Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Suspense: The Hunter [Review]

Ben is a normal, hardworking guy. He loves ATVs, the outdoors, and most of all, hunting. While pursing his favorite activity, he shoots and wounds a bull elk. It runs away, and Ben chases deeper into the woods. Instead of the elk though, Ben finds something decidedly creepy, something that changes him forever.

The Hunter by Zachariah Wahrer is great short story. The hook comes in the form of a lost hunter, and, by the time the main character realizes he is in trouble, it's too late for him to help himself. This story has a Cabin In The Woods feel to it towards the end. The Hunter is a story I wouldn't mind being turned into a full-length novel.

There is also another story included, the beginning of a new series, but I was only interested in The Hunter.

Wahrer shows some serious potantial in the suspense genre. He is an author I will be keeping my eyes on...

As always,

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday Short: Pig People [Review]

I'm still trying to finish a sci-fi novel about time travel, so I decided to grab a short story for Saturday. I should have chosen more carefully...

The Pantomime by Keishi Ando was totally lost on me. The writing is very choppy and there is more description than action. By the time the twist is revealed at the end, I was too confused to be frightened in any way. This might be one of those stories better suited for the screen, rather than print. Virtually nothing is revealed about the main character, so the story seemed pointless.

This is one of those times I have to wonder if the story was originally written in another language and was screwed up in the translation process. The author resides in Japan, so there is that possibility.

Situations like this could be avoided with a good editor. Something to keep in mind.

As always,

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

My Veteran's Day Story

My dad was in the Navy for about 24 years. He did three tours in Vietnam & was awarded a Purple Heart each time. (They give the medal the first time, then a little star each time after.) He has many awards and medals. For 13 of those years, he was a SEAL. (That's just a fraction of the things he accomplished during his career.)

He wasn't really around the first couple of years of my life because he was sent on so many missions. Even when he wasn't deployed, I didn't see much of him. To be fair, there were other factors involved, but, essentially, my dad's Naval career took a huge toll on his first marriage (my mom), my relationship with him, and what he experienced during his career also affected his health and many other relationships.

Growing up, I hated the Navy. I hated the military. I hated this entity that took my dad from me. I loved going to new places, but I hated that I could never really get close to anyone because we would move year after year. Up until I was about 14 years old, I was convinced that the majority of the pain in my life could be placed on the military.

The summer I was 14 going on 15, my dad took his second wife, my brother Lincoln and me to D.C., and, my God, I don't think any single experience comes as close to how much that changed my life, with the exception of becoming a mother. I saw things that still to this day make me cry as if it just happened.

I'm not going to tell you all the things that happened, only what I experienced with my dad.

We went to the Memorial Wall. I saw people of all races, all ages, all backgrounds, crying over a wall with names. I didn't understand. My dad cried. It was the first time I had ever seen him break down. It was frightening to see a mountain of a man crumble to his knees and weep.

He told me stories. Something he never did before. He told me about a mission in which two men volunteered to stay behind so the rest of the team could escape. He told me how one of those men was married with a baby on the way, but he gave up his life without hesitating, as well as the other. They told my dad, "Today is a good day to die." My dad was the one to deliver the news to the pregnant widow.

He told me his nightmares about the first man that he killed in hand-to-hand combat...he told me about his best friend being killed right in front of him. My God, the things my dad had been holding in...

He also told me a story about how they would nickname each other based on the names of their hometown newspapers. My dad's paper, the Wagner Post, was jokingly called the Wagner Wipe, so my dad was called T.P. Tom. Watching him laugh, with tears in his eyes, listening to his stories, as well as stories of other people visiting, something changed inside of me.

The hate I had been carrying had given me tunnel vision, but my visit to the Wall opened up my view. Suddenly (and yes, it was suddenly), I saw what had been in front of me all my life: sacrifices...ALL of them.

Oh, sure. We all know that soldiers miss birthdays, holidays and special occasions. If you grew up in a military family, you know how often milestones are missed. I blamed the military for taking that time away from my dad and me, but with my epiphany, I finally realized two things...

1) Nothing is taken, the soldiers give. And, 2)they give so much more than the obvious, they give up every little moment. Breakfast with the family. Seeing a tooth missing when a child smiles. The moments the rest of us often take for granted. Not just the big moments.

Their sacrifices can also include their emotional health, their physical health and their very lives. They basically write a blank check with their souls and hand it over so the rest of us can live our lives the way we choose.

If they make it home, they are often broken, sometimes discarded, not always thanked and rarely do we even learn their names. They often come home to the rest of us acting like a bunch of idiots. They go through hell and have to stand by us at the gas pump bitching about the price. They live through unimaginable horror and watch as someone in the grocery line acts like it's the end of the world because a coupon expired.

Just like that, with my new perspective, my hate turned into pride, with an abundance of gratitude. Ever since, there is not one day that I don't give thanks to the men and women who served our country.

Some of you I know. I see you, I see how your sacrifices have affected your lives. I know your names and include you in my prayers.

Most of you I do not know. I may never know your names or your sacrifices, but I thank you and your families from the bottom of my heart. Please know that there are many of us who will never forget.

