Category Archives: Reading

Reading: The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame

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Daniel Ausema’s The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame is a book in the Darkside Codex, a shared world series that revolves around the city of Southwatch.  Stories in this world are based in the steampunk genre, but can have additional elements of science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, paranormal, and/or noir.

Daniel Ausema’s novel centers on the city of Southwatch and life below the dark cloud.  It deals with addiction, scientific experimentation, and mystery.  Along with the steampunk setting, it has elements of science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror.

In The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame, readers are introduced to Mellia, a young woman who is immune to most electrical currents, but addicted to high voltage.  There is a limit to how much her body can stand, however.  This addiction pushes her ever closer to death whenever she chases a high voltage fix.

Although Mellia realizes this behavior is killing her, the lure is too hard to resist.  With her new job repairing broken gas masks for Professor Thurston and his students, she has to travel to the depths of the dark cloud to assist with the research.  An innovation that allows an electrical current to run through the filters might keep the gas masks working, but this additional temptation may be the last thing Mellia’s addicted body can handle.

I enjoyed reading this novel.  It was scary, but not in the same ways that a pure horror novel will evoke.  Some of it has to do with the language and the vivid imagery, but it also has to do with the ideas Ausema presents about the poor quality of life under the dark cloud—ideas that have echoes in our own world.  For example, look at the recent trip President Obama and other world leaders took to China.  The news media reported that the Chinese Government worked for weeks to reduce the level of smog so the world leaders would not choke.  For the first time in years, many people in Beijing could actually see the blue color of the sky.  In The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame, Ausema raises questions about this type of dense pollution.  What happens in a city when the air is so polluted that the sun will no longer shine?  What happens when plants and trees will no longer grow?

I stood in one place and pushed each of those thoughts and many others away until I could breathe in and out and think about nothing else. The murky air of the room pulsed, as if it were the breath of some unknown beast, hidden deep within the Cloud. When I looked long enough in a single direction, I began to see at the edge of my vision the ghostly outlines of the plants that had once grown there. Stunted fruit trees and flamboyant grasses and darkly glowing flowers, all now gone except for this deep memory.

Something that foul, something that terrifying, makes me shiver.

See more at: http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=46&products_id=718#sthash.fCkyu6ek.dpuf

Disclaimer: I am also an author for the Darkside Codex series.  My own novel, The Caelimane Operation, will be released in January, 2015.

 

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Reading: The Beryllium Chalice

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Recently I attended the Musa Anniversary Party where I met quite a few of my fellow authors. In a contest to win a copy of her book, The Beryllium Chalice, Iris Woodbury submitted a hilarious photo. She liked my caption the best and sent me a copy of the novel.

The Beryllium Chalice is a wonderful novel with a gripping story line. Flora, a dryad from Mount Olympus, Kytos, a battle-weary warrior, and Redwood, a fun-loving, randy satyr, are the only ones who stand between Olympus and the wrath of Hades. The trio must find and return The Beryllium Chalice from Hades grasp or all power and life will fade from the Mount. The three must find a way to band together in spite of their differences, or the God of Death will assume power over the entire world.

Woodbury’s writing reminds me a bit of Rick Riordan (author of the Percy Jackson novels) and a bit of Jack L. Chalker (author of the Dancing Gods series). Yet Woodbury has her own distinctive style of writing that makes the novel enjoyable to read.

Woodbury delves into Greek mythology with the storyline, but includes equal parts of romance, tragedy, and adventure. There are touches of humor as well. Indeed, one of the main characters, Redwood presents moments in the novel that are downright hilarious.

I enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more of Iris Woodbury’s work!

 

You can learn more about Iris Woodbury at the following:  http://iriswoodbury.wordpress.com/

 

The Beryllium Chalice [72,000] – $4.99 : Musa Publishing

Flora the concubine, a soldier, and an oversexed satyr are all that stand between Olympus and the wrath of Hades.

http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info& . . .

