Zombie Game Preserve' by S. Clayton Rhodes, which had a very King/Bachman sort of feel to its tale of revenge and consequences.

The others are a mixed bag, but I'd be remiss in not mentioning 'Sitting Up With The Dead' by Bev Vincent was an interesting tale, in a melancholy sort of way; 'Black Friday' by Karin Fuller was an amusing take on consumerism that could have benefited from a little subtly, but still was a lot of morbid fun; and 'Hell's Hollow' by Michael West was a fun carnival twist that I only wish had been longer.

 As for the stories in Mountain Undead, the companion chapbook, 'Unto the Lord a New Song' by Geoffrey Girard seemed like an interesting story with lots of potential, but lost me with its stream-of-consciousness narrative and lack of structure; and 'Let Me Come In' by Lesley Conner was a fun (and twisted) take on the traditional fairy tale.

For the most part, these are simple horror stories, with no attempt at social commentary or heavy-handed messaging, and that's just fine with me. Nothing really wowed me to the point where I felt compelled to rush out and read everything a contributor has written, but I definitely came away entertained.

Published July 31st 2013 by Apex Publications
Paperback, 222 / 74 pages

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reliving the Last Launch with Dan Winters (#bookreview)

From its first image of an early Space Shuttle schematic, published back in July of 1972, to its final image of an empty launch pad under cloudy skies, Last Launch: Discovery, Endeavor, Atlantis Hardcover is a visually stunning tribute to the modern era of spaceflight.

Dan Winters bookends his introduction with a pair of father-son photographic memories, beginning with his father taking a picture of the television to capture the launch of Apollo 11, and ending with his own son assisting him in photographing the launch of Discovery STS-133. In just two short pages he reminds us of how far we've come in the past forty years.

Al Reinart follows that with a fascinating history of how and why the American space program reached for the stars, complete with the "hubris and muddle" that was designed into the Space Shuttle. He takes us from the launch of Columbia in 1981, through the Challenger disaster of 1986, and the return to flight with Discovery in 1988; from the initial multinational docking with the space station Mir in 1995, to the multinational construction of the ISS in 1998; and through the loss of Columbia in 2004, to the return to flight in 2006, and the retirement of the Space Shuttle six years later.

Really, though, this book is a visual tribute to the power, the majesty, and the spectacle of the Space Shuttle program. Winters shoots his subjects from near and afar, providing us with glimpses of not only sheer size and scale, but also of the minute details. On one page you're staring at the pillar of smoke left behind by a successful launch, and on the next you're scrutinizing the very texture of the Shuttle's skin. He also takes us deep behind the scenes, offering up snapshots of suits and gloves, of bags of candy, and cockpit seats. For anybody who never had the chance to make it to a launch, this is a goldmine of material that's sure to rekindle those early dreams.

Wisely, Winters allows the photos to speak for themselves, presenting them in all their glossy glory, without encumbering them with text. There is a thumbnail gallery at the end, explaining each photo, but I recommend leaving that for last. Take your time enjoying the photos, running your fingers over the seams and rivets, and allowing memories to rise to the surface. It's the good times that are captured here, the evidence of human imagination and ingenuity. That's not to gloss over the sacrifices made by those who are no longer with us, but this is celebration, not a memorial - and it's nice to come away from it with that childlike sense of wonder alive and well.

Published November 8th 2012 by University of Texas Press
Hardcover, 176 pages

Waiting on Wednesday - Macgyver: Fugitive Gauntlet by David Lee Zlotff & Tony Lee

"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:

Macgyver: Fugitive Gauntlet by David Lee Zlotff & Tony Lee
Image Comics (October 8, 2013)

Welcome to the long-awaited return of Macgyver, co-written by his creator! When an old friend calls for help, Mac becomes involved in a web of industrial espionage, murder, and a white-knuckle pursuit across the globe with a million-dollar hit on his head and a beautiful woman by his side! Can he live long enough to save the world - or has his luck finally run out?

Contains the full creation back story written by Lee Zlotoff, which ran as a five part story at the back of each comic book issue, as well as an introduction by MacGyver and Stargate SG:1 Producer Micheal Greenburg, and a special article from Lee Zlotoff outlining his future plans for MacGyver.