I am the daughter of a veteran, the sister of a veteran, the wife of a veteran. I may very well be the mother of a veteran one day. My family has fought in every war involving the U.S. as far back as the Civil War (both sides) and then some.

I think it is fitting that Veterans Day is in the same month as Thanksgiving. We are taught to give thanks for our blessings on that day. I am asking you, on this day, to show your thanks by giving...give back to those who gave us everything, whether it was for a few years or a lifetime.

It can be as simple as saying thank you or buying a cup of coffee, or helping rake leaves or cooking a dinner. Just give.

And, please, for those who are currently serving, please do what you can to help make our country worth fighting for. More importantly, give our soldiers a home worth coming back to.

As always,
Ursula K Raphael
a.k.a AstraDaemon

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom: Candide [Book Review]

Candide is one of the world's great satires, first published in 1759. Voltaire exposes and satirizes romance, science, philosophy, religion, and government...the ideas and forces that permeate and control the lives of men.

Every great once in a while, I revisit classic literature to remind myself of the fundamentals of well-written literature. One of my favorites is Candide by Voltaire.

This was one of the few satires that genuinely made me laugh. Candide is taught by his teacher, Dr. Pangloss, that they live in the best of all possible worlds. Right away, this is put to the test when Candide is banished for loving Cunegonde, who is considered above his station. Not only do horrible things happen to Candide, but terrible events also happen to everyone he knows.

What I found amusing is how Candide seemed to bring it on himself; he makes one bad decision after another, to the point of being predictable. The ending isn't exactly a happy one, but Candide finally finds a place in the world that doesn't bring on more problems.

I think this is a great book to entice young minds to read classic literature.

As always,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday Terror: Jake's Law [Review]

In a lawless land infested with the walking dead, the man with the biggest gun makes the law. Former deputy Jake Blakely has the big gun, and he has the law - Jake's Law. 

I am a fan of Gurley's Judgment Day Trilogy, so I was looking forward to reading Jake's Law - the book description doesn't do it justice. It was non-stop action mixed with the right amount of drama. The focus is more on the personal war between Jake, former law enforcement officer, and Levi, an escaped convict, rather than the zombies, but the undead do have a few key scenes.

The story begins with Levi's POV, and rotates between the POVs of Jake and two other survivors, Reed and Jessica. Random events bring them together, but revenge motivates them all. Levi wants to rule over the other survivors, but Jake has already laid down the new law of the land, so, while the two men try to kill each other, Reed and Jessica find themselves unwilling pawns caught in the crossfire.

There is another story titled The Law Giveth, which I plan on reading in the near future.

As always,

Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Murder: Two Stars [Review]

Let me start by saying that I rarely give reviews below three (out of five) star reviews, but it happens, and it sucks for both the author and me, the reader. I don't ever have the same expectations for short stories that I do for full-length novels, or even anthologies, but, at the very least, I expect to be entertained.

The Midnight Dinner Party by T.G. Emmerson is a story of revenge...except the revenge doesn't even really take place. So many problems with this piece...reads like a rough draft, for one. Story of revenge isn't very original, for another. Worst yet, the damn thing ended with "to be continued...," as if anyone would bother. None of the characters were developed at reason to feel sympathy for the victim's family, no reason to care what happens to the group of attackers. The author needs to find a better way to hook readers and keep them interested. As for me, I'm moving on to better stories...

As always,

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Suspense: Renfro's Lot [Review]

The Lot by Anthony Renfro is an extremely entertaining short story. The hook is immediate, the suspense is spectacular and the ending is swift and vicious. I was pleased just to have found that story, but Renfro also included two more.

A Zombie Christmas is humorous in a dark way. Very original. I loved it. Coupled with The Dead of Winter (I’ll be having nightmares), this story bundle would make the perfect gift for a horror fan who doesn’t have much free time for reading.

Renfro has a talent for packing a lot into just a few pages, so be sure to read his work.

As always,

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday Squids [Review]

If you were entertained by the kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and engaged by the huge find in Discovery Channel’s Colossal Squid special, you are sure to be interested in Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid. Author HP Newquist takes the reader on a journey from the legendary monster that preys on unsuspecting sea vessels to the discoveries of the giant squid and, most recently, the colossal squid.
In the prologue, Newquist depicts a personal encounter with the mythological beast and continues on to describe the various tales of sea serpents from around the world. Newquist explains why cartographers marked the unexplored regions of their maps with the ominous warning, “Here Be Dragons,” or similar phrases. The author also describes the reasons most stories about the strange beasts were dismissed as the ramblings of men too long at sea.
As Newquist guides the reader through the history of these myths, he progresses from sailors’ accounts of demonic creatures attacking ships to the first attempts by scientists to officially name and classify the enormous organisms. Many naturalists believed that the source of the legend was based on oversized specimens found washed up on beaches. Scientists were determined to find evidence that there was such a thing as the giant squid. Eventually, researchers came to suspect that there was another, larger species of squid – deadlier than the giant squid.
In addition to the stories and scientific research, Newquist includes illustrations and photographs of everything that is discussed in the book, including still pictures of live giant squid, and the recovered body of a colossal squid featured on the Discovery Channel. There is also a bibliography and links listed for further information at the end of the book. Lastly, the author poses the question, “Could there be bigger ones that we have yet to discover?”
As always,

Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Fiction: Spiral [Review]

Spiral by Martin Fossum was a random short story selection. A guy and his girlfriend decide to relocate to a different city and, even with a positive beginning, the main character soon finds himself on a downward spiral. While nothing too out of the ordinary takes place, there is just enough mystery to keep a reader hooked until the end. I expected something supernatural to happen, but Fossum proves that real life problems are dark enough.

