Thursday, December 29, 2011

General Update and Freebies from Nicholson and Others


I usually like to do an end-of-year top-ten reads list, but since most of my reading this years was for copyediting and proofreading I think I'm going to skip any sort of lists. Don't get me wrong. There were a number of good books that I read, but I just don't feel right putting them on any sort of best-of list. I will, however, try to do some sort of wrap-up and look forward, but it may not be until the new year when I post it.

There is one thing I want to make sure you Kindle owners are aware of. Right now there are a ton of freebies being offered to Kindle owners. In fact, my favorite author is offering a number of free e-books through Amazon. I remember when I first discovered Scott Nicholson. Somehow I happened upon a copy of The Red Church a few years back. I thoroughly enjoyed Nicholson's writing and wanted to read more. The only problem was that I had to hunt down his books online because most of them were out-of-print. I ended up getting all of his print titles after some work. Now fast-forward to the Kindle age, and he's giving away e-copies of his books. Talk about easy. Here's a link to all of the books he's giving away: http://hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com/.

Another freebie is from author Brenda Wallace. Brenda's a great person and talented new author. Her debut novel, Brilliant Prey, is currently free at Amazon for a limited time. Grab it while you can! Click here to go the the Amazon page.

If you own a Kindle, make sure you're checking out book clubs and freebie sites to get the latest information about available free books. It seems as though Santa's bag burst open after Christmas! Some authors that have had freebies or currently have promotions running include J. A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, J. R. Rain, and Aiden James.

If I don't talk to you before the new year, happy new year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Release from Author Andrew E. Kaufman



Yesterday marked the release date for Andrew E. Kaufman's new book, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted. Kaufman's first book, While the Savage Sleeps, was a runaway success. The expectations are high for his newest release. Here's a brief synopsis:


She only stepped outside for a minute...

But a minute was all it took to turn Jean Kingsley's world upside down—a minute she'd regret for the rest of her life. 
 

 


Stepping into her worst nightmare 

Because when she returned, she found an open bedroom window and her three-year-old son, Nathan, gone. The boy would never be seen again. 
 



A nightmare that only got worse.



A tip leads detectives to the killer, a repeat sex offender, and inside his apartment, a gruesome discovery. A slam-dunk trial sends him off to death row, then several years later, to the electric chair. 
 





Case closed. Justice served...or was it?

Now, more than thirty years later, Patrick Bannister unwittingly stumbles across evidence among his dead mother's belongings. It paints his mother as the killer and her brother, a wealthy and powerful senator, as the one pulling the strings.


What really happened to Nathan Kingsley? 

There's a hole in the case a mile wide, and Patrick is determined to close it. But what he doesn't know is that the closer he moves toward the truth, the more he's putting his life on the line, that he’s become the hunted. Someone's hiding a dark secret and will stop at nothing to keep it that way.

The clock is ticking, the walls are closing, and the stakes are getting higher as he races to find a killer—one who's hot on his trail. One who's out for his blood.




Make sure to grab your copy during the holiday season!

Andrew E. Kaufman is a freelance writer and author living in Southern California, along with his six Labrador Retrievers, three horses, and a very bossy Jack Russell Terrier (who, incidentally, thinks she owns the place). His new novel, While the Savage Sleeps, a forensic paranormal mystery, takes place in the fictitious town of Faith, New Mexico.

Monday, December 5, 2011

KING DEATH by Paul Finch



When I found out the setting of the latest chapbook from Spectral Press, I was a bit excited. Okay, I was a lot excited. I absolutely love stories set in medieval times. Throw in the Black Death, and I couldn’t wait to feast my eyes on King Death by Paul Finch.

From the back cover of the book:

In 1348, England is stricken by the Black Death. The worst pandemic in human history has reached the kingdom of the warlike Edward III, a monarch who in battle against human adversaries cannot imagine defeat.

Two thirds of his subjects now perish. Woods become wild again, farmland goes to rack and ruin, villages, towns and castles are left empty, inhabited only by ghosts.

Little wonder that fear of the supernatural reaches an all-time high. Little wonder stories ignite about witches and demons spreading the plague, about ‘King Death’, an awesome harbinger of doom from whom there is no protection.

Cynical opportunist Rodric doesn’t believe any of these. With reckless indifference, he sets out to enrich himself.…

I was totally enthralled by this story. The setting is spot-on, making me feel as though I was standing in plague-stricken England. Rodric’s character is an interesting look at how greed and opportunism take advantage of perilous situations. However, even though it appears the world has changed to his advantage, Rodric is about to find out what it means to come face-to-face with King Death.

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, but this is yet another gem from Spectral Press. It is hard to believe that a start-up publisher can put out so many consecutive thought-provoking stories, but somehow Spectral Press has done so. After reading the amazing works that have been put out in its first year of existence, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Spectral Press, a truly unique and welcomed publisher of well-told stories.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

IF YOU GO INTO THE WOODS by David Gaughran



I came across David Gaughran’s name on Twitter a little while back, and I started reading his blog shortly thereafter. I figured any guy who includes “resolute defender of the Oxford comma” in his Twitter description is okay in my book. When looking for a quick read last week, I noticed that Gaughran had a couple of short e-books available. I decided to give one a try, and I can say that I’m sure glad I did.

If You Go into the Woods is an e-book that contains two short stories, the title story and “The Reset Button.” In “If You Go into the Woods,” an eight-year-old boy has a penchant for mischief. This attraction draws him to the edge of the woods, where he can hear the birds repeating their calls in the dark canopy. As he listens to their calls, he becomes intrigued to the point that he must take action. But he soon learns that things are not as they sound.

In “The Reset Button,” a man is down on his luck and can’t seem to catch a break. He’s going through a difficult divorce and struggles to be the dad that his son needs. The more he tries to make things right, the more things spiral out of control. As he seeks respite from the storm of life in a bar, things only become more complicated for him.

The quality of writing in these two stories is simply amazing. The writing is mature, compelling, and enthralling. Both stories invite the reader in to participate with the characters, to become part of their lives. There’s a subtle tension that runs throughout Gaughran’s writing, pulling the reader along. My favorite of the two is the Philip K. Dickesque “The Reset Button.” Don’t miss this talented storyteller.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TMI?

Endless streams of random thoughts, self-promotions, and RTs bombard us on Twitter. So we stop by and check in at Facebook. If we can figure out how to navigate the newest changes, we’re bombarded by all kinds of information about our friends that we may or may not care about. Throw in a bunch of targeted ads and a moment-by-moment feed of every action our friends make on Facebook and our brain may start hurting. Now it’s time to check our e-mail, and we end up spending an hour communicating with folks we may or may not see on Facebook and Twitter. Then we try to figure out this newfangled Google+ . . .

Is it TMI (too much information)? I don’t know. In my opening paragraph, I only mentioned the major social-media outlets. I didn’t even bring up reading blogs, shopping, and checking the news and weather online. Don’t get me wrong, I make use of all of the things I’ve listed. But I can’t seem to shake the feeling that we’re on the verge of information overload. I mean, if I really spent the time to keep up with everything I’m interested in, there wouldn’t be any time left over for me to do what I need to do.

