Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Reads of 2011

Novels, short stories, novellas...  I’ve read a lot of great stuff this year and I thought I'd share a few of my favorite reads with you.

#1 Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs

Southern Gods was my most favorite read this year. It's listed under horror, but I found it to be one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Every word is written with a purpose, and every description is a perfect view inside the mind of World War II veteran Bull Ingram and his search for Ramblin' John Hastur. Southern Gods reads like a classic and should be treated as such.

#2 Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew J. McBride

Another one of my favorites... Frank Sinatra in a Blender is the book I pick up whenever I'm home sick thanks to the Lupus meds. I've read it close to a dozen times since its release and I still can't find the perfect words to review it. It's a fast and entertaining read that always puts a smile on my face. And regardless of what my friends might think... I've got a not-so-secret crush on Nick Valentine, the St. Louis private detective with the pill-popping, liquor drinking, chainsaw playing bad side. Fuckin' brilliant!

#3 Beautiful, Naked & Dead and Out There Bad by Josh Stallings

Probably should have listed them as 3 and 4, but... my blog, my rules. So we've got Moses McGuire, the total badass bouncer boy from Los Angeles meeting women, getting lap dances, falling in love, fighting bad guys, and laying down his own style of justice in both books. You can read my reviews below.

Beautiful, Naked & Dead
Out There Bad

#4 Shotgun Gravy (Atlanta Burns Novella #1) by Chuck Wendig

Atlanta Burns might be in high school, but her scarred past and her ability to instill justice makes her the perfect person to hire when some kids decide it's time to take down the bullies. Shotgun Gravy might be a dark tale, but it showcases the reality of bullying in today's world. And the punches being thrown are laced with the perfect cast of characters, vulgarity, and humor. It'll leave you wanting more... a lot more.

#5 Double Dead by Chuck Wendig

Coburn isn’t your normal vampire… he’s a vampire awaking after a deep sleep and finding himself living in a world that is now taken over by zombies. Not many humans have survived this zombie apocalypse, and now Coburn finds himself a protector of the only food source available to him, and saving the life of a little dog he names Creampuff.

#6 Shogun Honey by Thomas Pluck

I sat down to read submissions for Shotgun Honey one night and announced my activity on Twitter with a typo... Shogun Honey. Thomas Pluck was quick to respond with a tweet that ended up as the first line to this perfectly crafted, samurai genre short story. With this, Mr. Pluck proves that there really are no limits to finding inspiration. Absolutely breathtaking. You can read Shogun Honey... HERE.

#7 FIX by Stephen Blackmoore

According to Mr. Blackmoore this is the first vampire story he has ever written, and it happens to be one of my favorites. There's something about the main character, Lillian that gets under your skin. You can't help but want to know more about her, “The Deal” that she's made that has put her where she is, and the people that seem to be holding all the cards and keeping Lillian on the streets. Oh, and when she takes a bite out of Brady's heart... well, you can't help but cheer her on and want more of the story. Always wanting more... that's me. You can read FIX... HERE!

#8 All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith

Nothing like the other novels I've read by Mr. Smith, All the Young Warriors is a dark tale about two college kids turned Somali terrorists and their journey into Hell. Mr. Smith doesn’t hide the brutality that is waiting in the war-torn landscape of Somalia, and he doesn’t hide the torture that is inflicted all in the name of Allah. Instead, he sets a steady and suspenseful pace and forces you to see all of it without leaving the comfort of your home. Heart wrenching and devastatingly real, this book will leave you breathless.

#9 Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bills

Incredibly dark and violent, you won’t find another collection of short stories to match its brutality, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another author that can deliver such astonishing descriptions of crime in the southern backwoods. In Crimes of Southern Indiana every story bleeds of heartbreak; not one happy ending in sight.

#10 Dig Two Graves by Eric Beetner

It's hard not to like the main character, Val. Especially after he tells you about his time in prison. In Dig Two Graves by Eric Beetner, Val is an ex-con seeking justice when the bank robbery he's perfectly planned goes south. Unable to walk away, Vals quest for revenge, his hot temper, and his outright stubbornness has him living on borrowed time. Honestly, with all that Val learned in prison, I'm surprised he didn't start a BJ101 course for those of us wanting to perfect the art. Hey, it's never too late to learn, right? Plenty of wrong choices abound in this novella... making it perfectly entertaining.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to my Favorite Men of 2011

I’m
wishing all of
my favorite male
fictional characters a
very MERRY CHRISTMAS!
~The Black Dagger Brotherhood-The
Blind King~Vishous~Rhage~Butch~Rehvenge~Quinn~
Zhadist~John Matthew~Blaylock~Lassiter~Murhder~
Tohrment~Phury, the men that named me Kate~Jack Reacher
seriously, your blue eyes will forever haunt me~Lestat~Marrius~Tarquinn
Blackwood, some of my favorite men from The VampireChronicles~
David Trevellyan, okay-so he’s more like a brother to me, but my life 
wouldn't be the same w/out him~Moses McGuire, this kick-ass 
Viking had me pole dancing in my dreams~Nick Valentine, my friends 
said you wouldn't steal my heart... they were wrong~Dan O'Shea, nice 
to have you grace my tree, buddy~Coburn, a blood loving vampire with 
a soft heart~my favorite cowboys Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles
Bull Ingram~Mick Thooft~Charlie Hardie~Jack Winter, the hottest 
crow-mage around~Joe Sunday, so your book doesn't drop until 2012. 
I've seen the cover and I'm predicting some sort of crush. And 
  Oscar Martello, my favorite man. You're still bad... and I'm still in love.
MERRY CHRISTMAS to
my favorite men of 2011~
Love-Kate!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem

Sabrina's Scary Christmas Part V

This will be the final review of 21 short stories found in the Halloween anthology, Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem compiled and edited by Ann Frasier.

