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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Kathy Martone Shares Her Short Stories & Essay

Hello everyone! I am so honored to be able to share a special post today. I was recently contacted by an incredible author named Kathy Martone, whom I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and reviewing here on my site in recent months. She asked me to share a couple of her original short stories, along with one of her essays, and I thought this would be a fun new idea to share to you guys. Please enjoy these incredible stories and this essay, and if you enjoy them be sure to follow me on my website and follow Kathy as well. Enjoy everyone!

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MOANA DESPEARA

DAY 1

Her name was Moana. Moana Despeara. Outta nowhere she showed up and ruined my life. Just knocked at my door polly please as if she knew me. 

“Gimme a minute,” I said. “Be right there!” Looked in the mirror first; made sure my hair looked okay. 

Opened the door slowly. Peered out into the blindin’ sunlight. “Can I help ya, young lady?” Why I coulda been starin’ at a mirror, dat girl lookin’ so much like my own self, scat bit younger though. ‘Bout my height and weight, shoulder length curly hair – I be danged, with the same type barrette too – only her hair was bright yellow and mine mousy brown. 

Lookin’ like a stray cat, her head down and eyes at half mast, she peeked up at me through straggly hair and asked, “Kin I come in?” 

“S-s-sure,” I said surprisin’ myself. “Have a seat in the livin’ room.” Shuffled as fast as I could to folla her. Didn’t want her to think I was a pushover or nothin’. Eased my achin’ bones down onto the chair and stared at her with eyes full o’ questions.

“Uh-h-h, um, well, uh, I don’t rightly know how to say this,” she stumbled. “But I’m in need of a place to stay.” She stared right at me with her big green eyes, just like mine.

Met those big eyes straight on, didn’t want her to know how nervous I were. Why would a stranger knock on my door and ask fer a bed? Very odd. “Well okay,” I heard my voice speak out loud. “But you’ll have to pay; I ain’t got no handouts for no down and out youngster lookin’ fer a place to land. And I’ll need some information, if ya please.”

Sittin’ there watchin’ her fill out my list, I felt no jitters a’tall, a bit surprisin’ with me just axin’ this lost and fersaken’ girl into my home. Money’ll come in handy though, I thought to myself. Seemed polite enough; fingernails were clean; clothes a bit wrinkled but otherwise tidy; hair could’ve used some work.

“Thank you ma’am,” she said as she cleared her throat. “Can’t tell ya how much I ‘preciate this. Life’s been a bit of a struggle fer me, ya know? Havin’ a room of my own should make all the diff’rence.” Raisin’ herself up offa my chair, she yawned and stretched her back. “May I?” she asked, her eyes fillin’ with tears. 

“Oh yes, of course. Of course. Lemme show you.” Stood up as quickly as I could and showed her the way into the extra bedroom. “All yours,” I continued as I slipped her check, quiet-like, into my brassiere. “Bathroom’s on your left. Help yourself to the closet and dresser drawers.”

“No need,” she replied. “I don’t come with nothin.”

“Only one other thing. Don’t never touch that chest in the corner, ya hear?”

“Sure ’nuff,” she mumbled.

Not waitin’ round to hear more, I made my way back into the livin’ room and grabbed her application. Heard her door shut behind me. Big sigh of relief. No time to waste on other people’s problems. Or so I thought.

DAY 6

Ever’ night since she arrived, its the same thing what happens over and over like some old movie replayin’ itself on the wheel o’ one of them old fancy movie projectors. Moan groan weep. Moan groan weep. Bedsprings creakin’ like a buncha tree frogs. All to the up and down of my own simmerin’ pot of unrest. Don’t that woman never sleep? 

Right round 5:00AM ever’ mornin’ things go quiet. Real quiet. Like graveyard quiet. Don’t never see her durin’ the day. But then I never see her a’tall. Gotta wonder where she goes, what she’s doin’, who she’s talkin’ to. Always locks her door, though. Not that I’d snoop; I’m ever mindful o’ my rights n’ wrongs. 

DAY 15

Middle o’ the frickin’ night. Sittin’ here starin’ at that dang door. Can’t get no rest no more. That suzy cutesy what paid for my bed ain’t got no worries ’bout who she bothers. Got so many black circles ‘neath my eyes, why you’d think I was some kinda monster from one o’ them ghost tales my dear old marm used to read to me. The kind that scared my little ticker so bad, couldna’ sleep back then neither. 

DAY16

Tossin’ and turnin’ in my bed, sleep still playin’ hard to get. Don’t know how many more nights like this I kin handle. Guess there ain’t no way to ‘scape these demons what haunt my private spaces. But where do these downheartenin’ feelin’s come from? Just makes no dang sense! Used to be, I was so chatty happy. Ever’one always said so. Where did all those bubblin’ up with joy experiences go to? This just ain’t like me a’tall. Just cry, cry, cry. All the durn time. Stupid stupid tears wettin’ my pillow night after godawful night.

DAY 18

When did it become so dang hard just to git outta bed? Coffee sounds good; legs movin’, left right left right left right. Kitchen light on, eyes half shut, coffeepot on. Amazin’ how the aroma of gurglin’ caffeine can be so calmin’. One o’ the few body pleasin’ happenin’s done left to me, surely. Mebbe this missy who shares my house done brought down a curse on me. Wonder when was the last time I had some fun? Just seems as so I don’t have none no more. Just always feelin’ low and fraught with worry. 

Ah, what’s this? Moana’s key? Wonder what that sassy frassy’s up to? Come to think on it, she ain’t paid her rent this week. Why surely she wouldna’ checked out without so much as a bye and bye, without collectin’ her deposit. Guess I’ll think on that later; coffee won’t stay hot forever. 

DAY 19

Surely feels good to get some rest fer a change. Ain’t heard one peep from that girl fer two days now. Guess she’s surely gone after all. Should I or shouldn’t I? Why, this house b’longs to me. I have ever’ right to open that door! Makes me a might nervous though – what if she be lyin’ inside deader ‘n dead? Oh, best leave things be! Standin’ here with both my eyeballs glued to her door ain’t doin’ me no good no way. 

DAY 20

Ain’t lately heard nothin’ more from that room. Why’s my hand shakin’ so? Such foolishness ain’t suitable for one such as me. You’d think I stole m’self into this here house or somethin’. Deep breath. Ever so slow – why, glory be, the door’s open!

Raise m’sef up on my toe tips and ease inside, quieter’n a mouse. Room’s dark, curtains drawn against the risin’ sun. Flip the light. Eyes wide open in surprise. Why those be my clothes on that there bed! Whip my gaze ‘cross the room. Chest wide open with my belongin’s scattered ever’where! What the blazin’ devil, I begin to curse. 

Grabbin’ the lavender underlies and matchin’ brassiere from the tangled bedclothes, I march into the bathroom and flip that light switch. Lookin’ at my reflection in the mirror, all the color drains from that face peerin’ back at me. That face! It’s Moana Despeara. Moana Despeara who’s been inhabitin’ my house, my clothes, my soul.

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THE AWAKENING

The dream began like all dreams – shrouded in magic and mystery.

My black haired sister and I walk hand in hand as we head for the dark woods. The deep silence of the forest quickly descends and we are swallowed by the vast network of trees. Entering a large open glade lit by the pearlescent glow of the full moon, we lie down on a moss covered stone and fall asleep, entering the dreamscape as one. In the dream we stand in a large meadow in the middle of a forest. The full moon casts her alabaster net strewn with stars across the firmament, her luminous halo transforming the scene into a mythical landscape of unparalleled beauty. Soon we are confronted by a massive wild boar with ivory tusks who charges at us and carries off my beloved sister. Overtaken with fear, I awaken from the dream to find that my sister is gone. 