And to bring this around to something that’s related to writing, how do new authors get their books in front of readers amid all of this chaos? Heck, how do seasoned authors get their book in front of readers? Six months ago, blog tours and book reviewers were possibly the best ways to find an audience for an author. But now, everyone’s doing a blog tour and I see an increasing number of book reviewers saying time-out. And giving books away seems next to impossible. Marking them down to ninety-nine cents doesn’t seem to do much, because everyone else is doing the same thing. How does someone stand out in that near-endless stream of RTs, self-promotions, and status updates?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the market will find equilibrium. But I’m beginning to wonder if we’re reaching the point when the pendulum starts swinging in the opposite direction. What do you think? Are we getting to that swing-back point? Or is it that I just can’t keep up on the information superhighway? I'm interested in your thoughts about this topic, so please, by all means, share them with me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Review Posted at Novella Reviews

Posts have been scarce around here recently, but I thought I'd let you know that I do have a new review posted over at Novella Reviews. I review Paul Salvette's novelette, America Goes On. Stop by and check it out.

Also, since I don't have a lot of new reviews planned for here in the near future, I'll be posting some of the reviews I've done elsewhere during this past year. That way I'll have all my reviews consolidated in one place.

I hope you're doing well and reading something great!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Indie Book Blowout

Alas, we have reached the end of summer and fall is upon us. If you're like a lot of Americans, you may have long weekend to gear up for the fall. What's more relaxing than reading a good book or two? My friend R.E. McDermott told me about the Labor Day Weekend Indie Book Blowout, and I stopped by the site earlier today and saw a number of quality Indie reads for only ninety-nine cents this weekend. If you're like me, money may be a bit tight, and this is a perfect opportunity to get a few entertaining reads with very little strain on your wallet. Take a moment and peruse the different categories; I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy.

Here's the link: http://www.indiebookblowout.com/Indie_Book_Blowout/Indie_Blow_Out_Out_Day_One.html

Have a great holiday weekend and enjoy a good book!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NOWHERE HALL by Cate Gardner

 
Nowhere Hall by Cate Gardner is the latest volume of Spectral Press’s chapbooks, and like previous books, it continues the tradition of high-quality, thought-provoking stories. This was the first of Cate Gardner’s work that I’ve had the privilege to enjoy, and if this chapbook is a good representation of her work, she is an up-and-comer to keep your eye on.

Here’s the description from the back cover of the book:

In the ballroom, wallflower mannequins stretch their fingers towards Ron. He can’t ask them to dance. He’s already waltzing with other ghosts.

Someone stole the world while Ron contemplated death. They packed it in a briefcase and dumped him in the halls of the ruined hotel—The Vestibule.

After reading this story, I felt like I had just returned from a visit to a creepy, otherworldly realm of existence. Intensely haunting and mind-bending at times, Gardner’s tale stuck with me long after the words The End. This small book challenges the reader’s notions of reality and life, and as you turn the pages, you feel like you’re chasing something that’s always just out of your grasp. Nowhere Hall is an emotion-packed ride into another world . . . or is it really a different world?

I’ve reached the point that I now look forward to each new volume of Spectral Press’s chapbooks. While each story in the line is unique, it’s a guarantee that I’ll walk away every time in introspection. It’s like holding a mirror in front of me and taking a deep, long look. Sometimes I like what I see. Other times I don’t. Bottom line, I can’t ask for any more from a book, much less an entire line of books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Interview with Author R.E. McDermott


Thriller writer R.E. McDermott recently published his first book, Deadly Straits. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about himself and his book for Bookhound's Den. Mr. McDermott was also generous enough to offer a FREE e-copy of his new book to everyone who leaves a comment before 5:00 p.m. Friday, August 26, 2011. Make sure to leave an e-mail address to recieve your copy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is R.E. McDermott?

At least partly the sum of my experiences; I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for thirty-six years (probably seems longer to her), and we have two fine sons. I’ve worked multiple jobs and started different businesses, failing miserably at some and succeeding beyond expectations at others. I grew up on the Texas coast and attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York. I’ve been around the sea and ships all my life. I’ve traveled widely, and lived in Brazil for a year in my 20s. We lived in Singapore and China for most of the last decade. I’ve done things I never dreamed possible, including climbing the Great Wall and snorkeling on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I like different cultures, and I try to learn a little of the language where ever I go. I invariably screw it up, but just trying earns you friends. I always wanted to write, but earning a living got in the way. I’ve finally reached a point where I can devote time to writing.

What inspired you to write Deadly Straits?

We lived in Singapore, oblivious to the threat, when the towers came down. 9/11 was a wakeup call, especially to those of us who traveled often. Increased airport security was a constant reminder. Tankers were always a big portion of my marine business, and I began to speculate on what form a tanker-based terrorist plot might take. I did my first blog post on the evolution of the idea and how the plot of Deadly Straits closely parallels current events. If readers want a bit more information, the post is up on my site.

Why did you go Indie, and how would you describe your journey?

Reluctant, at least at first. I was querying agents last year while I haunted the internet to learn about publishing. Form rejections were the bulk of my responses, but some agents wrote detailed and encouraging comments. I got a few requests for partials/fulls. Christmas 2010 brought a flood of new Kindle owners (I was one of them), and I watched Indie publishing take off.

I added the blogs of Konrath, D.W. Smith, Scott Nicholson, and other Indie authors to my daily reading list. These guys were amazing, sharing numbers, successes and failures, and experiences in legacy publishing. It slowly dawned on me that life on the traditional mid-list wasn’t all that great. I mean, here were mid-list authors “telling it like it is,” and recommending the Indie route. The logic was unassailable.

So I put down my Kool-Aid and went Indie. But not in haste. I took Konrath’s “don’t write crap,” advice seriously. I hired an editor. I got the book back with tons of comments, all garbage. I put the book down and picked it up ten days later, and somehow those idiotic comments had turned into gold. They were about 95% accurate. (OK, so maybe they were all accurate.) I got on the phone with the editor in New York, followed by some email exchanges. He did such a thorough job explaining the problems, I felt confident taking it on my own from there. I threw out half the book and rearranged what was left and supplemented that with new material.

Then I moved to Konrath’s second dictum, “Get a great cover.” There are many great artists out there, but I really liked Jeroen ten Berge. I had no clue what I wanted, but Jeroen nailed it right out of the gate. I couldn’t ask for anything more perfect.

While Jeroen worked the cover, some guy named Hock in North Carolina (maybe you’ve heard of him) did an incredible job of copyediting and proofreading. When that was finished, Guido (The Formatting King) Henkel formatted the eBooks. He did his usual exceptional job.

Six months after deciding to go Indie, I had a product worthy of readers.

How do you define success?

The conventional answer is making enough to quit your job, but it’s more really. I’m just starting, yet I feel I’ve already succeeded. I’m producing a quality product I believe in. That’s pretty satisfying.

Just being a part of the Indie movement feels like success. The community is amazing. Show up with a good product, and established authors go out of their way to help. Scott Nicholson provided a great blurb and showcased Deadly Straits on his blog. D.B. “Debbie” Henson did the same, and responds to my every email, answering questions patiently and in detail. Michael Wallace gave great advice on getting Amazon reviews. David Gaughran expanded on the finer points of his excellent book. The list is long; people who don’t know me from Adam, yet give freely of their help and advice.

The whole experience is upbeat and hopeful, permeated by a contagious generosity of spirit. Contrast that to the query-go-round. Writing Deadly Straits took years, but I enjoyed it. Querying was the most joyless four months of my life. Even successes were conditional and transient. But now I’m having fun again. And that, my friend, is success.

What projects that you working on currently?

The launch is keeping me busy, but I’m plotting a sequel (working title Deadly Coast), pitting Dugan against Somali Pirates. I’m also working on something different. A humorous short story. I’m not sure where that will go.

How can readers connect with you? Website, Twitter, etc.?