If you are looking for a quick read to pass the time in a waiting room or a short bus ride, Spiral is a solid piece of fiction.

As always,

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Dante's Backstory

Most people in the literary community are familiar with Dante’s Inferno in some way. If you haven’t read this volume of The Divine Comedy, you may have seen the commercial for the video game Dante’s Inferno Divine Edition, which is based on the epic poem by Dante Alighieri. It is a story that describes the nine circles of Hell (limbo, lust, gluttony, avarice & prodigality, wrath & sullenness, heresy, violence, fraud, and betrayal), as conceived by the medieval age, beginning with the day before Good Friday in 1300 A.D.

Dante wrote The Divine Comedy during his exile from Florence. Until recently, no one knew for certain where he had been or what he had done during those years away from his home. However, author Kim Paffenroth (who also happens to be a professor of religious studies), wrote a book titled Valley of the Dead (The Truth Behind Dante’s Inferno) which tells the tale that inspired Dante to write his poem of horrors. In a captivating prologue, Paffenroth presents us with the story of how Dante survived a zombie plague, illuminating the lessons that the poet learned.

Don’t let the mention of zombies fool you into thinking this is just a gore novel with a twist. Unlike the spliced-together novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Paffenroth has written an original narrative with a style comparable to classical literature, bringing together historical fiction, drama and horror to chronicle Dante’s personal account of the pestilence and human suffering that inspired Inferno. Don’t expect the same zombies or character types that can be found in Paffenroth’s Dying to Live: Life Sentence, the second in his zombie series based on a group of people surviving an apocalypse in a museum.

In Valley of the Dead, Dante stumbles upon a village in the midst of an epidemic that is unknown to him. There he meets a pregnant woman named Bogdana, and together they travel west into a valley, attempting to escape an army that believes destroying all of the towns it finds is the only way to stop the spread of infection. Along the way, they are joined by an army deserter and a monk, and the four of them soon form the opinion that the survivors are the ones that are cursed, not the undead. Some of the most frightening and disheartening moments of the book are the exploits of the living, and not the zombies as one might think.

This novel digs deep into the human soul, and exposes all the nobility and ugliness that people are capable of. It goes beyond the bloodshed of most zombie literature, and provides some insight into the theology of Dante, one of the greatest literary icons of the Western world. Paffenroth is certain to grab the attention of the academic crowd with Valley of the Dead.

As always,

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

To Be Or Not To Be...Cloned

Double, a short story by Tuulia Saaritsa, was a random selection…and completely awesome. When I read the description about a clone experiment, the sci-fi aspect appealed to me. Saaritsa manages to convey a very emotional personal experience in just a few pages. The interaction between the two clones is, at times, controversial, and addresses many issues that might arise from such a scientific endeavor. Tuulia Saaritsa is officially on my radar, and I think many readers will enjoy this dark and dramatic tale, whether or not you're into science fiction.

As always,

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Second Chance Gone Wrong

Caught by Lisa Moore piqued my curiosity: a novel featuring a drug smuggler, marijuana to be specific, recently escaped from prison and stupid enough to try it again. Last year I read a novel, Mules, a fictional account of the brutality within the drug trade, and I thought Caught might be something like that. Nope. Moore does a great job of writing about a common subject, but with an original voice and style that stands out in this particular sub-genre.

David Slaney, a 25 year old Canadian convicted of marijuana possession, busts out of his cell, evades the cops and tracks down his business partner, only to find himself attempting the same job he was arrested for in the first place. His character comes across as an intelligent guy, but he seems hellbent on making one bad decision after another. However, Slaney has some amazing luck ditching the authorities every time they get close to nabbing him again. The 1970s setting really captures the atmosphere surrounding this endeavor.

There's a heavy sadness that weighs over Slaney, living in his secret world with fake identities and relationships that fall apart as a result of his life choices. But, what really makes the main character fascinating is the tapestry of complications and emotional conflicts which eventually lead to a rather quiet, understated ending.

If you enjoy well-written fiction, simply for the pleasure of a solid story, I recommend taking a chance on Caught.

As always,

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Night Feature: Crystal Connor [Interview]

The End Is Now by horror author Crystal Connor is part of a two-book project by Connor Titus (see also: The Guardians of Man). It’s one story told from two different perspectives, with each version complimenting the other. Connor is no stranger to controversy and the spiritual themes within this story have sparked many heated debates among her readers. (The prose itself is presented in columns, much like many revered texts.) However, there is a great mix of action, drama and suspense, so I am reluctant to label this novel as religious horror, although this is most definitely an apocalypse of biblical proportions.

Connor’s characters debate and fight over the existence of mankind, weaving in pieces from several major religions into a tapestry of adversity and temptation. The discussions between characters explore the terror that often accompanies religious beliefs. Connor’s metaphysical elements offer a supernatural view of the end of the world which connects the reader’s mind to the author’s special brand of darkness: intense, sacred violence.