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Reading: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

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Last night I started reading As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (who played Westley/The Dread Pirate Roberts) with Joe Layden. I had planned to read just a few chapters—no more than an hour or so—and then go to sleep with the intention of reading the same amount on subsequent nights until I finished the memoir.

Yeah—right.

I couldn’t put the book down. Each page provided new insights and stirred pleasant memories of a movie (and novel) that is termed a cult classic, but is in reality so much more. Terry Pratchett (2002) writes:

We know what “cult” means. It’s a put-down word. It means “inexplicably popular but unworthy.” It’s a word used by the guardians of the one true flame to dismiss anything that is liked by the wrong kind of people . . .

Much like the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, or Pratchett himself, William Goldman has created a novel that is beloved by readers. Rob Reiner assembled a cast and crew (including Goldman who wrote the screenplay) that brought the story to the screen in the most memorable way possible. As Pratchett (2002) notes, “sometimes things all come together at the right time in the right place” and make magic. The Princess Bride is a classic—plain and simple.

The movie has a bit of everything: fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, and the kiss that left all others behind. The cast, including Elwes, delivered remarkable performances. Even when reading the following lines from the movie, it is impossible for me not to “hear” the actor’s delivery in my head:

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“Have fun storming the castle.”

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

“Please consider me as an alternative to suicide.”

“Anybody want a peanut?”

“Mawidge. That bwessed awangement!”

“Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

And, of course, “as you wish.”

For me, each line has an instantly recognizable connection to the actor’s voice and delivery. I have used these lines in conversation many times (and often try to mimic the actors’ voices with varying results.)

In Elwes’s memoir, many of the cast and crew share their reminiscences, including Andy Scheinman Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Carol Kane, Wallace Shawn, and Fred Savage. Norman Lear and Rob Reiner also contribute. The sections are blended effectively; Elwes writes from his point of view, includes comments from the other actors or crew on the same scenes/situations, and then comments on what the others had observed. In many instances it seems like he is not only discussing a wonderful, albeit challenging, time in his life, but also learning more about it through his friends’ musings.

(Spoilers Ahead)

At 2 AM I looked at the clock and thought “I have to work tomorrow. I need to get to sleep.” I looked down at my iPad and the open Kindle APP. On the page, Elwes (2014) was describing the atmosphere on the set when they filmed the Miracle Max and Valerie scenes:

For three days straight and ten hours a day, Billy improvised thirteenth-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice. Such was the hilarity of his ad-libbing that he actually caused Mandy to injure himself while fighting to suppress the need to laugh. Therefore you can only imagine what it did to me and to Rob, who had to leave the set because his boisterous laugh was ruining too many early takes.

I looked at the clock again. Stop reading now? Inconceivable. (I couldn’t resist!)

I ended up finishing the memoir at 3:45 AM, completely happy and completely satisfied. (Yes I am tired today as I write this.) The stories Elwes and the others share about filming The Princess Bride help bring the people behind the making of this movie to the forefront. As Pratchett (2002) notes, “sometimes things all come together at the right time in the right place” and make magic. For me it is wonderful to have both a copy of The Princess Bride and a literary snapshot of the people involved in creating it on my virtual bookshelves. I can see re-reading As You Wish multiple times and can also see sharing the stories from the memoir with my friends.

If liking this makes me one of the “wrong kind of people,” I will wear that title with honor.

 

 

References

Pratchett, T. (2002). Cult classic. In Meditations on Middle-Earth:

     New Writing on the Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien.

St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.

Disclaimer:  I am not associated with any of the authors, actors, or works discussed in this article.

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Reading: Cover Reveal for The Stars Are Infinite

I am pleased to present this post from Amber Sky Forbes about her newest book, The Stars Are Infinite. Enjoy!
Chris

Here is the what I think is the gorgeous cover of The Stars Are Infinite!

