The Book Review

a space for reviews of self-published, paranormal books available in Kindle Unlimited

The Talking Cure: (A Novel of Magic and Psychiatry)

The Cutter and Mann Series Book 1

Barbara Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper

Dr Cynthia Mann, psychiatrist, left New York city, driven out by reporters and fans intrigued by her involvement in the mysterious disappearance of a famous pop star. Or something like that. She doesn’t like to talk about it. Her life is now in Cleveland - new location, new office, new people who don’t know her.

We swiftly meet Zach Cutter who is very open about the fact that he is a magician, and more interestingly, he claims to be ‘your average supernatural detective type.’ Zach reveals the scars on his arm, a failed suicide attempt. He tells Dr Mann that, after a horrific incident where his girlfriend died, he was locked up for months. Dr Mann can be forgiven for thinking that this guy has serious mental health issues. The more she learns about him, the more concerned she becomes.

At almost every session they have, Zach tells her about a case he’s worked on or some other amazing part of his life. At first, she goes along with his fantasies, believing he is telling his incredible stories as a way of letting out his inner turmoil. Yet Zach persists and doesn’t waver from his claims. Zach insists he is a magician in the real sense of the word, not an illusionist, and that the strange world he describes actually exists.

Dr Mann challenges him. She is quite sympathetic towards the existence of the supernatural from the events that led to her leaving her former life behind, but this is at a different level. She wants proof of what Zach is claiming. Miraculously, Zach changes fresh flowers into fakes made of silk. Dr Mann can’t comprehend how this could have happened so still refuses to believe it’s magic. Maybe it’s sleight of hand. Or something...

Zach’s tales become increasingly bizarre – vampires, monsters, ghosts. He explains how he was apprenticed to a magician, though his relationship with the master became problematic.

Dr Mann really likes Zach. If he wasn’t her patient, she would more than consider going out with him. However, she knows he needs help that only a professional can provide. She also recognises that many psychiatrists would either have Zach well-medicated or even institutionalised. She makes the decision that the best way for her to help him is to keep him as a patient.

Zach really likes Dr Mann. He wants her to be his psychiatrist as well as much more. This ongoing dilemma makes life difficult for both of them. Dr Mann does her best to keep the relationship professional – after all, there are consequences for inappropriate behaviour with a patient. Yet Zach does his best to take the relationship up a level or three. He flirts outrageously and steps in at every opportunity to endear himself to her. Cynthia starts to feel she is losing the battle, and if she was honest with herself, would be quite happy to.

The style is interesting. In parts, it is written as reports from the case files of Dr Cynthia Mann, as if she is taking notes of her sessions with her patient. She records in detail what Zach her patient tells her including his initially dubious tales.

Zach’s stories are recorded in his own words so we have a story within a story. At first, I wasn’t too sure how this would work, but it worked well. It was like interactive flashbacks. Dr Mann would interrupt to clarify something or ask questions. The tales may be bizarre but the style in which they are told - so matter of factly -  makes it possible to accept that they may have really happened. Just like someone telling you about that odd customer at work or the weird person they’d met at the pub.

The growing relationship between Dr Mann and Zach is skilfully handled. You can feel Zach’s determination and desperation to be with Dr Mann. You can feel Dr Mann’s desperate struggle to keep him in her life and to help him which she can only do by maintaining her professional distance. She is torn between frustration and longing.

The narrative overall is upbeat and moves quickly. The conversations are fun, often typical banter between friends, at others discussing impossible situations, but not developing into laboured exposition. Personalities are well constructed. Zach is overwhelmingly positive and brave and caring, most of the time. Dr Mann is more introspective and worries about what is the right thing to do. 

I love the haunted car with a mind of its own and a wicked sense of humour. This is a character in its own right. The whole story stretches belief yet is grounded in the here and now. Dr Mann and Zach are the focal point and their growing love story is never lost sight of in favour of the fantastical things happening around them. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I asked the authors to tell us about their publishing journeys.

Barbara tells us that she came about being an author in a roundabout way.

I started as a bedroom artist singer-songwriter. I started getting nibbles from indie record companies. Then disaster struck: I’d had gotten increasingly ill. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. So, that dream collapsed.  

Greatly saddened, I eventually started reading graphic novels, because I could read them even if I was having a day of brain fog. I thought: “This doesn’t look too hard.” So, I started writing graphic novels. What I didn’t know at that time was that few women got into the comics industry as authors. The idea of institutional sexism being a problem hadn’t yet occurred to me.

Unfortunately, although people thought my work was ‘excellent’, I wasn’t able to find a publisher willing to take it on. I then got a job with the manga industry, so I left comics and did that for several years. My husband Park also go a job for a while as an editor for Del Rey Manga. Then the manga industry in America went belly up.

So I decided to write prose novels with my husband. After spending a lot of time perfecting our craft, we started trying to get an agent. What happed right smack out of the box is that agents said my work was excellent but rejected it in anyway, blaming the economy and saying they ‘couldn’t take a risk’. When we did get a novel published, the Indie publisher went under – one day the book was available to order from Amazon, the next it just wasn’t.

My husband finally said ‘to heck with this, we’re self-publishing’. He said that if we get an agent down the road, that’s great, but we’d still have to publicize our work, so we might as well start with self-publishing.

Park tells us he got his college degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. I  then got my M.A. from the same place, and then my Ph.D. from Kent State in Ohio. My specialization was postmodern literature. I’ve gotten just a few articles and/or chapters in books here and there, did just a few scholarly book reviews in academic journals, too, and eventually got my dissertation published as a scholarly book.

For a few years, I was hired as the Editor-In-Chief for a comic book company called Septagon. I got a cyberpunk graphic novel that I wrote called Swipe out... but the publishing company has had a lot of troubles, and nothing further that I’d written about the same characters has come out.

So, I started helping Barb. I was already her editor, but now I started collaborating with her more and more. We are both professional editors so we handle editing ourselves. We go over it (including out loud) over and over beforehand.

We have made book trailers to market our books. We do book tours and get reviews.

Barb and Park, thanks for the insight into your writing life. I wish you well for the future. See the links below where you can find out more about this writing duo. This book is available in Kindle but not through Kindle Unlimited. Still worth a read.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Talking-Cure-Novel-Psychiatry-Cutter-ebook/dp/B0BCJ751LV/

Website

https://parkgsg.wixsite.com/wickermanstudios

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057705847859

Twitter

https://twitter.com/parkcooper

Tivadar's House (Made Things Book 1)
Seána Kee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valerie is an unusual child, not surprising as both her mother and father have died and she is being cared for by her brothers. Robert is in his 20s. It’s a huge responsibility that he has taken on board. He steps up to the mark and does a good job – most of the time. His younger brother Pete isn’t a great deal of help; he’s too interested in cars and finding a girlfriend.

 

Social services are watching closely, waiting to take over if they feel that Robert is failing his sister, which is why Valerie’s behaviour is such a cause for concern. After all, a child who talks to the doors and windows, the bowl in the kitchen, everything around her, and what’s more seems to be expecting an answer – that must be a cause for concern. Right?

One day, Valerie did something Robert had forbidden her to do. She went to a flea market in a part of town that was not safe. She travelled on the subway, totally ignoring Robert’s wise instruction. Things went wrong. She was followed by a man, not just around the market but on the train home. She took refuge in an old man’s shop, a friend of the family.

Terrified that something could have happened to her, terrified that social services would find out and take her away, Robert lost the plot and punished her with the mysterious belt that had hung on the wall in their home for years. He was mortified. He didn’t know what made him do it.

Yet this set off a chain of events that led to amazing discoveries including finding that his small family had a host of aunts, uncles and cousins that they had never known. And more importantly, that Robert had powers that he had never realised, or perhaps he had but repressed those memories in an effort to fit in with the new country in which his family had made their home.

We learn about the difficulties of being an immigrant family, the hostility towards Germans and Jews in this brave new world they lived in, the humiliation and rejection for those who don’t fit in. We hear of the support networks that the immigrant community established in the face of rejection from the host country. The friends who became family, those that searched to reunite family with relatives missing due to war and upheaval. It asks the insightful question – who is really your family? Is it blood that ties people together? Or shared experience, care and loyalty?

The impact on Robert was massive. He had to live with his regret at losing control and hurting his sister. And he now heard the same voices that his sister had always done. He found out that he wasn’t losing his mind, that ‘makers’ can give instructions to the things they create, that a pan can be made to never burn, a bowl to keep food hot, a door to keep out enemies. These items will happily tell you what they have been made to do.

Robert discovered that the door to their home took this duty seriously, but he needed to understand why the door was hostile to his newfound family. They are rich and powerful and very seductive with their generosity, offering Robert and his brother work in the family business. What did the door know that Robert didn’t?

Robert delighted in his newfound powers, pushing horizons, finding out what he could do. He was a ‘maker’ of great potential, yet he kept all this hidden. Something warned him not to share his secrets.

 

The writing is engaging. We sense clearly the personalities of the siblings in this little family. Robert is weighed down with responsibilities, working to make ends meet, yet still naïve and very young in experience. Pete wants to take his share pf the burden but can’t quite hold up his end of the bargain. Valerie is a sweet child still. Old Mr Schmidt is always there for them, not very talkative, not always that friendly, but never failing them.

