Friday, May 30, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Matriarch: Guardians" by Kevin A. Ranson

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"Sequels are never as good as the original". How many times have we all said this? It's known fact that sequels can be good (Doctor Sleep, for one), but they never live up to the first book.
The Matriarch: Guardians, is BETTER than the original!

Janiss Connelly is the new head of Cedarcrest Sanctum, the retirement home where her vampire blood lengthens the lives of the elderly residents, and their human blood keeps her "alive".
Her maker, Ian, was killed along with her mentor, Louisa, and she is now seeing him in her mind, along with Daniel, the only person she ever killed.
Hector is hiding his undead brother away in the garage, hunting vampires an anonymous person alerts him to the whereabouts of. He wants to kill his brother's maker.
Eric is Daniel's brother, a ghoul for their uncle who wants to kill Janiss.
When all these worlds collide, the reader gets taken on a thrill ride!

I thought the first book was good, I did, but this one really is better.
The secondary characters are very likable (or detestable, depending), and the narration is much more confident. The reader can tell that Kevin Ranson really grew as an artist between books and the result was this.

Vampire fans will love the new twists he's put in this world, and it is so realistically written that you may find yourself looking over your shoulder at night!

The only reservation I have is that, at times, Janiss seemed like a minor character to her own story. But that's a small thing compared to the rest of the book.

Vampire lovers have found their next favorite vamp series! 

4.5/5--great work!

Purchase Guardians via:

Amazon (KINDLE)

Amazon (PRINT)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jess C. Scott

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1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I've always enjoyed writing because of the 'mental freedom' it entails. For the longest time, I found my imagination more interesting than my reality. Writing was a way to continually explore and/or push some boundaries within the context of fiction.

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

I loved the fantasy novels of Jane Yolen and Vivian Vande Velde. I was very much into the King Arthur and Robin Hood legends as well.

In my mid-teens I chanced upon Edgar Allan Poe, and grew to like many classic books thereafter. Nowadays I still enjoy reading the classics, along with contemporary books by authors like Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, Jackie Collins, Jake Needham, Darcia Helle, Maria Savva, and many more. My preference for contemporary books are those with a crime-related or suspense element.

On the non-fiction side, I like socio-political and business books.

3. What inspired your novel Playmates?

The concept of "evil twins" has always fascinated me, because of the close relations of the siblings. I had been wanting to write a story featuring twins for quite some time, but I eventually expanded the material so that the story could be developed across several books in a series. In some ways, it is the absolutely worst case scenario I envisioned if I had a twin sibling and we grew up under the circumstances as described in the novel.

4. Were the twins based at all on real people (if I may say so, I hope not haha) ?

They're fictitious characters with some traits that are based on real people. I did watch several documentaries and peruse several books on serial killers to get a better idea of their inner landscape. I noticed that many of them came from abusive homes--I definitely wanted to include that as a foundational aspect of the twins' background.

5. Why decide to set the story around two preteen kids as opposed to adults?

I structured the series such that each book in the Wilde Twins trilogy centers around the twins at different stages of their lives (preteens; teens; and early adulthood). That way I thought I could offer a more interesting and layered/complex portrayal to readers. You get to see the formation of their lives and experiences over time.

6. Were you ever concerned about the reception of such a dark story?

I was not super concerned because I knew I wanted to write a psychological / crime fiction book about serial killers. That in itself is a dark theme, so I felt I should deliver on that aspect.

7. Things like what happens to Tania go on every day in real life. Would you like for this book to raise awareness of the terrible acts committed?

I think I wanted the book to show the connection between nature versus nurture--it is not just the terrible acts committed, but what society is or is not doing about it. I believe there is an intricate connection between the individual, the family, culture, the mass media and society. There is no quick or easy solution.

8. Addiction is also a common disease. What would you say to a mother like the one in Playmates?

I would ask her if this is how she envisioned herself as a mother, and see how she responds.

9. Are you working on anything that you can share with KSR?

I recently completed a short story collection titled Owned. It's available for free on my website (http://www.jessink.com/owned.htm). The last story in the collection was inspired by the cover image.

I have two YA series I've put on the back burner for some time. Those are not as dark as my psychological thrillers. But I need to re-work the plots because the first drafts could honestly be a lot better!

10. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

I would like to develop more projects in this genre (psychological thrillers / crime fiction). It is a genre that allows for the exploration of a lot of themes that I have a deep interest in. My writing life is certainly influenced by what goes on in my personal life--to an extent--so I look forward to seeing how that continues to go...

11. Will you ever or have you written something outside of the "dark" genre?

I have a YA novel that is more humorous than dark (http://www.jessink.com/sins07_lust.htm)

Sooner or later I usually return to working on a dark project. My mind enjoys being in both places (exploring the very good and the very bad aspects of human nature).

12. Real life is often more frightening than fiction. Is that why you chose to write about a very real situation as opposed to killer werewolves or the like?

I do like horror stories like Bram Stoker's Dracula, and I generally do find psychological horror/suspense a lot eerier than the stories which typically feature creatures such as killer werewolves. As a writer I think I am more convincing with writing about real situations too.

13. What author (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with and why?

It would have to be Edgar Allan Poe. I know I would learn a lot just from being in the same room as him, even if we were both technically doing nothing in particular.

14. Would you like to see Playmates or any of your other work as a TV show or film one day?

Sure--the competition is tough, but I'd jump at the opportunity if something like that came my way some day. I try to be ambitious without being too delusional or greedy.

15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

Thanks for having me!

1. I drink a lot more tea than coffee.
2. Hard rock and classical music are equally appealing to me.
3. I loathed Twitter with a vengeance when I first signed up for an account in 2009.