My email and website/blog addresses follow. I’m setting up a Facebook Author’s Page, and hope to have that live in a week or so. I’m still learning Twitter, so that might be a bit longer. I’ll post contact details for both Facebook and Twitter on my website.

Email: rem@remcdermott.com
Website/blog: http://www.remcdermott.com/

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest Post: Author Brenda Wallace


It's with great pleasure that I welcome author Brenda Wallace to Bookhound's Den. Brenda recently published her first e-book, Brilliant Prey. I've read a little bit of it, and from what I saw, I can't wait to dig into the whole thing. Brenda is a great person and she's a lot of fun to hang out with on Twitter, and it's truly a treat to have her here today.

Hello, Neal, and fellow Bookhound’s Den fans. I am truly honored to be here and appreciate everyone taking their valuable time to come by and say “hi.” I know that Neal, particularly, is under great time constraints because of his editing service. More importantly, Flavel Sue, his alpha chicken, is due to go into labor at any second.

Brilliant Prey is a somewhat dark mystery thriller with a complicated romance thrown into the mix. Bestselling author Scott Nicholson described it as “A twisting, intense psychological thriller.” The book is now available for only 99 cents at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I’m hosting a Kindle Giveaway Contest on my blog to celebrate the launch at http://tinyurl.com/3mrkhhb.

I first started writing Brilliant Prey shortly after my dad died. Of course, my father’s death made me realize that it was time to stop daydreaming about writing novels and actually start writing that first book. I made some early stabs at writing lighthearted romantic comedies. Unfortunately, “comedy” normally means that laughter should be involved in there somewhere. I love to laugh and joke a lot, so I was as surprised as anyone that my stories tend to focus on darker issues. I still hope to write a great comedy some day.

As long as my day job requires me to study literally thousands of psychological and psychiatric reports, I’ll probably continue to pour out all that darkness somewhere. Because I’m an optimist by nature, I do attempt to thread light throughout my books and end on the upbeat. I am way too empathetic, so many of the mental health reports I read, as well as all the physical tragedies involved in all those medical records, break my heart. Plus, I’ve run across these same sad issues enough in life, that I understand the profound impact of these events on a soul, so my books speak out as warnings.

I used to think that people are basically “good.” Brilliant Prey speaks, maybe yells, to anyone who still believes that, to watch out. There are evil people out there with no “good” in them who are searching for and will target naive trusting people and their loved ones. I think Brilliant Prey would also resonate with the many people who agree with me on this point. One nice thing I enjoy about writing is that I can make sure that the villain gets what’s coming to them.

What is that earsplitting racket? Sounds like a terrible painful squawking, and I’m talking about a “ten” kind of pain on a scale of one to ten. Oh. It’s time...for Neal to help birth his breakfast. Thanks again for stopping by. It was great fun chatting with y’all. You can visit me at http://www.brendawallace.com/, http://www.brendabwallace.blogspot.com/ and @brendabwallace on Twitter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thank You, Philip K. Dick

I’m one of those folks that need some personal time. I don’t mean to be rude to others; it’s more like time for me to hit reset and power down for a brief time. So last night I needed a little bit of downtime. After I whined to my wife for a while, she told me to get out. No, not for good. But she can tell when I need to reset, and it was obvious to her last night. Reluctantly I hopped into the car and headed down the road.

I’m very much a creature of habit, so when my journey ended, I found myself where I usually find myself when I go out to reset: the used-book store. Normally I just walk around the store, browsing the shelves for anything that tickles my fancy. But last night I realized I was on a mission; I was looking for a specific author: Dick.

See, last week I watched The Adjustment Bureau despite my reservations of seeing it. I had absolutely no desire to watch that movie, yet my wife wanted to see it. Being the good husband that I am, I agreed to watch it. In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and immediately wanted to read the story on which it was based.

After a couple of minutes, I had the original story, “The Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, downloaded and opened on my Kindle. Over the following few nights, I read the short story and was impressed (the story is very different than the movie, but I enjoyed both). I was a bit surprised that I enjoyed the story so much because I’ve never considered myself a sci-fi person.

When I found myself standing among the aisles of used books last night, I knew there was only one reason why I was there. It only took me a couple of minutes to locate the sci-fi section, and it took even less time to spot Philip K. Dick’s books sitting on the shelf. I selected a couple of his short-story collections, paid for them, and found a place to read. In a matter of minutes, I was lost in the City of Lightness, learning about the Roogs, and watching little toy soldiers attempt to take over the world.

As I settled down for bed last night, I realized that I had experienced the magical moment that all serious readers strive for: I lost myself in the story. I forgot about all the stress, all the demands, everything that needs to be done. For a few precious minutes, I was able to reset. As I turned off the light and crawled into bed, all I could think was Thank you, Philip K. Dick.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Interview with Author Jarrett Rush


I recently read Jarrett Rush's novella, Chasing Filthy Lucre, and was impressed with the quality of writing and how the story pulled me in (check out my review of it here). I'd tweeted occasionally with Jarrett, and after I read his book, I decided to ask him if he'd be up for a brief interview. Jarrett was kind enough to agree, and I'm happy to share that interview with you today. If you haven't purchased his novella, you can get it for the Kindle or Nook.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Jarrett Rush?

I can give you my standard answer that appears on my blog and at the end of all of my online fiction. It goes like this: "Jarrett Rush is a writer who lives in the Dallas area with his wife, Gina, and their overly energetic lab, Molly." If you want more than that, here goes. I'm a guy in my late 30s who has wanted to be a writer nearly all my life. Until this writing thing can pay the bills -- and the hope is that one day it can -- I work for The Dallas Morning News. Baseball and writing have been my two loves since I was a kid, and before I wanted to be a writer I wanted to be a baseball player. I play a little softball to indulge that dream. Not being able to hit a curveball kept me from taking my baseball career past junior high so I had to settle for being a fan. I spent far too much money cheering the Rangers through the playoffs last season. But it was all worth it to be able to be there when the team clinched its first American League pennant.

2. What's your creative process like? Do you have a routine, or do you just wing it?

My process depends on the project. For short stories I wing it. I know the beginning and maybe the ending, but, usually, not much of the middle. With longer pieces, like Chasing Filthy Lucre, I use an outline. It's loose. Not moment-by-moment, but just hitting the action's high points. There are four parts to Chasing Filthy Lucre. In the outline each of those sections was broken into four parts. I knew where the action was supposed to start and I just wrote from one part of the outline to the next part of the outline. It was the first time I'd used something like that and I loved it. I didn't feel like my creativity was stifled, and that was always my worry with using an outline.

As far as the actual writing goes, I try to get behind the keyboard on a daily basis, but I'm not always successful. When I'd I shoot for between 750 and 1,000 words. Not as much as some, but it works for me.

3. Who are some of the influences on writing?

The most important is my wife. She's the person who pushed me to try and make a real go of this, to make my dream come true. That's probably not what you meant though. There's one writer who showed me the power of a good book. It was Matt Christoper and the book was The Kid Who Could Only Hit Homers. That was the first book I read all the way through in one day. I was a kid -- third or fourth grade, I think -- and I remember laying on the couch in our living room just buried in those pages. I couldn't tell you now what the book was about, but the title seems like it gives things away. But I think it says something that the title and the author have stayed with me all these years later. It's that kind of book that I want to write. Something that pulls a reader in and just won't let go.

4. What inspired you to write Chasing Filthy Lucre?

I just loved the story. It was something that came out of a few other ideas I'd been playing with. The idea of data addiction first appeared in something that's still sitting on my hard drive. I fleshed the concept out in a short story. It was there that I created the beginnings of the world where Chasing Filthy Lucre takes place. The opening scene is actually a response to a writing prompt I put together for a writers group I'm part of. I took all of those pieces and let them marinate for a while then started writing. And once I started I didn't want to stop. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I still wanted to see how we got there.