Today's short stories are brought to you by Paul D. Brazil, Michael Allan Mallory, Theresa Weir, and Daniel Hatadi.
 They contain a little bit of this, and a little bit of that... mingled with a killer house, a prankster-playing Grim Reaper, a baby in a basket, and a deadly public playpen.   Enjoy.

"Ten Sycamore Hill was, in Peter Ord's mind, the font of all of his misfortunes." 

When I was in 4th grade my step-mother, Freda, decided to buy a house on the other side of town... without telling my father. I still remember the night he found out we had moved, without him, while he was on the high seas moving cargo to Korea. It was a sore spot for, well, until they divorced. So when I read the opening line to This Old House by Paul D. Brazil, this memory is what I thought of, 'cause I'm pretty sure my father felt the same way about the house on 235 N 8th Street. The place was a money pit, always needing work. The detached garage was so rotted you couldn't even park a car in it, and the roof above the addition was ready to cave in. The only thing that gave my father peace was the acreage... and his garden; always working his green thumb, he was. Today, at 86, he's still eating fresh veggies from his garden, and when we bring up the house on N 8th Street... he cringes.

It's that same cringe I see on Peter Ord's face every time he heads to Raby Arms to get drunk and looks up at his house on Sycamore Hill.  Seems that whenever misfortune, lost love, and disappointment would strike Peter the house would lose a shingle, a door handle, or a window frame. When his health started to fail... the heating went out.  I'd like to think it was the heating that was the last straw for Peter- the straw that gave him the idea to hire someone to burn the place to the ground- but I can't. Truth be told, Peter is a drunken fool, and he's not about to lose any more of his drinking money on home repair costs. But it's now or never as Guy Fawkes Night is just a couple of weeks away; a night of bonfires being a perfect night to "accidentally" burn his house to the ground. But the guy he hires confuses the date with Halloween, and the house... well, do you really think a house that connected to it's owner is gonna be burned to the ground without him? Something tells me that with a little bit of home improvement love, Peter would have had a much better life.  Hmmm... this story makes me wonder how many years I gained with this kitchen remodel? We're adding a fireplace next. Then a new master bath and walk-in closest. The exterior will be redone in five years. At this rate... I'm never gonna die!
*****
Shortly after we had moved into our home, Richard would get a kick out of sneaking through the back door, making his way to the front room, and popping his head around the corner to scare me. I hated it. The terror of the moment would make me freeze, and my screams, well, they were always delayed. I mean, they were loud... they were just delayed by a few seconds.  So one day I arrived home from work before him and thought it would be a great time for pay back. So... I picked up our little puppy and I took us to hide out in the shower stall. Without fail Richard always takes a shower when he gets home from work. So, I took our little dog and we waited. Then I heard him come home. He looked around for us, and must have decided we were out on a walk 'cause he went straight to the bathroom for a shower, stripped out of his clothes, and pulled the shower curtain back to start the water. And that's when I made my move... I popped out my head and screamed, "BOOOOO!" Richard was startled, shocked. He froze in place and then, after a short pause, he screamed. And I laughed. Nothing quite like a naked man screaming in fear.  *giggles* 

In Boo! by Michael Allan Mallory, we meet Leonard Skupic, a widower still feeling lost without his wife by his side, and a lover of practical jokes. This year for Halloween he's set up an elaborate display that, with a pull of a string, releases Joe Scarecrow from his chair and sends him flying toward unsuspecting trick-or-treaters waiting for candy. It's a pretty cool setup, and the little kids seem to get a kick out of it. But the older kids... not so much. In fact, one group of older kids are starting to take the fun out of Halloween for Leonard. In fact, Leonard is so upset with the older free candy moocher's that when Death comes calling for him, he gives him a piece of his mind. Thankfully Death didn't seem to care. In fact, when the older kids come back to 'cause problems Leonard enlists the Grim Reaper to help teach the kids a lesson. Hey, Death has traveled far... and it's his last stop for the evening. Might as well have some fun while you can, right?
*****
A woman living in the north woods of Minnesota wakes to find a baby named, James, on her door step in Girls From The North Country by Theresa Weir. At first she seems surprised, but then remembers that little James comes from the cloning company that gives her the privilege of living so isolated from the world... just the way she likes it.  And it also doesn't take long to realize that this little boy she's been feeding, potty training, and teaching the alphabet to is... James Dean. It seems cloning the rich and famous is their specialty. Just shy of his sixth year, the company comes back to claim him, and in exchange for her silence they're offering to clone someone for her at no charge. They offer some suggestions, of course. Johnny Depp. Sean Connery. Even Jesus Christ, although the "DNA is questionable."  But this woman doesn't want a famous person. She doesn't even want a long lost love or relative. Nope, this woman wants to clone herself. And clone herself she does. Hmmmm. Personally, I don't think the world could handle two of me. And if I was living in the north woods all by myself I'd probably clone... Hugh Jackman. Oh yeah, baby! Those eyes. That hair. His abs. Totally mine.
******
Manny and little Tim are good friends spending a day together at the Kids Playhouse on Halloween in Plaything by Daniel Hatadi. All the kids are busy running around and diving into the sea of red, yellow, blue, and green balls and occasionally bouncing balls off each other, while Manny is following Tim deeper and deeper into the playpen. Suddenly Tim dives below the balls and Manny, of course, dives in after him, only to run into something fuzzy and odd just below the surface where his friend should be. Frightened, Manny backs into a corner, and then after looking around patiently for his friend he decides to find his father to tell him that little Tim is lost. Manny's heard about Tim's father, how's he's responsible for Tim's bruises, and see's this anger first hand during the search for Tim.