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It is the sequel to When Stars Die. There will be a third book that I plan to call All Stars Align, which will be the final one in The Stars Trilogy. Here is the blurb for this novel:

Alice Sheraton is slated to be executed as a witch; however, her father spares her. He sends her to Finight Hill, a safe house for witches. Here a Shadowman begins to pursue her, and from this Shadowman she learns she has been bound with a terrible fate since birth: either be a martyr to free witches from their misery, or choose to live knowing her existence will bring on more chaos.

This novel has a December release , and you will know more information later, especially when you sign up for the newsletter.

Now here is an interview with Alice Sheraton so that way you get to know a little bit about her before you begin to read this sequel. There are no spoilers. However, make sure you read the first book before buying this one, or else you will get confused:

Hello, Alice. It must be strange being in an interview for you, especially because you’ve spent much of your life never having any attention drawn to you.

Alice: It’s true. Much of my life has been spent preparing me to find a suitable husband. I did go to a finishing school before coming to Finight, so I do have a great deal of education. At the same time, when I was in the other school, I was taught to never draw any attention to myself. So I am nervous about this. What will my mother think? I used to love painting, until my mother took that away from me. I am well-read, and I had my own collection of books in my room. I loved being with Sara, who liked to get into all sorts of trouble I never agreed with, but did so anyway. These things are memorable, but if my mother ever found out about them, she would beat me with a wooden board.

What are your parents like?

Alice: My father has been nothing but supportive, and I’d like to think that if I had said something about wanting to own my own life, he would have been supportive. My mother, on the other hand, is an alcoholic, which is why I was born as a witch. The Seven Deadly Sins give birth to witches, and I suppose my mother’s continual sin is gluttony.

How has being a witch impacted your life?

Alice: Dreadful. I don’t even want to think or talk about what led up to my discovery. I was imprisoned in a small, dirty room in Governor Branch’s home. He is a horrid, perverted man married to my best friend Sara, who is around my age: I am fifteen. I was slated to be executed, but my father saved me by paying a handsome sum of gold to Governor Branch. He couldn’t refuse the money, so he and Father decided to send me off to a safe house called Finight Hill. It looks like any other finishing school, and it is in a secluded area.

What were your reactions to Finight Hill?

Alice: I was paranoid at first. It’s lovely on the exterior, but it’s rather bland on the inside. My other finishing school was richly furnished, with original paintings, marble sculptures, fresh flowers. It was, I suppose, like the inside of a rich man’s home. Finight had no such decorations. So I was scared. I thought I was sent there to be executed, that my father truly had no idea where he was sending me. Governor Branch wanted me dead, but when I met Pastor Brandon and a boy named Nathaniel, their presence and kindness swept away any paranoia I had.

Tell us about Pastor Brandon and Nathaniel.

Alice: Pastor Brandon is nice but strange. He falls into these fits where he cries out, “Curse is everyone who hangs on a tree!” This is a sentence commonly used right before witch executions. He also coughs up some substance from time to time. I don’t know what it is, but it’s black. Even so, he has made me feel welcomed.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, is beautiful, and I saw that right from the start, though I couldn’t admit it to myself. He’s also troubled. He smokes a lot, he scratches himself, and he’s reckless, but he has made me feel welcomed at Finight, and I accepted his friendship. Master Akilah isn’t too fond of him because of his reckless behavior.

How do you feel about Master Akilah?

Alice: I can’t stand him. Neither can Pastor Brandon nor Nathaniel. He was rude to me my first day there when he introduced me, complaining that I was late, not even welcoming me. He is the one who created the unnecessarily strict rules rules for Finight, where we are watched at all times, as though we are in an asylum. We do have certain activities that we have to do throughout the day, like studying. We can go outside once a week–under strict supervision. Nathaniel is smart enough to evade some of these rules, but it eventually becomes our downfall. After a certain event takes place, the rules become worse. At that point, we can’t even have doors to our rooms.