Find Jess online via:

Official site

Blog

Amazon

Facebook (LIKE page)

Twitter

Goodreads

Google+

Sunday, May 25, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Playmates (Wilde Twins #1)" by Jess C. Scott

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Jess C. Scott is the founder of jessINK Publishing, which gives her the freedom to write what she pleases...and what she pleases is the dark, disturbing tale of two murderous young twins in Playmates, the first in a trilogy.

Trevor and Tania Wilde are each others' twins, best friends and protectors. Their mother is a drug addicted alcoholic and their father is always angry. Their mother hits Tania and makes her feel like trash. She sleeps with men for money and wants her twelve year old daughter to do the same.
Trevor seems to get off lighter than Tania, but he uses that to help his beloved sister out of jams.
The only thing that makes their time bearable is each other...and their obsession with violence.

This story is NOT for the faint of heart. Its appeal comes from the fact that there are no bloodsucking vampires or flesh-eating werewolves in the narrative. The biggest monsters are the humans. There are two little kids with their whole lives ahead of them, but life has other plans for them.
Murder (actually multiple murders), rape, incest and anger fuel Playmates. While the kids are despicable, readers will find themselves wanting to hug them and give them milk and cookies under a safe roof.
You will cringe, you might cry, but you will definitely be unable to take your eyes away from your ereader!
(I consider this to be 18+, by the way. It is far too sinister for most teens.)

5/5--excellent!

Purchase Playmates via:

Amazon

Smashwords

Goodreads

Friday, May 23, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kevin A. Ranson

Kevin Ranson is the author of The Spooky Chronicles and the vampire thriller The Matriarch, creator/critic for MovieCrypt.com and “ghost writer” for horror host Grim D. Reaper.
Look for the sequel to The Matriarch coming very soon!

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1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I've been writing all my life but didn't honestly pursue it until after I got out of the Navy. After reviewing movies online for over 15 years, I decided to to try writing fiction seriously using the narrative voice I developed in critique.

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

I started reading Stephen King way too young, plus I read a bunch of old horror comics at a local barber shop, the kinds of books they stopped making after the Comics Code Authority shut them down. These days I read many new and independent authors such as Barbie Wilde, Carole Gill, Rhiannon Frater, and Gabrielle Faust.

3. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Matriarch?

I wrote two drafts 25 years ago while attending the college mention in the book, but I was smart enough to know I wasn't smart enough then to write the way I thought it could be. After publishing several stories in my YA series The Spooky Chronicles, I wanted to do a full-length novel and chose to re-write The Matriarch from scratch, finally finding the story that eluded me years earlier.

4. Why decide to write a sequel to it? How many books will the story span?

I'm anticipating four for now, and that is ONLY because I have four actually stories to tell. I'm seeding a world bigger than just the characters, so while this series may not continue, other stories in the world might.

5. Why vampires?

They were the first monsters that resonated with me, but too many recent stories in books, on television, and in film have taken the danger out of the monster. Vampires are the kings of the monster world and should appear as such. I knew I needed to recreate the rules with a specific intent to make them very powerful yet still able to be overcome if you know how; it isn't about strength, it's about knowledge.

6. What would you do if you woke up to find out that you were a vampire?

I'd hope it's the kind of vampire I created in my books because I know all the secrets.

7. What author (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?

Authors as a rule don't collaborate in my experience, but if was going to, I would love it to be with my wife, fellow horror author Linda S. Cowden.

8. Would you like to see The Matriarch made into a film? If yes, who would you like to see act in it?

Yes; I wrote it as such to make it conform to a screenplay. There were many actors who inspired the characters as I created them, but I would be doing a disservice to those who haven't read the book to tell you who I was thinking of at the time.

9. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

I hope to still be writing and have many dozen books written by then--all of them celebrated bestsellers!

10. A lot of authors choose their locales for a specific reason. Why did you decide on yours?

As I mentioned, I grew up and went to college there. Central West Virginia is not a place I've seen used often in fiction and certainly not with the paranormal. Also, the legend of Sis Linn is actually real; you can visit her grave on campus exactly as described in the novel.

11. Where do you see the vampire genre heading? Where do you want to see it go?

My own work is an attempt to make it monstrous again but also explore an untapped format; it's hard to explain and a bit of a spoiler before the planned four books are finished, but I don't see vampires going away as long as writers continue to find new ways to reinvent them.

12. Are you working on anything that you can share with KSR?

I am completing the first arc of novellas for my YA horror series The Spooky Chronicles as well as another completely new dark fantasy series with demons and magic that exists in another place and time.

13. If you could take a shot at writing a genre aside from paranormal, would you? And what genre would it be?

I have a fascination with noir, specifically depression era detective stories. I incorporate many of my favorite elements into my work already, but one day I may do something specific to that genre.

14. Are any of your characters based on people in real life?

Many of my secondary characters are based on friends and family; my main characters are often inspired but are otherwise wholly original.

15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

I'm a much nicer guy in real life than my villains might suggest, I enjoy every moment of my ADHD, and I love speaking at convention encouraging others to start writing and publishing. Thanks for the great questions!

Find Kevin online via:

Blog

Amazon author profile

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Google+

Thursday, May 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Matriarch" by Kevin A. Ranson

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College student Janiss Connelly is spending her Thanksgiving vacation at her grandparents' cabin with her kinda sorta boyfriend, Daniel. But first she wants to see her elderly friend in her upscale retirement community. But Ruth has been moved to the "private wing", a place the old seem to disappear to forever.
Her curiosity gets her a job at the home, under the supervision of the mysterious director, Louisa.
Back at home, she gets entranced by a handsome driver, who has more on his mind than directions...he has food on his mind.
When Janiss wakes up in a fresh grave, the blood of her boyfriend on her mouth, she knows she's in deep now!