I don't care if it's just a comic book, rather than the cinematic appearance we've all be waiting for, Mac is back! Co-written by David Lee Zlotff, creator of the original television series, this 5 issue miniseries apparently features Pete Thornton and the Phoenix Foundation, as well as the voice-overs we all remember. Oh, and there just may be a handy MacGyver gadget to save the day. :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Companions sunder my hope for more Forgotten Realms (#bookreview)

It's been a very long time since I last read a Drizzt Do'Urden novel, much less anything set in the Forgotten Realms, so I was excited about the opportunity to reacquaint myself with R.A. Salvatore's heroic dark elf and find out how his companions fared. Sadly, I should have either saved myself the trouble, or taken the time to investigate what The Sundering is all about.

Basically, The Sundering is the story of giant reboot, designed to shoehorn existing characters and settings into a 'simplified' set of 5th edition rules, to be dubbed D&D Next. The Companions is the first book of that reboot.

I don't like reboots.

As the story begins, Drizzt's friends (all of whom are deceased), find themselves reincarnated, with all of their memories intact, and a shared purpose to meet again and resume their companionship. Um, yeah. Silliness aside, the resurrection of Wulfgar is probably the last thing I remember of Forgotten Realms, and that mistake is a large part of what caused me to drift away. So, to multiply that mistake with the likes of Regis, Cattie-brie, and Bruenor, is to ensure the series gets off to a rocky start. It felt like a Terry Goodkind-like attempt to artifically extend a series, except he does it by taking away powers and memories, whereas Salvatore does it by giving them back. As for Drizzt, he's more of a framing device and less of a character here, which is a shame because he's always been the most interesting of the lot.

So, basically, what we get here are three heroes, trapped in the bodies of children, forced to pretend they don't know or remember things that should be impossible. It's an awkward kind of coming-of-age story, and while it does have its interesting moments, it all feels very scattered - which is not surprising when you're following multiple characters across two decades. There are some snippets of battle scenes, and some other adventures that evoked memories of earlier books like The Crystal Shard, but it somehow all feels artificial. What's more, there was no doubt, no tension, and no real suspense as to whether they would all make it to their eventual rendezvous . . . not to mention a climax that just falls flat.

I could be wrong, and my reading may be colored by the end-goal of The Sundering, but it all felt like a story Salvatore was told he had to provide, not an adventure he wanted to write. It's not necessarily a bad book - die-hard readers of Forgotten Realms will likely enjoy it - but, for me, it lacked the magic and the mystery I remembered from my original adventures with Drizzt. 

Knowing what I know now about The Sundering, I doubt I'll continue with the series.

Published August 6th 2013 by Wizards of the Coast
Hardcover, 384 pages

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mailbox Monday

If it's Monday, then it must be time for Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme that provides a virtual gathering place for bloggers (and readers) to share the books that came their way over the past week. Originally hosted by Marcia, of To Be Continued..., it has since become something of a book tour, with a new host each month. This month, we're being hosted  by Penelope @ The Reading Fever.

Starting next month, I will be giving Kathy @ BermudaOnion a break and taking over back-up host duties, so be sure to check here if the month's host hasn't posted.

Here are the books that found a home on my shelves over the last week:

Who Killed John F. Kennedy? (Lose Your Own Adventure #1)
by Despair Inc.
Paperback, 190 pages
Published July 21st 2013 by Despair, Inc.

Received from the publisher. It looks and feels like an old Choose Your Own Adventure book, but it's got a twist that only the folks behind Demotivators® could come up with.

The Tormentors
by Jack Phoenix
Paperback, 182pages
Published June 1, 2013 by Damnation Books, LLC

Nabbed this as my complimentary title for taking the reading preferences survey that Damnation Books was running for the past few weeks.

Dying Is My Business
by Nicholas Kaufmann
Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: October 8th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin

Received from NetGalley. Sounds like a very dark slice of urban fantasy featuring a hero causes the death of an innocent every time he cheats death. Oh, and a dangerous magic taht turns people into inhuman monstrosities doesn't hurt either.

Rotten Row
by Chaz Brenchley
Paperback, 122 pages
Published July 23rd 2014 by Book View Cafe

Purchased from Amazon. What can I say, the cover caught my eye. I've been meaning to give him a read, so maybe this will prompt me to dig up my paperbacks of his Outremer series.

The Roswell Protocols
by Allan Burd
Paperback, 482pages
Published June 15, 2009 by Bed Bug Publishing, Inc.

Purchased from Amazon. Another one that caught my eye, a large-scale story of the race to discover the crashed remains - and technology - of a UFO.

The Fall of Ventaris
by Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto
Forthcoming from Peccable Productions

Received from the author. I quite enjoyed The Duchess of the Shallows, so I'm anxious to give the sequel a read. Fortunately, I have the electronic ARC sitting right in front of me.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stacking The Shelves & What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme being hosted by Tynga's Reviews that's about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey, and it's focused on what's in your hands, as opposed to what's on your shelf.