The contrast with the new family is clear and yet at first we are sucked into the ‘good fortune’ of finding this part of the family, and we think how great this will work out for Robert, Pete and Valerie. Perhaps they will get the love and support they deserve, but then again, perhaps not.

The period is well portrayed. There is no need for dates to tell us when this story is set. The descriptions of places and attitudes of the people who inhabit this world let us know. It’s a fascinating insight into a time that has moved on.

This is the first book in the series. I read this and was left wanting more. I want to know about the magic Robert can do. Where will it take him? I want to find out what is wrong with the new relatives. Can they really be so bad? I want to make sure that Robert and the others are all right, and their world is safe and happy for them. As I finished reading Tivadar’s House, I was already recommending this book to family, and I have downloaded book two in the series, Robert’s Pen.

I asked the author to tell us a little about themself and their publishing journey

I spent my entire adult life (30 years of it) writing in secret. My husband knew I was writing but wasn’t allowed to read anything. Nobody else – not my family nor my closest friends – knew I was writing anything, let alone entire books by the dozen. Then I met someone in a closed group who encouraged talking about the characters in our heads. I started sharing snippets, then finally decided to put it on Kindle, and if anyone else wanted it, so be it.

That first story was Haru, the first book in my Pacifica trilogy. Despite my total lack of novel-writing education at that point, I’m still immensely proud of it. I just re-read it last week, and I don’t see any changes I would make now that I more or less know what I’m doing. A lot of people say they cringe when they read their early stories, but I don’t have that. Maybe because I have 30 years of early stories that DO make me cringe, and somehow worked my way past that by the time I got to Haru. I call those years ‘honing my craft’. Which is something my character, Robert, learns about in the Made Things series. Sure you can throw magic at a bowl you’ve made of clay, but should you if it’s a cruddy bowl? Learn to make a good bowl first, then learn to throw magic at it, or you’ll be stuck forever with a leaky bowl you can’t destroy.

It took me about a year to tell my two closest friends I had published. One of them said, “That’s not my genre, but because you wrote it, I’ll try it.” A couple hours later she had her nose buried in her Kindle. “I’m on chapter two already. I am SO hooked. This is not my thing, but you’re somehow making me LIKE it.” Maybe someday I’ll reach the point I can casually mention to people, “Oh, and by the way, I’ve written a book you might like.” But I’m not there yet.

I’m self-published through Kindle only. I didn’t see the point of going the traditional route. I’m related to someone who tried this and I saw the difficulties of her journey. I didn’t see any reason to put myself through that.

I’m terrible at marketing. I couldn’t sell ice in a desert. I’ve been writing a daily blog-type thing on Facebook for nearly 900 days. It’s a couple paragraphs of humor, quirkiness, life observations, or just some sort of thought. It’s mostly an exercise in finding something fresh to write about every – single – day. I keep hoping it will draw people in, get them hooked on my writing style, and interest them in my books. If anyone wants an interesting thought a day in their feed, feel free to send a friend request!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seana.kee.545

find Tividar's House on:

www.amazon.co.uk/Tivadars-House-Made-Things-Book-ebook/dp/B09HM4NB91/

 

and other books by  Seána Kee on:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Se%C3%A1na-Kee/e/B07WR5559T/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Midnight: A Vampire Island Saga

Keith Armstrong










 

This book is the origin story for Midnight, a main character in Vampire Island and the battle for Malikperse..

Keith Armstrong, the author, tells us he has written an epic tale. He certainly has in terms of physical length- there is a lot to read. It meets all the criteria to be classed as epic. The story is historical and set over a long time span. The journey starts when humans first started to gather and settle in communities. Midnight was the chief’s daughter, given powers by a god to protect her people. It follows Midnight through thousands of years, from a time before the Sahara was desert, to Egypt in the time of Cleopatra, to fighting the Roman Empire, living in ancient Greece, and making treaties with Britain in the 1700s.
 

The wide-ranging settings present opportunities for adventure and obstacles to be overcome. In the beginning, Midnight had to discover how best to save her people from the many enemies they faced. As time moved on, her challenges changed becoming ever greater and with increasing responsibility.
 

The problem with immortality is that the world changes around you, with a never-ending cycle of loss as the mortals you care for die, even if they don’t fall in battle prematurely, but live to a peaceful old age. The generations of mortals around you will forget the people you cared for, but Midnight never will. She visits her village in Africa for hundreds of years after she has been forgotten there, to mourn her sister whom she loved dearly and to check that her people are safe, willing to step in as their protector once more if she is needed.
 

Midnight is immortal as she is a vampire. There are few things that can kill a vampire as long as they aren’t careless and stay out in the sun. Yet there are enemies that like to try. An amazing array of supernatural folk inhabit Midnight’s world – werewolves, dwarves, giants, goblins, witches, elves, lizard men, and more. Midnight does what she has to. She will try to win them over but will happily kill them if they continue to present a threat.
 

One constant thought drives Midnight through the years – the desire to find Malik, the being that turned her into a vampire. Rumours say that he is evil, a bad man to be feared. Midnight believes otherwise. She follows any hint of where he might be, intent on her quest to find him.
 

As Midnight travels through history, we are presented with different versions of the history that we are familiar with, different takes that make the reader stop and question what they think they know. The pyramids were capped with copper. They generated electricity that lit Egypt and warmed the homes of people who lived there.
 

Jesus was an illusionist who tricked people with some form of mind power. The guy he brought back from the dead was a trick. He was wolf cursed, not quite a werewolf, and appeared dead till he rose again when commanded by his wolf master.
 

Even traditional beliefs of folklore are challenged. Vampires are good. They keep crime down by feeding on those that break laws.
 

The author tells us that Midnight: a vampire island saga is a fantasy similar to the world of Harry Potter but for grown-ups. It is definitely not for children. Themes touched on can be disturbing. Sex creeps in often, not always in a good way. Midnight lets herself be raped so that the rapist can be caught and brought to justice. After, she tells her companion that she enjoyed the experience.
 

Violence will always be present in these sort of epic tales where fighting for survival is a necessity. Yet the descriptions of torture are graphic in a way that, for me, felt uncomfortable. A rapist’s penis was cut off and shoved up his rear end till Midnight’s arm was in up to her elbow.
 

There is however an element of humour that can lighten the tone. A signal to alert companions of their return is ‘the loudest fart possible from any human arse’. One bit that made me chuckle, and I don’t know if it was intentional or not, was when Midnight was going under cover, saying that she was studying scrolls to learn more about the creatures of the night. In her bag, she has scrolls, writing materials, and ‘fake class notes’.
 

This tale is wonderful in its breadth and imagination which makes it a worthwhile read, especially if you read it as part of the Vampire island and Malikperse saga.

That said, there are a couple of things that distract from immersion in the story. The author writes in sentence fragments, often. Initially, I found this disconcerting and I was more than a few pages in before I came to terms with his style. There is room for further editing. There are issues with wrong word choice and with incorrect punctuation in dialogue. These are easily rectified.
 

Having said that, this book still deserves a place on your reading list.

I asked the author to tell me about themself and their writing journey.

I have always wanted to be an author growing up, but many people told me that it would never happen. So, I didn’t really try. I have wrote on and off since I was in middle school. But never finished any work. I think looking back that I was always writing about action and martial arts which I just couldn’t build on it. Then in the early 90’s I watched ‘Interview with the vampire’. I loved that movie. I bought the book and that was it, I was hooked on this new take on the vampire world created by the late ‘great’ Anne Rice. I have always been into horror for as far back as I can remember. However, I feel as of late horror in fading out. Vampire fiction is not the same anymore. So, I wanted to bring vampires and even the classic Nosferatu’s. I started writing my first book, ‘Vampire Island’ during the pandemic mainly just for something to do. A few chapters in my wife and daughter both said why not try to get it published. So, once I was finished with it I thought why not. And my journey started.
 

I looked into using an editor but prices were too high, so I just used software to edit and read and re-read lots of times. I must admit doing it this way, you still find errors, but you can always re-edit your work.
 

I found KDP great to use, everything you need to know is on the site and they even have templates that are good to use too.

For eBooks it is great, and if you fix any errors, you may find later on after re-reading your work. It is easy to re-upload your edited files to KDP.

I love paperbacks, there is nothing like holding the work you have worked so hard at, in your hands. Flicking through those pages, reading a world that you have created. That for me, is known you have something that is yours and you can show the world you have made it. Your hard work has paid off.

Marketing is very hard. I’ve had most success with my T-shirts. Or at least that is how I know if people bought my books. I wore one the other day and some guy in a shop I was in stopped me and told my he read that book and how much he liked it. Then I told him I wrote it. After the ‘Get away, really’. He gave me some good feedback and asked if I was writing more.

 

Keith, thanks for sharing your journey. Check out the Vampire Island saga on the links below.
 