I rouse myself from the dream, confused and disoriented. Who is this dark sister of mine and what happened to her? Her tortured cries as the beast carried her away linger in my head. Glancing at the clock on the table beside my bed, I see that it is only five minutes past midnight, the witching hour. Dare I return to the land of sleep? Can I save this mysterious sibling of the murky moon? And how does one go about such heroic efforts with wild beings who inhabit the shadow realms? 

My heart beats a staccato rhythm against my chest wall as I contemplate this scenario. Fearful of facing the moon beast again, I decide to get out of bed and read for a bit. I pad my way into the pitch black confines of my kitchen looking for a glass of wine to calm my nerves. Not wanting to blast myself back into full consciousness with overhead incandescent light, I grope my way along the granite counters until I find the bottle of red wine where I left it earlier. Somehow just holding onto the dark vessel gives me a small measure of comfort, as I slowly begin to orient myself back into non-dreaming reality. 

I hold the cool glass of ruby liquid close to my heart as I tiptoe out of the kitchen and into my living room, where I search the bookshelves for something to occupy my thoughts. The fact that I stand here bathed in moonlight – that same crown of light that highlighted the inexplicable kidnapping I just witnessed – does not escape me. Blindly I let my fingers play along the spines of the books before choosing a thin volume of unknown title. 

Both hands now fully occupied, I take a seat on my red velvet Victorian couch and sigh deeply. Setting the wine glass and book on the coffee table, I lean back against the plush red and purple pillows and gaze up at the ceiling while trying to whisk away the cobwebs of dream memory in favor of some concrete facts – like I’m here, now, safe, now, in my home, now, no wild-eyed monsters here. 

Some moments later, feeling a little less anxious, I take a long sip of the Italian wine savoring its warm slow journey down the pipe of my esophagus and into my solar plexus. Exhaling fully, I let my eyes wander over to the chosen volume still lying on the table. I lean forward to position the glass of wine next to the book as my consciousness wavers between realism and mysticism. Placing my right hand on the green cover, I close my eyes and bring the text onto my lap. The trepidation of facing yet some new additional horror makes me nervous about opening the novel. But I am fully awake, I remind myself, fully awake and safe at home. 

Determined to conquer the demons who occupy my mind, I grasp the hardbound copy with both hands and open my eyes to read the title. Werewolves of London screams silently back at me, my eyes wide with fear and shock. Quickly I drop the bewitched volume back onto the table and gulp down the remaining wine as I careen violently between nightmare and sleep, magical beings and concrete facts, bewitchery and reality.

Leaving the book and the now empty glass of wine on the antique wooden table, I race back into the bedroom and dive under the bedclothes seeking safety and comfort. How much time passes, I do not know. But I eventually find myself dreaming once again.

I am asleep on the moss covered stone in the moonlit garden. The sound of some savage creature barreling through the underbrush awakens me. Holding my breath and casting my eyes about for a place to hide, I spot the white tusked wild pig with beady, red-rimmed black eyes. He stands at least 6 feet tall and his breath fogs the air about him with the smell of rotting flesh. Motionless, he remains standing at the edge of the forest, simply staring at me. 

The entire jungle goes silent as the censorship of death and rebirth takes charge. No more chattering cicadas, no more rustling branches, no more hooting owls. Just the stillness of graveyards and timeless journeys into space. Spinning out of control as my thoughts try to grasp the scene unfolding before me, I am stunned to see my dark haired sister seated upon the back of the beast, smiling at me. She wears a mask of exquisite beauty, black and red sequined feathers glittering in the moonlight as they frame her own ebony eyes. The scene fades as I lose consciousness. 

Later I awaken to find a bag made of animal skin and filled with masks. As I spill the contents onto my green carpeted bed of stone, a group of women gather in a circle, dancing before me, their black and red feathered veils shimmering in the pale light of the moon.

I awaken in my bed, the morning sun peeking around the window frames and brightening up my room. Lying on top of my bedspread sits a black and red feathered mask dotted with sequins and crystals.

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Still Not Dead Yet

Kathy Martone

   Standing in front of the full-length mirror, I stare at the image looking back at me.  Who is she, I often ask myself.  This older woman with graying hair, wrinkles around her eyes, parchment paper-thin skin, old age spots.  And yet, she looks oddly familiar, this unedited version of myself.  I decide I don’t like her and try to banish her from my life.  But she is persistent and returns every time I look in the mirror.  Make-up, youthful clothing, and hair dye both seem to move her to the corners of my eyes where I don’t have to look at her square on.  This has worked for several years but now she has invaded my inner space, talking to me from inside my head.  There is no escape, it seems.  I feel trapped.  Nowhere to go.  Nowhere to hide.  Destiny is in control.  

   As I begrudgingly accept her presence – this uninvited and unwanted caricature of myself – I am pleasantly surprised to discover how much I enjoy her company.  Often witty and humorous, serious and introspective, she lays out the contradictory puzzle pieces of the map of my life, her ongoing narrative providing depth and wisdom to the flat contours of my memory.  She speaks to me of a life lived and another life to come.  She reminds me that there is much more to this human existence than I ever considered, inviting me into a dance of understanding and wisdom, a song of pain and beauty, all intertwined around a central axis of soul fiber – the true source of human nourishment, she explains.

   And so, I sit myself down in front of this reflection and ask her permission to speak.  Silently nodding, her upturned mouth and twinkling eyes signaling her assent, we begin crafting our relationship – a relationship that will survive beyond eternity.  My teacher, my Self.  The unfolding of the chrysalis of enlightenment, nourished in the womb of silent introspection.

   We begin our wordless dialogue, this Other and Myself.  Telepathically, I complain about her intrusion into my life.  “I don’t like being invisible,” I begin.  “I want to be seen and recognized, understood and valued.  When I walk into a room, no one pays any attention, whereas when I was young and beautiful, heads always turned whenever I entered a room.  I miss the power of physical attraction,” I finish with a sigh.  

   Almost hidden behind folds of skin that inhabit her orbits, her eyes widen with mirth and undeniable interest as she moves closer to me.  “Why, my dear,” she clucks thoughtfully.  “You’re describing the state of emptiness and humility that accompanies spiritual evolution.  Why would you bemoan such gems of transcendence?  This is what we’re all after in this life journey, is it not?  Our time is better spent exploring the invisible realms not complaining about them!”

   Gulping down feelings of shame and embarrassment at not having understood this obvious truth, I bow my head and try to gather my thoughts.  Memories of my childhood begin to flood my mind/body system – a tsunami of images, thoughts and emotions swirling and crashing along the fault lines of old scars and threatening to reopen ancient wounds.  My eyes begin to well with tears.  “Why is my life still so difficult?” I almost yell at her.  “I thought life was supposed to get easier!  My childhood was hell but this is not much better.  My body talks to me constantly – which is really annoying – and  demands so much of my attention.  As you know, I have always been anxious but now there is so much more to worry about – like having enough health insurance to pay for all the necessary maintenance for this bag of bones.  And what will happen to me if I should fall and break a piece of this fragile skeleton?  I feel so fucking vulnerable and everything is harder than it used to be.  Wasn’t I supposed to be feeling stronger as I age?  No one prepared me for this and I’m not happy about it, let me tell you!”