With an eye towards my plans for the next few months, I'm still trying to hold off on adding too much to the TBR pile, but I did pick up a few new titles:

Who Killed John F. Kennedy? (Lose Your Own Adventure #1)
by Despair Inc.
Paperback, 190 pages
Published July 21st 2013 by Despair, Inc.

Received from the publisher. It looks and feels like an old Choose Your Own Adventure book, but it's got a twist that only the folks behind Demotivators® could come up with.

The Tormentors
by Jack Phoenix
Paperback, 182pages
Published June 1, 2013 by Damnation Books, LLC

Nabbed this as my complimentary title for taking the reading preferences survey that Damnation Books was running for the past few weeks.

Dying Is My Business
by Nicholas Kaufmann
Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: October 8th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin

Received from NetGalley. Sounds like a very dark slice of urban fantasy featuring a hero causes the death of an innocent every time he cheats death. Oh, and a dangerous magic taht turns people into inhuman monstrosities doesn't hurt either.

Rotten Row
by Chaz Brenchley
Paperback, 122 pages
Published July 23rd 2014 by Book View Cafe

Purchased from Amazon. What can I say, the cover caught my eye. I've been meaning to give him a read, so maybe this will prompt me to dig up my paperbacks of his Outremer series.

The Roswell Protocols
by Allan Burd
Paperback, 482pages
Published June 15, 2009 by Bed Bug Publishing, Inc.

Purchased from Amazon. Another one that caught my eye, a large-scale story of the race to discover the crashed remains - and technology - of a UFO.

As for what we're reading, the team has reviews coming up over the next 2 weeks for:

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 23, 2013

David D. Levine Explores Second Chances (#bookreview)

It's kind of ironic that David D. Levine's book is entitled Second Chance, because it really needed a second chance for me to pick it up again, and not leave it relegated it to the dreaded DNF shelf.

The problem is that Chaz Eades - our protagonist and narrator - is a bigoted, self-righteous ass. Even if it weren't for his tendency to end every sentiment with a "Dear Jesus" (or some variation thereof), his thoughts are often deplorable. When he discovers that a member of the crew is transsexual, he compares the realization to "biting into a ripe peach and finding it rotten inside," and when he is later confronted with evidence of a gay relationship, he says "the very thought made me queasy."

Lovely sentiments, are they not?

Fortunately, the novella is short enough that I was willing to give it a Second Chance to discover the fate of the mission. In doing so, I was able to see the big picture, and understand just how deeply the concept of second chances is embedded into the story. That doesn't redeem Chaz's character in the least, especially not once we learn about his full history prior to the mission, but I can at least appreciate what Levine was trying to do. There's no doubt that Chaz's situation is an awkward one that only get more difficult as time goes on, but I really struggled to accept him as a sympathetic sort of victim,

As for the mission, I guessed early on what the situation was, but there was still some mystery left as to who was responsible, and how it had all taken place. The big reveal is a bit anti-climactic, and lacks the emotional punch I think it needed, but the ending nicely ties up the theme of second chances. All-in-all, I found it an average story that's unfortunately bogged down by an entirely unlikable narrator, although some of the scientific concepts are interesting (particularly the philosophical questions around cloning), and the writing itself is solid.

Published July 23rd 2013 by Book View Café
ebook, 65 pages

Cutter Provides the Creeps with The Troop (#bookreview)

The Troop by Nick Cutter
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Gallery Books


Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins in this frightening novel written in the bestselling traditions of Stephen King and Scott Smith. 

Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons.

Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.

“Lean and crisp and over-the-top....Disquieting, disturbing,” says Scott Smith, author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan, The Troop is a visceral burn of a read that combines boldly drawn characters with a fantastically rendered narrative—a terrifying story you’ll never forget.


The Troop is vivid - it will give you the creeps, and never again will you think the same of a tapeworm.

With the last name Cutter its only right that Nick should write a horror story that crawls up your fingers right from the page one, in a Dreamcatcher meets Stand by Me kind of way, but as Scouts.

When a group of scouts and their Scout Master go to an island for some badge earning and camping fun, all hell breaks loose. A man comes out of nowhere, hungry and bailey alive, but his hunger is feeding something else. What he is feeding spreads like wildfire. The now quarantined island is turning into a camping trip of horror.

The author explains the details of death vividly. I won't bet a million that this will soon be on the big screen. Thank you Netgalley and publishers for giving me a chance to read this.