5. Are there any projects that you're currently working on that you can tell us about?

Chasing Filthy Lucre is part of a planned series, so I'm working on Book Two right now. We pick up the story a few months after the end of Book One. Berger and Rexall, our heroes, are in the middle of investigating a kidnapping, looking for missing girl and also trying to stay a few steps ahead of Roma Corp security forces. I've also got a few ideas cooking on the back burner that I'm excited about. I'll keep those to myself, though, because I don't even know when they'll see the light of day. But, trust me, they're cool.

6. How can readers connect with you? Website, Twitter, etc.?

I have all the social networking tools you can think of. You can follow me on Twitter at @JarrettRush. I try to keep the book promotion to a minimum. I also don't Tweet every thought that pops into my head. If you are on Facebook and are in the mood to like an author then head over to http://www.facebook.com/jarrettrushauthor. I can always use more Facebook fans. Like Twitter, I try to keep the book promotion to a minimum. Most of the time I'm sharing links to blogs, mine and others. And, yes, I have a blog. It's a http://jarrettwrites.blogspot.com/. I update it semi-regularly. And if all of that's not enough, readers are always welcome to email me at jarrettrush@yahoo.com.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review Schedule

My review for Jarrett Rush's Chasing Filthy Lucre will be posted next Tuesday over at Jenna Anderson's novella-review site. I should also have a treat for you here at Bookhound's Den the same day. And finally, I'll have a review of the newest Spectral Press title posted here sometime next week.

I hope you have a great weekend and you come across some great reads!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update

I can't believe it's already August! I guess time really does fly when you're having fun. Or maybe I'm just having a difficulty keeping up with time because we're not talking about whether or not Brett Favre will stay retired this year. So, will he or won't he?

Things are quite busy right now. In case you've missed it, I went off the deep end and decided to work full-time for myself. So I've been fairly busy with editing projects and working on pages for my business site, Hock's Editing Services. I do have a couple of things that I'll post here in the next week or so. While on vacation this past week, I read a great novella by Jarrett Rush, Chasing Filthy Lucre. I should have a review of it up by this Friday. I should also have a review of the new Spectral Press novella up in the next week or so.

Things should become a little more lively around here soon. I'll probably be reviewing many more novellas, just because it takes me a while to get through a full-length novel right now. Heck, I may even pull out my soapbox and stand on it a day or two. Who knows? I'll probably fall off of it, though. But at least you'll get a good laugh.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another One Falls

Well, in a time period of little less than a year, three of the six brick-and-mortar bookstores in the Raleigh area will have closed. Two are already gone, and the third closing is about to get underway. The recent announcement from Borders sealed the fate of the lone big-box competitor to Barnes & Noble in this area. Now we have three Barnes & Nobles to compete against one another.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t read many articles about the final nail in the Borders coffin. I’m not the least bit surprised by the news because I figured this would happen when they first announced their bankruptcy. If you went into a Borders after that initial bankruptcy announcement, you wouldn’t be surprised either. I was practically tackled by employees and forced to buy a Borders Rewards membership the one time I went to the remaining store in Raleigh. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not blaming the employees. If we have to blame someone, let’s blame the bobbleheads calling the shots who ran the company into the ground.

This isn’t a time to mourn the death of a large retailer that seemed more focused on selling trinkets and other useless items rather than staying at the forefront of the bookselling industry. Yes, I do have to hand it to Borders, at least they had a “Horror” section. But I still couldn’t find the books that I really wanted to read. Instead, I found shelves full of the same few titles. If we’re going to mourn, we should mourn for all those employees who are now thrust into unemployment in this difficult economic period.

As readers, let us instead be excited about the time we are currently in the midst of. We can be hopeful that small, independent bookstores will rise from the ashes left from the demise of the big boys. The e-reader “revolution” allows authors at least a chance to find an audience, where a bookselling industry dominated by the big retailers was gatekeeper of what was put in front of people. I, as a reader, am more excited about this time than any other before. Then again, maybe I’m just strange.

Monday, July 18, 2011

DEADLY STRAITS by R.E. McDermott


One of the joys of being a freelancer is having the opportunity to read books that I probably never would have otherwise. I try not to make it a habit to review books I’ve proofed or edited here on my blog, but recently I’ve read a number of well-written books by authors who are sharing them with the world for the first time. One such book is Deadly Straits by R.E. McDermott. When I read this book, I was impressed by the quality of writing and how smoothly the story flowed. When the author told me this was his first book, I was utterly amazed.

Rather than summarizing the book myself, here is the summary from the book’s Amazon page:

Consultant and very part-time spook Tom Dugan is a happy man until his CIA handler comes calling. With a hijacking investigation pointing to his long-time client and best friend, London ship owner Alex Kairouz, Dugan is guilty by association and forced to go under cover in Alex’s company to clear his own name.

In attempting to prove Alex’s innocence along with his own, Dugan manages to implicate them both more deeply, and when one of Alex’s tankers is found adrift near Singapore with a dead crew, and another explodes in port, Dugan is framed for the attacks.

When Alex is hospitalized, in critical condition after a suspicious suicide attempt, Dugan finds himself almost out of options. Convinced the attacks are prelude to an even more devastating assault, Dugan follows his last remaining lead to Russia, to be shanghaied as an ‘advisor’ to a Russian Spetsnaz unit and find himself sailing into Deadly Straits.

With his debut novel, McDermott sets the bar high—very high. This ambitious novel will keep you turning the pages to get to the thrilling conclusion. This is a truly impressive first book. I look forward to reading more from him. His writing is polished, and he manages to handle multiple plot lines that cover the world over. If you enjoy action-packed thrillers that make you feel like you’re actually participating in the action, make sure to read Deadly Straits.

Kindle:       Nook:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Am I Here?

The rumors of my demise have not been greatly exaggerated. Okay, okay, maybe demise is a bit too strong. Hibernation, withdrawal, disappearance . . . call it what you will. Bottom line, I haven’t been around much lately. And there’s a good reason. Really, there is. I promise.

I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my life right now. I’m transitioning from the world of “real” work to the world of self-employment. During this transition, I’ve been nonexistent online for the most part. I’ve been working fifty to sixty hours a week with my freelance business while still working at my “real” job. Needless to say, this hasn’t left me with time to do much else.

I’ll be honest: I don’t know how often I’ll add reviews to this blog. I worked hard to build it up, and I love to share my thoughts about the books I read. I’m appreciative that anyone would take the time to read what I have to say about a book. However, I’m simply not reading books for review right now. The last book I read for enjoyment was a couple of months ago, and I don’t foresee any reading for review in the near future.

But never fear. There are a bunch of great sites out there with talented folks reviewing dark fiction. Just a few of them off the top of my head are The Crow’s Caw, Dreadful Tales, The Man Eating Bookworm, and Little Miss Zombie. Make sure to check them out to get your fix for the dark and macabre.

Who knows, maybe once I fully transition to being self-employed I’ll have a little more free time and update this blog a little more regularly. In the meantime, while I’m chasing my dream and working to do something I love, I’ll sporadically post a review here.

So to answer the question asked in the title of this post, yes, I am here. I’m just lurking in the shadows.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

AN UNCOMMON FAMILY by Christa Polkinhorn

Today is the official launch of Christa Polkinhorn’s An Uncommon Family, the first book in the Family Portrait series. While it’s not the “normal” type of book featured here at Bookhound’s Den, I’m a fan of quality writing, and this is quality writing. Polkinhorn creates an intriguing story that will have you riding a roller coaster of emotion as you turn the pages.