The ending left me feeling like I was hit by a truck, then the truck backed over me and ran me over yet again. Fortunately, I could remind myself, it’s a work of fiction.

I thought it was time to invite her to the Lair...

Oh my God Ursula, thank you so much for interviewing me for your blog! I feel like a rockstar …lol

Q. Do you deliberately set out to write about controversial themes or do you think some readers create the controversies themselves? Have your critics been an obstacle at any point in your career or do they inspire you to push the creative edges of your writing even more?

A. I can see how someone would think that, especially after what some would call doubling down with The End is Now after a group proclaiming themselves to be Christian’s burned The Darkness.

After seeing pictures of my very first book being burned, seeing just how nasty and hateful people can be online, and being the target of such vitriol when my social media platform was still in its infancy nearly ended my writing career. Because I didn’t know any better I tried to explain myself. Huge mistake. Epic Rookie. Mistake. I didn’t handle it very well so I ended up closing my twitter account and disabling my profile on Facebook. I didn’t even get out of bed. My family and friends really rallied behind me and gave me the support and encouragement to get through that. I can’t thank them enough for that, not to mention the story I was telling wasn’t finished and the story itself wouldn’t let me be.  

When I was writing the 2nd book Artificial Light I was also working my anthology …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! which was finished before Artificial Light. I was super nervous because I hadn’t had any publicity since The Darkness and I wasn’t sure how they were going to react so I decided to hire an actor to help me with create a promotional book trailer that would beat them to the punch.

Everyone loved the trailer, I finished The Spectrum Trilogy, was accepted in several anthologies, grew my fan base, spent more time on social media, was attending conventions and speaking on panels without further incident so I thought that was all behind me. Boy was I wrong.

After The End is Now was published all hell broke loose and it was bad. A flame war broke out on Facebook that lasted five days, from the N-word to the C-word I was called every name under the sun except for the one my mom gave me at birth. It was suggested that I be raped or killed or both and if that wasn’t bad enough someone posted what they thought was my home address. It was my P.O. box but it was way too close to where I lived for comfort. The police felt that the threats were viable, and because of that I ended up moving.

So to answer your question, no. I do not set out to be controversial because some of the more extreme critics have the power to be more than just an annoying obstacle when it comes to my writing career. They have the ability to cause actual harm.

But with that being said, and to answer your second question, once I realize that what I’m writing will most likely offend extremist I don’t back away from it. I knew The End is Now was going to ruffle some feathers, I just didn’t know it would get that bad.

Q. You emphasize with every book that each is strictly a work of fiction, but how much do you draw upon your own life when creating your characters and their realities? Do you feel that your experiences in the military, such as exposure to other cultures, have influenced your writing style?

A. I think it’s because of my experiences, being in the military and having had the opportunity to travel outside of this country is the very reason why I express my work is a work of fiction. For people who are practicing at the fringe of their religion, nothing riles them up faster than the acknowledgement of those who don’t adhere to their interpretation of what’s written in the sacred text they are reading from, and that those people who exist outside the fold are, too, worthy of the Glory of God.

But when you travel to places that don’t look like home and meet and spend time with people who do not think/believe/talk about the things that you do it’s impossible to continue to believe that there is only one way in doing things.  

My experiences absolutely helps me to understand how different people would interact with one another, and it helps when my characters find themselves in situations where current or prior military and or disaster preparedness training would be paramount for their survival so I am going to say yes.   

One of the things I keep hearing and I hope people never stop remarking on is how diverse my books are and how three dimensional my characters seem, and without a doubt it’s because I’m writing with real world firsthand experience but I can’t take all the credit. My knowledge is just the shell. The more I write about a character the more I learn about them. It’s almost as if the character takes a life of their own and I am just documenting and telling their story.

Q. How did this writing project with a companion book come to be? Was it easier or more difficult to work with another author?

A. We had been talking about working together for a while and when the timing was right we just jumped into the project head first without looking…and it was a blast. It was the most fun I’ve had working on a project so far! The reason we ended up with two standalone books set in the same universe is because about a third of the way in we started to pull the story in two different directions and because both concepts were equally awesome and I didn’t want to sacrifice one story for the other. I presented the idea that we each wright our own books and concept was enthusiastically accepted.

Even though you don’t have to read them both we wanted to link both books together, that’s why part of the title (In The Foothills of Mt. Empyreal) is used for both books and our amazing covers are yin and yang’s of each other. 

Q. Your books span several genres from dark horror to magical realism. How would you describe your writing? Do you have a specific target audience in mind?

A. Unrelenting, realistic, brutal, and terrifying, lol at least that’s end goal my every time I sit down to write a story. My target audience are people who enjoy reading thought provoking psychological horror. That’s actually my core audience but because of the fast pace of my stories, the diversity, the fight scenes that blend modern military tactics with medieval sword and sorcery with basic street fighting, bad guys that you can help but root for, the subject matter and the use of language of vivid imagery thankfully my writing appeals to a wide range of readers.