(as posted by Donald on Goodreads & NetGalley)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Raising the Devil Horns for Metal on Ice (#bookreview)

Gimme an R (R!) 
O (O!) 
C (C!) 
K (K!) 
Whatcha got? (Rock!) 
And whatcha gonna do? (Rock you!)

If that snippet of lyrics doesn't have you breaking out the air guitar and already banging your head, then this book ain't for you. On the other hand, if it has you grinning like a maniac and longing for the days of long hair and leather, then you owe it to yourself to read Metal on Ice. Subtitled Tales from Canada's Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes, this is a nostalgic look back at the history of hard rock and heavy metal in the great white north.

Sean Kelly has done an admirable job of tracing the evolution of rock north of the 49th parallel, and just why it was so hard to translate homegrown success south of the border. Interspersed with comments and stories from the bands themselves, Kelly weaves a story that's as enjoyable as it is easy to read. There's a lot of humor here, often at our own expense (good naturedly, of course), but also some tales of record company politics and human tragedy that will leave you shaking your head. Really, given the distances they had to travel, the climate they had to navigate, and the limitations of a world without YouTube or even Napster, it's amazing any of these bands managed to find success they did.

Kelly takes us on a journey from playing cover tunes in small town bars and clubs, to headlining cultural shrines like Maple Leaf Gardens and the Molson Forum. He takes us from video breakthroughs on the small screen of Much Music's Power Hour, to the big time success found in the glossy pages of Hit Parader and Circus Magazine. Inevitably, he also takes us through the era of Grunge that so quickly ended so many careers, and into today's nostalgic resurgence of 80s rock. In between, he establishes a close-knit family of musicians that almost begs its own musical version of six degrees of separation. Not surprisingly, he also reveals just how much of the 'image' we remember was so carefully cultivated by music company executives, sometimes right down to the name of the bands.

One thing you won't find here is larger-than-life tales of rock star excess . . . of ridiculous orgies, hotel vandalism, rampant drug abuse, and antagonistic violence. He does address the smattering of urban legends that cropped up around bands like Sven Gali, but is just as quick to dismiss them and get to the roots of the matter. Stereotypical Canadian politeness aside, there just wasn't time for that kind of hedonism, not when you were living out of an old van and driving day and night across the country to get to your next gig.

Perhaps the greatest part of reading Metal on Ice is remembering bands we forgot. Sure, Brighton Rock, Helix, Honeymoon Suite, and Killer Dwarfs are part of my regular playlist, but Kelly has sent me searching for classic tracks that I hadn't head in years . . . decades even. Suddenly, bands like Coney Hatch, Haywire, Harem Scarem, Slik Toxik, and Sven Gali are back on my radar, and I'm constantly driving my wife crazy with declarations of "I remember this song!" even as I'm cranking the stereo up another notch.

Whether you care anything about the music industry or not, give this a read. It's as much a story of rags-to-riches success as it is anything else. More than just a nostalgic journey, it's also a reminder that sometimes loving what you do is its own reward. The music industry may have a New Girl Now, but we can still Stand Tall and remember the days when we were Young, Wild, and Free, trading mix-tapes on the Monkey Bars, and having a Helluvatime dreaming of Canada's own Metal Queen.

Expected publication: October 8th 2013 by Dundurn
Paperback, 208 pages

J. Kent Messum Asks If You'll Take the Bait (#bookreview)

It's not often that I can look at a book blurb and wholeheartedly agree, but Bait: A Novel is, in fact, a case of "Jaws meets Lord of the Flies meets Drugstore Cowboy!" About the only thing I might add to that is, "in the style of early Richard Bachman."

What J. Kent Messum has crafted here is a dark, disturbing tale of disposable people. On the one side you have a group of drug-addicted strangers, damaged outcasts who survive by feeding on the underside of society. On the other side you have a group of [small spoiler here] ex-military types, damaged outcasts who survive despite being fed to the underside of society.

Pretty simple, black versus white, good versus evil, right? Not so fast. 

Beneath the cruelty of its Survivor type challenge, shark-infested waters, and crippling withdrawal pains, this is a story of human beings at war as much with themselves as one another. Messum gives each of the six castaways a back story, unveiled slowly as the narrative alternates between events on the island, and events in the city over the days immediately preceding their banishment. He wisely holds back from painting them as victims, or tugging too hard at the heartstrings, but does humanize a group of human beings who could otherwise have been simple horror story fodder.