After an evacuation from the building takes place, Manny sneaks back inside for another chance to find his friend. Turns out there's a giant made of mold taking children one by one, and the only way to get them back is to sacrifice an adult. Manny makes up a story to get his father and Tim's dad back in the building... only to learn the hard way that this monster doesn't care about the character traits of his victims. A father's life is taken to save the children in this creepy little story, and the father that deserved to be taken... is left behind.

This concludes my review of Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem. Deadly Treats can be purchased HERE!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Turning by Dawn Kirby

Time for Change?

Alana stood, her back to the blacked out window, watching Nicholas sleep. As she ran a fingertip across her bottom lip she thought about his proposal. It wasn’t a simple will you marry me type of question. Being turned was so much more than that.

The more she thought about it, the more she wished she didn’t care about him as much as she did. Saying no would be easier if that were the case. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him and she knew refusing the life he wanted to give her would.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t thought long and hard about it. In fact she’d almost said yes on more than one occasion. But when she thought about living as long as Nicholas had her resolve to go through with it vanished. The fact that her diet would consist of blood didn’t help any either.

She lay down next to him and propped herself up on her elbow. As her fingers gently played through his long black hair she started to cry. Never before had she had to deal with such an emotional struggle. Getting past Paul’s death had been hard, but his death hadn’t been a decision she had had to make. Neither was Jennifer’s. Ben made those decisions. She simply had to learn to live with events she couldn’t control. 

This was different. This one would be solely on her shoulders. The blood of the people she drank from should she allow him to turn her would be on her hands. Even with as little as she knew about vampires she knew the possibility of accidentally killing someone was always there. Who’s to say she wouldn’t come to enjoy feeling life slip away? Who’s to say she could do it at all?

Time would creep by so slowly a month would likely feel like a year. Could she live from one night to the next knowing she had untold amounts of time in front of her? Could she give up the sun? Would night visits to Matt be enough? Probably not. A couple of hours would be all she would get. He’d need rest for work.

Then family entered her mind. Since Ben’s attack she’d been adamant about not having kids. Bringing a child into the world with all the violence and hatred had been unfathomable to her. Now things were different. She finally saw the good. As long as she could surround her children with that they would have good lives. But, becoming a vampire would put an end to that idea instantly.  

She put her head on his chest and wrapped her arm around his waist. As she listened to his heart slowly beat she wondered if when the time came she could tell him no. He was everything she’s ever wanted and more. With him she could have a happy future. All she had to do was embrace his lifestyle.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem

Sabrina's Scary Christmas Part IV

This will be an ongoing review of 21 short stories found in the Halloween anthology, Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem compiled and edited by Ann Frasier.

Today's short stories are brought to you by Kelly Lynn Parra, Jason Evans, Paula L. Flemming, Shirley Damsgaard, and Anne Frasier. They contain a little bit of this, and a little bit of that... mingled with some graveyard fun, a black cat, a burka wearing monster, a man that loves red shoes, and a little reanimation. Enjoy.


I've never been one to hang out in cemeteries... at night... with friends... to bring back the dead, but... I have been known to roam the grounds during the day, alone, just to enjoy the silence and read the grave markers. I could spend hours in a cemetery. I love them so much I even started a Pinterest board devoted to all the cemeteries I'm wanting to visit. Gotta love Pinterest! If people didn't think I was odd before...

Where was I? Oh, yes.

In Graveyard Soul Sucker by Kelly Lynn Parra, a group of friends head off to the cemetery in search of some Halloween fun. They're planning to resurrect John Peter Montgomery, a former serial killer (former, 'cause you know, he's dead), that died with 25 souls trapped in his body after sucking them dry through black magic... or something like that. He was captured and hung, and rumor has it a witch was in love with him. When John Peter didn't return the interest, she cursed him... "for all eternity he can only come alive midnight to midnight on Halloween to eat as many souls as he wants..." Only if you perform a ritual, though.