This was the first of Polkinhorn's work that I have read, and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. Polkinhorn weaves a moving, emotion-filled story that invites the reader to become invested in the characters, which are believable and remind you of people you may know. This is a story of love, loss, and the pain that is almost inevitable when one person puts their faith in another. However, this is also a story about rediscovering the ability to put one's faith in another, despite previous letdowns.

Polkinhorn’s writing is top-notch, and the story will leave the reader wanting more. If you enjoy stories that tug at your emotions and draw you in, An Uncommon Family is for you. You'll laugh, be angry, cry, and experience joy throughout the reading of this book. It's a beautiful, high-quality work from an amazingly talented author.

Kindle:        Nook:

Friday, May 20, 2011

ABOLISHER OF ROSES by Gary Fry


I was impressed by the story of the first chapbook published by Spectral Press, What We Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon. Creepy, moody, thought provoking, and brooding—I love those types of stories. So when I was asked to take a look at the second Spectral Press chapbook, Abolisher of Roses by Gary Fry, I was excited, but I also expected a bit of a letdown because I figured the best story was probably published first. I’m very happy to say that was not the case.

What purpose does art serve? It’s just a waste of time, right? Peter is a businessman, a self-made man. He has always worked hard and likes to enjoy the fruit of his labor: nice clothes, an expensive car, financial stability, and even a mistress. So when he accompanies his wife, Patricia, to a different kind of art exhibit, he feels he’s simply doing his duty of being a good husband. He quickly notices that he doesn’t fit in with the arty types that are attending the “art trail” exhibit, and he begins to wonder if this art “fad” is more than just a fad for his wife. As he begins to question his wife about the use of art and what good it is, he unknowingly starts a journey to a place he won’t like. It’s more than a physical journey along the art trail he takes. . . .

This is a truly creepy story that pulls the reader in deeper as it moves along. Though this is a diminutive story, it packs a powerful punch that will challenge the reader, and it will leave an impression long after reading. Fry's writing is top-notch, and the story is relevant and thought provoking; there is not much more you can ask for. Spectral Press has started something special and, in my opinion, needed: a line of stories that showcases quality writing and causes the reader to think. I’m looking forward to further installments of this line.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Blogger: Author Jeff Bennington


Bookhound’s Den

Before I begin, I’d like everyone reading this to know that Neal Hock, the Big Dog of Bookhound’s Den, did the final proofread for Reunion. He found the little things, the details hidden inside of that eighty-five thousand word manuscript, which is now receiving five-star reviews. Thanks Neal. You did a great job.

Power at Your Fingertips

By Jeff Bennington

There comes a time in every writer’s life when he or she must decide how they want to use their gift. After producing dozens of short stories, articles and blog entries, you’ve come to a point where you look at what you’ve penned and wonder what it is you are really trying to accomplish. What is your purpose?

If you write novels, you cannot avoid the fact that your work is filled with themes and inner struggles and conflict of all kinds. Many of those ideas spring from your own experiences and wonderings and interests; many are purely fiction. Yet amid the perfectly planned plot and character sketches, there is a deeper meaning, the true intent of your work—the reason for the novel.

My question is, how does the purpose of your novel fit with the purpose of your life. Are you hitching a ride on the indie gravy train, seeking nothing more than profit, or are you writing with passion and intent? What matters to you? What do you care about? Are you writing only to entertain?

Nothing wrong with that, I’m just asking.

I’m asking because I believe authors have the capacity to do more than entertain. We have a magic wand called a pencil and it has the potential to transform! When I think about it, those tiny little keys that we punch every day, hold the power to heal, the power to challenge and the ability to inspire. Perhaps this is a strength that you have never considered to be part of your literary arsenal. Maybe, you’ve only thought of yourself as a storyteller, a humorist or literary creationist. But I’m here to tell you that your readers, like all people, love to be inspired and encouraged through stories both fact and fiction. It is a trait common to all men and women. Those that choose to spend their time reading rejoice when they close the last page of a book feeling inspired, hopeful, motivated or emboldened.

True stories like The King’s Speech and Pursuit of Happiness became blockbuster hits, not because the plot was out of this world, but because they showed us that the most common and flawed personalities could do great things against incredible odds. And who doesn’t like to hear that? I mean, when’s the last time you searched for a book that you knew would bring you down, make you feel stupid, or completely demotivate you? The answer? Probably never.

With that said, have you considered using your gift, your magic wand, your power to be the spark that ignites a fire in the hearts of your readers? If you answered yes, then I applaud you. If you answered no, maybe this blog post could be your inspiration to make something more of your life, to make it worth more than the cost of your tombstone, more than a few bucks.

As an author, you can do so much more than simply tell a terrifying tale. In fact, I never imagined that I’d do anything more than create entertaining books until the day I received an email from a reader who told me that she never reads, that is, until she was encouraged to read Reunion, my supernatural thriller. In her email she told me how much she loved the book and that after reading it, she discovered that she truly enjoys reading, and planned to continue doing so because of my work. Ahhhh, I can’t tell you how good that felt. Hearing that meant so much more than hearing “A great read.”

There are lots of great reads out there, but to be able to actually impact someone’s life, now that’s powerful. Who knows, maybe that lady will continue to read, grow as an individual and be something greater then she imagined because of me. That might be pushing it a bit, but hey, stranger things have happened…you know, like a homeless guy becoming a wealthy entrepreneur and a stammering king learning to deliver some of the most powerful and inspiring words ever recorded.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, use your talents wisely. You never know how much time you have to leave your mark on the world. Will you write about the power of fear, demons, or a lunatic with a bloody ax? Or will you write about the power to overcome and defeat the weaknesses of mortal man? Whatever you choose, it will be a lasting mark, an eternal epitaph of your greater purpose.

If you’re a writer or a reader, I’d love to hear what you think.

-Jeff Bennington

Author of REUNION and the blog, The Writing Bomb.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to follow Bookhound’s Den, comment, and then go get your copy of REUNION and email your receipt to reunion.kindlegiveaway@yahoo.com to win a Kindle on May 15th. Go to jeffbennington.com for details.

Kindle:     Print (Amazon):

Nook:     Print (B&N):

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Special Guest Reviewer


















I'm thrilled to have a special guest reviewer here today: author Anthony Neil Smith. Smith is the author of Yellow Medicine, Hogdoggin', The Drummer, Choke on Your Lies, and Psychosomatic. Fans of hard-boiled and noir should run and buy his books.

Smith doesn't do many book reviews, so I'm especially honored that he offered his support to help keep the reviews coming while I play catch-up. Here's Smith's two-for-one special, his reviews of two of Danny Hogan's books:

I don't usually do reviews, but I like what the Hound is doing over here, and when he said he wasn't able to fill up the space on this here blog for whatever reasons, I chimed in with some support.

So, Danny Hogan. I'm reading his stuff on Kindle, but as I do, I keep wishing I could line them up as cheap paperbacks alongside my Hamiltons, Prathers, and Hallidays. They feel like they belong on that shelf. And I'm thrilled to see that. One of the best things about the new Kindle publishing explosion is that I'm finding a lot of work by people who, like me, I think, would've been great back in the 50s and 60s cranking out potboilers and exploitation pulps. Danny Hogan is definitely one of those great new finds.