The mystery of how they got there and why is part of the novel's allure, so I won't say anything further to spoil that, but it does set up some interesting philosophical questions regarding the war on drugs. It's not really a story where you can take sides, since neither is a safe nor comfortable place to be, but it does make you think about the emotional reactions it evokes. You could simply read it as a cold, callous, cruel bit of torture-porn, but that would be doing the novel - and the author - a disservice. There's a lot more to it, if only you stop and think about the motivations and justifications involved.

As for the ending, there are more than a few surprises in the final pages, but they really serve to put a final satisfying bite upon the reader.

Expected publication: August 27th 2013 by Plume
Paperback, 288 pages

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Defense of the Epistolary Novel - Vicy Cross and "Tuesday Apocalypse"

Hello and thank you for letting me guest post today. Storm Moon Press released my debut dystopian novel, Tuesday Apocalypse, in July and I couldn't be more excited about it. Before sitting down to write this book, I declared to the requesting editor on Twitter: "The first-person narrative will be told in epistolary format," and she and several other writers had replied with a bemused: "What?" Should've been my first clue I was writing an unconventional manuscript—it was rejected by at least one publisher for the narrative structure alone. So Tuesday Apocalypse is a first for me in many ways, but mainly because of a forgotten literary device and the overlooked "epistolary novel."

So, what is an epistolary novel?

Basically, it is a novel written exclusively through the medium of letters (or journals) by one or more characters. The epistolary novel rose to prominence in the 18th century and was the precursor to what we now call psychological fiction. I'm sure many sci-fi/fantasy/horror readers are familiar with Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Le Fanu's Carmilla. All of these creepy classics use epistolary narratives, but more modern examples can be found in Stephen King's Carrie, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and also Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary.

As a gothic fiction aficionado, I gravitated to the epistolary and what we nerds in horror fandom call "The (Infamous) Apocalyptic Log." H.P. Lovecraft made the trope a cult classic, and I'm certain most survival horror would not exist today without it. Psychological thriller/horror novels are better suited for punchy, urgent narration. Journals, letters, and newspaper clippings create that sense of documentary-style realism as the terrifying events happen in "real time." The narrator's deteriorating state of mind adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere while also provoking a sense of dread in the reader. It's an old school method, but quite effective, in my opinion. My favorite epistolary novels are ones when the narrator is slowly transforming into something or when the main character slowly unravels a gruesome mystery.

A first-person narrative better allows us to explore the main character's psyche. And in gothic and psychological fiction, warping our pre-conceived notions of the human condition is essential. Often, what frightens us the most about horror/dystopian fiction are the terrifying possibilities we imagine in the real world. That question of "what if?" can sometimes lead to the realization, "it can!", and whether you're reading Edgar Allan Poe or the Brontë Sisters, stressing that underlying fear is the same.

Sci-fi/fantasy/horror authors have used the epistolary novel since the Victorian Era, and in that time, we've been blessed with Oscar-winning movie adaptations, new and exciting subcultures, and of course, great books! Yet, I imagine most readers don't even know what "epistolary" means or which of their favorite books were written in that style.

However, it is my hope that the epistolary novel will make a comeback. Each narrative structure has its place and function, but nothing can beat the epistolary novel's level of atmosphere and fear. Yeah, it might not be as trendy as other literary devices, but for better or worse, I'm going to make sure the epistolary novel is here to stay.

With that said, I hope readers will enjoy the WWII dystopian fantasy I created. I wanted Tuesday Apocalypse to drip with all the cheese and melodrama of my favorite gothic books, haha! Also, there's tentacle sex and plenty of psychological head-games to spice things up, too. Thank you for reading. Blessed be and Namaste!


In the war-weary year of 1940, just one rundown hospital survives London's collapse. Sister Barbara, a nun and volunteer nurse, inspires hope in her patients, but that faith is shaken when an unidentified aircraft explodes near the hospital. The half-eaten corpse beneath the mangled wreckage appears to corroborate the pilot's story that some sort of "tentacle-monster" attacked his plane. However, Sister Barbara pushes these dangers aside and plunges beyond the rubble when the man she loves disappears in the wastelands.

She discovers a bloodstained beauty in his place—but the girl's outward innocence hides a voracious sexual appetite, and an even more disturbing secret. One by one, the terrified patients vanish from their beds. Titillating tentacles lick the hospital walls at night. And the dreams, always the dreams, drawing Sister Barbara deeper into a well of madness. She suspects she and the other women at the hospital are transforming into something... unholy. Sister Barbara knows she must figure out what before the evil in their midst consumes them all.

Tuesday Apocalypse by Vicy Cross – Now Available from Storm Moon Press for $4.99 (ebook) or $9.99 (paperback)!