   The old woman in the mirror stares at me, unblinking.  Soon a tear slowly cascades down the hills and valleys of her wrinkled and sagging face.  Now I’m really ashamed of myself.  I didn’t mean to upset her.  But I keep quiet, holding my breath and hoping for more pearls of wisdom.  Standing shakily on spindly legs and grasping her walking cane with her gnarled fist, she turns and inches away from the glass, disappearing from my view.  Where could she have gone, I wonder.  Soon, the sound of distant music makes its way to my ears – the soft strains of a flute and a violin floating gently in the air and wrapping itself around me like a cocoon of remembrance.  But remembrance of what?  Surrendering to the magic of the calming melody, I close my eyes only to jerk them open again as I shield my eyes from the bright white light that floods me.  Out of the luminous glow comes a voice – the now familiar inflection of my elder self.  “Do you remember now, my Sweet One?” her words ring in my ear.  “Do you remember who you really are?  For, without the crucible of pain and suffering, without the burning away of all things mortal, you would never recall that, at your core, you are a Being of Light.  Everything else is irrelevant.  This envelope of skin and bones is simply a distraction and inhibits us from the knowledge of our true essence.  Yes, life is painful for everyone.  And I grieve with you the intensity of such suffering but remember, there is always a reason.  You’re being called to remember that you are more than flesh and bone, you are much more than you ever thought you were.  And bless the fires that have purified you!”  As the music fades away, so does the light.  The reflection of my wise elder stares back at me, a beatific smile radiating from her holy face.

   “But why does it have to be so hard?” I blurt out without thinking.  Slapping my hands over my mouth, I hope she has not heard my careless utterance.  

   “It really doesn’t have to be,” she whispers, her words like thin sheets of parchment paper blowing in the wind.  “Remembering is often the key to release.  Remembering the trajectory of your past with its joys and its pain, its suffering and its delights, will help you to navigate more easily the path of your present and that of your future.  But you must season your remembrance with the sweetness of compassion and self-love.  Sprinkle liberally with that awareness that only comes from years of experience.” 

   Covering my face with my hands, I pull my focus inward, searching and seeking, always looking for the elusive answers to the meaning of my life.  Peeking through my splayed fingers, I’m amused to see the Crone, hands covering her own face, eyes forward, staring back at me.  I chuckle; she echoes.  Pulling her hands down from her face, she looks at me questioningly.  “I just…..I just really hate it….I don’t understand why I’m still struggling with the same issues that plagued me when I was younger.  Wasn’t I supposed to evolve?  I mean, I’ve spent most of my life seeking consciousness and self-understanding.  I immersed myself in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and made a 6 week pilgrimage to Tibet.  I’m still in therapy and meditate regularly.  But I seem to be standing in the exact same spot with the exact same challenges.  What gives?”

   “Spiritual and psychological transformation take time, often many life times,” she replies.  “It’s a process, not a product.  From where I stand, it seems to me that the only thing missing from your profound journey is empathy for yourself.  Humans never thrive unless they are seen for who they truly are – Light Beings repeatedly caught in the struggle to emerge from the restrictive human experience.  You would do well to enlarge your perspective and excise the judgment.  And now, I’m getting tired.  Shall we take just one more question before I retire?”

   Breathing deeply to collect my thoughts and prepare the query I have purposely left for last, I gaze lovingly into the eyes of my new spiritual friend.  “So, what about death?” I ask.  

   “What about it?” she shoots back with a thin smile creasing her thin lips.

   “Well, uh, I was just thinking,” I begin haltingly.  “My mortality is always lurking around the edges, reminding me that my time is short.  And – I have so many things I still want to do with my life.  I’m curious about death and yet, also afraid of being in pain, afraid of being afraid.  I‘m just not ready….”  My voice trails off.

   “So, with all those past life memories you’ve excavated – soul journeys, if you will – you don’t trust that death is a welcome doorway into another dimension, another life experience?  A chance to further the work you have only just begun in this life?  Death is not an ending, just another beginning – and one that you’ve experienced before.  You survived death in the past and you’ll survive it yet again.  Remember.  Its always about perspective – seeing the future from the perspective of your own ancient and eternal past.  Does that help?” she asks as her form begins to dissolve, like particles of sugar in a glass of water.  Left behind is the reflection of a woman just a bit younger, still with wrinkles and graying hair but a more acceptable and not so decrepit version of myself.  I breathe a sigh of relief – not that old yet.  And definitely not dead – yet.

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About the Author

Dr. Kathy Martone is currently an author and artist living in a small Victorian town in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.  She and her husband also manage two small BnB’s in their charming turn of the century village.

Before retiring in 2015, Dr. Martone was a Jungian psychologist in private practice specializing in dream work, women’s spirituality and shamanic journeys.  Prior to this, she was the director of a small mental health clinic and then she served as company psychologist for Southwestern Bell Telephone.  She taught classes at Colorado Free University, The Jungian Ministries International, Naropa University, and Iliff School of Theology.  For the past 35 years she has studied with Richmond K. Greene, past chair of the New York Jungian Institute.

The magical world of dreams has fascinated and intrigued Kathy for as long as she can remember. Inspired by a dream in 2005, she began making velvet tapestries imprinted with the image of one of her own dream figures and embellished with ribbons, rhinestones, feathers, glass beads, Swarovski crystals, antique jewelry and semi-precious stones.  As a Jungian psychologist and shamanic practitioner, energy and depth of meaning are very important to her.  So frequently she will accent the tapestries with symbolic objects, such as old pieces of jewelry, the lining from a purse that belonged to her grandmother, or a piece of ribbon she wore as a little girl.  Layering these materials into a meaningful image evokes for her the multi-layered realms of dreams, myth and metaphor.  Like the magical nets of ancient shamans, these colorful tapestries ensnare the features of her dream spirits as they stare back at her from their watery dimensions.  Her work has been displayed in galleries in Denver, Colorado  as well as in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

In 2006 Dr. Martone self published her first book titled, Sacred Wounds: A Love Story.  The book chronicles the author’s relentless quest for self understanding and provides a blueprint for other seekers who are looking for spiritual enlightenment while grappling with painful life experiences.  Written in easy to understand language, the book explains how various spiritual and psychological practices were brought together in an alchemical blend to produce a potion of timeless healing.  Weaving its way through such healing practices as psychotherapy, shamanism, Buddhism, Jungian thought and dream work, the reader is given a clear map for psychological and spiritual change.

http://www.dreamagik.com/

https://a.co/2JRuJI2

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/victorian-songlight-kathy-martone-phd/1134222514;jsessionid=55ACE2AF79811832054FE012FFDB1A27.prodny_store01-atgap14?ean=9781947381162

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51054900-victorian-songlight

Disorder by Israfel Sivad Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A truly unique memoir tells the story of a young writer who struggled with addiction and mental health, and found a way to overcome it all through love in author Israfel Sivad’s “Disorder”.

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The Synopsis

Disorder is the story of Michael Adams, the man behind the pen name, Israfel Sivad. At 37-years-old, Michael wasn’t sure any longer if he was hipstered out or truly beat. He was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. He’d been in psych wards, and he’d spent almost a decade writing his second novel. But then, he found himself inspired in a whole new way. He believed he might be falling in love…

Disorder traces Michael’s experiences from a period of homelessness at the age of 32 through his battles with alcoholism and psychosis back to his birth in Southern California. Simultaneously, it weaves a tale of the relationship Michael is trying to build with his girlfriend, Pam.