Kevin Ranson took the notion that vamps are handsome artists and murdered it. Ian is a conniving, hungry bloodsucking creature who doesn't sparkle.
The image of Daniel's mangled body is haunting, add is the physical transformation that the vampires undergo when they are angry.
This is the story of a murder going back 100 years, and the story of finally getting justice.
You won't know who to trust, who to hate and who you will want to win in the end.
One of the top three best "horror" vampire novels since Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot.

4/5--gripping!

Purchase The Matriarch via:

Amazon (KINDLE)

Barnes and Noble (NOOK)

CreateSpace (PRINT)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Peter John

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1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I was bitten by the writing bug when I was 14. I earned a break-time detention and tasked with writing a short story when I failed to hand in a homework assignment.

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

Prominently in my memory is Piers Anthony and his Xanth series. Terry Pratchett's Discworld was and still is on my reading list. I also enjoyed authors such as James Herbert and Jack Giles.

3. What was the inspiration behind your novel Dead Medium?

My mother is a very enthusiastic believer in medium-ship and her stories about the séance’s and spiritual readings she experienced over the years definitely contributed to my inspiration. Initially it was going to be a short story about the reversal of the concept of a medium. After writing a few pages, I realised that there was much more I could do with the theme, and the character of May Elizabeth Trump, and begun to structure it as a novel. 

4. Why choose to center the story around a bad-tempered elderly woman of all characters?

I wanted the main character to be a stringent sceptic so that she would be forced to change her views to some degree otherwise she would have to stop believing in herself. I also wanted the character to soften during the course of the book in a mild, Scrooge like fashion.

5. Will we see another novel of this sort or featuring the same characters?

I am currently working on a spin-off sequel called Just Medium, which focuses on one of the supporting characters and their experiences as a living medium.

6. You were first published as a poet. What is it that you enjoy about poetry?

I have always had difficult expressing my emotions directly, but through poetry I find I can portray my feeling rather effectively. I also enjoy the process of telling a story with rhythm and in a limited number of words.

7. If someone were to make you choose, would you choose to write only poetry or novels and why?

I love writing poetry but I have been severely stung by the story bug and would, regrettably, turn my back on poetry before story writing if the situation should arise. With stories and novels I can delve far deeper into a concept and the characters involved, and that sense of intimacy would be very difficult to give up.

8. Were any of the characters based on real people?

May Elizabeth Trump is the amalgamation of several people and generally not on their best days either. Margaret, however, was born through the influence of my mother alone. Margaret's encompassing heart and her addiction to all things sweet are taken directly from my mother.

9. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?

My first attempt at a novel was a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) based science fiction story about the evolution of gaming in a world addicted to virtual reality. It was poorly written but the concept is something I wish to visit again.

10. What author (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?

Without a doubt, Piers Anthony.

11. Do you, personally, believe in ghosts? If yes, have you ever had any paranormal experiences?

I like to consider myself a hopeful sceptic. I would love to believe but, as yet, I have not experienced anything that would solidify such a faith.

12. Can you please tell the readers a little about your work aside from Dead Medium?

I do a lot of work with The Indie Collaboration, publishing themed anthologies. We currently have four editions available which are free to download on Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo and Nook.

13. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

I see myself in pretty much the same situation I am in right now but I am always being told I should have more confidence in myself. Where I would hope to be, however, is in a position where I can write full-time. I would love a little garden office where I could spend a few hours everyday in peace and tranquillity while hammering away at a keyboard.

14. If you were to find yourself in a situation like May's, what would you do?

Probably the exact same thing. I would help, though begrudgingly; I wouldn't be able to just stand aside.

15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

Three things? Okay, here goes.
No.1: I am one of four siblings and each of us have inherited an interest in the various talents of our grandfather. William Giles was a gifted musician, artist, performer and storyteller.
No.2: There are probably more photographs of me in Japan than there are in my own home.
No.3: I was once awoken by a German Shepard (The breed of dog not the job title) licking my exposed armpit. It is an experience I wish never to suffer again.

Find Peter John online via:

Official site (site includes purchase links to his various works)

Dead Medium Facebook page

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Google+

Pinterest

WordPress

Monday, May 19, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Dead Medium" by Peter John

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When I discovered Peter John, it wad because of a retweet by Lisa Calell on my Twitter feed. I was intrigued by a title Dead Medium, because it seemed to add a new level of strange to the paranormal genre.

75 year old May Elizabeth Trump has never been a warm person. The orphanage didn't raise her that way. She never gave charity and barely tolerated her only friend, gossipy Margaret. Her only vice is her Bakewell slices...which she chokes to death on.
Now that she's a ghost, she's starting to regret the way she lived her life so cold and alone. She even agrees to help another ghost, her neighbor Penny, to make sure that her daughter, Chloe, can kero the family home without sacrificing her education. May can talk to the living, despite her ghostly state.
May, with the help of some living women, becomes a dead medium, helping ghosts talk to the living...for a price, of course.
But who are these Stalkers of Souls she is being warned about? Just because she's dead, does that mean she's safe?

Great writing with an innovative plot. I honestly have never read anything like it! Peter John took an unlikable woman and made me, as a reader, take to the old biddy like family. It's a new way of writing ghosts and ghost stories, one that I hope to see continued.
If you like your stories less frightening and more familial, this is the book for you. If you're like me (prefer the freakish nature of Stephen King), give this book a try. Ghosts aren't always scary, and that's not necessarily a bad thing!