London was ruined. Gone. At that time, I did not even know if the clinic was still standing. I was convinced the air raid had killed everyone I cared about.

Mourning the loss, I fell on my hands and knees. My body convulsed from the violent force of my loud sobs. Because I was weeping, the ash stuck to my cheeks. I sobbed until I could no longer see straight, but I forced myself to stand up and wobble back to the river. I knew I had to find Rob. He was the only hope that sustained me—otherwise, I might have broken down.

With the residual echo of the bombs still blasting in my ears, I screamed Robert's name until my throat gave out and I could no longer summon the strength to shout. (My voice is still hoarse.)

I ignored London's burning reflection and ran along the shoreline, wailing for Rob. I tripped and fell numerous times. I skinned my knees, but I kept running.

I don't know how long I followed the length of the river. Maybe another twenty minutes.

However, when I stopped to catch my breath, I realized I was standing in a wet meadow teeming with wild violets!

I stared down at the flowers in speechless bewilderment. To my knowledge, all of the vegetation beyond my garden was dead. I could not fathom the sight before me. However, I did not have much time to consider this, because it was then I saw her rise from the grass.

I had not expected to see a person sprawled across the violets, and so when she moved, I shrieked and fell backwards. I landed on my rump and watched in amazement as the nude, brown girl rolled onto her side and stared at me.

The withdrawn, dream-like vacancy behind her eyes gave her expression a surreal and haunted look. I have never seen a more breathtaking woman.


Vicy Cross' favorite indulgences are horror, sci-fi/fantasy, and speculative fiction, however she'll dabble in any genre where there's hope for a good story. In addition to writing full-time, she is a veg*n political activist, hoodoo witch, and empath. Her first novel, Tuesday Apocalypse is now available through Storm Moon Press. You can find Vicy on Twitter @VicyCross and on her blog or on Facebook.

Waiting on Wednesday - The Last Dark by Stephen R. Donaldson

"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 Last Dark by Stephen R. Donaldson
Oct 15, 2013 (Putnam Adult)

Compelled step by step to actions whose consequences they could neither see nor prevent, Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery have fought for what they love in the magical reality known only as "the Land." Now they face their final crisis.  Reunited after their separate struggles, they discover in each other their true power--and yet they cannot imagine how to stop the Worm of the World’s End from unmaking Time.  Nevertheless they must resist the ruin of all things, giving their last strength in the service of the world's continuance. 

Okay, so I have a lot of catching up to do on this series, but how can I resist the temptation of what's being called "The climax of the entire Thomas Covenant Chronicles"? The original trilogy was one of the first fantasy sagas to really wow me and shocked me with its darkness. I'm a huge fan since my high school days, and have been looking forward to witnessing the very end. Time to get reading!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We're Talking Home and the Apocalypse with A. American

Good morning, all,

Joining us today is A. American, avid outdoorsman, survivalist, and family man. He is also the author of the post-apocalyptic survival series that includes Going Home, Surviving Home, and the forthcoming Escaping Home.With Plume Books giving the first two novels life as mass-market releases, he has stopped by today to talk about where the stories come from . . . and what's next.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today. For those who haven't yet had a chance to give Going Home or Surviving Home a read, please tell us a little about yourself.

A: I’m just a normal guy, like most out there. I became aware of our tenuous situation many years ago and it’s only gotten worse. With three daughters I worry about their future and the opportunities they’ll have in life. I was a prepper before it was cool, or we were even called preppers. It just made sense, especially since I lived in Florida and had to deal with hurricanes every year.

Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. What has your experience been in taking your self-published titles to mass-market with Plume?

A: In a word, awesome. I tell people I am an accidental author. I wrote Going Home online, it was open to the public and has over two million views. It was followers of the story that pushed me into publishing, I really didn't intend to. At their demands I went to a self-pub house and had it done. Then it hit Amazon and I was blown away, the sales were incredible, which brings us to Plume. Plume made an offer I simply couldn't refuse. They are some absolutely terrific people to work with, from the editorial staff to the marketing and promotions folks, they are great people and I really enjoy working with them.

Q: That kind of 'discovery' seems to be happening more often lately, but it's still an amazing story. Given that you describe yourself as an 'accidental author', what is it about writing that comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

A: LOL, this is easy, anything where I have to talk about myself! Writing the back cover blurb, author bios, those kinds of things are really hard for me, tooting my horn is not my forte.

Q: I think that's a challenge for most. Having seen its rather diverse evolution (or, perhaps, dilution) over the past decade, what was it that compelled you to contribute a new voice to the post-apocalyptic genre?