I don’t like putting myself in a box because it’s very limiting. My goal is to tell a really scary story, so if it starts off as a horror story then drifts off into science fiction, or if the story decides to vacation on the beaches of fantasy I just let it. I think that’s why so many people struggle with trying to assign it a specific genre. I had a judge rip The Darkness to shreds because he said I didn’t respect my craft enough to stay in one genre. It sucked hearing but at the end of the day as long as the readers like it, that’s all that really matters.

Q. What do you think draws you toward writing dark, unsettling, even brutal stories? Do your storylines ever affect the other areas of your life? Have you ever scared yourself with something you’ve written?

A. As much as I get asked this question you would think I’d have a ready made answer by now, but I don’t. I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of things. Honestly the very first horror novel I sat down and read all by myself as a little kid was The Book of Revelations. I was really young, too young to understand what was truly being said, but I am easily seduced by visuals. Take a moment to imagine, I mean really imagine, what it would be like to look up and see the sky being torn open, ripped apart like a piece of paper, and all the implications that that would imply.

I have a very vivid imagination which I allow to run rampant, and it’s the subtle questions that are asked in realm of the horrible that draws me in. That and someone said The Dark side has cookies, so … I mean what’s a girl to do?  

Q. For many years, the horror genre was largely male-dominated. Even with more and more female authors making a name for themselves, there does not seem to be that many Black female horror authors. Does this cause you any added pressure as a writer? Do you feel a need to create characters of different races and cultures to represent the real world, or do you just let your story settings dictate which characters you will use?

A. The only pressure I feel as a writer is the pressure I place on myself to 1. To tell a really good story and 2. To tell a better story than the one I told last time. And that in and of itself is a tremendous amount of pressure. The reason I work so hard, push myself so hard, is because before I can be anything I need to not only be a good writer, but a damn good writer, first and foremost. I think I’ve achieved that and I know that sounds arrogant but I don’t care. A person has to be confident in their abilities to do something. It’s that confidence that allows a person to see their own weakness, know their own limitation and commit to the hard work it takes to overcome it and knowing no matter what there is always room for improvement.

Fortunately, due to growing up as a military brat, serving my country, and traveling outside of my country my personal world is pretty diverse. I don’t feel the need to create characters of different races and cultures to represent the real world because that is the world that I personally live in so writing multifaceted worlds is something that comes naturally to me.

I think the challenge for me would be to create a world with just one race, because I don’t know a world like that. Writing a story with both a diverse populous and a diverse setting is what allows my stories the ability to thrive in dark and brutal spaces within my imagination. I have though wondered if things would be better if we all had the same or similar outward appearances, or if we would just find something else to kill each other over. I explored that concept a little bit in They Always Come Back and I think it’s because  of the current racial tensions that’s happening in the US right now but it was a fleeting thought as I don’t go that much into in that particular story.

I know it doesn’t seem like there’s are a lot of black women writing horror but I can assure you we’re out here. Which is why it’s important to first be a good writer, get your books out there, and grow your fan base. Once that happens, being a Black female horror author is something that people will have no choice but to notice.

Now granted this is not even nearly all of us but speaking of Black women who write really good horror I like to share the names of some of my colleagues who’ve scared the shit out of me: Nicole Kurtz, Eden Royce, Lynn Emery, Linda Addison, Kai Leakes, Sumiko Saulson, Kenya Moss-Dyme, PM Barnes, and Rasheedah Prioleau Cerece. Rennie Murphy and Mya Lairis aren’t necessarily horror writers but their work is dark around the edges so I think they still count.

Q. I noticed you do a lot of book signings and attend numerous conventions. Is this to connect with your fans or introduce yourself to new readers?

A. Both! I live for signing/speaking/conventions I’m basically a home body and when I do hang out its jeans and tee, low key attire. But when I am at an event I dress to the nines, feel like a rock star, and take pictures with everybody!

When you write and write well, it doesn’t take long for people to find out that you’ve written books. So there’s no need to post stuff about your books all over your social media sites several times a day every day. That gets old and it gets old fast. Like junk mail people stop seeing it. This is another rookie mistake that we all make but after your 2nd book you shouldn’t be doing this anymore.

The one the I love above all when in the presence of established fans and potential new ones is that I am allowed to act like an obnoxious carnival barker or unrelenting used car salesmen in terms of talking about my books. It’s almost expected and the thing about face to face generated excitement is that it’s contagious! It doesn’t always end with a book sale, and it shouldn’t, it does however end with a meaningful, personal connections and drop dead gorgeous selfies to post on Instagram!   
Q. What do you think you have to offer horror fans in general? Why should someone read one of your books?

A. Right off the bat, I offer terrifying concepts that will keep you up at night, I create hellish landscapes detailed with vivid, terrifying imagery and a write wildly diverse cast of flawed, multifaceted characters that you will both hate and fall in love with because the boundaries of hero and villain are so blurred that they are almost nonexistent. 

That’s my goal with every single story I write.

Going off the majority of the feedback I hear I think even though what I write is somewhat familiar in terms of recognizable themes in horror, science fiction, and fantasy it really isn’t like anything that someone may have read before. I get that a lot, and I like it but the best way to show what I have to offer is of course by letting people sample the product.

I am going to give you the link to my free audiobook version of my anthology …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! That’s live on a site called Even though it doesn’t have all the stories and extras that are featured in the paperback or the deluxe audio versions that are available for sale on Amazon it’s still a full sized sample pack. 