5/5--excellent!

Purchase Dead Medium via:

Official site

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Google Books

Facebook (LIKE page)

Goodreads

Friday, May 16, 2014

MONTHLY MUSIC MADNESS: Carson Allen

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This month's featured artist for Monthly Music Madness is the all American rocker, Carson Allen.
Carson has had quite the career and has many achievements for a man who isn't even 30!
His firat big break in the music industry was with the infamous band Escape The Fate, in which he played keyboards and recorded one album with. He also participated in a tour.


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(Carson is pictured 3rd from right with the red in his hair.)

After parting ways with ETF, Carson headed to Seattle, Washington, and formed the post-hardcore outfit On The Last Day. They toured America with numerous notable rock bands and released two full-full-length albums (Meaning In The Static and Make It Mean Something) before disbanding.


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(On The Last Day band photo and a live photo of Carson during that era, "borrowed" from his Facebook page.)

Carson then went in a different direction after that, when he formed the four-piece "all American rock band", Me Vs Myself, featuring Zombie Nicholas Wiggins on bass (Aiden, William Control and Girl On Fire).
I saw MvM live a few times and it was also my first time seeing Carson perform live, ever. I was awed by his live performance. I had called myself a fan before, but nothing prepared me for how talented and dedicated he was and still is.
MvM released two EPs during their active years (Seasons and Where I Am, Where I Want To Be) and toured the west coast and midwest. They recorded with Robbie Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls.


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(One of MvM's press photos; Carson live with MvM in 2011 at The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip, taken by yours truly.)

After MvM decided to take a break, Carson went solo, releasing two EPs and a full-length album between 2012 and late 2013 (Something Beautiful, Blue Eyed Soul and Bad Attitude). He headlined two tours of his own and even played the famous Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. He also toured with popular pop artist Aaron Carter.
I loved those songs, which were deep and heartfelt. I saw him three times during this period, each time I swear he got better and better!


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(Top photo by Annie Smith; bottom by yours truly. Both were taken at the Whisky A Go-Go.)

Carson took a break from music in January, announcing that he had formed a marketing company called Chronicle MG, with Kerry Phillips, centered in Denver, Colorado. The company appears to be doing quite well and it just goes to show that Carson Allen is no one-trick pony!


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(Carson's official business cards.)

As of just last week, it has been announced that Me Vs Myself is getting back together and hopefully will be releasing new music before 2014 is over, which makes me one very excited girl!

For fans of: Bruce Springsteen, Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind, Three Days Grace, Alter Bridge and more!


Purchase Carson's solo music via:

iTunes

Google Play Music

Amazon MP3

Find Carson online via these links:

Facebook (LIKE page)

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

Chronicle MG Official Site

Chronicle MG Twitter

Chronicle MG Facebook (LIKE page)

Me Vs Myself YouTube

MvM Facebook

MvM Twitter

Thursday, May 15, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Shadows" by Nicole Belanger

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Kristie is a young nurse with divorced parents and an amazing cop boyfriend. She goes into work like any other day, only to find herself in the middle of a shooting spree, performed by a grieving father.
She braves being shot to death to save her patients in the pediatric ward and winds up watching a colleague die and her best friend shot in the shoulder before being hit and receiving a concussion.
Once she's out of the hospital, the shadows of depression and post traumatic stress disorder start to envelop her, tauntingher with the relief of self-mutilation and death...

Nicole Belanger is a young writer and this is only her second book. This seems more like a tenth book by someone who has studied psychology and psychiatry.
Very few people have written so accurately about PTSD and the harsh effects of panic attacks without having experienced them first-hand, but she did. As a sufferer of frequent panic attacks, I know how deadly they can be; how the shadows grab you and drag you down.
This is an amazing story of bravery, inner strength and survival. Ms. Belanger perfectly describes the emotions and disorders that so many suffer from traumatic events.
Under the severe emotions, lies one thing in this book: love. The love that flows between Kristie and Gage is beautiful and true; a great shining light in Shadows.

I love this book and I'm sure others will as well. I recommend it to everyone who has gone through this, and their lived ones. It gives great understanding of this disorder and is a great mystery/drama story on top of it!

5/5--great work!

Purchase Shadows via:

Amazon (KINDLE)

Amazon (PRINT)

Goodreads

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Mary Fan

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1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I was a classic bookworm as a kid, always lost in some story or another, and I soon started making up stories of my own. I'd build elaborate plots and worlds in my head for my own enjoyment - even edit them and replay them in my head to get them just right! Then one day, it occurred to me that I could write all this down...
I didn't start writing seriously until about three years ago, though. But once I started, I couldn't stop! Too many stories to tell...

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

I loved reading sci-fi and fantasy, and I was inspired by the authors' abilities to weave new worlds. Michael Crichton was one author I read a lot of. Also the Harry Potter series, of course. And plenty of classics too - Les Miserables, Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre...
These days, I read mostly commercial sci-fi and fantasy, since I'm a sucker for fanastical settings. I also like thrillers - as long as it has an engaging plot, I'm there!

3. What was the inspiration behind your novella The Firedragon?

The idea for The Firedragon came together from a lot of elements drawn from the real world. The dystopian world it's set in was inspired by the Arab Spring protests in early 2011, when the common people, tired of seeing their nation's riches go to a select few, stood up and said, "enough." But these authoritarian governments had started out as the good guys who brought order and peace to their nations, and so I began to think what would happen if I took this concept and carried it to its most extreme outcome. What if the heroes oftoday became the dictators of tomorrow?
I was also inspired by propaganda campaigns I observed, particularly surrounding the Olympic Games. Nations would rally their people behind their champions to show off national pride, but also, in some places, to distract them from the real problems. Other ideas came from fantastical thoughts I had swirling around in my head - of monsters and the supernatural. And from all this, The Firedragon was born.