A: I am a huge fan of the genre. The reason I started Going Home was I’d read most of what was available. I was reading some of the great work being done by folks on the forums out there when I realized they simply didn’t strike me on a personal level, something was missing. To fill that void I started Going Home.

Q: I know they’re fiction, but the most frightening tales are often grounded in facts and possibilities. As a prepper, what do you see in society that most makes you fear a world where Going Home becomes less a story and more a journal?

A: Ten years ago if someone walked up to you and said the NSA was recording your phone calls you’d laugh at them. A decade later it’s our reality, but not just our phones. It’s any digital communications we do. A couple of years ago even the TV broadcast had to go digital. At the time it was trumpeted as providing better service. Through the lens of perspective we really have to wonder now.

The NYPD has a policy called Stop and Frisk where thousands of people a year are stopped for no reason and subjected to unconstitutional searches of their person and property. Of course this is for the safety of New Yorkers. The TSA now conducts extremely invasive searches of people, not only at airports but also bus stations and now even sporting events. Just like the Stop and Frisk we’re told it’s for our safety, what it really is, is conditioning. We are slowly being trained to ignore our rights, not rights granted to us, rights recognized by the US Constitution. Do I think the government is capable of something like Going Home  in their own words: The nuclear option is always on the table.

Q: Chilling stuff. Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Were there any twists or turns in your writing that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans, particularly in writing a second book?

A: Yes, very much so. The character Thad is just that. The reason he exists in the books is because I was messaged by a guy on the forum after posting a piece of the story that is racially charged, black on white violence. He was black and said he agreed with the scene and thought I did  it right. But he asked me to include a black prepper (his words), to show that it’s not just crazy white people that can see what’s going on, that black people prep too. Thad was the result and he takes the story in an entirely unintended trip, for the better. He’s a great character who in Surviving Home faces some challenges that would break most men. But it’s his character, his will that pulls him through. Though damaged as a result, he’s always there for his friends.

Q: Speaking of reader reactions - and that is a great one - what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to date?

A: Being called a racist is the strangest, I simply do not understand it. One of the funniest was a quote from a reviewer on Amazon who called it: Right wing reactionary politics. But the best are the messages I get from people who really connect, when someone says it’s like they were there, they could see it all in their mind, that’s the best.

Q:  It’s a tough question, especially if you’re wary of putting faces before your readers, but if either of your novels were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

A: This has been bounced around forums a lot, everyone has their favorites. The one everyone, including myself because it was always the face in my mind, agreed on was Michael Clark Duncan for Thad. Sadly he passed away, but he is Thad. The other is for Sarge’s character, Gunny R. Lee Eremy is First Sgt Linus Mitchell, no disrespect to the Gunny casting him in the Army. For the others, Morgan has more options than you can imagine, but for me, he’s the hardest to pick. I don’t know why, but I never could see his face when I wrote his parts.

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

A: This may sound arrogant, but not really. For the last two years I have been very involved in the first two books and simply haven’t had time to read. I miss and cannot wait to be able to sit down with a book again soon. Right now, the person in the literary world that is the most influential to me is Kathleen, my editor. I am not a very good writer in the formal sense, I’m a storyteller. Kathleen is getting me into shape and things are really improving in my style, she’s a terrific mentor at the moment.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

A: There are two more books in the Going Home series, the third should be released near the end of September and the fourth before the end of the year. After that I have several other projects, one about the surveillance state we are being forced into and another about the collision of two men on either side a federal investigation. That one should be interesting, I intend to do something there that’s never been done before and will be a great couple of books.

Cool. Thanks for taking the time to stop by today!


by A. American

If society collapsed, could you survive?

When Morgan Carter’s car breaks down 250 miles from his home, he figures his weekend plans are ruined. But things are about to get much, much worse: the country’s power grid has collapsed. There is no electricity, no running water, no Internet, and no way to know when normalcy will be restored—if it ever will be. An avid survivalist, Morgan takes to the road with his prepper pack on his back.

During the grueling trek from Tallahassee to his home in Lake County, chaos threatens his every step but Morgan is hell-bent on getting home to his wife and daughters—and he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. 

Fans of James Wesley, Rawles' books and One Second After by William R. Forstchen will revel in A. American's riveting story.

by A. American

No electricity. No running water. No food. No end in sight. If life as you knew it changed in an instant, would you be prepared?