Turns out the practical joker in the group, Jones, just happens to have the ritual words needed to wake John Peter from his sleep. Jones doesn't really think it will work (can you see where this is going?), but to everyone's surprise it does work, and they soon find themselves scattering through the cemetery, taking cover behind grave markers, and listening to the Soul Sucker steal the lives of some of their friends. Some quick thinking, and reading of the book, the remaining friends devise a plan to confuse the Soul Sucker until they can get back to his grave, find some dirt, and recite some words that will throw him back to his grave... forever! Only... you need a decedent of a witch to make that happen. Hmmmmmm.

*****

There's an awful lot of apple-spiced tea drinking in She Came on the October Wind by Jason Evans. While drinking apple-spiced tea, Natalie is befriended by a black cat and is reminded of a pact she made with her sister when they were children. Her sister, Amanda, ran away from home years ago, and the history behind this event still sparks anger in their mother. As the cat begins to move closer and closer to Natalie's heart, her desire to find her sister becomes stronger.  A search proves useless, but a slip of paper with information lands on Natalie's bed while she's been sleeping; paw prints leading the way to a closed window. The information leads Natalie to her sister... just in time to say goodbye. This wasn't the happy ending I had hoped for, but She Came on the October Wind by Jason Evans, was truly heartwarming and had me reaching for the phone to call my sisters. They didn't answer, though. #sadness

*****

In Treats, Tricks, and Terror in Tin Lake by Paula L. Fleming, Adeela is a woman living in a small community and dealing with the daily struggles of rumors caused from her need to wear a burka. The townsfolk have a hard time believing there's a Muslim living in their community, and even though the adults have been somewhat kind, some accuse her of being a terrorist... worse, a witch! But really, she's just your average monster hiding a disfigurement behind a burka and trying desperately to fit in.

Seems that every year on Halloween her house gets hit with graffiti and eggs and all kinds of nonsense. So this year, Adeela, is planning to win over the townsfolk by having lots of candy, lots of pumpkins, and the best costume around. She's taking off the burka, people... and letting her true beauty shine. Okay, so she's not really sparkly and all like that last sentence suggested. I got a little carried away.  She's a monster... with no breasts, and she has a hip frill that covers her genitals. AND, most importantly, she doesn't sparkle like a member of the Cullen family. She's truly monstrous!

Things are looking good for Adeela this year when the kids are loving her costume and one of the parents admits that she has the best look in the neighborhood. But things soon take a bad turn when evil men torch her house and send Adeela scrambling to save the only link she has with the other world / community that she really belongs with.  It's a sad tale of survival for a monster living among us humans... but with hope that there just might be more of her kind living in the community of Tin Lake. Hey, was that a devil lobster that just walked by?

***** 

What do you do when the man that you think is the ONE breaks your heart and never returns your calls? Well, if you're a witch you send him a curse that makes him fall in love with you so you can break his heart in little tiny pieces later. And if you're not a witch?  You pretend to be one and catch your kitchen on fire.

This is where we meet Rachel in Bewitched by Shirley Damsgaard. Turns out the guy she might have given a little too much of herself to for a first date, didn't call her like he had promised. He hasn't returned her calls, either. Frustrated, angry, maybe even a little humiliated, she comes up with a bad idea to curse him. Her attempt fails and she can now add fire damage to the list of troubles brewing in her life. 

But she picks up the pieces and moves on by attending a Halloween party dressed as Dorothy... with red stilettos to finish the look. Not intentionally, though. She was so obsessed with getting back at this guy, Joel, that she didn't even bother to check to see if her costume fit. Now's she stuck dressing a little more slutty than she had probably planned, and catching the eye of... yep, Joel, the guy that's been avoiding her. 

Turns out Joel's got a little secret, though, and Rachel's about to meet the Red Shoe Killer. Dang, where's a real witch when you need one?

*****

One thing I really love about short stories is their ability to have an element of surprise in such a short amount of time. I mean, really... for some it takes an entire novel to spin a story with a surprise... which isn't a bad thing. But a short story that can give a surprise ending that leaves your mouth gaping open, well, that's just pure genius in my book. And Anne Frasier (pseudonym for Theresa Weir), does just that with her short story The Replacement.

In The Replacement by Anne Frasier we meet Grant Vang, an eighteen year old college student in need of a replacement. You see, Grant's been brought back from the dead thanks to his uncle and a reanimation kit.  His Uncle is a doctor... I think he's a witch doctor, actually. Regardless, Grant's Uncle wants him to find a replacement and soon... the younger the better. But Grant doesn't want a young replacement, and finding the right one takes time when you have a certain standard to uphold.

And in a walks the perfect standard... a frat boy. The frat boy might seem pretty skeptical about the place, but he's curious enough to take a piece of paper containing a spell for his heart's desire.  The instructions are to memorize the words and eat the piece of paper. Then "after the sun sets below the horizon and the moon is silver in the night sky," he's supposed to stand with his back to the foot of a fresh grave, close his eyes, and repeat the spell three times. Oh... and he's supposed to go alone.

Yeah, I don't know. There's something about my heart's desire being found in a cemetery that doesn't really add up. But the frat boy doesn't seem to be bothered by this and actually goes to cast the spell. As for the fresh grave? Well, the frat boy decides to stand with his back to the fresh grave belonging to a college student he killed three days ago. Any guesses on who's waiting in the dark for the frat boy? Yep! The reanimated body of Grant Vang.