 

Available on Amazon in Kindle Unlimited and in paperback.
 

www.amazon.co.uk/Midnight-Vampire-Island-Keith-Armstrong-ebook/dp/B09C2LW8B2/
 

Website

https://duff2k30.wixsite.com/malikperse
 

Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/keith.armstrong.10297

Twitter

https://twitter.com/VampireDuff1

Invasion: An Urban Fantasy - the Carolina files Book 1
Willa Blackmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tula is a witch. She does fun stuff with her powers and she ‘knows’ that she’s born to this but well, her mom hasn’t told her much about it and in fact has done a bunk and left Tula and her sisters to it. Yet the truth is that the place where they all live and work – the inn – has powerful magic built into it that prevents visitors using magic while they are on the premises. This makes it a safe place for magical folk of all types to be, not just the witches. There’s this and of course the scary old aunt – now she has real magic – but Tula and her sisters just breeze along in life having a laugh.

Tula does do a bit of grown-up stuff, helping out the local police with cases that have something a bit odd about them, supernatural stuff that can’t be explained away. One day an FBI agent turns up asking for her help. A young woman’s life is at risk, and the grim reaper waits for her in the shadows. This weird case is beyond Tula’s limited knowledge of magic. She is obliged to approach her feisty, short-tempered aunt for advice.

What follows is a dangerous mission for all concerned. The person at the root of the trouble has unleashed something more powerful than they know. Tula, her family, her home, and the local people are threatened. Can Tula get to the bottom of all this and make their world a safe place to be once again? Can she grow her magic in time to make a difference?

Tula and her sisters are not the earnest,  principled, knowledgeable witches we sometimes come across in novels, nor the evil villain type seeking to bend others to their wishes. They are simply young women out for a good time, using what little magic they do have for fun. They bicker a lot as sisters sometimes do, yet they are there for each other when they’re needed, even if they don’t always manage to do the right thing.

It's a refreshing and fun read. I love Tula’s relationship with Victor the vampire – can a witch really fancy a vampire, and ew, give him some blood if he needs it? I love the way Tula is petrified of her aunt, although to be fair this irritable old aunt could well flick her fingers and kill you in temper.

The story is inventive, with great imagination in laying out the world Tula inhabits. You don’t see the plot twists coming, fooling you just when you think the end is in sight. I will certainly be looking out for the next instalment.

I asked the writer to tell us more about themself and their writing journey

I come from a family of avid readers, and learned to read at an early age. When I started school, even though we were always strapped for cash, my mother enrolled me in a children’s classics book club. Every month, a brand new book would come in the mail with my name on it. It was a huge thing for me. There were also weekly trips to the library. My whole world was reading, and I always knew that eventually I’d write.

 

I spent a lot of years writing freelance. Technical work that was rewarding in its way, but did little to scratch the creative itch. I wrote some fiction for my own amusement, but when I thought about agents, the publishing gatekeepers, the whole journey, it just seemed like a mountain that was impossible to climb. And the lack of control over my own fate was also something I didn’t like. Putting my work into the hands of others, trusting they’d know what to do with it, trusting they’d do a good job promoting it, I just couldn’t do it so never tried.

 

 

When the indie world opened to writers, it was like a siren’s call for me. Finally there was a way I could write, keep control of my work, and my success or failure would be at no one’s door but my own. Self-publishing is so much more than just writing. You have to wear a lot of different hats. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted!

 

Horror is my first love, and I have some works in progress that are nearly ready to publish. I’m really excited to put them out into the world soon, but right now, I’m finishing up a series - The Carolina Files - I wrote to test the water in the urban fantasy genre. I chose urban fantasy because it’s a fairly big tent, and I hoped that if my work trended into campy horror, it would still be accepted.  

 

The Carolina Files was born out of a desire to create a series with the adventure of an urban fantasy, the suspense and darkness of horror, combined with the warmth and humor of a cozy. In these stories, I hope I've done that.

 

For now, the books are low on romance, though that could change later on. They are gritty and fun, and sometimes the characters use language that we'd scold our kids for using. But I try to bring in the real world, with real people, complete with all the ugliness and beauty that real people have. Sometimes that's not pretty, but it's always interesting, I hope.

 

In this series, I'm avoiding cliff-hangers, so each book completes an entire story arc, though there is a background overarching storyline that continues through all the books. Right now, I have ten books planned for the series.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Invasion-Carolina-Files-Book-1-ebook/dp/B093G2F7B5

 

https://www.facebook.com/WillaBlackmore

 

https://willablackmore.com/

Invasion: An Urban Fantasy - the Carolina files Book 1
Willa Blackmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tula is a witch. She does fun stuff with her powers and she ‘knows’ that she’s born to this but well, her mom hasn’t told her much about it and in fact has done a bunk and left Tula and her sisters to it. Yet the truth is that the place where they all live and work – the inn – has powerful magic built into it that prevents visitors using magic while they are on the premises. This makes it a safe place for magical folk of all types to be, not just the witches. There’s this and of course the scary old aunt – now she has real magic – but Tula and her sisters just breeze along in life having a laugh.

Tula does do a bit of grown-up stuff, helping out the local police with cases that have something a bit odd about them, supernatural stuff that can’t be explained away. One day an FBI agent turns up asking for her help. A young woman’s life is at risk, and the grim reaper waits for her in the shadows. This weird case is beyond Tula’s limited knowledge of magic. She is obliged to approach her feisty, short-tempered aunt for advice.

What follows is a dangerous mission for all concerned. The person at the root of the trouble has unleashed something more powerful than they know. Tula, her family, her home, and the local people are threatened. Can Tula get to the bottom of all this and make their world a safe place to be once again? Can she grow her magic in time to make a difference?

Tula and her sisters are not the earnest,  principled, knowledgeable witches we sometimes come across in novels, nor the evil villain type seeking to bend others to their wishes. They are simply young women out for a good time, using what little magic they do have for fun. They bicker a lot as sisters sometimes do, yet they are there for each other when they’re needed, even if they don’t always manage to do the right thing.

It's a refreshing and fun read. I love Tula’s relationship with Victor the vampire – can a witch really fancy a vampire, and ew, give him some blood if he needs it? I love the way Tula is petrified of her aunt, although to be fair this irritable old aunt could well flick her fingers and kill you in temper.

The story is inventive, with great imagination in laying out the world Tula inhabits. You don’t see the plot twists coming, fooling you just when you think the end is in sight. I will certainly be looking out for the next instalment.

I asked the writer to tell us more about themself and their writing journey

I come from a family of avid readers, and learned to read at an early age. When I started school, even though we were always strapped for cash, my mother enrolled me in a children’s classics book club. Every month, a brand new book would come in the mail with my name on it. It was a huge thing for me. There were also weekly trips to the library. My whole world was reading, and I always knew that eventually I’d write.

 

I spent a lot of years writing freelance. Technical work that was rewarding in its way, but did little to scratch the creative itch. I wrote some fiction for my own amusement, but when I thought about agents, the publishing gatekeepers, the whole journey, it just seemed like a mountain that was impossible to climb. And the lack of control over my own fate was also something I didn’t like. Putting my work into the hands of others, trusting they’d know what to do with it, trusting they’d do a good job promoting it, I just couldn’t do it so never tried.

 

 

When the indie world opened to writers, it was like a siren’s call for me. Finally there was a way I could write, keep control of my work, and my success or failure would be at no one’s door but my own. Self-publishing is so much more than just writing. You have to wear a lot of different hats. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted!

 

Horror is my first love, and I have some works in progress that are nearly ready to publish. I’m really excited to put them out into the world soon, but right now, I’m finishing up a series - The Carolina Files - I wrote to test the water in the urban fantasy genre. I chose urban fantasy because it’s a fairly big tent, and I hoped that if my work trended into campy horror, it would still be accepted.  

 

The Carolina Files was born out of a desire to create a series with the adventure of an urban fantasy, the suspense and darkness of horror, combined with the warmth and humor of a cozy. In these stories, I hope I've done that.

 

For now, the books are low on romance, though that could change later on. They are gritty and fun, and sometimes the characters use language that we'd scold our kids for using. But I try to bring in the real world, with real people, complete with all the ugliness and beauty that real people have. Sometimes that's not pretty, but it's always interesting, I hope.

 

In this series, I'm avoiding cliff-hangers, so each book completes an entire story arc, though there is a background overarching storyline that continues through all the books. Right now, I have ten books planned for the series.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Invasion-Carolina-Files-Book-1-ebook/dp/B093G2F7B5

 

https://www.facebook.com/WillaBlackmore

 

https://willablackmore.com/

Sweet Hope: an Appalachian Ghost Story

Michael Easterling








 

Where do I start? There are so many layers in this book, it’s impossible to pull out one as most important. All the themes add their own special something to the story to create a compelling whole.
 

Parry is a young anthropologist who takes a break from her university life to help a friend. Adam Manly Singer is a musician. He plays, lives, bluegrass with its haunting ballads that tell of a life that was. Adam wants Miss Parry to help uncover the truth of a song that tells of the death of a teacher and his pregnant lover, believed to have been killed by the girl’s uprighteous, indignant family. More exactly, he wants help to exhumate a grave that he believes to be the teacher’s.
 