4. Why choose a young girl as your heroine?

Because I wanted to show that girls can be both tough and human. There are plenty of female action figures these days, but so many of them are cartoonish and one-dimensional. They're strong and that's all they are. Aurelia is a skilled fighter, but she's also human. The fact is, she's a girl barely into her teens who was raised for one purpose: killing monsters. So she's a little stunted in other areas, particularly when it comes to social skills. But just because she has trouble communicating doesn't mean she doesn't care.

5. How did you come up with the fictional monsters in your story?

Honestly, I just searched my nightmares. Some monsters are based on mythology, like skinwalkers, but for the most part, I just thought, "What creatures scare me the most?" And then I wrote them down.

6. Will we see Aurelia again in the future?

Yes! In fact, The Firedragon novella is the prequel to a feature-length book I have under contract with Glass House Press, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, which is scheduled to come out in Spring 2015.
I actually wrote Edge of Evil first, with Flynn, of course, being the main character - a teenage boy who rebels against the totalitarian government I'd set up. Aurelia is his companion on these adventures - although I certainly wouldn't call her a sidekick! She joins the effort to resist the Triumvirate and leads Flynn on several dangerous missions. And then, she discovers that there's something not quite right about the freedom effort...

7. Why make the story mortal-versus-magician? That's an unusual yet powerful face-off!

In a way, I'm turning the usual dynamic you see in fiction on it's head. Most stories about modern day witches and whatnot have the magical as a minority fearful of discovery. But think about it - they have great powers! Wouldn't at least some of them become ambitious and use their power to take over the world?
So that's the history of the Enchanters in the Firedragon/Flynn Nightsider universe. For generations, the Enchanters did the traditional fight-monsters-in-secret thing, and were mostly the stuff of legends. Then The Lord of the Underworld released hordes of monsters, and the Enchanters had to come out of hiding to save the world. But of course, the ambitious ones weren't about to go back into hiding - they took advantage of their hero status to become rulers. And that's how the Triumvirate was born.

8. Were Aurelia or Connor based on real people?

Aurelia's physical appearance is based on my kid sister, and so is her nickname, "Firedragon," actually. It started out as an inside joke. I had an idea for a new series, and my sister told me to make a character who looked like her so that if it were ever adapted into a movie, she could demand the role! Meanwhile, her school friends gave her the nickname "Firedragon" for some reason - apparently it had something to do with her hair getting natural red highlights out of the blue. And I thought that would be a cool nickname for the fighter character I had in mind, so I took that too.
Her personality isn't based on any particular person, though. Neither is Connor's. Their personalities came out as I developed their roles - what kind of person would do these things I have them doing? And why?

9. If you were in Aurelia's shoes, what would you do against monsters?

I'd probably be monster chow in a second! I'd run for my life and call for back-up. And if I had anything silver on me, I'd swing with everything I had if they got too close!

10. Why decide to set this in the not-so-distant fictional future of Manhattan?

Because who doesn't like to destroy New York in post-apocalyptic stories? 
Actually, it was a setting choice. I wanted to show that this story takes place in our world after civilization as we know it fell. The most effective way to do that was to show New York, one of the US's most powerful cities, as an abandoned husk of concrete.

11. What author (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?

Rick Riordan! He and I seem to have a similar thing for spunky teens against evil monsters. I think we could have a blast!

12. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

Hopefully, making enough money selling books to pay the rent and write full time! Isn't that what we all dream of?
I can say realistically that by 2024, I will have at least 15 books and novellas under my name - all sci-fi/fantasy in the young adult or new adult age groups. Because I've got three series on the go at the moment, and I always finish what I start. With a little bit of luck, maybe one of them will become famous...

13. Can you tell the readers a little more about your other works?

Sure! In addition to the Flynn Nightsider series, I also have a YA high fantasy under contract with Glass House Press, Fated Stars. Fated Stars takes place in a fairytale-type land of magic and enchantment. It's a classic tale of good and evil, with the terrestrial creatures fighting the rise of an ancient dark power. But it's also about love, betrayal, fallen grace, and redemption. The main characters are an air nymph who must leave the safe world she knows, a wayward prince whose search for purpose leads down dark paths, a spunky girl who dreams of inventing great things, and a young mermaid queen struggling to keep her kingdom united.
Separately, I have two books out with Red Adept Publishing: the first two installments of the Jane Colt space opera series, titled Artificial Absolutes (Book 1) and Synthetic Illusions (Book 2). Jane is a young woman living in a futuristic interstellar civilization who stumbles upon conspiracies surrounding artificial intelligence. It's an action-packed adventure through space and cyberspace, but also a personal story for Jane, since what she learns endangers the people she loves. I'm currently working on Book 3.

14. Would you like to see anything you've written as a TV show or film?

Of course, who wouldn't? I'd love if any of my works made it onto film. I can see the Jane Colt books as a movie series starring Chloe Bennet from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (hint hint, Hollywood!). And there's enough material in the Flynn books for a TV series...

15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

Thanks for having me! Here are my three things:
1) I'm a classically trained singer who enjoys operatic coloratura runs 
2) I almost always wear dresses and skirts, and I hate jeans
3) I'll eat pretty much anything. When traveling, the more bizarre the local food, the better!