Anne Frasier did a wonderful job of setting this story up. The death of a college student is mentioned briefly at the beginning of the story, but the way Grant and his uncle discuss finding a replacement, as a reader,  I was under the impression Grant was looking for a new employee for his uncle. Even the mention of the reanimation kit is so casual that the reality of Grant's situation isn't made clear until he meets up with the frat boy at the cemetery. This was written so cleverly that I couldn't wait to go back and find all the obvious hints to the end of the story. This is one of my favorites in the anthology.

I'll be back later with the final stories from Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem. Until then, feel free to pick up a copy from the following links below...




Deadly Treats is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem

Sabrina's Scary Christmas Part III

This will be an ongoing review of 21 short stories found in the Halloween anthology, Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem compiled and edited by Ann Frasier.

Today's short stories are brought to you by Leandra Logan, Marilyn Victor, Julia Buckley, Lance Zarimba, and L.K. Rigel. They contain a little bit of this, and a little bit of that... mingled with a serial killer, an ogre, a woman hearing voices, a romantic date, and a writer gone nuts.  Enjoy.

When I was eighteen and a live-in babysitter for the Johnson family in Salt Lake City, I started receiving phone calls. They always came after the Johnson's had left for the day and I was home alone with the youngest girl, Katie. No one ever responded to my greetings, just breathing. It was annoying. But since the Johnson's didn't have caller ID, I had no choice but to answer the phone in case the school was calling about the oldest child, or the parents were calling to check in. Eventually the calls started coming at night when the Johnson family would go out on the weekends and I was left at the house alone.  

One evening the phone rang and the person on the other end spoke. He told me he could see me through the windows and that he knew I was home alone. I really didn't know what to do. I just hung up the phone and closed all the blinds and double checked the locks on the doors.  But the phone... it rang all night long. And finally fearing that the Johnson family was trying to contact me, I answered, and was greeted by the same male voice informing me that he could still see me and that he was holding a knife.  I left the house as soon as the sun came up (I wasn't about to go outside in the dark... and calling the police didn't even enter my mind. I was young,,,) and I didn't return until the family was home. Turns out Mr. Johnson's employment with NASA, meant our phone line was always monitored. A simple check by the office told us that the neighbor boy was making the calls.  

There might not have been prank calls in You Called by Leandra Logan, but there was a creepy guy on the other end of the line.  Except he didn't sound so creepy when Paula first spoke to him. Paula, by my own definition, is a strange one. She likes to check out who called her during the day when she's been out, and then she likes to call people back... even if she doesn't know them. One night after calling a number that she's not familiar with, she strikes up a conversation with a man, ends up dating him over the phone, and after a drunken night of sharing sad stories about being stood up for senior prom, she agrees to have him over to her house for a night of Halloween fun and dancing... or not. Turns out the guy never lived at the number she dialed from home that night. He was there, alright... making a killing while talking on the phone with Paula.  In You Called by Leandra Logan, curiosity comes very, very close to killing the cat.
*****

A young witch learns a horrible lesson when she's unwilling to wait until she's more mature to find her soulmate in The Ogre of Her Dreams by Marilyn Victor.  Aurora Piddleworth is a young witch in training. She's also in a hurry to find a soulmate. Unfortunately she's doesn't have what it takes to create the man of her dreams on her own, so she threatens her professor and ultimately forces her to spin the spell for a soulmate for her.  But Aurora should have done her homework, and should have done some more research when she found missing pages in a forbidden book. Turns out the text book is quite clear... a witch's soulmate is an OGRE.  Yeah, you know the ones. The big ugly dudes that like to stick their finger in their noses. Worse... this Ogre now belongs to Aurora for five hundred years unless she takes her professors suggestions and lets her cast a spell to hide Aurora from her new love. Of course Aurora agrees, and... well, let's just say that I'll never look at frogs the same way again. 


*****

In Motherly Intuition by Julia Buckley, Daphne is a thirty-four year old woman grieving the loss of her mother, and hearing voices in her head.  A trip to a psychiatrist doesn't prove helpful, but it does make one voice in her mind more clear.  Turns out her mother has found a way to communicate from beyond the grave, and to prove it's her, she sends Daphne to her old home to locate the secret stash of erotica books she kept in the fuse box (Heh... erotica books. I think Daphne's mom and I would have gotten along perfectly).  Anyway, Daphne locates the hidden stash, their communication stays intact, and Daphne's mother helps her avoid danger and find true love. I love happy endings!

*****

Ima and Billy Joe Jim Bob are having a night on the town in Fangs for the Memories by Lance Zarimba.  This is perhaps the oddest couple I have ever read about, and... I'm truly at a loss for words. All I know is that Billy Joe Jim Bob drove me nuts with his one liners... and I'm super happy Ima got her fangs in him.

*****

A writer working hard for her next big novel (we'll call her Anon), is interrupted by the horrible rumblings of her muse in Slurp!

Maybe.