The Windowlicker Maker and Jailbait Justice are tasty pieces of meat and a lot of fun. That's exactly what you want out of pulp. Neither of these are perfect, sure. There are some formatting mistakes and comma errors that, were I his editor, would make me slap the back of his head. But so what? The one word that came to mind while I was reading was “propulsive.” The damned things move.

Windowlicker is really a long short story, and it's in the voice of an old tough guy who had settled down, only to have his life disrupted in a miserable way. So then it becomes a story of revenge. That's one sweet genre, revenge. You know punishment will be doled out, but you don't know how much, how bad, and if the hero will get out alive. But the one surprising thing here was how touching it was. It seemed as if our wronged man might not have the balls to carry through. He's a bit scared, which sold me on the whole thing. Then there's the final straw. You'll have to read it yourself for that one. And to find out what a “Windowlicker Maker” is.

At the end of WM is a short story featuring Jezebel Misery St. Etienne, protagonist of Jailbait Justice, and I've got to say that Hogan packs a wild-assed story into a small package. Jezebel is a small package, too—short, but with a big chest, a crazy three-way mohawk, and a .44 nearly as big as she is. The Austin of Jezebel is postapocalyptic, which means Texas has reverted to what it knows best—wild west lawlessness. Jezebel's got a mouth on her, and it gets her into trouble. It's almost as if she goes looking for it. Lord, does she ever find it. The short story is a bloody, operatic blood sport.

So what can he accomplish in a longer story? A fucking massacre of good taste, that's what.

I don't want to spoil the fun of Jailbait Justice, because it's just packed with insanity. The “Apocalypse as Old West” trope is a fun one, and Hogan's Jezebel is a welcome warrior on the scene. Get it, alright? Just get both of these and be glad we've got Danny Hogan out there making sure the genres—all of them—don't get too respectable.

Links to the books:

The Windowlicker Maker
Jailbait Justice

Thursday, April 28, 2011

THE DRUMMER by Anthony Neil Smith


Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Toss in some secrets and a man on the run. What more could you ask for from a book? It’s all there in The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith. Smith is another author that I’ve wanted to read for a long time, but for some reason I’m just getting around to his work. Based on what I’d seen and heard about his work, I had a feeling I would like it. But boy, did I ever enjoy The Drummer.

Merle Johnson is a man of secrets. Lots of them. Deep, dark secrets that haunt him every day of his life. He wants to be left alone and have a “normal” life. So he moves to New Orleans and buys a former funeral home to live in, attempting to just blend in. But the secrets from his past come roaring back one night when a man from his former life shows up at the same bar Merle's at. Soon, the life Merle has tried so hard to put together begins to crumble right before his eyes. Not only might his secrets be exposed, but people’s lives now hang in the balance. As he tries to hold everything together, Merle is pushed to his breaking point. Can he ever reclaim the quiet life he worked hard to create and so desperately desires?

I loved this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read the book description, but this one sucked me in from the get-go and wouldn’t let go. It’s much more than just a book about rock ’n’ roll; it’s crime, love, and mystery all rolled up in one. An atmospheric story with a grittiness throughout, you'll feel like you're on the run in New Orleans with Merle. Smith describes it as his “love song to New Orleans,” and that’s a very apt description. If you’re a fan of authors such as James Lee Burke and Tom Piccirilli, make sure you read The Drummer. Or if you’re a fan of good stories, read The Drummer. Hell, just go read The Drummer.

Kindle:       Nook:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Not Here . . . I'm There

I'm honored to be a guest blogger over at Grade Z Horror to help celebrate Laymon month. Stop by and check out my post in which I talk about discouragement, smut, and rumps. Hey, I told you it's Laymon month.

Over the next few days I'll have some new reviews posted here. I just finished reading a couple great stories: The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith and Abolisher of Roses by Gary Fry.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Update

Howdy fellow book lovers, hope all is well in your world. Just want to let everyone know that I'm still here and I'm not just sitting around watching the grass grow (although that sounds very tempting at times!). Life’s been pretty busy lately, but that’s a good thing.

The main reason you haven’t seen any book reviews here recently is because I haven’t read any books for review. My reading has been dominated by proofreading and copyediting. Since I lost ten days that I hadn’t planned for when I had my surgery last month, I’ve been playing catch-up for the past month. The good news is that I’m almost caught up. So, hopefully, you’ll start seeing some reviews around here in the not-too-distant future.

In other news, I’m working on a new blog that will focus on my proofreading and copyediting services. I think it’s time to separate those things from this blog, because this blog was intended for more of the “fun” stuff, not business. So be on the lookout for that new blog; it will have all the information you’ll need about my services and I’ll blog about some common mistakes I see when I’m proofreading. In the meantime, if you are interested in my services, please see this page for more information. Here’s a sneak peek at the logo that my lovely wife created for me:


I’m pleased to say that I recently teamed up with Stephen James Price at Book Looks to offer Indie authors a one-stop spot for all the services they need to publish their e-book. Stop by and take a look!

Lastly, I am reading a few books for review right now: Ravenmarked by Amy Rose Davis, A View from the Lake by Greg F. Gifune and The Drummer by Anthony Neil Smith. All of them have been a lot of fun so far; I look forward to finishing them up and sharing them with you (or as I tend to say in “real” life, y’all). Oh yeah, and I'm writing a blog entry for Grade Z Horror's Laymon Month celebration.

That’s all for now. Be good and make sure you have a compurgator in your life. You never know when you’ll need one! (Sorry, I learned a new word and think it’s a lot of fun. :-P)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Winners of Free Scotty Stuff

Sorry for the delay in posting the names of the winners; this weekend seemed to get away from me! Thank you to those that entered the drawing to win free Scotty stuff, and also a big thank you to everyone who didn't enter the drawing but still supported Nicholson during his recent book launch for Liquid Fear.

Winner of the first-place prize:

Candy's Creations


Winner of the second-place prize:

Capt. Murdock


Again, thank you to everyone who entered. Winners, please send me your mailing address to bookhound78 (at) live (dot) com. If I don't receive your information by April 12 I will draw a new winner for your prize.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Free Scotty Stuff

It's been pretty dead around here recently and it's totally my fault. My surgery turned into much more of a predicament than I was expecting and I pretty much lost ten days of reading time, putting me very far behind on my proofreading and review projects.

But in an effort to liven things up and to support my favorite author, I've decided to give away a few books I've been sitting on for a while. If you purchase Scott Nicholson's new e-book, Liquid Fear: A Mystery Thriller, between now and 11:59 p.m. EST on April 1 and leave a comment below letting me know you purchased it, I will enter all the names into a drawing for a couple of "real" Nicholson books. First prize is an autographed copy of Thank You for the Flowers and a mass-market copy of They Hunger. Both of these books are new and unread. Second prize is a lightly read copy of one of my Nicholson favorites, The Farm.

Due to monetary constraints, I have to limit this drawing to US residents only. Even if you don't win a prize in the drawing, you still win because you've bought a great thriller for a super-great price! Make sure you grab Liquid Fear: A Mystery Thriller while it's only 99 cents! Good luck!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boycott of Dorchester Publishing

I’m not normally a big fan of boycotts of companies, but when it comes to the Dorchester Publishing situation I can’t help but agree with the calls coming from authors and former authors of the company. Spearheaded by horror heavyweight, Brian Keene, there is now a call for a boycott of Dorchester due to their selling of e-books that they don’t have the rights to. I’ve seen this firsthand at Amazon, as I came across Brian Keene’s The Rising for sell about a month ago—long after the rights had reverted back to him.