In this story, the author develops a groundbreaking, nonlinear style that captures both the disjointed madness of psychosis and the natural rhythms of memory. He reveals the reality behind what many of us believe we would never be able to live through: drug addiction, alcoholism and psychotic breaks… and his ability to overcome those demons to discover love, even when it seemed he was already too damaged to let that emotion take hold.

The Review

The author does a fantastic job of conveying a powerfully painful and harsh period of time in their lives, using a non-linear style storytelling device to convey the author’s life. From memories of childhood having lost a grandfather and best friend to dark times living in and out of psych wards and the streets of Richmond, the author doesn’t hold back on the physical and mental toll his life took when he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the psychosis that he endured as well. 

The imagery really conveys the struggle the author had in his life to the reader, while the story between himself and Pam is the beginning of a path to redemption that anyone who is struggling in life can hang onto and see for themselves that the trials and tribulations in their life aren’t forever. While the writing style can change sometimes throughout the narrative of the author’s life, it adds to the allure and interest of the non-linear storytelling, making this a fascinating read.

The Verdict

Powerful, emotional, and a brilliant read, author Israfel Sivad’s “Disorder” is a truly one of a kind memoir both stylistically and intellectually, giving voice to the struggles of those with mental health struggles and addiction in a way that few have ever really captured before. Grab your copy on September 8th, 2020, and see for yourselves how this amazing author came to be.

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About the Author

Israfel Sivad is the founder of Ursprung Collective, which has been referred to as “fantastic brain food” on ReverbNation. His first novel, “Crossroads Blues”, has been compared to the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Palmetto Review). His second novel, “The Adversary’s Good News”, was a finalist for the 2016 Chanticleer Paranormal Book Award. His stories and poems have appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, The Stray Branch and Badlands Literary Journal. 

https://israfelsivad.com/

Blackacre Rising (Ivy Spires #2) by John C. Adams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Loyalties will be tested and lines will be crossed as the fight for humanity wages on in author John C. Adams’ latest entry in the Ivy Spires dystopian series, “Blackacre Rising”. 

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The Synopsis

From Horror Tree reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing tale of scientific experimentation and sadistic cruelty. The sequel to ‘Souls For The Master’, ‘Blackacre Rising’ features a stunning cover by Fiona Jayde Media.

Leaving the chaos erupting in the Metropolis behind, Gerald speeds north to his cousin Brett Flint’s farmhouse, Blackacre. He is certain that their vehicle is being followed, but returning to the capital with Don and Ivy is simply too risky now that Janus Fidens has taken over the Resistance and declared the pair to be outlaws who have betrayed the Revolution. Arriving at Blackacre, Gerald begs Brett and his wife Radclyffe to shelter Ivy and Don under their roof without asking too many questions about why his young companions have had to flee to the sparsely populated uplands and need their presence there kept secret.

Distraught at saying goodbye to Gerald, Ivy admits how much she has come to care for him since they have been battling the authorities together. They snatch a few moments alone together to say a private farewell before Gerald drives back to the capital, hoping to persuade Janus to drop his pursuit of Ivy and Don. En route, Gerald is followed by the same car that tailed them northwards. Lured into stopping to assist at the site of a road traffic accident, the trainee surgeon is captured and transported to a shadowy underground scientific research facility, where he is disturbed to discover that Sinister Tungsten, sister to his arch nemesis Hendra, awaits him.

In the Blackacre library, Don is welcomed by the Seven. This mysterious group includes the Master he fought to defeat down in the Metropolis, five other strange figures with bizarre powers and, of course, the malignant farmhouse itself. Brett, Radclyffe and their twin baby sons reside in the oddest place Don has ever encountered. He reluctantly agrees to become involved in the Seven’s project to assassinate Dr Luther Honigbaum, who funds the facility where Gerald is being held prisoner and runs the asylum in Austria which supplies its young female test subjects.

Learning how to transport herself from one location to another shocks Ivy. Unlike Don, who has wielded great power his whole life, her skills as an assassin are more practical in nature, and she worries that having shifted safely to Austria she’ll be unable to return safely. Finally, she is ready to undertake her mission to kill the evil man behind the gruesome experiments that serve no purpose other than to gratify the rampant cruelty of Honigbaum and his acolytes.

Meanwhile, the Seven show Don another facility, this time in Antarctica, where equally cruel experiments take place upon men. When the Seven tell him he is too young to witness exactly what it taking place, he uses his unique powers to advance his age by three years so that he is now eighteen. He gladly sacrifices a part of his natural life to rescue the men kept prisoner there and tormented by sadistic experiments with no scientific value whatsoever.

Arriving in Austria, Ivy is horrified to discover that her cover is already blown and Honigbaum lies in waiting for her. He has a sinister agenda of his own and will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone who resists both his sadistically cruel medical research and his repulsive sexual advances. When Brett Flint’s cousin Henry turns up at Ubersneller, Honigbaum locks him up in one of his asylums high up in the mountains to ensure his silence. He has particularly dark designs on Ivy, and is determined that her close friendship with Don will enable him to reach out to his estranged son. Drugged and forced to comply, Ivy is young enough to provide the ageing Honigbaum with everything he wishes. Gerald’s imprisonment ends when Sinistra’s elder sister Hendra returns and the authorities brutally re-establish law and order, but he is no safer with her than with her sibling.

The Review

A truly gripping, intense, and engaging dystopian sci-fi read. The author does a brilliant job of creating a large mythos in this dystopian world rich with a multitude of main and side characters that readers will be able to both loathe and root for. 

Although I had not read the first book in the series, the author writes in a way that allows readers both new and established to be able to delve into this new narrative, as the central characters find themselves split up and fighting brutal battles all on their own. Each finds their path fraught with horrifying trials and monstrous adversaries, all while their own abilities grow and develop over time. 

The story really benefits from a strong character arc for the central protagonists and antagonists. This lengthy read delves into the hardships and struggles each character undertakes in this world divided by class and exposed to horrors unlike anything seen before. In the midst of powers and action, the author really brings about complex characters that readers can identify and support throughout this narrative.

The Verdict

A must-read dystopian sci-fi thriller, author John C. Adams’ “Blackacre Rising” is a fantastic sequel in the Ivy Spires series. Emotionally driven character arcs and action-packed scenes all come together under strong mythology and ends on a cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting more. Be sure to preorder your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m a non-binary author and critic of fantasy and horror.

I review for Schlock! Webzine, the British Fantasy Society and Horror Tree, as well as placing reviews and articles across a wide range of blogs and magazines.

I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University. I’ve been a Contributing Editor for Albedo One Magazine and the Aeon Award since 2016. Before that, I was a Submissions Reader with them.

My debut horror novel, ‘Souls for the Master’, is 99c on Smashwords retailers and 99p on Kindle. Likewise, my debut fantasy novel, ‘Aspatria’, is 99c on Smashwords retailers and 99p on Kindle. The sequel to ‘Aspatria’, ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, is out now on Kindle and Smashwords retailers.

Although I write mostly long fiction, since 2015 I have had stories published in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, Fantasia Divinity and Jersey Pines Ink. My short stories have also been published in the Horror Zine, Swords & Sorcery, Sirens Call, Blood Moon Rising, Lovecraftiana and various other magazines.