Parry makes the long journey to Appalachia to help her friend, hoping the peace and beauty of Hoagland Holler away from the city where she doesn’t feel she quite belongs, will help her as well.
 

Set in the 70s, this place is so far removed from the city that Parry doesn’t feel she belongs there either. The life is primitive, the people hostile, protective of their own rights while ignoring those of others – even basics like the right to life. Land is what drives their psyche. If you don’t have land, you don’t have anything.
 

The search for the teacher is initially fruitless, but the ghost of the pregnant lover on her towering horse pushes the search in different directions. As Miss Parry comes closer to the truth, her own life is in danger. The question becomes – who can be trusted?
 

The story explores friendships and belonging, family ties and obligations. It gives a glimpse into attitudes towards sexuality that caused so much hurt in that era. The impact that the Vietnam war had on its veterans is illustrated through one so affected. It looks at how cultures develop in places isolated from the rest of the world by distance, inaccessibility, and hardship. Even religion develops its own flavour in an area that harks back to the old skills necessary for survival when the ‘modern’ world is out of reach.
 

When I first read this story, I totally believed in the strange society it presented, simply from the strength of the writing. I had no knowledge of life in Appalachia at any time, present or past. I asked the author if this was a created environment or based on the reality of it. The author confirms it was based on both research and personal experience, even the bizarre events of the church. The author remembered as a boy going to a Pentecostal church and watching a worshipper crawl on all fours and bark like a dog.
 

The story revolves to a great extent around Bluegrass music with the characters singing and playing whenever they can, and lyrics are often quoted. The love of this music was evident, which comes from the author’s own love of the music. All the songs mentioned in the story are songs he has played at one time or another. The author has placed a concealed joke into the story which runs throughout. Miss Parry hates the banjo and scorns banjo players. The author plays the banjo.

The story was prompted from an article in the Smithsonian recounting how the musician John Hartford hired the anthropologist Doug Owlsley to dig up a grave of a mountaineer whose claim to fame was getting killed in a hillbilly feud. As Owlsley worked, John Hartford played the fiddle to help coax the corpse out of his grave. One has to ask which is stranger - the fact or the fiction?
 

This book is well worth the read. Aside from the intriguing story, it gives immersion into a different way of life.

 

I asked the author to tell us about themself and their publishing journey.
 

The author Michael and his wife Elizabeth work together as a team; Michael writes and Elizabeth does everything else, including the editing. It is a joint venture.
 

Elizabeth says:

We are self-published. For our first book, The Water at the End of the World, I wrote query letters to over 265 agents and had no success getting a foot in the door of traditional publishing. In the early days, self-publishing was a real nightmare and quite expensive. Now with KDP, it’s relatively easy and it gives us access to the largest bookseller in the world.
 

The cover of Sweet Hope is a story in itself.  We knew the cover had to be the photo of Canara Rivers and Rosanne that Adam Manly Singer used for the cover of his album. We have a friend who fits the description of Canara Rivers, and he and his wife posed for us in front of an old barn at a local winery. So I started working with Photoshop (my very first project!) and realized the barn just wasn’t right. So the barn in the final picture is from my grandmother’s ranch in Arizona. The sky was a little dull as well, so I imported a sky from our trip to Lyme Regis. 
 

I did all the formatting using the templates provided by KDP. They’re pretty user-friendly, and there are lots of helpful articles and tutorials. It’s a bit of a learning curve, but not too hard.
 

I published in paperback first, and from there it was quite easy to publish in eBook format as well. More recently KDP has offered a hardcover option as well. The only difference is that you have to adjust the size of the cover. As a surprise, I had four of Michael’s books done up in hardcover, and I’m really pleased with the results.
 

Marketing has been the hardest part, and I can’t say anything has brought us a lot of success. I have tried some Facebook ads and Amazon ads with limited response. In both platforms, I’ve spent more than I made. I occasionally get a response to posts on Facebook, but it seems like the groups I post in are not really interested in buying books.

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Easterling/e/B0752PRJ7R

https://www.facebook.com/ValleyOakPublications/?ref=py  

easterling@hughes.net

New Wave (lazarus):

A Story of African Gods

 

E A Chile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah is a young man gliding through life without much thought except to make the most of his carefree student years. But when he makes eyes at the wrong girl, he is in for the shock of his life when he falls foul of a confraternity tough guy. 

He’s in for the shock of his death when he wakes up six months later to find out that he and his sister had been murdered. Desperate to understand why he is dead and yet alive, riddled with guilt for his sister’s death, beleaguered by nightmares, Jeremiah needs help. He finds it in the shape of the mysterious Mr Sunday. We are launched into the old world of African gods that most people have long forgotten about.

The gods and goddesses are many and varied with their own responsibilities and characters. They are troubled that they are fading from existence. If no one remembers them, they will cease to exist. Some accept this as their fate, others wish to fight against it. They all agree that the impact of the Christian religion, brought to their homeland by outsiders, has led to their current situation.

Jeremiah finds that he owes his latterly undead existence to his grandfather who remained faithful to the old ways, giving his life to resurrect his beloved grandson. Mr Sunday teaches Jeremiah that he may be alive but he is not simply human as he was. There are skills for him to learn. As Jeremiah learns, so he grows in confidence. His overriding desire is to seek revenge for his sister’s death.

Although Jeremiah may have been feckless in his behaviour, we come to see that he is still a young man. He feels an outcast. He cannot return to his family – he could not expect them to accept him given the circumstances. It would be too damaging for them. He misses his best friend. He is angry, bewildered and you want to scoop him up and give him a hug.

I found this book a fascinating mix of fiction and fact. The author informs us that although the people in the tale are fictional, the deities are real, as are the beliefs, languages, and some historical events. The book is set in Nigeria, giving an insight into the way of life there, with some dialogue in the Igbo language with an English translation. This works to demonstrate the different peoples that make up the whole.

In some ways this narrative is instructional. The author includes passages explaining the history of the country and how the western culture has deeply affected the people whose home it is. This helps the reader put the story in context and understand the dismay and anger of the African gods.

The author tells us this is an eccentric book with the tale constructed from Nigerian superstition.

When I first started to read this book, I soon realised that there were many formatting and grammatical errors to the extent that I was not certain that I would continue to read it. Having said that, I was hooked by the story so carried on reading. I’m glad I did. I fell in love with this tale.

However, the vehicle did not do the story justice. I contacted the author to discuss the issues. He is now well aware of what needs to be done to put it right, and he is working towards this. I understand he will be uploading an amended version shortly.

I asked the author to tell us a bit about themself and their publishing journey.

My publishing experience has been quite a journey; I have learned a lot about the publishing industry. It requires patience and the ability to overcome obstacles by looking for new alternative ways especially as an author from Africa.

I’m self-published. I tried going through agents especially in the US and UK. I got a few praises, some rejections and others never replied but when you know you have an untold story that needs to be out you won't give up, you will find a way.

My experience of using KDP was quite okay, but it can be frustrating in a country like mine where Amazon services are not available. If one is impatient you could give up. It took me years of studying/research to figure out how to make the platform work for me despite the disadvantages I faced. I was handicapped by a lack of access but my will was strong and after many months I found a way. Firstly I published in e-book, then paperback a few months later. Despite having made some sales, it took me over a year before I could get a copy of my own book in my hand because of my location. But finally I did it and I have it on my shelf. Hopefully one day I will find a way to get more copies.

*******

This author has had a greater struggle than many of us. I highly recommend you watch his book trailer on the YouTube link below. Incredible.

YouTube:                        https://youtu.be/eAy_DyC3IwU

Facebook author page:     https://www.facebook.com/Eachile-Author-page-104153061663221/

link to book                   https://www.amazon.co.uk/NEW-WAVE-LAZARUS-ALEX-CHILE-ebook/dp/B08SFBZBDR

 

Rising Up - Book 1 Tranquillity series

Tanya Ross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this world of chaos that we live in, we often hear the admonition to be kind. If everyone just ‘scrolled past’ the things that made them angry and concentrated on happy thoughts, wouldn’t the world be a better place? They may be on the right track, the people that believe such things.

How about a world that values kindness? Where your place in society is determined by your happiness and your contribution to that of others? Where this is measured and translated into your worth and what you deserve from life? The happier you are, the better the place you live, the better the clothes you wear; even the food you eat is better.

If you don’t maintain the required standard of happiness, you will be sent for counselling and may even be expelled from this tranquil place – or put to death. Yet to meet the standard you have to subdue your thoughts. Grief is not allowed. Loving someone from a different status is not allowed. Having independent thought is not allowed.

For the majority that live there, the world is a wonderful place to be. For some, it is not. Ember is an empath. She feels the emotions of others, something she keeps secret. Will is forbidden to love her. Xander is his own person – good or bad only time will tell.

Yet there is something emerging, a truth that will send shock waves breaking through the illusion of a perfect world.

Amazon tells me that this book is placed in teen and young adult dystopian sci-fi, and also young adult emotions and feelings fiction. I have read it and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am definitely at the other end of the spectrum to young adult. Is it dystopian? In many ways it’s not so removed from our current world – people living in areas decided by their income which in turn is driven by their background, people trying to make their perfect world by ignoring what is around them.