Find Mary Fan online via:

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Monday, May 12, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Firedragon" by Mary Fan

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In Mary Fan's novella The Firedragon, a prequel to the Flynn Nighsider Series, we are taken into a post apocalyptic world where monsters created by the Lord of the Underworld are defeated by Defenders: magicians and "Norms" (people born without magical powers). Norms have always been looked down upon, but fourteen-year-old Aurelia Sun wants to change that.
She's a Norm who had trained to be the best at killing monsters, but has received no recognition from the Triumvirate, her government. Now there is an open Challenge, where Defenders can try and win the competition and prove who is the best.
But this is no straightforward competition and desth awaits the Norms around every corner.

This was a really interesting read. It follows a determined teen girl who wants to be the best. I can relate and so can many others who will pick this story up.
It also has a lot of friendship and love attached, which is a great counterbalance top all the violence.
I love the government being seen as oppressive and the thene of revolution. It is something many of us can understand, as we are oppressed as well: gays can't marry, women are underpaid, etc..
Great story. I want to read more about the strong-willed Aurelia!

4/5--great book!

Purchase The Firedragon via:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (CAN)

Barnes and Noble

Saturday, May 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Movement of Kings" by Nadine Keels

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In the third and final book of Nadine Keels' Movement trilogy, you are taken more than 20 years after the last book, The Movement of Rings, has ended.
Munda and Diachona have combined to make a whole country, under the rule of King Matthias until his death, after which his daughter, Constance, took over.
But now things are looking bleak. With a new king who somtimes has strange "gut feelings" that come true, a sickly infant heir and a strange illness breaking out, which some believe is a punishment for combining the two countries, how can anyone feel safe?
It's up to the new king to make things right, when all he wants to do is court a certain lady of his kingdom.

The narrative of Kings is very emotional, with the hero dealing with life, death, love and politics.
Vale Hanna, is a soft-spoken, relatable character with hidden depths and the hero is just prefect.
The emotions aren't overdone and characters from both of the previous stories make appearances, which gives it a familiar feeling.

All in all, this series was so wonderful and I'm sorry to see it end.

5/5--great ending!

Purchase The Movement of Kings via:

Amazon

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Friday, May 9, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Darren Dash

As a lifelong Darren Shan fan, I am honored to be interviewing Darren Dash, his alter-ego, under which name he has just published the dark adult novel The Evil and The Pure (find my review of that HERE ).
I hope that you enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it!
~KSR

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1. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Evil and The Pure?

I was reading a lot of James Ellroy books and I wanted to write something in that sort of a style. I'd come close to it with the City trilogy, but the fantasy elements gave it a different feel. I was curious to see if I could write a crime novel that eschewed fantasy completely, so I started working on ideas, and Evil began to form.

2. Who was your favorite character and why?

Big Sandy. Of the four narrators, he's the one it's easiest to relate to, the only one of them who could truly be described as being in any way "nice" -- even though he's just as brutal in his own way as any of them. You've got to have at least one main character that your readers can connect with in a positive way, and although Tulip plays that role to an extent, Big Sandy is the most sympathetic of the narrators.

3. If you could be a character in the story, what kind of character would you be?

Well, it's not the sort of story that I WOULD hope to be in! But if I had no choice, then I'd like to be Big Sandy, someone who is hard because he has to be, but who has his own moral code and tries to do the right thing whenver he can.

4. Will we ever hear from Tulip again? What do you, personally, hope for her future?

No, I very much doubt that I will ever write about Tulip again. I like where her story ends in the book, on a vague but hopeful note.

5. Would you like to see this made into a miniseries or film?

Yes, of course. TV shows and films offer far more exposure and help take your story to a much wider audience. But given how dark this book is, I'm not sure how likely a TV or film adaptation is. But then again, the Stieg Larsson books were really dark too...

6. What do you think was the biggest difference between writing about real humans as opposed to vampires and zombies?

The violence hits in a whole different way when you take out any fantastical elements. As serious as my other books for adults (and children) have been, there's always been an escapist feel to them, because they deal with the impossible and unrealistic. The violence and dark sexual twistedness in Evil is, alas, all too real, and that makes it a far more sobering experience.

7. Are you working on anything under the Darren Dash moniker that you can share with KSR?

Yes, I'm hoping to have my second Darren Dash book ready to go later this year, or else early in 2015. It's a lighter story than Evil, a more staightforward, tongue in cheek horror book about Man vs Monster. In Bulgaria!

8. Did you ever envision a different ending to The Evil and The Pure?

No. I knew how I wanted it to end from the very beginning, with a degree of closure that is lacking in most of my novels. I felt it was important to bring the stories of the four narrators full circle, to leave readers with at least a smidgeon of hope that there CAN be happy endings, even in a world as dark and twisted as this one.

9. If you could only write either adult or YA fiction, would you be able to choose? Which would it be?

If I absolutely HAD to choose, it would be YA, as I just seem to fit more naturally into that world. But I love bouncing about between the two, and I think my work has benefitted from doing that--I don't think my YA books would be as strong as they are if I wasn't exploring other sides of my writing talents in the adult books, and vice versa.

10. If you could meet only one of your characters in all your books, who would it be and why?

In the adult books, I'd have to say The Cardinal from my City trilogy. It would be a memorable meeting... if I survived it!!

Find Darren Dash online via:

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Evil and The Pure" by Darren Dash

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When a beloved YA author takes the plunge and publishes an adult novel, the fans who grew up with said author are always a little apprehensive, and rightfully so.
Darren Dash (nice anagram!) has broken out into the adult market with his debut The Evil and The Pure, a dark and twisted crime novel.