Every emerging writer needs plenty of encouragement right at the start, and entering lots of competitions early on made a real difference to my confidence to press on with writing longer fiction and think about submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies in due course. In 2012, I was longlisted for the International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest for ‘The Visitors’ and again in 2013 for ‘We Can Finish Your Baby’s Brain For You’. My writing was also recognised by the Enrico Charles Literary Award (runner up in 2012) and by the University of Winchester Writers’ Conference in both 2012 and 2013, including a Commendation in the First Three Pages of a Novel category, and other nominations in poetry and short fiction.

I read PPE at Somerville College, and I am a non-practising solicitor. I live in rural Northumberland, UK, and I combine my career as an author and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I’m always busy!

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Twitter: johncadamssf

Unchecked Capitalism is Killing Us!: How unfettered corporate greed and corruption have made us poorer, fatter, sicker, less tolerant of others and more dangerously exposed to the coronavirus by Earl B. Rynerson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Earl B. Rynerson takes readers on a journey to discover how capitalism and greed have utilized eight different industries to impact our health and way of life in the book “Unchecked Capitalism is Killing Us!: How unfettered corporate greed and corruption have made us poorer, fatter, sicker, less tolerant of others and more dangerously exposed to the coronavirus”. 

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The Synopsis

This book shows in detail how eight specific industries (banks, health care, processed foods/sugar, autos, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, military contractors and the media) have harmed us over the years, driven by their greed and quest for profits. For example, did you know that:-Drug companies and their lobbyists actually wrote government legislation in 2002 that gave them the unlimited ability to raise future prices on medications? -A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 essentially destroyed our democracy by allowing the wealthy and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on bribing and funding politicians.-There are over 100,000 different lobbyists in Washington today, each one trying to control our elected representatives with cash and bribes!-Our US defense budget today is larger than the next nine largest countries’ defense budgets, combined!-Our healthcare is a mess. All hospitals are profit driven. A trip to a hospital today can bankrupt even those of us who are insured.-Until Tesla came along, auto companies were content to produce essentially the same type of polluting car with the same gasoline mileage as the Model T. -There are eight specific US institutions that could normally help protect us during a pandemic. But unchecked capitalism (coupled with corporate greed) has infected all eight institutions, enabling the virus to infect more people here than anywhere else in the world.The problem is much worse than you realize…

The Review

This was a well-written, detailed, and focused book. The author does a great job of outlining a long list of industries and history that showcases how greed and corporations have wormed their way into American politics and have led to some of the most damaging effects on the American people. 

What really stood out to me as a reader is that the author utilizes a long career of experience without approaching the subject from either a Democrat or Republican Party viewpoint, instead of taking a non-partisan approach to this subject to find the root of the issue no matter what. 

While I myself am not well-versed in economics and the gritty world of politics as a whole, it was refreshing to see the author’s study of so many different industries that have an impact on the average American’s health, finances and so much more. Living in the world we do have right now, the growing pandemic has left many wondering why our nation is failing so badly in stopping this virus in its tracks, and this book highlights the decades of corporate greed that are now preventing the right measures to come forward and help stop this from getting worse than it already is. 

The Verdict

A must-read non-fiction related book that delves into both American politics and finances while also detailing the various industries and the issues that plague them, allowing readers to easily understand how unchecked capitalism is affecting us all. The author’s years of experience and the references utilized her showcase a well-researched book that drives the author’s excellent points home. If you haven’t yet grab your copy of this spectacular and fascinating read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Why I wrote this book-

I started this examination of unchecked capitalism back in 2018 after I began hearing of all the corruption, lying and cheating that Wells Fargo Bank had been engaged in with their clients. What I found was that not only Wells Fargo, but all of the largest banks had for years been engaged in many of the same offenses, including even money laundering!

Curious, I started looking at other industries. Of course, the pharmaceutical Industry and the Healthcare Industry are huge examples of how unchecked capitalism has directly harmed us and our families, with health insurance that is too costly and drugs that are ten times or more the price that other nations pay. Hospitals, insurance companies and “Big Pharma” pocket billions of dollars in profits annually from us. They pay their executives huge salaries that are tens of millions of dollars annually, with stock options and bonuses that make their income even higher. We, on the other hand, have to decide whether to pay for rent, our medications or even if we can afford to go to the hospital.

But it’s not just those industries. Processed Foods/Sugar, Oil and Gas, the Auto Industry, the Defense Industry, even the Media, are all examples of how major industries (and those huge corporations within those industries), regularly cheat and lie to us, bribe those who are supposed to represent us, and regularly make our lives miserable, all the while pocketing hundreds of billions of dollars in profits every year that they often move offshore, paying little to no taxes.

Over a two-year period, I researched and maintained files of hundreds of examples of corporate corruption. I found that what you will often hear or read (in snippets about certain companies lying, cheating or engaged in other illegal activity) is actually a flood of corruption that has been going on for more than 20 years, activity that huge corporations (with their billions in profits and thousands of dedicated paid lobbyists) engage in to lobby Congress and to bribe our elected representatives. It is such a powerful force today that our own government is unable to stop or even regulate what is going on.

When you hear “We need to lower our taxes and reduce regulation“, it is simply a manipulative statement made up by the corporate elite decades ago to get the average American voter into a mindset that ends up weakening our government and increases our national debt. The taxes they are referring to are corporate taxes. These behemoths could care less about the taxes that you or I pay; they only care about taxes that they have to pay. Their tax rates by the way, are a fraction of the rates that you or I pay today. They are a fraction of the rates businesses once paid in the 1950s and 1960s, taxes which enabled our nation then to build roads, schools and airports and provide meals and services to the less fortunate. In many cases today some of the biggest corporations pay no tax at all!

The regulations they refer to are regulations that were put in place (usually by a bipartisan and thoughtful effort within Congress), to insure that businesses play fair with each other, and don’t provide products that kill us. Those are the regulations they want abolished and are the regulations they are constantly trying to get reduced or modified. Doing so will make them even more profitable which will enable them to spend even more money on corporate lobbyists.

For the record, I believe in capitalism over any other form of government, but we have allowed capitalism to get out of hand in America. When lobbyists for special interest groups and corporations start writing legislation and telling our elected representatives to “Pass it or else”; when the corporate heads spend tens of millions of dollars in bribes to get their chosen sycophant selected to run a major Federal Department (when they know nothing about that department), well, that’s capitalism run amok. Our government needs to be free of this incessant lobbying and the uncontrolled flood of corporate money flowing into Washington. We MUST take back control of our Democracy!

Who am I? I am an American-

I am a former Democrat, then Republican and now Independent. But today, I avoid affiliating myself with any political party. They all feel dirty. Political parties today do very little for the American People; they have succumbed to the will and the greed of of special interests, and corporations with their billions of dollars in profits and thousands of lobbyists. Politicians from both main parties have run our nation into the ground over the last 30 years, with our national debt now approaching (or even exceeding!) 30 TRILLION DOLLARS!

That’s why I call myself an American, not a Republican or Democrat. I choose to think of today’s issues as to how they affect the poorest among us. If we can help the poorest, then the rest of us will benefit as well. If we can start to think of what we can do to help others among us, instead of continually bashing those from the other political party, well, then maybe we can overcome some of our pettiness and focus on the real problems today, problems caused by unchecked capitalism and how those forces control how we live our lives today. It doesn’t matter which political party you think you are a member of; you are being harmed every day by the forces of greed and corruption coming from unchecked capitalism.