I support this boycott because I’ve seen firsthand how hard most authors work and how little they are compensated for their work. I’m a passionate reader and I’m a big fan of certain authors; and many of these authors have been screwed by unfair practices at Dorchester. I encourage you to explore the issue and consider showing your support for authors by not giving support to Dorchester Publishing.

For a much more in-depth look at the issue see Brian Keene’s post about it at his site.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Interview with Author Lincoln Crisler


It is with great pleasure that I welcome author Lincoln Crisler to Bookhound's Den as part of his blog tour. I hope you enjoy this interview with Lincoln, and make sure you say "Hi" to him.

So who exactly is Lincoln Crisler?

Most importantly, I'm a married father of three. I'm also a staff sergeant in the US Army and an instructor at the US Army Signal Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Georgia. In addition, I'm the author of two short story collections and one novella. If you had to sum me up in one word, it'd be "BUSY." I always have a few irons in the fire. It's a great way to live life!

I couldn't help but notice you're a combat veteran. First off, thank you for your service. How has your military experience affected your writing?

You're welcome! My military service has, essentially, sponsored my writing. I've been a writer since birth, except the first five years of my military career, but I wasn't serious about it until I deployed to Afghanistan. It was my second tour in the Middle East, and I was a newlywed, and we wanted to make the year count instead of treading water for twelve months. She got a degree and I wrote most of what eventually became my first short story collection. I'd say the plan worked!

Do you have a "typical" writing routine? Or do you just write when you're able?

It's easier to establish a writing routine when I'm deployed than when I'm home. When I'm deployed and off work, I don't really have any obligations...go to the gym and do college work, maybe. But at home, I help my wife run her business and we have a toddler and a teenager together. Most writers with day jobs either get up early or stay up late to write, but I'm already getting up at 4AM to play GI Joe. So, no regrets, but writing at home is a slow climb rather than the nice, mostly steady pace it is when I'm overseas! Lately, I've been taking my laptop with me to work and writing after physical training and on my lunch break. That doesn't seem to work out too bad.

Tell us a little bit about your new novella, Wild. What inspired it? Who would it appeal to?

WILD is a detective-western with bonus! zombies and magic. If you like cowboys, you should like WILD. If you like zombies, you should like it. And I've gotten great response from readers that have never seen a zombie-western before.

Do you have any projects that you're working on now you can let us know about?

I have two collaborative projects that I hope to have published before the end of the year; one is brand-new and another is an overhaul of something fans of my work may have read before. I have a secret comics project in the works (just waiting for my artist to free up some time) and of course, like many writers, there are a couple of novels that I work on when the mood takes me.

One last thing before you leave. Your bio says you like to cook. What's your favorite dish to prepare?

There's a recipe I created a few years ago for my wife's birthday that I call Shrimp Consuela. It's sauteed shrimp and garlic in a bleu-cheese cream sauce, over bowties. I don't think I've ever made it for anyone but Connie and the kids. It's freakin' awesome. If we hadn't already been married, I'm pretty sure she'd have dragged me to the courthouse by the short hairs the very next day.

Credit for author photo to Clark Fox

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Guest Post: Author Lee Thompson

It is with great pleasure that I welcome author Lee Thompson back to Bookhound's Den. Lee is the author of the forthcoming Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children from Delirium Books (which is, by the way, the first limited edition I've ever purchased!). Lee is a tremendously talented author that I suggest everyone read, whether or not you're a horror/dark fiction fan; Lee's writing is sure to stir something deep within. Without any more of my blather, I present to you Lee's guest post.



“On Knowing What You Want” by Lee Thompson

I'm listening to the late and great Danny Gatton as I write this. The man knew what he wanted. He worked at it and was incredible. Sadly, like a ton of gifted, hardworking bastards, he killed himself in a small and lonely apartment even though fans adored him and his presence humbled other musicians. Like Danny, a lot of my other heroes knew what they wanted—Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bruce Lee, Thomas Edison, etc.—and they devoted their lives to their calling.

They were not dabblers.

Their work consumed them.

They used their passions and unique visions to leave their mark.

That's something I want. I'll strive for it whether it's reachable or not.

When I was a boy I wanted my dad to love me and my mom, to show it consistently. I also wanted to be a ninja.

When I was a teen I wanted my dad to teach me because I had no fucking idea how to be a man. (I also wanted to be ninja and a little bodybuilder.)

In my twenties I wanted to be a badass guitarist with unique phrasing and tone and masterful chops—like Brian Setzer, Hendrix, Vaughn, Gatton, as well as a ton of classical players. And I was pretty proficient in all of those things because I worked at them hours every day. From a young age I admired the dedication it took and I failed to understand how some people could be so fearful, bland and lazy. Now I think their perspective of life just gets them down, they give up their dreams, they realize to be still and commonplace is far easier than bearing a heavy workload and stretching their minds and bodies' imaginations.

When I knew I wanted to be a writer (I mean really dedicated to doing my absolute best) I'd already written four junk novels. So, the natural thing for me, once I'd said, “This is it. I'm giving a hundred percent to writing and learning whether my days be fun-filled dancing or suffocatingly bleak,” was to study my heroes. People like Tom Piccirilli, Greg Gifune, Douglas Clegg, Jack Cady, Peter Straub, Ray Bradbury, and Jack Ketchum. They had things to teach me. Markets they'd published in, wisdom in interviews, the beat of scenes, the craft of character.

I hand copied things to learn, just like when I'd studied various martial arts or guitar phrases to develop precision and efficiency. I'm also a firm believer in lists. LOL. And I wrote what I wanted for my writing career and luckily I'm on my way in what seems a short time span.

Here's my list. Even though I've had people tell me what I should do, this is what I've stuck by and for me it's paying off:

I want to focus on writing stories that set a tone right away, where I can mine the mysteries, joys and sorrows of childhood. I want to keep pride from tripping me, be open-minded and continually learning (though I have learned that letting it steep for a bit is always good). I want to give back with things I've learned, to publishers who've put their faith in me, to friends who have helped me. I want to be an approachable author because it means a lot to me that readers spend their time and money on my work. I want to mix my favorite genres because I love them all and each has something special about them (and I couldn't pick just one anyway.) I want my world and imagination to be an open range, not a small bedroom. I want to pay my dues. I want to sell to markets I enjoy and respect and to have my name alongside my heroes through Delirium Books, Bad Moon Books, Shock Totem, Dark Discoveries, Apex, Weird Tales, etc.. Places where the publishers care about the writer and reader. Where the products are incredible. I want a solid career, and to keep pushing myself and learning.

I don't think generalizations like “I want to be the next Stephen King,” or “I want to sell ten stories to pro mags a year,” works for me. I want specifics, concrete goals and the robust satisfaction that comes when reaching them!

In NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN my characters know what they want. John McDonnell wants to solve the mystery of four girls' brutal deaths, but he doesn't want his dad's friends to go to prison. Mike Johnston wants to see his mother die peacefully, but first he wants truth and her apology so he can forgive her. Wylie Wright wants the sheriff's wife even though she doesn't know what she wants, and it goes against the morals he's always upheld until passion flared between them. And my characters want to know who Angela Forte is and why she's intruding on their lives with black magic.

-Lee Thompson
http://alongthispathsodarkly.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Crooked Stick Figures" by Lee Thompson


I have no problem admitting it: I get excited when I'm able to get something for free. Especially when it comes to stories and books. So when I found out that Darkside Digital was giving away a free e-copy of Lee Thompson's short story, "Crooked Stick Figures," I nearly tripped over my Web browser to get my copy. If you've read any of Thompson’s work, you know why I would run to get this.