You hear voices?

Alice: I’m unsure if the voice is real or not. It sounds real. She at first told me Pastor Brandon killed her. Then she told me I should kill him. She said he knew who I was, and I couldn’t make any sense of that. He apparently knows the future. When I fainted and woke up in my room, her final words to me were, “You will be mine.” We all thought it was stress and nerves. I thought I was insane, but I was so certain the voice was real. And it is. It truly is.

Can you tell us who the voice belongs to?

Alice: Her name is Annarelius, a Shadowman, a dead witch. She wants me because I can set the world free from sin, allowing everyone, even witches, into Paradise.

Tell us about this Shadowman.

Alice: I would rather not.

Are there any final words?

Alice: My story…it is mine and mine alone, rife with the darkness that is innate in the life of a witch. It was a very hard story to tell. If witches are not freed, at least my account will make them feel less alone, if my account will even be allowed to exist. Witches are insignificant. We are nothing. Those who used to love us betray us and automatically hate us when they find out we are witches. This was the case with my best friend, Sara. The Vulgate, our bible, indoctrinates people into hating us, which is why they can hate so easily. I am not sure if this hatred will ever be erased. I have never known any allies to stop the hatred. I have never known any witches to start a rebellion. But our world is filled with nothing but cruelty. The ugliness of our world surpasses its beauty. Love is the only beauty that exists, but there isn’t enough of it.

Those are some very harrowing words, Alice, but I know you will be the one to make that change. Thank you for letting me interview you.

Alice:

I hope you enjoyed Alice’s interview and will pick up the already available When Stars Die and the not-yet-released The Stars Are Infinite when you are able to pre-order it or buy it on its release day. Remember it will have a December release date and will be mentioned in a future newsletter.

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ImageAbout the Author

Amber Skye Forbes is a dancing writer who prefers pointe shoes over street shoes, leotards over skirts, and ballet buns over hairstyles. She loves striped tights and bows and will edit your face with a Sharpie if she doesn’t like your attitude. She lives in Augusta, Georgia where she writes dark fiction that will one day put her in a psychiatric ward…again. But she doesn’t care because her cat is a super hero who will break her out.

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Milo James Fowler Cover Reveal

 

Yakuza Territory

 

 Yakuza Territory by Milo James Fowler will be available November 7, 2014 from Musa Publishing.       Website    Facebook Amazon    Twitter

 

A detective with no way out.  A telepath with something to prove…

Struggling to survive the night, one private eye must rely on his wits to solve a mystery where he’s outnumbered, outgunned, and trapped inside a police station with a soulless killing machine.

 

I enjoy helping my fellow authors get the word out about their publications and I wish Milo the best of fortune with his new work!

Chris

 

 

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Reading: The Former Hero by Jeffrey Allen Mays

The Former HeroThe Former Hero, by Jeffrey Allen Mays, is a complex novel that I can foresee re-reading several times. I attended a launch party for the novel on Facebook and was fortunate enough to win a signed copy. After receiving it in the mail and reading the first few chapters, I went to my iPad and ordered the e-book from Amazon. Yes—I am the type of person that likes to save (or perhaps preserve) exceptional paperback and hardcover books. The Former Hero paperback will have a special place in my library.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Where to begin this book review is problematic for me because there are so many good aspects to the writing. The sense of place, the mythology of the hero, the concepts of good versus evil, the religious allegory, and the rich tapestry of characters created by the author are all stand-out aspects in the novel.

Sense of Place

When the story begins, it could be set in a modern suburban neighborhood where kids play outside during the summer, have tea parties with dolls, chase butterflies in nearby fields, and draw on the sidewalk with colored chalk. Quickly, though, Mays begins to add layers to this world that only appears ideal on the surface.   Readers learn the police rarely, if ever, patrol the neighborhoods. Laws are simply not enforced. The Mayor, Robert Knox, corrupted the police force and employs madmen and costumed villains with names like “The Bombardier,” “Taser,” and “Viper” to keep the populace under control. The closer the characters get to the geographic center of the city, the worse the corruption grows. Children are kidnapped for the sex trade. Women are sold into forced marriages. People are murdered in the street. Good cops, like one of the main characters, Lt. McCarthy, are few and far between.