My background-

I am a retired Air Force Lt. Col. (I served in the military for 20 years), a small business owner for 17 years, Professorial Lecturer in MBA studies for Business Management and Marketing in San Francisco, and have been active in writing about problems that affect those around me. Back in 1999, I wrote and placed on the ballot in San Francisco a measure to stop handing out cash to the City’s addicts and alcoholics. While it didn’t pass then, it was dusted off a few years later by then City Supervisor Gavin Newsom who was able to get his measure passed. It helped him become Mayor of San Francisco, then Governor of California.

For years (2006 to 2015), I wrote a local blog about the wasteful spending in the City of Fort Lauderdale; millions of dollars spent every year on non-essential items rather than on improving the City’s aging infrastructure. Now, with budget cutbacks, the City now has to pay for repairs of numerous sewer and water breaks that are plaguing residents today.

My efforts to expose the dangers of unchecked capitalism in this book are similar to my efforts to expose the problems of handing out city cash to addicts and alcoholics, or the problems of wasting money on nonessential city services while letting the infrastructure rot. It’s the same effort, except my writings now are about a national problem, not a city problem.

The problem is worse than you think and getting worse every year. You will see how bad the national problem has become by reading my book. You will also see what steps you can take to start to better control the problem.

What do I want to do next?

My next book? I think I would like to write about the “Forgotten Generation”; those men and women aged 40 to 70 who lost their well-paying blue collar manufacturing jobs in small and medium sized towns in New England, the South and the Midwest 20 years ago due to Clinton’s “Free Trade Agreement” with China.

Once our government signed that horrible agreement with China, corporations fell all over themselves to close up their manufacturing facilities here, abandoning their workers. They instead moved offshore to find cheaper labor in China. Those Americans who previously were able to support themselves and their families with honest and reliable work suddenly had no job; they usually were left economically stranded, often bankrupt, depressed and often times addicted to pain killers and other drugs to mask their depression. That heartbreaking scenario has happened to millions of American families over the last 20 years.

Those folks remember what “Achieving the American Dream” had meant to their parents and grandparents, and are bitter and angry now. They have every right to be angry. Our country has abandoned them. They are having to work two or more low paying service jobs just to keep food on the table; trying to stay out of the hospital for fear of becoming bankrupt; trying to ration their medications due to the cost; often not having healthy food available to eat and watching themselves become obese. And all the while they see their country slowly rot and go into deeper debt while their elected leaders scream at and blame each other on national television..

This is what our nation has become. It is frankly, embarrassing and shameful.

So if you know of someone who has a story to tell about their troubles and how our country has abandoned them, please let me know!

My email address is: Bonneau@capitalismiskillingus.com.

Earl B. Rynerson

July 4, 2020

Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye (The Shimmering Eye #3) by Christy J. Breedlove Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A typical investigation on a small Montana ranch leads to a powerful entity that threatens to unleash a paranormal nightmare in author Christy J. Breedlove’s latest entry into the Shimmering Eye series, “Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye”.

Story Origin 

Why is this book special? This is a fictional account of a true story and investigation of the most haunted property in the United States. When I first read the book and watched the documentary of The Hunt for the Skinwalker, I was awestruck, delirious with confusion and so overwhelmed I could think of nothing else. I wanted to pen my own version and theories of what was happening out there by sending in my own Badlands Paranormal Society to solve the riddle and cleanse the property. To this day, theories abound: demons, Skinwalkers, portals, aliens, doppelgangers, alternate dimensions, ghosts and multiple paranormal infestations—a grab bag or horror. I got in contact with the author George Knapp, investigative reporter out of Las Vegas and host of Coast-to-Coast AM radio. I explained to him that I wanted to create my own fictional account of a haunted ranch, but that I would not use any of his pertinent details, names, locations or incidents. It would be an “inspirationally motivated” book only. He gave me the thumbs up and wished me well on the project. This book is solely dedicated to him, mostly for scaring the living hell out of me. I strongly suggest you read and watch George’s account of this horrific tale before you even touch my book. 

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The Synopsis: 

Eighteen-year-old Jory Pike, a half-blood Chippewa, is depending upon her Native ancestry to help her investigate one of the strangest hauntings she’s ever encountered. A 500-plus acre ranch in rural Montana is under psychic and physical attack. The ranch’s owner, the elderly Ambrose Tucker, is determined to hold steadfast and courageously to his beloved property. Answering an ad in Jory’s outfit, The Badlands Paranormal Society, Ambrose hopes to rid his property of evil spirits once and for all. 

Jory and her crew of three other teenagers, each of whom bring to the table their own line of skills and expertise, have brought every known piece of hardware and technical equipment to Granite Springs Ranch. Although the assignment seems ordinary at first, and the answer to the haunting seems eminent, everything spirals out of control and leaves the team terrified. The problem is, they have no idea that they’re being outclassed and sabotaged by a malevolent spirit, who seems to know their every move. 

If Jory and the Badlands Paranormal Society don’t solve the problem in quick fashion, they stand to lose the $50,000 extermination fee, but worst of all, they will allow a dangerous and unmerciful entity to unleash a hoard of vicious mythological creatures that will run rampant over the ranch and surrounding properties. Jory has no idea how she and her teammate’s mettle will be tested, bringing them near the edge of insanity, physical endurance and death.     

The Review

What a fantastic entry in the Screamcatcher series! A wonderful blend of mystery, suspense, character growth, and fantasy and sci-fi blended into one narrative, author Chris Stevenson takes readers on a journey through evolving relationships, powerful new threats, and growing mythology that doesn’t relent as the new creatures in this tale arrive. 

As a fan of the paranormal and with a fascination in real-life cryptid/paranormal investigations, this story really spoke to me. The inspiration behind the story is one I am all too familiar with, and it was a great way of bringing this real-world mystery into the narrative and mythology the author has created in this series. 

The revelation of how these creatures are making their way into the world and the creatures themselves will delight fans of this genre of novel, and the protagonist Jory really does a great job of keeping the reader invested in the growing mystery surrounding this land. 

The Verdict

A brilliant, evenly-paced, and thrilling third chapter in the Screamcatcher series, author Chris Stevenson’s “The Shimmering Eye” is a must-read fantasy and science fiction novel of the year. Powerful imagery and great character evolution really make this story shine brightly, and is not to be missed. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Check out my blog GUERRILLA WARFARE FOR WRITERS (SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS):

Christy’s Young Adult Fabuliers:

About me

Gender Male

Industry Science

Occupation Novelist and Science Writer

Location Sylvania, Alabama, United States

Links Wishlist

Introduction Been writing for 32 years, publishing novels, non-fiction books, radio horror plays, short stories, reviews, interviews, poetry and thousands of non-fiction automotive articles. I’m on my third agent, and have had 10 books and twenty-two short stories published, beginning in 1988. Writing Credits and History BOOK CREDITS: Auto Repair Shams and Scams (Forward–Ralph Nader), 1990, Price Stern & Sloan, Los Angeles–226 pages, non-fiction, consumer warning book. Garage Sale Mania, 1988, Betterway Publications, Crozet, Virginia–190 pages, non-fiction book—1988. Word Wars, a SF novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—May, 2007. Once Upon a Goddess, a Fantasy novel, to Rain Publishing, Canada—January, 2008 Planet Janitor—Custodian of the Stars, a SF novel sold to Engage Books, May 2009 Gate Walker, a Paranormal Fantasy, sold Lyrical Press—January, 2009. The Wolfen Strain, a fantasy thriller sold to LBF Books, February 2009

The Girll They Sold to the Moon, Intrigue Books

Blackmailed Bride to Melange Satin Romance. Screamcatcher: Web World by Melange Books.