You have a wide cast of characters to love and/or despise:
Big Sandy, the hired hitman of a top gangster, who has spent his life looking to take revenge out on the man who killed his mother when he was eleven.
He works for Dave "Bush" Bushinsky, a high-powered gangster in London who wants only one thing and just needs the money to get it.
Bush has a pet scientist named Tony Phials who is working on a new drug that could make Bush a multi-millionaire.
Clint Smith is Bush's cousin, a small-time dealer with delusions of grandeur. He wants to make money, to to New York and get the girl of his dreams, Bush's niece...as long as a slimebag actor doesn’t get her first.
Kevin and Tulip Tyne are siblings who have been orphaned. Adult Kevin gets off on watching teenage Tulip have sex with strange men and he hires her out to fulfill his own sick fantasies, including to the scientist Phials and the priest, Father Sebastian.
Gawl McCaskey is a man who has left a trail of women's bodies from Scotland to Australia and he is looking for a job in London. Greedy Clint and the mystery drug just might be what he was searching for to retire in comfort.

The Evil and The Pure is nothing like Cirque du Freak, The Demonata or Zom-B by Darren Shan. Darren Dash writes here about something much more sinister than the paranormal: real human beings.
Some of his fans might find this a little too dark, but I think those of us who grew up with him and are now adults ourselves will find this to be an amazing read and sound proof of the evolution of his talents.
The violence is vicious, but not overdone for sales or shock value. This takes torture (think the amptutation in Misery by Stephen King but to the genitalia and rabid dog maulings) to a new level.
The story flows easily, going from interesting to page-turning rapid action. If you don't mind a little bloodshed, read this book. It's got the cast complexity of a Maeve Binchy novel as if written by a violent madman, and I mean that as a compliment!
The characters are the best part, as they make the story. The way it's written, you feel like you know them, like you can see them standing right in front of you.
Another thing I liked was the goodness that shone through the dark; a silver lining in the black cloud of real thug life.
This is a book you won’t want to end!

Great work and amazing author evolution! 

5/5--loved it!

Purchase The Evil and The Pure via:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Smashwords

iTunes Books

Barnes and Noble (NOOK)

Kobo

Goodreads

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Dale Bridges

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1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I have always been a passionate (some might even say pathological) reader, but the notion of becoming a writer did not hit me until my early twenties. I grew up in a small-town blue-collar household, and the idea that someone could pursue a career in art was completely alien to me. So there I was, about ready to graduate from college with a degree in history, not knowing what one might do with such a degree aside from teaching high school (which sounded about as fun as a frontal lobotomy) when a friend of mine announced that he was applying to film school in California. That just blew me away--that someone would have the confidence to throw caution into the wind like that and pursue a goal that was so impractical. Not long after, I wrote my first short story. It was terrible. Really, really terrible. But I was hooked, and I've been writing ever since.

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

When I was younger, I was fixated on animals for some reason, so I obsessed over books like Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows and My Side of the Mountain. Part of the reason for that was probably the fact that my parents are extremely conservative, and these are wholesome stories for young boys to read. Then one of my teachers introduced me to Jack London, and I think that's when the fictional world became more important to me than the real world. I must have read White Fang twenty times. I picked it up again a few years ago, and guess what? It's still great! Such a good story. I was also heavily influenced by Bible stories and comic books when I was younger. There are a lot of great superhero stories in the Old Testament.
Today, I read widely and often. I love any writer with a unique voice and a dark sense of humor. Jincy Willett, Philip K. Dick, Vonnegut, John Brunner, Jeffrey Eugenides, Stacey Richter, Sam Lipsyte, Philip Roth, Sherman Alexie, George Saunders, Jim Thompson. I like writers who take risks but still try to communicate with a large audience. I don't much care about genre or literary credentials. If you're original and entertaining, I'm in.

3. What was the inspiration behind the stories in your book Justice, Inc.?

That's a really difficult question. These stories were not conceived as a unit. In fact, there's about an eight year gap between the oldest story in this collection and the newest one. I have no idea what inspired them. My brain just works like that. I'm appalled by the world every day. I'm not trying to be sensationalist or funny; every time I leave the house, I am horrified by the destructive nature of humanity. We are petty, ignorant animals with inflated egos. It's depressing. Writing helps me process the insanity of our culture. Writing and alcohol.

4. Why did you choose to make Justice, Inc. the title of the book as opposed to one of the other stories?

I just like that title. It asks so many questions with two little words. Also, if you're a small-press author, there's not always a marketing team to think up a cool cover for your book, so you have to do it yourself. I couldn't envision a cover image for any of the other stories, but the image for "Justice, Inc." popped up right away. Of course, it's one thing to conceive of a book cover and another thing to bring it to life. Fortunately, I know a talented graphic artist named Jay Miller, and he graciously took my half-ass idea and made it real.

5. When can we expect a full-length novel from you?

Oh, boy. I'm working on one right now. I wrote an awful, semi-coherent first draft last summer, and now I'm cleaning it up. I expect it will be at least six months to a year before it's ready for publication. It's really weird. And dark. I explore many of the same themes that come up in Justice, Inc., specifically fear of the corporate-state and technophobia.

6. Will you continue with the dystopian theme or do you plan on trying out other genres?

I'm focused on dystopia right now. It comes so natural to me. At some point, I plan on writing a novel that's more specifically satire. I'm just not mentally in that place right now.