Seems the court hearings are causing quite a stir, and this little writer might get the comeback she's been wishing for when superagent, Betsy Blitz, makes a phone call to her attorney. Now Anon has lots of things to think about, never mind that her muse hasn't been heard from since her arrest.  She's meeting her fans while sitting in court, watching a live blogger outing her status online, and anxiously awaiting the results of her twitter status. And that's when she hears it... Slurp! Only this time the noise isn't meant for her... it's meant for little Ms. LiveBlogger sharing the secrets from court. Looks like Anon has lost her muse for good this time. I wonder if this interferes with the big comeback? 


I'll be back with more stories from Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem. Until then, feel free to pick up a copy from the following links below...


Deadly Treats is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Turning Series by Dawn Kirby

Digging

Carter glanced across his desk to see Chris pouring over yet another file. He’d been at it for hours and judging by the determination he saw in his young partner’s eyes there wasn’t an end in sight. He shook his head and picked up an old manila folder from the pile on Chris’s desk.

“What are you looking through all these old things for?” he asked, flipping through the folder. There was nothing there but deeds and title transfers. “They put you on a case I don’t know about?”

“Remember I told you there was something going on with those two?” Chris asked, never looking up from the file in his hand. He’d finally found the name he was looking for.

“Good God, Chris.” Carter tossed the folder aside and shook his head. “I thought I told you to let that go. That family has been through more than enough. Leave ‘em be.”

“You don’t understand,” he argued. “I figured it out. Well some of it anyway.” He turned a few pages and saw a picture of the man, the vampire he’d seen at Matt’s place. He pushed it in front of Carter. “See this guy?”

Carter looked, but didn’t see a connection. The picture was dated circa 1845.

“Yeah,” he said shrugging his shoulders. “What of him?”

“He’s part of it.”

Carter took another look at the photo and then his partner. Obviously he was suffering from a lack of something. “You realized this guy died over seventy years ago.”

“You’d think,” Chris said. “But I swear that’s the same guy I saw at Matt’s place.”

“Hold up,” Carter said calmly. Not a week before they’d both been told to stay away from the family altogether. An unidentified caller had called their superiors at home to complain about Chris’s accusations and asked that they be removed from Ben’s case altogether. “You keep digging and you’re gonna find yourself out on your ass.”

“I doubt that,” Chris snorted. “Now that I know what I know, they can’t keep me away.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Carter was beginning to think the kid had snapped.

“I’m saying if I can find this guy, I can find Ben. The sooner that happens the better.” Somehow finding Alana, getting her away from them both seemed more important than anything else. “I get the feeling if he gets a hold of her again she’s in for a fate worse than death.”

“A week ago you were sure he was covering for her. Now you want to save her? What gives?”

“I saw something the other night, Carter. Something I never in a million years thought I’d ever see. Everything makes sense now. I see why she was so calm about Jennifer’s death. She already knew.”

“Knew what? That Ben did it?” Carter closed the file and got up for a cup of coffee. “I told you that the night they called off the patrol.”

“I’m not sorry I asked questions.”

“Of course not. So what did you see? Why this sudden change of heart?”

“I saw Ben nearly kill a man.”

“And you didn’t call it in?!” Carter was exasperated. Even though they’d been called off the case they had a duty. “What were you thinking?”

“They didn’t need help,” Chris said, lowering his voice. He looked around the room for prying ears. What he was about to say didn’t need to be overheard. “They had that guy.” He gestured toward the closed file. “They had a vampire.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem

Sabrina's Scary Christmas Part II 


This will be an ongoing review of 21 short stories found in the Halloween anthology, Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem compiled and edited by Ann Frasier.

Today's short stories are brought to you by David Housewright, Stephen Blackmoore, Heather Dearly, and Mark Hull. They contain a little bit of this, and a little bit of that... mingled with a haunted house, a zombie, the Grim Reaper, and a Boy Scout.  Enjoy.


*****

When I was little there used to be a run-down, two story home at the very top of the street on Alendale Drive in St. Helens, Oregon. It was white with a hole in the roof above the porch, and the areas around the outside windows looked to be stained black from a long ago fire.  I remember every year on Halloween night when we had finally reached the end of our street, we would look across the road to the house on the hill and someone in the group would always claim to see a ghost in the upstairs window.  I never saw the ghost...  or did I?

There’s a tale of an abandoned farmhouse in the story Time of Death by David Housewright, that reminded me of the home we used to watch from afar when I was little.  The house is dark and mysterious and full of ghost stories about a young woman that has slashed the throat of her heartless boyfriend and... hung herself by a rope from the rafters of her home.  Laurel Clark and Delores Utley, the young girl that took her own life, were pretty close. So much so that Delores took to haunting her boyfriend’s dreams and warned him to be good to Laurel. Looks like the boyfriend should have listened to Delores' ghost, and he never should have taken that bet to spend an entire night in the abandoned Utley farmhouse to prove how much of man he is, or... was.  Now, a murder has taken place, Laurel's been arrested and claims Delores is responsible, and her boyfriends time of death... well, the time of death seems eerily familiar. Just down right creepy this one is.

*******

In Worlds Greatest Dad by Stephen Blackmoore, two young men use there trusty pick up book, Go Satan! How To Pick Up Girls With The Dark Arts! to bring their father back from the dead after a liquor store robbery goes bad on Halloween.  Franklin, the lucky guy with the second chance at life, is now a zombie... hungry for McDonald's, but unable to eat thanks to the hole in his stomach.  The poor guy isn't quite sure what to think of his new body, but decides this second chance at life is a time to make amends with his ex-wife and... maybe make life a little "better" for all of them. 