Interests Hiking, paleontology, Ufos, cryptozoology, bigfoot, astronomy, lake monsters, ancient Egypt, archeology, geology

Favorite Movies Blade Runner, Time Cop, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Logun’s Run, Transformers, The Time Machine, Kickass

Favorite Music REM, Abbaa, When in Rome, Steve Miller Band, SF and fantasy soundtracks.

Favorite Books Icerigger, Virgin Planet, Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Lord of the Flies, Black Marble, Close Encounters, The Island, Black Marble, Dune, Riverworld, The Mote In God’s eye

How many books have I published? 10 to date, with three out on agent subs, and five more in the wings ready to go.

Amazon Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Harold-Stevenson/e/B001K8UUBK

Christy’s Website:  https://christysyoungadultfabuliers.com/

Blog:  http://guerrillawarfareforwriters.blogspot.com/

The Rising Tide: Liminal Sky: The Ariadne Cycle Book 2 by J. Scott Coatsworth Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Years after Earth’s destruction, those who survived travel on the generational ship Forever, but face troubles as a series of events could lead to the total loss of free will and humanity as we know it in author J. Scott Coatsworth’s “The Rising Tide”, the second book in the Liminal Sky: The Ariadne Cycle series. 

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The Synopsis

Earth is dead. Five years later, the remnants of humanity travel through the stars inside Forever: a living, ever-evolving, self-contained generation ship. When Eddy Tremaine and Andy Hammond find a hidden world-within-a-world under the mountains, the discovery triggers a chain of events that could fundamentally alter or extinguish life as they know it, culminate in the takeover of the world mind, and end free will for humankind. Eddy, Andy, and a handful of other unlikely heroes—people of every race and identity, and some who aren’t even human—must find the courage and ingenuity to stand against the rising tide. Otherwise they might be living through the end days of human history. 

The Review

This was a brilliant sequel to author J. Scott Coatsworth’s first novel in this amazing new sci-fi series. As in the first book the author takes the time to split the book into three parts over the course of several years. Getting to see the evolution of this ship carrying the remaining humans was inspired, from those who knew and loved on Earth and their struggle to adapt to their new home to future generations who know only the generation ship, this was a genius storytelling device. 

What really stands out is the variety and depth of the characters the author utilizes in this book. Jumping around into different generations definitely gives readers new characters rotating into the plot, as well as the Immortals who are part of the ship’s hive-mind. The complex nature of these characters and their connection to the ship help drive the mysterious events of this narrative that put humanity in such danger of losing themselves, making this an instant hit read. 

The Verdict

A stunning, lengthy yet passionate read, author J. Scott Coatsworth’s “The Rising Tide” is a phenomenal sequel that deepens the mythology of the series in a wonderful way. The evolution of mankind and the way they connect to the hivemind of the ship is great to see unfold, and the growing cast of characters help keep the reader invested in this extensive and fantastic mythos the author has crafted. This is a story of survival, love, and of evolving and learning to let the past stay in the past. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author 

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Ushered into fantasy and sci-fi at the tender age of nine by his mother, he devoured her library of Asimovs, Clarkes, and McCaffreys. But as he grew up, he wondered where the gay people were in speculative fiction.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would write them himself.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently–he sees relationships between things that others miss, and often gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He transforms traditional sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He also runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband, Mark, sites that bring LGBTIQA communities together to celebrate fiction that reflects queer life and love.

Facebook Profile: www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Website/Blog: www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Dreamspinner Page: www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_1189

QueeRomance Ink Author Page: www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Goodreads Author Page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Hinterland by L.M. Brown Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Trigger Warning: Themes revolving around mental illness are present in this novel. If you or someone you know suffers from illnesses such as schizophrenia and are easily triggered by these storylines, reader discretion is advised.

A husband and father trying to take care of his wife and child finds himself struggling as a childhood friend returns home, bringing complex feelings back to the surface and a dark secret threatens to tear apart his family in author LM. Brown’s “Hinterland”. 

The Synopsis

Nicholas Giovanni’s life revolves around his five-year old daughter Kate. When he isn’t driving his taxi, he is taking care of her and her mother Kathleen, whose last involuntary admission to hospital was before Kate was born. When his childhood best friend, Ina, returns next door, tensions rise in the house. Already unstable, Kathleen suspicions of Ina and Nicholas grow until a day of violence ensues and Kathleen disappears.

Kate’s life is shattered by her mother’s disappearance. No-one will tell her where Kathleen is. Although Ina helps to take care of Kate, Nicholas keeps her at arm’s length. He cannot bring himself to tell the truth about Kathleen’s last day, until Kate runs away, and he realizes his silence has torn everyone apart. To find Kate and to keep Ina in his life, there are truths he must face, if it’s not too late.

The Review

This was a well written, slow-burn style mix of family drama and thriller. The author explores two important themes in this narrative: the lengths a parent would go to in order to protect their child, and the hardships of trying to care for someone suffering from a severe mental illness. 

The protagonist Nicholas is a complex man, with both many faults and a desire to protect his daughter Kate from heartbreaking truths. From the return of his childhood friend Ina to the struggle he has with his wife Kathleen and her struggle with a serious mental illness, the author beautifully focuses on character development to highlight the story within this book. 

The Verdict

An emotionally charged, dramatic, and evenly paced read, author L.M. Brown’s “Hinterland” is a must-read thriller drama. The heartbreaking circumstances that push Nicholas and his family to the edge are truly engaging and keep the reader on the edge of their seat, and definitely felt like the delivery of the narrative was very reminiscent of a classic Hitchcock thriller. If you haven’t yet be sure to preorder your copy today or grab it on October 13th, 2020!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

L.M Brown is the author of novels Debris and Hinterland, and the linked short story collections Treading The Uneven Road and Were We Awake. Her award winning stories have been published in over a dozen magazines. She grew up in Ireland but lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three daughters.

https://www.facebook.com/LornaBrownAuthor

https://www.instagram.com/l.m_brown/

Author Interview with Andrew (A.G.) Rivett

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I think rather, writing got into me. At school I found writing a good way of expressing my imagination, while reading showed me how to do it. My father was always one for good speech. He taught physics, but he told his pupils that all they knew about physics was worthless if they couldn’t express it in English.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

Two huge literary influences on me as I was growing up were JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Of course they have a lot in common, not least that they worked together at Oxford. And also they have this: an imagination to create other worlds – many other worlds in Lewis’ case, and worlds where some sort of passage between is, rarely, possible.

Placing my own new world in a Celtic setting I blame on the last holiday my first wife, Janice, and I had together, on the west coast of Ireland, maybe twenty years ago. The untamed landscape and rugged coast; the self-contained, straightforward nature of the people; the transient weather. I had several chapters written – later to be torn up – long before I moved to the croft on Scoraig.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

If nothing else, I hope people will gain a glimpse that the prevailing materialist world-view is very limited: that there is so much more to life. Organised religion has done us no service in this regard, with a quite undue emphasis on rigid dogma and rules: dogmas that are too often taken too literally, causing many intelligent people to reject spirituality en bloc.