Not only is that site a good place to sample not just my work, but thousands and thousands of other author’s, this site also lets people address me directly in their comments/reviews/feedbacks which is something I really, really like. This is the latest review that was posted to the site on July 4th of this year: 

“I’ve been a fan of the horror genre my entire life and have devoured the works of Poe, Lovecraft, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz among others. I stumbled on this website recently and thoroughly enjoyed The Lazarus Antidote and am working my way through your other excellent stories. With you I feel the future of horror is in fantastically capable hands. Thanks for the great work Crystal!”

And, you can even leave the author’s tips if you want to! So here is the link to the anthology. If you do listen if you could find the time to leave a review that would rock. =D

Q. Seems like you are always dealing with personal attacks every time you publish a new book. Do you think you will ever write an auto-biography about your behind-the-scenes experiences as an author?

A. lol, no with my luck I’ll end up being sued.

Q. What can we expect next from the twisted mind of Crystal Connor?

A. I am working on another full length novel called The Family and also another fairytale themed anthology called There Was An Old Lady. I’m also gearing up for my 2017 tour circuit and it’s the most ambitious to date so hopefully I will be able to meet some of you if I happen to be in your city. Keep an eye out on my fan page for updates.

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not 'those' kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags. She is also the founder of CrystalCon, a symposium that brings both Science Fiction & Fantasy writers and STEM professions together to mix and mingle with fans, educators, and inventors in attempts to answer a new take on an age-old question … which came first, the science or the fiction?   When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen. Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! audiobook from and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!”  http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

Thank you so very much for having me, this was really fun. 

Thank you, Crystal, for stopping by!

If you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Halloween, be sure to check out Crystal Connor's dark horror stories.

As always,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday Tryst: Hooking Up With A Viking

Image result for avelynn marissa campbell
Forced into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status, Avelynn's perception of independence is shattered. With marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik The Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.

In a year of uncertainty that sees Avelynn discover hidden powers, stumble into a passionate love affair with Alrik, and lead men into battle, Avelynn must walk a fine line as her deceptions mount and Demas' tactics to possess her become more desperate and increasingly brutal.

Avelynn by Marissa Campbell is the first book in a new series. I didn’t know this until after I finished this book. Avelynn functions well-enough as a stand-alone, but with an open-ending that might leave some wanting more. I am not one of those. At the time I chose this book for review, it was marketed as historical romance, but I think it would be better if it is simply labeled romance or even fantasy-romance. (I’m having a difficult time accepting that this author belongs to the Historical Novel Society.)

If you’re expecting something historically accurate, don’t. If you’re expecting something along the lines of a Harlequin novel, this might be for you.

The story in general did hold my interest from beginning to end, and I enjoyed it enough to give it four out of five stars, but I think Campbell should have put more effort into this story. The timeline left something to be desired by jumping ahead by months at a time, time that could have been spent developing the characters and their relationships further. The characters were not very believable for that time period and there seemed to be a lot of missed opportunities to work in some serious action, such as the Viking raid.

While the forbidden romance keeps the story going at a decent pace, there are a lot of insignificant details brought up. I wish Buckley had sent more time describing the differences between the cultures of the various characters. I would have loved to read more about Avelynn’s time with Druid priestess Muirgen, but it is barely mentioned, even though her lessons play an important part in Avelynn’s life. I also think Muirgen’s connection to Bertram should have been given more pages.

I think fans of romance novels might enjoy Campbell’s series, but I personally think Avelynn is more a coming of age story.

As always,

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Mystery: The Deepest Secret

Image result for the deepest secret carla buckleyTwelve years ago, Eve Lattimore’s life changed forever. Her two-year-old son Tyler on her lap, her husband’s hand in hers, she waited for the child’s devastating diagnosis: XP, a rare genetic disease, a fatal sensitivity to sunlight.

Tonight, Eve’s life is about to change again, forever. It’s only an instant on a rainy road—just a quick text as she sits behind the wheel—and another mother’s child lies dead in Eve’s headlights. The choice she faces is impossible: confess and be taken from Tyler, or drive away and start to lie like she’s never lied before.

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley lived up to its name, as several secrets are revealed within this novel. Unfortunately, the characters themselves didn't really have any depth to them and the storyline moved at a very slow pace from beginning to end. As if that combination wasn't bad enough, the ending wasn't much of a resolution to the key issue and, with a few loose ends remaining, I failed to be impressed with any of it.

I think if Buckley put as much effort into her characters as she did setting up each scene, the interactions could have been more dramatic. There isn't much suspense to speak of and virtually no action...just one superficial conversation after another. Even when the reader is privy to the thoughts and emotions of the characters, I personally had a difficult time feeling anything for any of them, aside from Tyler's struggle with his disease. If not for Tyler and his role, I'm not sure I could have finished this novel.

I think Buckley attempted to say something about the value of relationships or how far a mother would go for her child, but the message is lost in all the dragged out scenes in which the character interaction is always strained. I couldn't appreciate this novel because it simply didn't make me feel anything, aside from wanting to reach the end, so I wouldn't have to read anymore.

It's not a story I will be recommending to anyone I know.