For me what makes this book so readable is the relationships between the characters, and how they are each affected by their environment. Their individuality affects their behaviour and how they find a way to survive in this perfect world.

The concepts and people at times seem a little simplistic yet this makes the setting of this world believable. If everyone is happy, there is no angst to drive the soul-searching. Watching Ember and Will, and their relationship, develop as they better understand that all is not as it seems is touching.

Perhaps this book contains a warning – beware what you wish for. It may come true.

I asked the author to tell us about themself and their publishing journey

I grab things from my own life to recreate in my fictional novels. People, places, technology, and my experiences teaching middle school all contribute to the works I produce. Writing allows me to be creative, which is a part of me that I need to express, especially since I retired from teaching, where my previous energy and creativity were used every day.

I decided to self-publish because I’m not a young person. I didn’t want to be spinning my wheels and wasting time waiting for someone to recognise me in order to begin my second career.

For my first novel, I hired an editor, someone inexpensive,  who didn’t give me much help or suggest many edits at all. Since it was already an investment, I didn’t go for a second round with another person. I chose to revise and edit on my own. For my second novel, I hired a person, for three times the amount I paid the first one, who took six weeks and three rounds to edit. It was worth it.

I purchased a pre-made cover for my first novel, Rising Up. When I realised it didn’t really hit the mark, I hired an award-winning designer to create a new cover. She is amazing and I’m very happy with her.

Marketing is super challenging. It is extremely time-consuming and not easy to discover the right targets and keywords. I’ve had most success with Facebook posts and speaking engagements in schools.

Website:          www.tanyarossauthor.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/fictionauthor54

Instagram:       www.instagram.com/tjross_author

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RISING-UP-BOOK-ONE-TRANQUILITY-ebook/dp/B07TK2FJGC

 

Outcast

Rick Haynes

I don’t normally read epic fantasy but I was intrigued by the thought of giants.

We meet Sig as a defiant young boy who has suffered beatings at the hands of the cleric who ostensibly ‘cares’ for orphans. His sister died as a result of the sexual abuse and assault she had suffered at the hands of the same man. Sig receives help to make a break for freedom, enjoyable at first but not to continue for long. In the world he lives in, all people, except the strongest, end up serving someone else.

Pressed into the service of a harsh lord, Sig grows from a stripling of a lad into a giant of a man. He grows tall, broad, strong, and deadly. His comrades turn his stature into his nickname, and he becomes known as Giant, head and shoulders above everyone else.

While Sig has learned much from his petulant lord who demands obedience and metes out punishment for any minor infraction, Sig wants to take time out to avenge his sister’s death. Sig and his two companions, his shield swords, make a break for freedom, avenging his sister and acquiring the woman he comes to love.

The world they live in is turbulent with many opposing factions. The powerful are cruel; peace-loving folk are forced to fight for self-preservation.

Giant and his companions are the good guys and fight to stand up for others. They end up in an area they want to make their home, but they discover there is an imminent threat from a vile Lord who starves children to death for stealing food, and the giants who are in league with him.

If Giant wants to stay in the area where he dreams of settling down to raise his soon-to-be daughter, then he must fight to ensure its safety. Yet things are not what they seem. Are the giants really the enemy?

Given that this is a feudal world where fighters are trained and valued above most else, where to be perceived as weak is to die, I feel that the author has captured well the spirit of our young Giant. He is arrogant, quick to anger, quick to fight and quick to kill without necessarily having good reason. He often acts first and thinks later, struggling with remorse. His shield swords do their best to protect him from himself. He is a difficult person to root for, despite knowing his early hardships. A man of his time, his woman is his possession in much the same way as his horse. Yet in his pensive moments, he reveals his innermost thoughts, his love for his woman, his dream of not having to fight. You know that if he is on your side, he will fight to the death to protect you.

The giants are portrayed as loveable peaceful characters who are only moved to violence when it is forced on them. There is much humour in the interactions between them and the humans on their side. Giant, when on his way to encounter giants for the first time, feels an urgent need to take a shit that cannot wait. Giants find him squatting with his trews round his ankles. A child giant informs her father delightedly that this not-so-little human stinks. Giant becomes a favourite with the giants.

There are some themes that run throughout the tale. Basic needs such as food, drink, farting, shitting and sex are addressed at regular intervals. Fighting features throughout the book in graphic detail, as do horrific acts from evil people. What also is apparent throughout is the value of camaraderie, loyalty, love for comrades in arms and compassion for the weak who cannot fight for themselves. This is a tale in true epic fantasy style, taking us back to an age gone by.

I asked the author to tell me a bit about themself.

Writing was for clever people, not me, but a new writing group started nearby and I joined. So, in 2014 I went back to school. From novels to short stories and Drabbles, I enjoy writing in those formats. I even won an international Drabble contest with Spectral Morning.

I am self-published. I looked for an agent, to go down the traditional route but no luck so I self-published. All y work has been professionally edited and I used a cover designer. Marketing has been difficult. Before Covid, personal appearances brought me most success.

www.facebook.com/rick.haynes.9028/

www.rickhaynesauthor.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrO0UkG-ZWU&t=1s

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/OUTCAST-Rick-Haynes-ebook/dp/B07RN9695F/

The spaceman: many worlds apart

Graham Stanley

Gordon’s childhood love of video games turned into his career as a videogame journalist, a profession his father had little time nor respect for. Not surprising given the rift between them. As children, Gordon and his friend Danny were sci-fi nerds, eager to believe in aliens visiting earth. They grew excited when they saw a photo of an alleged alien hanging behind the bar in a pub. His father, a physicist, had no time for such childish nonsense. As they drove home, Gordon and Danny in the back, his mum and dad in the front arguing about the need to let kids use their imagination, his father lost control of the car. Danny went through the windscreen and was to spend the next forty years of his life in a coma.

Gordon felt obliged to venture out of London to attend his mother’s funeral. It wasn’t only the physical distance that had kept Gordon away from his family. What was possibly worse than losing his mum was having to address his frosty relationship with his father.

Returning to his childhood home, things weren’t quite as Gordon expected. Yes, his dad scarcely spoke to him. Retirement had not mellowed his father at all, although his age did produce some concerns that all was not well. The only thing he was keen to talk about was the scientific theories that he had continued to study since leaving work – endlessly.

We are introduced to amazing possibilities of alternate universes, computer simulations, and alien activity. Arguments battle back and forth, but who is right?

Strange things happen that Gordon witnesses and his dad denies. Gail, a local artist, has unknowingly been painting images of what Gordon has seen. And on top of all this, Danny revives from his coma giving rise to a media frenzy. Danny doesn’t care. He just wants his life back. Oh yes, and Gordon might want to leave his London life and long-term partner and move back to Scotland.

Then something happens to Gordon. What? We will have to wait for the next book in the series.

 

This slender book, a novella, packs a lot in its pages. The author tackles quite complicated concepts in a way that even I can understand them, sending my head watching out for glitches in the matrix.

The problems between father and son are understated but well played. As a reader, I felt sorry for Gordon, understanding how the break with his father came about but also disappointed that he didn’t make more effort with his mother. The author guides us effortlessly around the setting. His descriptions of snow are exactly how you feel as you trudge through softly falling flakes that lose their beauty under foot. He tells us there was a break in the grey clouds where ‘the sun was trying desperately to ask for an audience with the world’.

The distance between life in his family home and his life in London are shown when Gordon uses an old ivory-coloured rotary phone which wasn’t the retro chic his friends were loving in the city.

The author tells us that book two will be out soon. I’m following Graham so I get advance notice of when exactly that will be.

I asked the author to tell us a bit about themself.

I am an educator based in Mexico City, originally from England.  As a language teacher, I specialised in the use of technology and this speciality led me to writing two handbooks for teachers. The first of these was co-written, Digital Play: Computer Games and Language Aims and was published by a small publisher in 2011.  I wrote a more general handbook, Language Learning and Technology, for Cambridge University Press in 2013. This was warmly received and won the English Speaking Union’s HRH Duke of Edinburgh Award for book of the year. Since then, I have started writing fiction and have also been writing more books for teachers and edited a collection of case studies (Remote Teaching, 2019) that was published by the British Council.

I have experience working with publishers, small and large. Although I have benefitted from this (especially when it comes to distribution), the amount of time from initial idea and the actual publishing of the book is very long. Working with a publisher can be a very slow laborious process. I’m also writing very niche genre fiction that a mainstream publisher is unlikely to take on. There’s also the financial aspect – I earn about 1 USD per copy of my second book, but this book is sold for 25 USD. Finally, I’m an English language educator interested in technology, and there’s the appeal of doing everything myself, learning how to do it well, understanding the process, the technology, learning how best to market, etc. I am having a lot of fun with this.

https://grahamstanley.info/

https://www.patreon.com/duskcity

https://twitter.com/GrahamStanley

www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08S3D1R7G    - follow this link to the book

 
 
The Lanyon Stone – the Laniyat Chronicles – Prelude
E B Finke

A small village in Cornwall hides a dangerous secret.’