I don’t apologise at all for the spirituality in Seaborne. Not only is it appropriate that such a people would have a highly developed spiritual sense, but also this is so much what I want to express.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Mostly, laziness. A fantasy genre means that you can invent your own world, and needn’t be too tied down by research. The only catch is that if you want your world to be believable, you find you then have to research what a parallel culture in our own world would look like, and make your world something like that. I take my guidance from Jill Paton-Walsh’s Knowledge of Angels, set on an island ‘somewhat like Mallorca, but not Mallorca.’

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So I had to do a fair amount of research into what life was like in the eleventh century on the Western Isles, and I have Cathy Dagg, a former neighbour and archaeologist, to thank for much of that. Among many other points, she picked out that houses on the Western Isles in the eleventh century didn’t have the chimneys that I had alluded to. Of course I could just say, for instance, that in my world they do; but every time you say that before someone who knows otherwise, you lose some credibility and distance yourself further from our world, the one that you want to speak to.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I thought a lot about this question: which character? There are many candidates. Eventually I settled on my hero, John (or Dhion). I think I’d like to ask him, maybe a few years after the book ends, ‘Do you think you made the right choice? Or have you thrown away a life that you could have returned to and lived it with a deeper wisdom, long, comfortable and secure. Have you thrown that away for (as Conchis in John Fowles’ The Magus puts it) ‘the satisfaction of a passing sexual attraction’?

The John whom we first meet, running away from his failures, could not have answered that question, and felt he didn’t have a choice. But as the story progresses he grows in depth: he becomes Dhion. 

I think he would answer that this is no passing sexual attraction. He is not choosing Shinane instead of Helen: in the end he is choosing the self he has come to be with Shinane, and with that a world that seems more real than the one he left behind, in which he had felt driven by the demands of his work to betray everything else, and everyone else, of value in his life. It is a choice between two world views. I think of Archbishop Thomas A’Becket in TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. His first three tempters offer him material advantage in various ways, but he knew, as Dhion knows now, that there is more, so much more, than mere materialism.

Will Dhion regret his choice when he lies dying? I think he might, for more than a moment. But, as Shinane says of herself, who knows what he will think in the future. The point is to live most authentically, now. I think of Robert Jordan in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls as he lies dying, casualty of the Spanish Civil War. And yet, with Maria, for a fleeting few hours, he had known something that Pilar, the wise older woman of the novel, says most people never experience. Who is to say that wasn’t worth it.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

For six months or so, while Seaborne was coming up to launch and after, I kept a Facebook page going, and this was helpful in building up an audience for a book-launch tour. But I’m not someone who engages with social media, or enjoys it, and I’ve totally ignored my Facebook page for a few months now. There always seems to be something I’d much rather be doing, out in the field with my hands – or getting on with my next novel.

However, my wife, Gillian Paschkes-Bell, and I do have it in mind to set up a website to include the books we write or edit, with an added blog content about what we’ve been reading or thinking. Probably next year, when we’ve finished the self-build we’re currently working on. Perhaps then I can re-awaken my Facebook page and link it in with that.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Study English grammar, syntax and punctuation, and cultivate a deep enjoyment of the sound of language. It’s only when you thoroughly understand the rules of good writing that you can begin to break them, appreciating the cost of doing so.

Study people – their appearance, mannerisms, ways of talking, unconscious leaks of feeling in facial or bodily expression.

Play with ideas – the ‘what if?’ sort of ideas. What if the world was flat? If the Russian Revolution had never happened? If the Civil War had been won by the South? If there really are fairies at the bottom of your garden? Or what would it be like to be an unmarried mother in the Puritan colonies back in the seventeenth century? A fisherman in the westernmost parts of the British Isles of the eleventh century?

And read. See how the experts do it. Read anything but trash.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I think I’m clear about what the future doesn’t hold for me: fame, wealth, best-sellers, Booker Prizes. I write because I love writing and I love the worlds I can create with my writing, and I’m grateful that enough people have appreciated what I’ve written, first to publish it and then to purchase the book and read it – and say they found the readingworthwhile and make complimentary comments about it after.

I want to complete the trilogy of which Seaborne is the first book, and I have a first draft completed of Book II; but I alsohave lots of other things I want to do. I’m an inveterate fixer – I can’t stand anything that doesn’t work without taking it to pieces and putting it together again. Between us, Gillian and I have built our house – with a lot of help from people who actually knew what they were doing – and there are still many things both inside and outside the house that need finishing. And a whole eco-system that needs encouraging out there on the field where we have the privilege to live.

Finally, I am myself a project that needs finishing – and probably won’t be finished in this lifetime. I have a lot of flaws, and side-shoots that need to be pruned away, and branches that must be encouraged and brought to fruition. When all’s said and done, that’s the most important project for each of us – and the most exciting.

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About the Author

Andrew (A.G.) Rivett was born in London. He has lived in England, Nigeria, Scotland (where The Seaborne was drafted) and now in Wales.

The inspiration for The Seaborne, his debut novel, came twenty years ago on holiday in Ireland, at which time he wrote some opening chapters, relics of which remain in the published book. The Seaborne, the first book of the planned Island trilogy, was published in November 2019.

Blood and Silver by Vali Benson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young girl must find a way to save her mother from a nefarious Madame in the town of Tombstone in author Vali Benson’s “Blood and Silver”. 

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The Synopsis

What is a twelve year old girl to do when she finds herself in the silver boom town of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1880, and her only home is a brothel and her only parent is a drug-addicted mother? If she is Carissa Beaumont, she outsmarts the evil madam and figures a way out.

After tricking the madam, Miss Lucille, into summoning a doctor for her mother, Lisette, she discovers that Miss Lucille has been drugging her. She and the kind doctor make a plan to try to save Lisette by dosing her down on the drug.

Doctor Henderson tells Carissa that the only source for the drug is a Chinese immigrant named China Mary, who lives in Hoptown, at the other end of Tombstone. Carissa has no choice but to go to the powerful woman for help. Many say that China Mary is the one who really controls Tombstone.

China Mary admires Carissa’s brave spirit, and uses her influence to get her a job at the new Grand Hotel, which will free Carissa from her many duties at Miss Lucille’s. She will work along with Mary’s twelve year old niece, Mai-Lin. The two girls become fast friends.

Then, disaster strikes, and the two girls must work together to stay alive.

With a host of colorful characters and meticulous attention to period detail, Blood and Silver is a story of the best and worst of human nature, the passion for survival and the beauty of true friendship.

The Review

This was a fast-paced, intricate character study and intense YA historical read. The author does a great job of focusing on character development within the narrative, and the historical nature of the novel was very well researched and integrated naturally into the book as well. 

The story takes off immediately from the very first pages, with a murder leading to Carissa’s discovery of her mother’s condition and the lengths Miss Lucille will go to secure her business. The young woman risks it all to save those closest to her, and historical fiction and YA fans will love the intricate way the setting plays into the character’s arc and the narrative overall. 

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The Verdict

A must-read novel, author Vali Benson’s “Blood and Silver” is a truly one-of-a-kind read. The historical fiction YA adventure is filled with a gritty Western theme and does a great job of giving a voice to people who are usually relegated to background characters in the typical Western novel, making this a wonderful read. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Vali grew up in the Midwest. She now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons and grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion of writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine before she decided to try her hand at fiction.

In April of 2020, Vali published her first novel, “Blood and Silver”. That same month, she was also made a member of the Western Writers of America.

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