What gives story world an additional depth is the research that Lt. McCarthy conducts into the history of the town and the supervillain known as The Minstrel. This type of research is banned by the Mayor, but because of McCarthy’s connections in the police force, he is able to find documents about the earliest settlement in the area. Readers learn about the town from the first settlement days when the physical embodiment of evil, The Minstrel, pulled up to a wooden platform and disembarked from a stagecoach. How the townspeople first fell into corruption—how the Minstrel was able to work her brand of psychological destruction until the townspeople were stained by evil and despair—is slowly revealed through the first-hand accounts available in these historical documents.

Characters

Mays creates his characters with an impressive level of complexity. They are heroes and they are villains; they are flawed human beings and they are monsters; they are drifters, loners, detectives, hypocrites, and sometimes saviors. They might be imbued with mystical powers or they might be insane. Reading through the novel, which shifts section-by-section through various character points-of-view, lets the readers “see” each character from multiple perspectives. For example, readers are introduced to The Former Hero, John Common, through his own rather convoluted thoughts, through the experiences of Penny, a child whose cat he once rescued from a tree, through various reports of so-called health care professionals who work for the Mayor, through flashbacks, through interactions with villains, and through observations of other main characters like Lt. McCarthy.

Part of the enjoyment of the novel is siphoning through these observations to reach the “truth” of the characters. Is John Common the hero Omni-man who has been poisoned and trapped by the Mayor and his henchmen in a medical institution or is he simply a man with delusions of special abilities? Did he save a young man named Jimmy Noble by compassionately healing The Viper’s physical deformities, or did he murder Noble as The Viper claims? Did he really save the city over and over again, or is he mad?

Seriously—Major Spoilers Ahead!

 

Religious Allegory

Years ago when I first read A Light in August, by William Faulkner, my American Lit Professor made a comment that has stuck with me to this day. He said that authors take particular care in naming characters, and if an author uses a name with the initials of J.C., readers should look for an analogy to Jesus Christ. This struck me with the character of John Common in The Former Hero, whose super powers dealt with healing and helping people put past torments in perspective so they can move on and live a better life.

The super villain known as The Minstrel also has an analogy in the Christian religion. Much like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, she started the townspeople on the path to corruption. She is still there in the current day, literally worshiped by the Mayor and his people. As Lt. McCarthy learns through studying the town’s history, she began by sowing discord, and then managed to tempt the wife of one of the settlers, Eva Calhoun, who then tempted her husband, Adam. Instead of the gift of knowledge, though, The Minstrel offers the gift of beauty. It is a false gift and Mays’s description of the temptation, and the fall of Eva and Adam, is one of the most chilling and disturbing scenes in the novel. Adam’s father eventually catches The Minstrel and curses her so her skin changes and becomes scaly like a serpent. He does not disown Adam and Eva completely, but banishes them from their beautiful Eden-like farm in the countryside to live in the now-corrupt town.

 

The Former Hero, by Jeffrey Allen Mays, is not a novel to be read quickly; it is something to be enjoyed and savored; to be analyzed and discussed among friends. It has elements of a mystery, a gritty urban crime drama, a noir detective story, and a superhero comic book. It has a mixture of action, adventure, mythology, philosophy, and spine-tingling horror. It is a novel that readers will continue to re-visit in their own libraries for years to come.

 

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Reading: 10 Minutes a Day Could Change a Child’s Life

This is a moving Public Service Announcement from England concerning the importance of literacy in today’s world.

Ten Minutes a Day Could Change Everything

Find out more: http://save.tc/DCV0

 

 

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