The prologue sets the scene. Someone – a woman - is going to tell us the story of what happened behind the newspaper headlines. For a change, it appears that the newspapers didn’t exaggerate or sensationalise what happened. Or rather they tried to, but the real events are so far beyond belief that the papers failed miserably. But here comes the true story of the child adopted by Trevor and Edith Penharrow.

And then we hear of a legend recorded in the journal of Dr A J Meinert, a strange tale of a land where people dwell in caves far beneath the ground to avoid the sun, coming out only at night. There is a city of stone with an abandoned palace. One day a new King will come.

And then the story starts. Trevor and Edith adopted a little boy they called Danny. Jessica, who is telling the story, is young herself, a bit unsure about having a new baby brother. She wasn’t enamoured with him, and certainly wasn’t afraid of him, which was a good thing, as most people were.

Danny grew quickly, didn’t talk, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, yet appeared to be perfectly healthy and intelligent. He read books far beyond his years, even though he had never been taught to read. He was soon taller and looked older than other kids his age. He was beautiful. He did exactly what he wanted paying little, if any, attention to the adults around him who were doing their best to care for him. The only person he had any sort of relationship with was his adopted sister Jessica.

At first, his strange behaviour was perhaps to be expected and allowances made for; he was after all found abandoned at Lanyon Quoit, a Bronze Age monument in Cornwall, not far from where his adopted family lived.

Jessica never thought of Danny as being part of her family, which may explain her later thoughts towards him. To be honest, there were times when she wasn’t sure if he was even part of her human race – though her common sense told her not to be stupid. She had left her childhood dreams of finding Narnia firmly behind, hadn’t she? Jessica came to realise that their relationship was destructive so she left for university leaving Danny, her parents and Cornwall with its strange legends behind her.

There she met Hal, who could easily be mistaken for an elf, so beautiful and willowy was she; Hal introduced Jessica to Dr Meinert. Jessica’s life spiralled into another world as she struggled to come to terms with the information she now had, and how it related to Danny.

Jessica raced back to Danny when she discovered that he was in real trouble back in Cornwall, his name all over the newspapers. The story escalates quickly. Jessica finds that the strange things she has been told about Danny are true. Danny intends to leave which she knows is a good thing for him, but she can’t bear to be parted from him.

The answer may lie in the police report that ends the story.

The fantasy world that fills the pages of this novel is astounding in the detail and complexity, and yet they are linked to questions we have probably all pondered at some stage. The beings who have walked the earth that are not quite like us – the changelings, the gods, the powerful – where have the myths come from? Could there be any truth in them?

E B Finke has a wonderful way with description that places you there so you can see for yourself. The strict and haughty woman at the orphanage had a smile ‘plastered across her face like some strange graffiti sprayed on a wall.’

Jessica waved to her parents who ‘were standing backlit in the door of the cottage.’ You know that exact scene as it’s getting dark and time to go.

She describes the narrow twisting Cornish lanes where locals drive at breakneck speed. Anyone who has driven in Cornwall knows exactly what she’s talking about.

The story pushes boundaries and at times can make you feel a little uncomfortable which adds tension to the reading experience. You’re not sure of what to expect, sometimes dreading it. Despite the oddity of the main character, he is strangely endearing. And Jessica loves him.

I asked the author to tell me a bit about herself and her publishing journey.

I have been writing books for several decades, most of them when I was in my twenties/thirties, but never tried to publish before last year. One reason was that I write in English, but live in Germany, and I was told that it’s no use trying to find a publisher in the UK or the USA if you’re a foreigner.

More recently – a few years ago – I was able to publish a few short stories in German anthologies, and I began writing a long novel in German. I sent it around mostly to fantasy-oriented publishers. Some of the smaller ones were interested but said it was too big for a small publisher. The big publishers never bothered to reply at all.

Then Covid hit, I had time on my hands, and I started to look into self-publishing and into polishing up those older books that I’d written in English. I had previously shied away from self-publishing and I’d have preferred doing it the traditional way, but honestly I’m too old now to invest years in shopping around for a publisher. Besides, I’m quite enjoying the fact that I have full control over what I’m doing.

I wish I could afford an editor, honestly, but I literally have no money to spare and I have to do it all on a zero budget. So I do everything myself. It helps that I have worked, and still occasionally work as an editor myself. I get really mad at people who call self-edited and self-published authors lazy, because I edit my socks off. It’s hard work and it takes a lot of time and effort and you always miss something you only discover when you look into the finished book (I’m actually terrified of doing that). On the other hand, I have found more really bad mistakes in supposedly edited self-published books by other authors than I found in my own, so having an editor doesn’t always help that much, either ...

I have a FaceBook page for my books where I keep a blog and post a lot of background info and artwork.

Thanks for this Betty. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Chronicles. Why not take a look at Betty’s page for further info.

https://www.facebook.com/E.B.Finke

www.amazon.co.uk/Lanyon-Stone-Laniyat-Chronicles-Prelude-ebook/dp/B0951ZFCBS

 

The Cracklock Saga book 1 Fae or Foe

Craig Deegan

 

 

 

 

‘Faery, where the monsters are not only from make-believe.’

Fifteen-year-old Jack has grown up as a lovely lad who goes to school, delivering papers and washing dishes to bring in money to supplement his mum’s hard-earned income. As far as Jack knows, he’s just an ordinary lad who’s had a bit of a rough time since his father died.

All that changes rapidly. He starts to hear things others can’t, see things that no one else can. A non-human beast disguised as a harmless old man tries to kill him. (We find out never to trust appearances – they can definitely be deceiving.) Along comes Aunt Elsie and her ferret and they introduce Jack to the world of faery.

Not the cute pretty world of fairy tales, but one of a multitude of outlandish beings, and by no means all of them are nice. It is a divided world with both good and downright evil. A bit like the human world actually. There is plenty of evil there as well, from the bullies at school to Jack’s own family – the part he’s never met before.

The author takes us on a wild ride full of action as he introduces us to an intricate magical world where not even the way folk travel is the same. Draw a symbol on a door and step into another time and place. The details are well thought out and workable – once you as a reader are ready to step into faery.

Different types of beings who populate faery have defined characteristics; Brownies are loyal and will fight to the end to defend the people they care for, care which is shown by looking after them, feeding them, cleaning up after them, nursing them when they are sick. Boggarts like to hang around pubs, thriving on other people’s evilness.

It was interesting how the evilness in the school bullies is shown to have developed from poor parenting from a mother who couldn’t be bothered and a father who was probably a bully himself, and allowed to continue as no one is brave enough to stand up to them, including teachers. Until Jack.

The division in Jack’s family is cleverly explained, tracing the problems back to the time of the Witchfinder General, when to be a witch, or at least to be accused of it, to see or hear anything strange that others couldn’t, was to be at risk of losing your life. Part of the family gave in to prevailing thought and religious beliefs and decried those that didn’t, leading to the breakdown in family relationships as one side couldn’t trust the other.

When I first looked at this book, it was described on Amazon as being fiction for teens and young adult. I can confirm that I am nowhere near this category so I wondered what I would find. What I found was a highly readable and enjoyable book. Imagine my dismay at finding that it ended on a cliff-hanger. What happens next? The answer is to read the next book in the series.

I asked the author to tell me a bit about themself and their publishing journey.

Hi everyone! I live in the East Midlands, right in the centre of the UK, and when I’m not writing or working, I’m with the family or walking the dog in the local woodlands seeking those ever-elusive Fae. Or sitting, pint in hand with the good friends I grew up with. Some of them are hidden in the books themselves; quite a few characters are based on the people I know and love.

I am self-published. I confess that I did try and look for an agent initially; it was the marketing side of the business that scared me. After doing a lot of research I decided that I didn’t want to wait a long time and then lose overall control of my stories, just to be saddled with marketing anyway. That’s when I started looking seriously at self-publishing. And I am glad that I did.

Marketing – I have tried pretty much all of it and I’m lucky enough to be doing alright. One thingI have yet to try is TikTok. Something to look at for the future.

Email:  thecracklocksaga@outlook.com   - always happy to answer questions!

 

Website:  https://www.thecracklocksaga.com   [check this out for all things Cracklock!]

 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheCracklockSaga  

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thecracklocksaga/ 

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CracklockSaga 

 

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-1UD-GJAtI

 

Book links:

Book 1, Fae or Foe?:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09G9RNMMS

Book 2, The Lost and the Departed:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09KNDM9YZ

Book 3, Alice and the Mirror Glass:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09QJ2TV9S

 

Book 4, Dire Sorrows will release Quarter 4 2022. A standalone story which precludes book 4, “The Tale of Nathaniel Cracklock”, will release Summer 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost Human

 

book 1 Discovery



Ashleigh Reverie


The war we all fear has happened. Much of the world is devastated by the weaponry used – nuclear, chemical and biological. Survivors are leaving these areas in droves seeking safe refuge. New America doesn’t want them. It closed the borders and refuses to acknowledge those that remain as legitimate citizens.

Refugees are treated as a class of their own. They are denied access to basic amenities like running water, electricity and the digital world. No cars, no phones, no banking. Everything for them is cash only – they are ‘cashers.’