7. What is it, for you personally, that makes dystopia so intriguing and inspiring?

My father is a fundamentalist preacher, so I grew up thinking about the end of the world in a very real sense. In fact, I can't remember a day in my life when I didn't contemplate an apocalyptic scenario of some kind. At this point, it's just hardwired into my subconscious. For a writer, it's so much fun because you get to take everything to the extreme. Dystopian stories are not stories about the future at all, of course. They are stories about the present and the past. They are your deepest fears come to fruition. Bradbury imagined a world where books are illegal and collective knowledge is lost in Fahrenheit 451. Orwell dreamed of a fascist government that controls language and rewrites history. I imagine a future where it is impossible for the individual to exist outside the totalitarian corporate-state. It's the world we already live in; I'm just taking the current trends in our culture to their inevitable conclusion.

8. What authors (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?

I can't imagine collaborating with another author. My ego is too fragile. They'd give me some negative feedback, and I'd run to my room and cry. I'd love to have a chat with Philip K. Dick though. I just want to know how much of his insanity was real and how much of it was embellished. But I'm fairly certain if you tried to collaborate with PKD, blood would start leaking from your ears almost immediately.

9. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

I have no idea. I never think ahead. That's how I protect myself from my own dystopian future. I ignore it.

10. Are there any stories in Justice, Inc. that you'd like to revisit one day and write about in a longer or continuing way?

I don't know about specific stories, but I'm just starting to scrape the surface of the world in which Justice, Inc. takes place. It's an alternative universe that I am allowed to peek into, like some sort of perverted voyeur from another dimension. This universe was brand new to me when I first began writing this book, so it was difficult to make sense of it. However, now I'm starting to understand it, and I feel more comfortable writing about these people who are struggling in this alternate reality. So yes, I'll keep digging through the trash in this other world, but I probably won't revisit these same characters; there's too much interesting trash that I haven't seen yet.

11. The imagery of two fashionistas smashing a man over the head with designer handbags and then going to get Jamba Juice immediately after is particularly disturbing.  What was going through your mind as you wrote that?

Well, I was living in California at the time, and I was working at a private college. And California is a weird place, especially if you're not from there. Everyone is beautiful and the weather is gorgeous, but there's an underlying current of desperation that you can't quite put your finger on. And then one day Emily started talking to me in her bitchy Valley Girl voice. She told me all kinds of horrifying stories, but the way she told them made me laugh. The juxtaposition between innocence and horror is what makes that one interesting. I really enjoyed writing Emily's story.

12. The vision you presented in "The Time Warp Cafe" is also disturbing. Do you think that, provided we live another century, we could achieve that level of science?

I'm not the right person to ask about the real-world applications of science. Probably not. We're just starting to understand how time works, but from my limited comprehension, it's not something that can be manipulated on an individual level in order to make a person immortal. In order to disrupt time, you need something like a black hole, which would destroy us. However, I do think we will continue to make advancements in healthcare that will extend human life (for those who can afford it). Humans fear death, and we'll do anything to avoid it. But I think there are psychological and existential consequences to living longer than nature intended. That's what I was attempting to examine in "The Time-Warp Cafe." I wanted to take someone from Generation X and place him in a futuristic Millennial utopia...and then watch him squirm.

13. Would you like to see your work on the small or silver screen one day? If so, which work and why?

Sure, although it's difficult to imagine how that would work with these stories. They're not action-driven narratives. Even in "Life After Men," which is probably the most cinematic, Emily only kills one zombie. The real conflict is a more personal, internal struggle, and that's difficult to capture on screen. But I'd love to see a Wes Anderson version of "Welcome to Omni-Mart." It would be interesting/infuriating to watch a director reinterpret my writing.

14. Where do you see the dystopian genre going on the future?

I think gritty, violent dystopian stories like The Walking Dead and Cormac McCarthy's The Road have probably reached a saturation point for the moment. I love them, but there are too many. I look forward to seeing some utopian dystopia in the near future, in which the crisis comes not from the breakdown of society but from a closely monitored and controlled culture. Like A Brave New World, except with universal healthcare and drones.

15. Thank you for participating in the interview! Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

Thank you. This was fun. Surprising, eh? Let's see. I'm getting married this summer. People often find that surprising, considering my cantankerous, pessimistic disposition. I have the partial remains of at least ten animals in my apartment. I came to that realization recently, and it sort of creeped me out. (It also helps explain why people are surprised about my impending nuptials.) And I have a fondness for Hollywood musicals that I will not apologize for. Yes, I love Blade Runner and Pulp Fiction as much as the next guy, but I can also sing every song in The Sound of Music...and if you don't like it, you can kiss my von Trapp.

Find Dale Bridges online via:

Official site

Twitter

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Goodreads

Monday, May 5, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Justice, Inc." by Dale Bridges

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Many of you might remember my post last year for the anthology Tuned To A Dead Channel,  published by Dagda Publishing. You can find my review of that HERE .
One of those stories, "Welcome To Omni-Mart", was one of the most memorable in that compilation of today's best in dystopian fiction. The author, Dale Bridges, will be releasing his debut short story collection this June, titled Justice, Inc..

In this book, dystopia meets horror with stories about fashionistas killing their zombie-boyfriends with designer purses, companies being able to lay claim to your soul, and "human simulations" (AKA realistic robots) killing their abusive owners (amongst other, equally disturbing, tales).
The title comes from the story of the same name, where terrorism, war and infertility merge together to create a sympathy-inducing, slightly cringe-forming narrative.

What I think I liked the best, even over the social commentary and the dull shock that America could very well become like the country depicted in these stories, was that there were little things like companies and games that tied many of them together.
Like other authors, such as the inimitable Stephen King, such small yet obvious crossovers show so much potential for Mr. Bridges' future.
If this is the future of this dystopian fiction, the future is looking damn good!

5/5--thought-provoking and innovative.

Justice, Inc. will be available for purchase on June 20, 2014, at which time I will update this post with the correct purchase links.

Until then you can preorder the book HERE .