In A. American’s first novel, Going Home, readers were introduced to Morgan Carter, the resourceful, tough-as-nails survivalist who embarks on a treacherous 250-mile journey across Florida following the collapse of the nation’s power grid. Now reunited with his loving wife and daughters in this follow-up to Going Home, Morgan knows that their happiness is fleeting, as the worst is yet to come. Though for years Morgan has been diligently preparing for emergency situations, many of his neighbors are completely unready for life in this strange new world—and they’re starting to get restless.

With the help of his closest companions, Morgan fights to keeps his home secure—only to discover shocking information about the state of the nation in the process.

Fans of James Wesley, Rawles' books and One Second After by William R. Forstchen will revel in A. American's riveting story.


A. American has been involved in prepping and survival communities since the early 1990s. An avid outdoorsman, he has a spent considerable time learning edible and medicinal plants and their uses as well as primitive survival skills. He currently resides in North Carolina on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest with his wife of more than twenty years and his three daughters. He is the author of Going Home and Surviving Home  His third novel, Escaping Home, will be published this fall.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Maurice Broaddus Will Transform You (#bookreview)

Although it's not as innovative nor as immediately impressive as Plow the Bones, the first book in the Apex Voices line (see my review here), there is a lot to like about I Can Transform YouMaurice Broaddus has written a solid police procedural here with significant science fiction accents. Personally, I was hoping for more of the reverse - a solid science fiction story with police procedural accents - but I've tried not to let my expectations unduly influence my review.

The basic premise, along with the setting, really had me intrigued. I mean, a futuristic dystopia with alien towers rising above the clouds, has a very Blade Runner sort of appeal to it. Throw in a little synthetic drug addiction and an epidemic of suicides, and you've got a solid foundation on which to build a tale. Unfortunately, if there's one aspect where I found the story lacking, it's in the way it never fully exploits that setting. In fact, if you were to remove a few world-building scenes, the story itself wouldn't suffer in any way. It's a shame, because there seemed to be such potential there, but spectacle clearly wasn't Broaddus's intent here.

As a sci-fi tinged police procedural, the story does work very well, even if many of the elements are too familiar. Mac is a down-on-his-luck private investigator, an ex-cop who left the force after his conscience came into conflict with his career. Ade, on the other hand, is a perfectly good cop, but something of an outcast and a loner due to being part machine. When the love of Mac's life falls victim to one of those mysterious suicides, he tags along with Ade on the investigation, adding something of the buddy cop genre to the private eye noir.

Where the story really excels is in its ability to set (and sustain) a mood of dark hopelessness. It's a grim sort of tale, populated by men and women who have few aspirations beyond survival. The odds seem stacked against Mac and Ade from the start, but the two persevere as much to spite one another as anything else. Theirs is a relationship that reminds me a lot of the first Lethal Weapon movie, where a little dark humor and shared agony served to fill the void of suicidal dread and weary resignation that lay at the core of those reluctant partners.

The story is told very well, maintaining that noir-ish feel throughout. While I would have liked to see more in terms of world building, the glimpses of future technology (and the problems it creates) are varied and creative enough to keep you grounded in the griminess of tomorrow. Both main characters are well-developed, with great back stories, and the dialogue is extremely effective in conveying some valuable context to what's happening. Finally, the story itself takes a few interesting turns, leading to a resolution that actually managed to surprise me.

Published August 13th 2013 by Apex Publications
Paperback, 118 pages

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stacking The Shelves & What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme being hosted by Tynga's Reviews, while Mailbox Monday is being hosted by The Reading Fever this month (see Mailbox Monday for each month's host). Both memes are all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey, and it's focused on what's in your hands, as opposed to what's on your shelf.

With an eye towards my plans for the next few months, I'm still trying to hold off on adding too much to the TBR pile, but I did pick up a few new titles:

Frontier Earth
by Bruce Boxleitner
Paperback, 336 pages
Published Jan 1, 2001 by Ace

Came across this in a used bookstore and couldn't resist. It's basically Cowboys & Aliens, as written by Captain Sheridan from Babylon 5.

Letters From a Murderer
by John Mathews
Paperback, 212 pages
Expected Publication Sept 24, 2013 by Angry Robot Ltd.

Acquired via NetGalley. The blurb promises that "If Arthur Conan Doyle had been asked to write a sequel to Gangs of New York, then this would be it." Good enough for me.

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre
edited by Paula Guran
Paperback, 360 pages
Published Aug 13, 2013 by Prime Books

Acquired via NetGalley. Looks like a reprint of a collection from a few years ago, but (a) it's Halloween, and (b) it's got a great list of authors, both 'classic' and 'contemporary.'

As for what we're reading, the team has reviews coming up over the next 2 weeks for:

What's topping your shelves this week?