 

Although set in the future, this is a future not too far removed from reality. We can easily extrapolate from current day events to what could be, without much difficulty. It is unsettling and makes us think deeply about the direction we are heading in. As I read, I cringed. The attitudes and abuse in this future have their seeds in the world around us.

The poor suffer while the rich thrive, aided and abetted by a controlling government with cameras on every street corner. This government needs new weapons to keep them safe – enter experimental genetically modified humans who are stronger than humans, learn quicker than humans, and kill without an iota of human compassion.

 

Some escape, including Edel, a female version who has never had a name before, only a number, and the scene is set.

 

The prologue is a masterpiece. It’s a rapid introduction to this new world. We know straight away that it’s bad, horrific. Human workers are expected to follow instructions without question, no matter how insanely against any ideals; failure to comply puts them at risk. One woman takes a chance and rescues a baby. We know that the compassion that makes us human still lingers at least somewhere in this world. I was hooked.

The author skilfully takes us into Edel’s mindset. She now has her freedom, but what is freedom if you don’t know what it means or what to do with it. She has only been outside the building she was raised in twice. She has never been allowed to think for herself, to make a choice. To question instructions, to think anything she wasn’t allowed, to do anything she wasn’t told, was to experience excruciating pain.

 

Her fear is crippling, her lack of ability to overcome what has been instilled into her is frustrating; the ease with which she kills is chilling. Yet we meet Jay, her patient, reluctant saviour, and despite her problems we are on Edel’s side. We fear for Jay’s safety and cheer him on for being a wonderful human being.

 

Then along comes Danny and we enter his traumatised mind, genetically created the same as Edel but raised in a human family, without ever having learned how to control the genetic traits that were bred into him.

 

The story is told at a rapid pace and as a reader, I was raring to go with it. I wanted, no -needed, to know what was going to happen next. I almost skipped ahead to see what was coming but couldn’t bring myself to leave anything out. I reached the end fearing that this would be a sad ending, in keeping with the miserableness of the world it’s set in, but there was a glimmer of hope that all might turn out well. And yes, we will get to meet these extraordinary characters again in the next book.

 

*******

I asked the author to tell me a bit about herself.

 

Hi, I’m Ashleigh Reverie, self-published author of the series, Almost Human. My publishing journey probably looks different to most. For one thing, I never wanted to be an author. The thought honestly had never entered my head. To my mind, writing was one of those things that clever people did. You know… the ones who had degrees in literature and such.

 

So how did I end up here? Well, I’ve always had an active imagination. The characters in my books have been with me for a very long time. I would share snippets of storylines I had going on in my head. Everyone I told said I should write it down. I just decided one day to begin writing, and before I knew it, I had a first draft.

 

From that point, I threw myself into learning as much as I could about writing. It’s become more than a hobby now; I would consider it a full-blown obsession! I still never intended to publish anything, but I just wanted to see if what I had was any good.

 

I sent my manuscript to some friends. Their responses were really positive, but that wasn’t enough for me. They were my friends and I didn’t believe that they would tell me if it was awful, so I searched out some beta readers that I didn’t know. For the most part, their responses were positive, but they also gave valuable critiques that helped me to tighten up my story in places.

 

I went through all the steps before I published. I edited, I got feedback from beta readers and edited again. I sent it to a developmental editor and then edited again based on her feedback. I then had it copy edited before I published. I really took my time, because I care so much about my characters, that I wouldn’t want to let them down with poor writing.

 

Editing was expensive, but I believe it was worth it. When I sent my manuscript, I was under the impression that it was pretty much perfect. After all, my friends and beta readers had all told me so… But my Editor found entire passages that needed changing, removing, or rewording. With her help, my story was elevated into something better and more polished.

 

The cover of my books, I designed myself. This is something I wish I had done differently, because I believe a professional could produce something much better than what I have managed to come up with, but I had spent my budget on editing, and I didn’t expect to sell any copies of my book, because this was just a fun project.

 

I formatted the book myself using KDP. It’s very simple and the guide is easy to use. Once you have formatted the manuscript, you can set it to paperback and hardcover copies as well as eBook.

 

Marketing a book is a totally different skill to writing one! I haven’t really got much of a marketing strategy, I’m just floating along, but I’m loving the ride. I’m mostly relying on word of mouth and positive reviews to get me noticed. My reviews have been very positive so far. When I published, I expected I would sell about five copies and they would all go to my friends and family. Well, even though I’m not going to be reaching bestseller status anytime soon, I’m happy to report that I have sold many, many more copies than I ever expected and the response to Almost Human has been amazing.

 

Website: ashleighreverieauthor.uk

Twitter @ashleighreverie

Instagram: Ashleigh Reverie

Facebook: Ashleigh Reverie

Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/pg/reverieashleigh

Goodreads: Ashleigh Reverie

And amazon author, Ashleigh Reverie.

 

NO BONES ABOUT IT

B Williams and J J White

Charlie is timid. Yes, she’s a psychic, and ‘a dang good one’, but we get the impression she suffers anxiety through her otherworldly encounters and she is nervous around people. Then we discover she is made of much sterner stuff as we understand why a werewolf hangs out in her office. We learn – briefly – that she had saved his life.

The wonderfully tender relationship between Charlie and Wolf is delightful, and watching it slowly unfold till it gains momentum is a joy. Understandably it is difficult with one so timid and the other so reserved, and the human/not human element only adds to the issues. The reader is rooting for them to get together, yet there is a tinge of sadness as we realise the full implications for Wolf.

Wolf is big and tough as you would expect a werewolf to be, yet underneath his taciturn exterior his emotions run deep though he keeps them well controlled, and seldom lets them out on show.

The budding detective business has a strange mix of cases, from dishing the dirt on cheating husbands to saving the world from pure evil. Their help is sought to retrieve a Magical grimoire from the 1500s which has been stolen in strange circumstances. The supernatural is suspected.

Charlie’s strength and dogged determination come to the fore. ‘Your path of action after almost dying is to do it again?’ She can’t let this one go – there is too much at stake. People’s lives are at risk. The evil now stalking this world is the stuff dreamed of in nightmares.

Our unlikely duo work well together, and we meet an interesting array of people who help them along their way. The ending is satisfying and leaves you wanting to meet Charlie and Wolf again if only to see how their relationship develops.  

 

The relationship between Charlie and Wolf is carefully managed, especially given that Wolf seldom speaks. The development is shown in Wolf’s actions, his selfless dedication to protecting her speaking louder than any words.

Although there isn’t much in the way of dialogue between them - certainly Wolf says very little - their thoughts are shared with the reader so we have a deeper understanding of what lies behind their actions.

We are gradually fed enough of a thought to make us think there is more to it than we’ve heard, and sure enough, the answer comes along to satisfy the intrigue. As a technique, it works well.

Description is brief but enables you to see the setting, and more importantly the atmosphere. Clothes are described in a way that tells you more about the wearer and their personality than simply what they are wearing.

The back and forth style works, walking the reader alongside these unlikely detectives as they fathom out the clues.

*******

I asked Williams and White to tell us a little about their self-publishing journey.

They decided not to go for traditional publishing, partly due to the time and effort involved and the need for an agent, neither of which they were interested in doing.

They hired an editor and a cover designer, but later changed the cover to better suit the genre.

They are finding marketing difficult as is the case for many writers. They feel that you have to find things that work in your genre, make sure your cover is on point, and look at marketing materials. They’ve tried Facebook marketing and Instagram. They have a mailing list on their website.

What has brought most success? Just joining writing groups and being personable in Facebook groups, and making suggestions.

This writing team of B Williams and J J White tell us that this project took a long time to come to life, starting with a friendship and moving on to being co-writers. I hope that this will be a long and fruitful coupling.

www.mossandwolf.com

https://instagram.com/moss_and_wolf?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Bones-About-Moss-Files-ebook/dp/B08TTS5C3H/ref=sr_1_2?crid=20PHNMN15N06S

no bones about it.jpg

Vampire The Begotten


Dayna Ward

 


"If you loved the Twilight Saga, you will hate my books." This is what Dayna Ward says of Vampire The Begotten, the first book in her Begotten Vampire series. I confess I loved the Twilight Saga, and yes, Dayna’s book is as far away from the glamour of Twilight as you can get, but I also love Vampire The Begotten.

The cover is eye-catching, a black background tinged with red. The stark image shows someone in distress, long white hair falling over her shoulders, her hand obscuring her face. Then under the word VAMPIRE, in red is The Begotten, underlining the picture as if in blood.

The prologue is chilling. If you didn’t know what to expect before you started to read the book, you do now. Someone has kidnapped a woman and her little brother. In what appears to be a ritual setting, we find that the boy is dead, the woman is bound, gagged and scared that she will be next.

We quickly fall in love with our main character Erica, also known as Eiko, the name given to her by her not-so-loving mother. Erica is loving and giving;  she is a ‘baby cuddler’, volunteering to cuddle premature babies while they receive treatment to keep them alive. We gradually understand that she has difficulties in life – her vision is poor, she cannot drive. People tease her because of her appearance. We feel her love and concern for people; we wince at her harsh treatment by others.