As always,

Monday, September 12, 2016

When Alchemy Meets Genetics [Review]

Image result for the apothecary's curseIn Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder--only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it's Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan's missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company's scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett is definitely a mix of genres, both classic and modern. The story follows two main characters struggling with immortality: Simon Bell, once a physician, now an author writing about Sherlock Holmes, and Gaelan Erceldoune, former apothecary, currently a bookstore owner. In the past, Bell attempted suicide multiple times, while Erceldoune was captured and tortured by a mad scientist. Eventually the two unite and spend centuries searching for an ancient manuscript that might hold the key to reversing the elixirs which turned them both immortal. Not only does the book contain the secrets of alchemy, but it’s the only remaining link to Erceldoune’s long-lost family.

The storyline moves back and forth in time, delivering the backstory in pieces. At first, the pace is slow and frustrating, but as more mysteries are discovered, readers are drawn further into a spectacular web of conspiracies and drama. The glimpses from the past explain how Bell and Erceldoune come to know one another, while also explaining their shared affliction. The moments in present time reveal the danger of history repeating itself in the form of a corrupt pharmaceutical company hunting down Erceldoune.

I enjoyed the intrigue throughout the story, both in their past lives, as well as their present circumstances. When Erceldoune crosses paths with the geneticist Dr. Shawe, the addition of her character brings just the right twist, leading to an unexpected ending. I was so enthralled by the mix of drama and suspense, I had to read the novel in one sitting.

I think anyone who enjoys mystery-thrillers will enjoy this book.

As always,

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Making A Comeback

It would seem that I've abandoned my review blog, but I didn't...I just had to put the entire review process on hold for a few months.

This year, I've had one family emergency after another: cousin needing liver transplant, cousin with kidney failure, aunt in coma, just to name the events from the past month alone...I think you understand now.

I feel terrible because I have authors that have been waiting several months for me to review their work, but, in addition to family emergencies, I've had my own issues to deal with as well. A long break was needed.

Happy to say, September will be different. I have an interview coming up, the sequel to a great zombie series and plenty of mystery-thrillers to set the mood before Halloween.

Thank you for standing by...

As always,

Saturday, July 2, 2016

All Fired Up [Music Review]

I love the album Breathe by Through Fire (from Omaha, NE), but I almost crapped myself when I heard their rock cover of Lights by Ellie Goulding - totally caught me off guard, but completely awesome!

While not a very long album, there's a lot of variety within each track:

1) REBORN...wouldn't be the first time an intro was used on a rock album, but I don't think it gives much insight into the album tracks.

2) BREAKOUT is one of the faster songs...the drums are fantastic!

3) STRONGER (radio edit) is a great fight song that I think everyone can relate to in some way.

4) WHERE YOU LIE is one of the heavier tracks...really enjoyed the vocal change-ups.

5) BREATHE is a sweet ballad without being too soft.

6) TAKE IT ALL AWAY is one of the darker tracks with a slow, sinister sound.

7) DEAD INSIDE stood out a little more than the other tracks...a bit industrial.

8) LIGHTS -- I almost crapped myself when I heard their rock cover of Lights by Ellie Goulding - totally caught me off guard, but completely awesome!

9) BLOOD ON MY HANDS is another track with a sharp edge...the kind of rock that should be getting more airplay.

10) DAMAGE is an anthem song that'll have you rocking hard.

11) STRONGER (extended version) has that bonus FU flavor.

12) BREATHE (extended version) is as close to a romantic song as you're gonna get.

If you like bands like Pop Evil, Saint Asonia or even We As Human, I'm sure you'll dig Through Fire.

As always,


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Revenge In The Old West [Book Review]

Robert Dean
The Red Seven by Robert Dean was first released in January 2016, but is quite comparable to a classic western, complete with the lone rider on a mission of revenge to hunt down a villainous posse. There is no complicated storyline. A bounty hunter known as The Ghost finds his family murdered by The Red Seven. Although the group of desperados have disbanded, the main character is determined to kill them all.

I’m not sure I can do this book justice, since I'm not a fan of westerns (unless zombies are involved), but I am impressed with Dean’s ability to keep readers hooked with nonstop action. Not only does he provide a brutal justice with each death, but each showdown is unique. The fight scene with Warchief is my favorite. From one page to another, Dean mixes heartache, despair and the battle of wills.

As much as I was entertained, I had a couple of reservations about The Red Seven. I’m not sure if Dean’s intention is to paint The Ghost as a cold man who is all about business, but he remains something of a mystery. Aside from sympathy for the loss of his family, it was difficult for me to muster any feelings for The Ghost. I also wish there had been a little more physical interaction between The Ghost and his love interest. Maybe Dean was trying to avoid using sexual content as a plot device, but even when The Ghost makes a personal connection with some of the other characters, he seems to remain distant

To be honest, the story reminded me a little of The Outlaw Josey Wales, and I think anyone who enjoys those type of movies will love The Red Seven. The author delivers so many fierce confrontations, readers will feel as if they made the cross-country journey themselves. Robert Dean leaves the novel with an opening for what could be a great western series and allowing The Ghost to be further developed into a true legend of the genre.