Yeah, right!

A visit to his ex-wife's home proves to be a mistake when Franklin learns Pearl is planning to remarry, and this new guy, Lawrence, well... let's just say Lawrence doesn't have a problem saying what's on his mind, and because of that, Franklin isn't in the mood for McDonald's anymore.  A brain here and a brain over there, two kids regretting their decision to help their daddy, a zombie running through a cemetery screaming at his kids with only half a tongue, a penis on fire, and "eyes rolling around like ping pong balls" makes Worlds Greatest Dad... some pretty spectacular reading!

*****

In Troubled Water by Heather Dearly, a group of locals make their yearly walk down Cemetery Road to mourn the loss of two townsfolk and scorn the one they believe to be responsible. A stranger, Byron Dodd, had come to town and stayed in the home of Anya Madjigijik, her husband, and daughter. Only he was more than a stranger- he was death in disguise. When Anya discovered his secret and asked him to leave,  he took the lives of her husband and daughter with him and left the blame of their deaths with her.  When the Grim Reaper returns, as he always does, she sends him away. But this time, upon his departure,  she realizes the secret to her prolonged life and what she must do to keep this Byron Dodd from taking any more lives before their time.

Troubled Water by Heather Dearly is the most poetic short story I've ever read.  A rythmic structure, intentional or not, has a strong presence and brings a calming beauty throughout the entire story.  "Every year since the tragedy, when the leaves turned to shades of fire and blood, the town crossed the water to mourn. They carried grave flowers for the dead father and his dead daughter, and unrepentant torches of blame for the widow with the weird name."

I love this one so much I need to find someone to record it for me so I can listen to it play over and over again on my ipod. Absolutely beautiful.

*****

There's this lovely little Mexican restaurant (total dive) in town that has the best smothered burritos in the valley. When you order them smothered with Chile Verde sauce, at least. One time I didn't clarify and the plate was covered in a thick, red goo that looked like coagulated blood. It looked so disgusting I couldn't even make it passed the first bite without dry heaving. This experience is what I thought of when reading Friday Night Dining with Marianne by Mark Hull.

Marianne is a food critic in Greater Los Angeles and she hates the senior food critic, Mr. Earl. She hates a lot of things, actually. Halloween. Kids. Cab drivers. The restaurant where she's eating dinner on Halloween.  Seriously, this lady is a drain on society.  The only time she seems to be content is if she's relaxing in a hot bath at home or being catered to by others.  Fortunately, the staff at L'Homme in Bel Air, finally start meeting Marianne's needs and her mood becomes more tolerable when she starts to hit it off with the maitre d'. 

Nibbling on such delicacies as mountaineer's eyeball in aspic, Baked Alaskan and ladyfingers drizzled with raspberry sauce, and saltimbocca (veal?) Marianne seems to be so pleased by the food on display and the service that she's receiving that she doesn't even flinch when the maitre d' tells her that the veal she just enjoyed really isn't veal. Um, yeah,  that would be a chubby Boy Scout. Yep... a chubby Boy Scout.

I don't know, maybe it's the third bottle of wine (blood) she's had that helps her keep her cool. Whatever it is, she's soon discovering the deep dark secrets of restaurant L'Homme and making plans for a visit with the man she hates the most, Mr. Earl. Thankfully they take reservations in advance, and they've been known for seating parties of two at a table for one... if you know what I mean. *wink wink*  I totally want the number for this place. Sign. Me. Up. to drop someone off, of course.  I could never really stomach eating anything there. I mean, well, could you? Hey, wait a second. Is that Dracula coming through the door?  Yeah, this place (and the story) is pretty dang cool!

I'll be back with more stories from Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem.  Until then, feel free to pick up a copy at the link below!

Deadly Treats is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Few Enjoyable Reads from Fiona Johnson

Last week Fiona Johnson stopped by the blog to tell us about her love of reading, how our own imagination can bring things to life, and what inspired her to write the short stories that are contained in her latest short story collection, Peat Smoke and Primroses. Today I'll talk a little bit about her short story collections.

I remember when I first met @McDroll (Fiona Johnson) on Twitter a few months ago when she was just starting to share her short stories on her personal blog. And now, here she is with not just one published short story collection, but three.  

The first collection is Kick It by McDroll, and contains five emotionally charged short stories, with the combination being a perfect bundle for a debut collection. Three of the five short stories are about one of my favorite female tough-girl characters, Gemma Dixon. Gemma is a female cop working her way up in a man's world and proving she's got more balls than some of the men she works with.  She's sharp, witty, not afraid to get dirty, and has no problem holding her own when things get rough.  In A Pot of Christmas Soup, Gemma learns what the real ingredients are in a tasty dish served up by a female inmate. Then in The Red Glove, Gemma and her team find the remains of a young girl, and Gemma gets a note with startling information. The third story featuring Gemma Dixon, and the one that always brings a smile to my face, showcases Gemma dressed undercover in six inch heels and working a street corner as a whore in It Takes Years of Training.  The two other stories in the collection feature a sperm donor meeting his daughter in Number 74, and a school teacher bringing a dramatic end to a difficult day in Drowning.