We meet Isaac, a child she works with, to whom she is very attached She works in play therapy – a children’s occupational therapist.  We meet her friend Henry, an older man who works at the hospital where she volunteers. Romance books are her guilty pleasure. Her lovely little world is perfectly built, as long as you don’t look too deep. Erica has nightmares, so bad that she had to warn her neighbours in case her screams disturbed them.

Then the bottom falls out of Erica’s world. Something bad has happened to Isaac. He’s not dead – yet.

We hear of a serial killer on the news. Ritual murders. Erica’s life spirals as she finds that vampires aren’t glamourous. Not all vampires are beautiful nor sexy; some are hideous – the stuff of nightmares. Not all vampires like their new improved version – for some it is not. For some survival is hard. Not all of them make it.

Erica’s struggle with her conscience is real. She hates the man who turned her into this monster, yet she needs to stay with him to find her way through this new life that was not of her making. She is more than she ever believed she could be.

The author skilfully uses foreshadowing to involve the reader, giving hints of what is to come if the reader cares to pick up on these.

When Erica is first attacked – by a human - in her struggle to get free she bites her attacker’s hand and tastes blood.

Her rescuer when she is first at risk is not what he seems. Erica shouldn’t have trusted him. She has been betrayed. I found myself talking to Erica, warning her not to be so trusting, not again.

Dayna uses the environment to set the scene. ‘The sky’s red flow eventually faded to darkness, making stars visible.’ And yet that description in itself is a foreshadowing of what is to come.

Plot points are carefully crafted. Nothing is left to the last minute leaving the reader asking where did that come from? The items Erica takes with her at the beginning when she leaves her life behind become a focal point much later in the story. This attention to detail is good and makes sure the story flows well.

The vampires are many and various, each with their tale to tell. This story held my attention as I read late into the night. I began to understand these wayward, often unlovable, vampires, as one sums up his frustration – ‘I can only tell you how it is, Erica, but I can’t tell you why, because I don’t know why. It’s just how I’ve existed and how all our kind have existed.’

I found this a compelling read, and I am waiting perhaps not so patiently for the next book in the series.

*******

I asked Dayna to tell us a little about her self-publishing journey.

Dayna chose to self-publish this book, following a bad experience with a ‘traditional’ publisher who turned out to be a vanity/hybrid press. It didn’t work well for her so she decided to self-publish to keep control of her work.

Many people will say that a professional editor is essential. For many new writers just starting out, the cost is prohibitive. Dayna edited her manuscript herself using aids such as Grammarly, Hemingway, ProWriting Aid, and AutoCrit. She went over the manuscript at least six times before she was ready to publish. She says that the article in the link below made some good points.

https://selfpublishingadvice.org/who-needs-editors/

I asked Dayna how she found publishing with Amazon’s KDP. ‘I like it so far,’ she says. ‘It’s given me a chance to publish my work before I die of old age. (Don’t laugh. I’m working on a series. I’ve probably committed myself to this project for the next 10 years.)’

Of marketing, Dayna admits that it’s difficult ‘but isn’t that the usual story?’ She is hoping for greater success once she has more than one book in the series.

I wish Dayna every success for the future.

www.daynaward.com

https://www.facebook.com/totally.dark.fiction

www.instagram.com/totally.dark.fiction/

Priestess of the Forest A Druid Journey
The Druid Trilogy book 1   
Ellen Evert Hopman

Ethne is a Druid healer. We meet her living alone in the forest, waiting for sick and injured people to be brought to her when illness and accidents arise. She is renowned as a healer with formidable skills that will aid their recovery. She loves her home and her surroundings, feeling at one with nature.

Her life is disrupted when she has to return to town to live with her people, required to do so by Druid elders. Or was her life disrupted by the injured warrior she healed and came to care for? Obedience is expected. As a Druid priestess, she is bound by oaths that she took many years ago. Her role is to do what is necessary for the people, to protect them in any way she can.

For the first time, she finds conflict between what she must do as a Druid and what she would do for herself as a woman. This is a time of crisis for her people. There is very real threat to their way of life from the Christian religion that has reached their shores. Not prepared to live side by side with the existing ways of the people, it seeks to squash their beliefs, denying their gods and traditions. Women were valued and treated as equals until the bringers of the Christian religion thought they should be subjugated and made subservient to men.

The new religion brought with it riches and promises to persuade and cajole people into giving up the old ways. Men previously glad to be guided by Druid wisdom set them aside. Who was to be trusted? In an age where strength in battle was seen as giving the right to rule, no one was safe. The ending was perhaps unexpected, as Ethne, through hardship, gained insight and understanding of what was important, what was to be valued, and how to reconcile these into a workable reality.

The characters were well drawn, leading you to sympathise with their struggles and to feel their distress at the conflict between what they wanted to do and what was right. I found myself urging them on, reading rapidly to see if they would stay true to their beliefs or to themselves.

When I started reading this story, I became captivated by the history of how people lived in the days when Christianity was just arriving and trying to establish itself as the dominant religion, when Kings ruled with a Druid at their side to impart wisdom and knowledge handed down through generations. We meet first a skilled healer and see her in action collecting herbs and plants to use as medicines to cure sickness, at the same time weaving enchantments asking gods and goddesses to aid with the cures. I felt that the author had more than a passing knowledge of herblore, either that or she was great at telling a convincing yarn. Calls to the gods and goddesses are worked in full, a part of the narrative to be read and absorbed, not glanced over.

We learned the best way to hunt deer, how to care for weaponry, how to live in tune with nature, offering thanks for the gifts given. For me, I was paying so much attention to this charming snapshot of an older way of life that I almost forgot that this was the background for a story. I felt I learned a great deal from this book, then stopped to ask myself – is this fact, or is it completely fiction? The writing suggested it was written by someone who knew. Imagine my pleasure when I read to the end and then read the back matter.

The author Ellen Evert Hopman is indeed a master herbalist, registered with the American Herbalists Guild. She has a deep knowledge of the Druid, has written Druidry-related titles, was co-founder of the Order of the Whiteoak, and is the current Archdruid of Tribe of the Oak www.tribeoftheoak.com

 If only all knowledge could be imparted in this way, fiction woven into fact. It would be a much more enjoyable way of learning.

I asked the author to tell me a bit about themself and their publishing journey.

I actually wrote my first book “Tree Medicine Tree Magic” while I was in graduate school. I had recently moved to New England where the growing season is quite short – just about three months – and I couldn’t figure out how indigenous people or settlers survived here with no greens all winter. After all, they couldn’t just go to the Stop and Shop for a bag of salad. Then I looked out my window and saw all the trees. I figured that must have something to with it and I set about trying to find a book (yes, a book, there was no internet at the time) that would tell me how to do that. When I couldn’t find one, I made a supreme leap of illogic and decided I must write it myself. I had never written a book before and I was not an English major.

As a student, I was working part-time in the university library shelving books and lo and behold I began to notice tree books appearing in my stacks. So, on breaks I took notes. And “Tree Medicine Tree Magic” was born. That’s what I was doing with my spare time, rather than drinking or smoking weed! 😊

I had never felt the need to self-publish because every single book I had written was picked up by a publisher. But my trilogy of Druid novels went out of print because the publisher didn’t think they were selling fast enough. After getting over the shock and disappointment I decided to try self-publishing and it’s worked out well for me. I think it’s because I already have a “name” and people seek out my books now. I have about sixteen books so far, I can’t keep track, LOL, because I just sold two more and am writing another one!

In terms of marketing, I spend one day a week promoting on Facebook and Twitter. I choose one book a week and blast it out. I also keep a monthly blog where I always feature quotes from my books, along with other new content, and links to where people can buy them.

Covid has been a blessing in many ways because I am now being invited to speak on videos and podcasts all over the US and in Europe and I don’t have to travel. I speak on a variety of subjects and always tie in my books. I was even invited to speak at the Parliament of the World’s Religions last year, which was virtual. Usually, you have to fly to some place, it could be anywhere on the planet, to attend.

 

Read this book at https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08F2RFC11

 

Website: See all her books (and order signed copies) and blog at www.elleneverthopman.com  

   

On Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/EllenEvertHopmanAuthor    

https://www.facebook.com/alegacyofdruids/?fref=ts

  

On Twitter  https://twitter.com/EllenEHopman

On Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Ellen-Evert-Hopman/e/B001JPAB2W

 

On Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/23137.Ellen_Evert_Hopman

    

At Inner Traditions https://www.innertraditions.com/author/ellen-evert-hopman

   

At Simon and Schuster    https://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Ellen-Evert-Hopman/410047891

   

Wikipedia page  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Evert_Hopman  

    

On Pinterest

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/herb-books/   

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/celtic-spirituality/   

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/druidism/?eq=Druidism&etslf=13098   

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/trees-lore-herbal-uses-and-magic/   

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/celtic-and-druid-novels-by-ellen-evert-hopman/   

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/scottish-fairy-lore/    

https://www.pinterest.com/saille333/walking-the-world-in-wonder-a-childrens-herbal/

The Druid Trilogy

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08WC8HNHL?ref_=dbs_dp_rwt_sb_tpbk&binding=paperback

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