As always,

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All Dogs Matter

Just Life by Neil Abramson is more than just a drama-suspense story centered on animal shelter. This novel is filled with conspiracies and political agendas, with the mystery of the virus as the nexus. The main focus is on the POV of veterinarian Samantha Lewis, owner of a no-kill shelter, but the other POVs include Andy, a 19 year old who works at the shelter; Father Gabriel, whose church is next door to the shelter; and Kendall, a local cop.

I love the way the lives of the main characters correlate with the lives of the dogs: the comparisons make the plight of the canines more personable to the readers. Great detail is given to the dogs' appearances, personalities and canine histories. I would have liked the novel to have at least one opposing POV, such as Morgan or even one of the politicians, just fort he contrast.

Having recently lost a dog who was part of my family for 18 years, this was a difficult story to get through. However, you do not have to be a dog owner to appreciate this novel. Anyone who has a respect for all life will find this story enthralling. The ending in particular had me on the edge of my nerves.

I'd love to read more of Abramson's work.

As always

Friday, June 10, 2016

Top Ten Movie List For Childhood

The following ten movies had the biggest impact on my imagination as a child in the 1980s. To this day, they remain favorites of mine, and I have made it a point to watch all of them with my child.

I truly believe no childhood can be complete without watching these films, and they are best enjoyed with the family.

Originally my Listmania collection on Amazon, I give you my Favorite Fantasy Family Movies From the 80s:

"This movie is great for families with toddlers because the goblins are silly, obnoxious puppets, instead of the slimy, scary ones in other movies.  David Bowie entertains the adults as the Goblin King, singing songs he wrote just for this movie. I also recommend getting the soundtrack."

"Henson comes together with artist Brian Froud to create an elaborate cast of puppets, while still maintaining a live action film.  This movie does have a some darker moments that had my child concerned for the characters, but nothing that actually scared him.  The depth of the plot combined with the various characters makes this a family classic."

"First, I was never impressed with the sequels. The original Neverending Story is a movie that mixes fairytale elements with action & adventure for all ages. Children, especially, will love the luck dragon, Falcor, who resembles a big white dog. The plot involves a boy reading an old book, only to discover that he was part of the story all along, & our imaginations are more powerful than we think."

"Willow is an excellent choice to ween your kids away from animation & CGI, and get them interested in a live-action film. The score is beautiful orchestral music, as opposed to modern music. The characters look like they just stepped out of a fairytale, & Val Kilmer is just a sample of the talent. The most interesting fact about the story is that it is based on an actual Celtic myth."

"This is a movie based on a book that was written by a father for his daughters, so you are guaranteed an excellent bedtime-story.  The movie begins with a grandfather visiting his sick grandson, and we watch as the story unfolds, and takes a life of its own.  Do not let the title fool you, this movie is perfect for girls and boys!"

LEGEND (Theatrical version, NOT Director's Cut)
"This is one of Tom Cruise's best movies, but you'll never hear him admit it. Tim Curry also stars as the evil Darkness, but you can't recognize him. His goblin servants are the scary-looking kind. My then 3yr old was not frightnened at all, but it's not for those who do scare easily. It's a great story about a wild boy, & some elves trying to save a unicorn. (For some reason, the director's cut removes the famous Tangerine Dream score and adds a lot of unnecessary slow scenes.)"

"This movie might not be able to hold the attention of a younger child, unless he or she is crazy about sword-fighting, horses, and questing. It is live-action with limited special effects, but never a dull moment. While the movie has elements like a castle, and a cyclops, the bad guys happen to be aliens trying to take over the universe. This movie mixes sci-fi & fantasy quite well."

"Not exactly a fantasy movie, but a great kids' adventure. A bunch of kids use an old map to hunt treasure, while evading bad guys.  (I think National Treasure stole their ideas from this movie.) Of course, the villains chasing them are far from scary. The theme song is sung by Cindi Lauper. I also recommend keeping some Baby Ruth candy bars nearby...when you watch the movie, you'll understand."

"A group of kids, obsessed with monsters, form their own club --just in time to fight some real monsters.  This is the perfect movie to introduce Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster (who turns out to be a good guy), and the Werewolf, without scaring your little ones.  My favorite scene from the movie is when the youngest boy writes a letter in crayon to the 'Army guys.'"

"This movie is about a young boy who travels through time and space with some of God's creation assistants who have stolen a map of doorways. The humor is much like Monty Python for kids, but it also teaches a valuable lesson about what is most important in life. I love the twists on famous historical moments."

Any of these movies would be great for family nights or slumber parties. Perfect for all ages!

As always,

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Emo Rap [Music Review]

Some of you might know the Cardiff Brothers from their Minecraft parodies - this is nothing like that, so brace yourselves.

I really liked their tracks on their previous album We Are Cardiff Brothers and that's the one I would recommend. This one just didn't have the same impact...seemed a little softer, more emphasis on relationship BS.

What is most appealing about the Cardiff Brothers is the variety within each of their albums, and All From Home is no exception. Whether it's the sweet flow in Sorry, the heavy beat in Triple Threat or the YOLO vibe in Want Me Back, there's a track for every mood.

I think they could easily get radio play if their lyrics weren't so explicitly explicit, but, hey, that's part of their charm too.

As always,