John McDonnell works for Child Protective Services. He's seen his share of pain and ugliness. When he answers a call to a lonely house, everything inside him screams for him to just turn and walk away. The little girl that greets him at the door becomes his guide...into madness.

If you haven't read any of Thompson's work, here's your chance to experience his unique, emotion-packed writing—for free! This is a powerful little story that will leave you yearning for more of Thompson’s work. Don't miss out on this quick, creepy read.

Get your free e-copy (EPUB, MOBI, PDF) for a limited time here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

PAGES OF PROMISES by Stephen James Price


Pages of Promises is the first of Stephen James Price’s work that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Price is also the author of 2:27 A.M. He publishes other independent authors' work through his publishing company, Generation Next Publications.

Pages of Promises is a collection of short stories that cover a wide range of subjects. The title story is about the pull and attraction of a unique book—one that requires blood. There is a story about a grandmother who has issues controlling her rage. Ever wonder about some of the seedy restaurants you see along lonely stretches of highways when you’re travelling? Price has that covered too. Stephen King’s influence, a pet cat you wouldn’t want to hold, psychotic killers, angels, and even Santa and his reindeer—it’s all in here. There is little that Price doesn’t touch on in this collection.

To say I was impressed by this collection would be an understatement. It doesn’t take long for the reader to discover that Stephen James Price is a natural storyteller. There wasn’t a single story that I just didn’t like in this collection. A couple of them left me scratching my head a bit, but the overwhelming majority of them had me wanting more. A few of my favorites are the title story (about the pull of a malevolent book), “Family Obligations” (about a grandmother gone wild), “Damn, I Hate Stephen King” (where King’s influence goes a little too far), “The Final Chapter” (about an artist who uses a macabre medium), “Pretty Kitty” (ever wonder what to get that special someone in your life?), “One Man’s Angel” (explores the bad side of someone’s good luck), and “Man’s Best Friend” (about a dog that just won’t die).

If you take Stephen King’s engaging storytelling and Bentley Little’s ability to create something terrifying from the mundane and mix them together, you’d have Stephen James Price. I don’t like to make comparisons to other authors, but while I was reading this collection I couldn’t help but think of King and Little. If you want to read something that will have you turning the pages late into the night and will cause you to never look at your pet cat the same again, make sure you check out this collection of twisted tales from the mind of Price. It's a steal, priced at only $0.99 right now.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Take on Our Local Borders' Closing

A number of months ago the only Books-A-Million in Raleigh, NC closed. It was a rather sudden thing and occurred without much fanfare. Today signaled the demise of yet another of the big booksellers here in Raleigh, as one of the two Borders here started its closing sale today. Unlike the BAM closing, there was much fanfare surrounding this closing.

I stopped by there earlier today to take a look around and see what sort of sale they were having. I was amazed to see the crowd that was there and the lines for checkout. I literally have never seen that many people in a bookstore at one time. And the most surprising thing to me was the sale wasn’t really that good; at only twenty percent off, you could have saved more with the coupons Borders sent to Rewards members or find the books you wanted cheaper online.

When I was at the store today, I didn’t buy a single book for myself. It didn’t make sense to me when I could find what I wanted elsewhere for cheaper. Besides, I’d done my part to help the big chain bookstores—just ask my wife. The biggest thing I learned by stopping by the closing sale today was how much I’ve changed over the last year. It used to be nothing for me to go on a book-buying spree and drop $40 or $50 at a time. I used to love to go to the stores and browse the shelves and spend time there to relax. But when I was standing in Borders today, the only sorrow I felt was for the employees losing their jobs; I had no pangs of sorrow about the fact that the store itself is closing. I no longer have an attachment to the physical stores themselves; heck, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to one in the last few months.

I’ve seen comments out there tonight that folks regretted buying an e-reader and should have supported their local bookstore more. But you know what? I don’t regret buying a Kindle. Not for one second. Why should I? I didn’t regret getting a CD player or Blu-Ray player when they came along. What’s so different about this?

Bottom line is times are changing. They seem to be changing faster than I expected them to, but I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. Sure, you are going to have folks that are nostalgic and are upset that they’re losing an outlet to buy paper books. But the fate of Borders is the same fate of corporations that fail to adapt to change and are content to sit on their laurels. They won’t survive. They can’t survive. It’s just not possible. If you’re trying to execute a business model that people don’t want, you won’t be in business long.

I think I’ve said about enough on this topic for one night. I think I’m going to go browse some titles for my Kindle now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hit the Pause Button

I know I haven’t posted much here in the past few weeks. I’m a bit frustrated with my lack of output because I worked hard on this blog the last few months and tried to be consistent each week. However, recently consistency has been a major challenge. I want to let you know what I’m working on right now and ask for your patience as I continue to try to find a happy balance for this site.

There will be reviews coming from me in the not-too-distant future. I’m currently reading The Ascent by Ronald Malfi for review at The Crow’s Caw. I also have some very exciting books in my review queue that I’ll be getting to shortly: Pages of Promises by Stephen James Price, Ravenmarked by Amy Rose Davis, and Choke on Your Lies by Anthony Neil Smith. There are others in line after these and I’m excited about the books I have to read for review. Also, there are some guest blog posts from authors scheduled for March.

My proofreading service is doing well and I’m keeping fairly busy with it. I plan on adding a page here with more information for those who may be interested in my service. This is exciting because this is also something I’ve been working hard at the past few months.

This is just a little insight into what’s going on with me. Due to the number of books I have in my review queue and the number of works I’m proofing, I am going to temporarily halt the acceptance of any new review books. I hate to do this so soon after I really got this blog going, but the response has been far better than I expected for both reviews and proofing. Proofing gigs come first because they are paid, and my review queue is longer than my arm at the moment. Please know that I’m still open to new proofing jobs, so if you are interested you can still contact me via e-mail for more info.

Bottom line, I’m pretty busy at the moment. Which is a good thing. I believe suspending acceptance of new review books for a time will help me to not stretch myself so thin that I go past the point of no return. I’m truly grateful for everyone that’s stopped by here to check out one of my reviews. Please know that more are coming but they may be a little more sporadic for the next little while. But make sure you stop by to check out my recommended reads that you will find on that fun carousel on the left side of my page that I’ll update weekly. I’ll include the books that I’m currently reading and throw in a few others that I recommend.

Thanks for your patience and support!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

THE HAUNTING OF ESTHER COX by William Meikle


I had a notion again the other night for a quick, fun read, and somehow I again ended up with one of William Meikle’s novelettes on my Kindle. The Haunting of Esther Cox sounded intriguing and exactly what I was in the mood for. So, like I did with Meikle’s Abominable, I downloaded it and read it in one sitting.

Esther Cox isn’t a bad girl. Really, she’s not. However, after a day with her suitor goes terribly wrong, things begin to take a turn for the worse for her. Her suitor disappears, she can’t sleep, and she begins to sense things are just not right in her home. Soon, things escalate from Esther feeling that something is wrong to Esther experiencing things, such as the sound of walking and voices. When the malevolent force that’s oppressing Esther starts to affect the lives of those around her, they seek help for her. But the more help offered to Esther, the worse the results.

I enjoyed reading The Haunting of Esther Cox. Meikle’s writing is smooth and I was quickly pulled into the story. It’s fast paced and spans over a year’s time (in the late 1800s) in just a novelette-length work. Was it groundbreaking? No. But I became lost in the story and I forgot about everything else around me for about an hour. That’s exactly what I wanted at the time I read this, and to me that’s what a good story is all about. If you like ghost/poltergeist stories and are looking for a quick read with some creepy moments, this one’s for you.