We get another helping of emotionally charged stories in Kick It Again by McDroll. This time the stories showcase a fairly wide range of characters, from a couple of shady guys getting a beat down in A Straight Game, to a mother with no place to go but down in No More Choices. My two favorite stories are told in The Return Journey, a haunting tale of a daughter returning to her abusive past to finally take her mother's hand, and The Trip, the disastrous story of a family road trip. Perhaps the most emotional story for me was Unrest. In this story we read about the terror of war and the fear of being found by the enemy...  "all hope of rescue was now gone."  Absolutely chilling.

Next you'll find Fiona telling stories of love in Peat Smoke and Primroses, all welcome after reading the first two collections.  It might be the smallest collection of the three, but the stories are just as powerful. Peat Smoke and Primroses contains a story of lost love in Together, a man's love for his VW Golf van and the marriage that becomes possible when it finally breaks down in Love of My Life, and the possibility of buried treasure in Whiskey Island.  With the details of the landscape so beautifully written by Fiona, you'll easily see yourself on a beach one minute, and driving down a single track-road near Glasgow on a windy autumn day the next.  

Fiona might be writing under two different names, but don't think for a second that the writing style changes when the name does. Her style... is solid.

Fiona Johnson lives in Argyll, Scotland, easily one of the most beautiful places in the world, steeped in history from prehistoric standing stones to Celtic crosses with castles and countless lochs and glens. She sits at night, laptop on knees, and writes about romance or murders depending on what mood she is in…well, what else would she do?  Fiona has had stories published in Shotgun Honey and The Flash Fiction Offensive. KICK IT and KICK IT AGAIN her collections of crime/noir short stories have been published by Trestle Press. Fiona is one of the contributors in OFF THE RECORD and THE LOST CHILDREN, both charity anthologies. Her most recent collection of short stories PEAT SMOKE AND PRIMROSES is also published by Trestle Press.

Fiona also writes under the names McDroll and F.G. Johnson.

Her books are available here:

KICK IT by McDroll

KICK IT AGAIN by McDroll

PEAT SMOKE AND PRIMROSES by F.G. Johnson 
  
THE LOST CHILDREN: A CHARITY ANTHOLOGY

OFF THE RECORD

Friday, December 9, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby

New Blood


“Let me get this straight,” the older man said leaning back in his chair. He drank the remainder of his beer and sat the empty bottle on the table beside him. “You want us to kidnap a guy to get to his sister?”

“That’s it,” Ben said. He handed the man a piece of paper with Matthew’s address written on it. “Get him, bring him to me and park your asses outside the door.”

“We’ll bring him, but I’m not doing anymore than that. You’ve already said the gal you’re after is with a vamp. I’m guessing he’s a lot older and stronger than you are.” Ben didn’t answer. The Were cocked his eyebrow and chuckled. “Lord knows I don’t wanna be around to see if I’m right.”

“I’ll pay you more.”

“Benny boy, you could offer me a million bucks and I still wouldn’t hang around here. Screwing with a vamp the way you are is worse than dangling a fresh piece of meat in front of a wolf.”

Ben shook his head and sighed. He’d wanted the Weres here to control the human element. He knew he could handle them alone, but Nicholas, whether he wanted to admit it or not, scared him. Lance, the Were sitting in front of him was right. Nicholas was older. And he had a feeling he was ten times stronger. Not that it mattered. He’d deal with anything to get back what was rightfully his. Still…

“What if I could promise you something special?” Ben asked.

“Depends on what it is,” Lance said frankly. “Gettin’ killed doesn’t rank real high on my list of things I gotta try.”

“What would you say if I told you I could guarantee your pack a mind reader?”

A coy smile spread across his lips. The pack leader had been looking for one of those for a very long time. Why he didn’t know, but if he could be the one to bring one to him he really didn’t care.

“The girl?” he asked.

“No,” Ben said quickly. Lance’s smile disappeared. “The girlfriend. I’m sure she’ll be there with him. All you have to do is pick her up.”

“You’re sure she’s a telepath?”

“She’s got something going on,” Ben told him. The truth was he wasn’t sure. He knew she knew things, but how she knew was a mystery to him. To get some insurance he’d say anything.

Lance wasn’t convinced this kid knew what he was talking about at this point. Mind readers were rare and highly sought after. With a battle brewing between his pack and the one in the next county she could come in very useful. But being wrong about her would be a mistake that could cost him dearly. Being right…well, that could be

“I’ll play,” he told Ben. “We’ll go grab your guy. If the girl’s there we’ll take her, too.” He stood up and stretched his arms over his head. Ben heard his back crack and flinched. That sound had always made him uneasy. Lance noticed and laughed again. Some vamp. “If she’s what you say. We’ll take her as payment. If she’s not we take your girl.”

“Alana’s not part of the deal,” Ben said flatly.

“She is if you’re wrong.” Lance’s eyes grew hard and cold. For the first time since he’d been turned he felt like his life could be in danger. “Speculating in this little corner of the world is a bad thing. You’ll soon figure that out.”