5 Stars, AJ Rose, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lynn, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Reaping Havoc by AJ Rose

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Amazon

Amazon

Title: Reaping Havoc

Author: AJ Rose

Publisher: The Grim Writer Press

Pages/Word Count: 282 Pages

At a Glance: The concept of this story is amazing. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: No one asked Mitch Seeker if he wanted to be a grim reaper. He didn’t sign up for the rumors, the lack of friends, or the erratic schedule. He doesn’t want to go through life watching people die. Especially not a man he loves. Mitch’s solution is simple—don’t fall in love. He’ll never have to explain why he doesn’t age or why he’s around death so often. Most of all, he will never be a widower.

But when his head is turned by world-class skier Nate Koehn, Mitch believes he may have the answer. If the soul attached to Nate is any indication, Mitch has found himself another reaper, in which case, his undeniable feelings don’t have to be suppressed. However, the spectral tag-a-long is only the beginning of Nate’s burdens. After a catastrophic loss, Nate is no stranger to grief and the hole it leaves behind.

The question they both must answer is loud and clear: is the pain of losing love worse than the pain of never having loved at all?

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Review: After reading a couple books from this author, I realize they’re becoming an auto buy for me. As I’m always looking for new authors to read, I’m looking for fresh story ideas too. This one was everything I was searching for.

The concept of this story is amazing. Mitch is a grim reaper. He collects the souls of those who have just died, and makes sure they get to where they’re going in the afterlife. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology. Instead of just one, there are thousands all over the world, kind of like a police force for souls. They get their assignments via email, where and when it’ll happen, and off they go. And then we have Nate, the new guy in town looking to start fresh after a devastating tragedy that has turned his life upside down. Life and death are about to get very interesting for these two gentlemen.

I loved getting both Mitch and Nate’s perspectives throughout the entire story. We see Mitch struggling with his pre-ordained destiny, and the realization that he may have to live his long life alone because of what he is, which has him resenting everything about it. Nate, still reeling from the death of his twin sister, is trying to move on with his life and make it on his own. I adored both of these characters. Any story that involves grim reapers is bound to be a little gory—there’s a lot of death and sadness—but with these two, their comic relief and off color humor made it a little lighter.

I really liked getting the visual and insight of what happens after Mitch collects the souls of the recently departed. It was fascinating to me. I just have a picture in my head of human balloons trailing behind him—kinda funny and sad all at the same time. The author’s mad writing skills definitely shine through.

I’m really trying not to give away spoilers here. I’ve seen some reviews that just blurt out everything about the story. To me that’s just wrong. The only thing I’ll say here, without giving it all away, is this: souls linger when they have unfinished business to attend to. Mitch notices a tagalong soul with Nate. This leads Mitch into thinking Nate is a fellow reaper. When the truth comes to light, it’s at times funny and endearing, but also sad and heartbreaking. But like I said before, there is a lot of humor throughout the book. It definitely balances out the death and sadness, so kudos to the author for bringing some light to the darkness.

I can’t go any further without mentioning one particular secondary character. He really made the story and without him, something would have been missing—Mitch’s father Charles. I really enjoyed his conversations with his son. Without saying the words, the respect Mitch has for his father just oozed off the page. I loved seeing that. He was full of experience and enlightened us with the backstory of how his family and others came to be reapers. For me, he was truly a memorable character.

Have I mentioned that I read this book in one sitting? Well, I did. And yes, it was that good. But let me tell you something. I’ve never had so many emotions going in so many directions at the end of a book like I did with this one. During the course of reading, I watched these two characters struggle and overcome so many obstacles. At this point, I am so invested in what happens to them that I’m on the edge of my seat. Just when you think it’s going to end one way, it loops back around and ends totally different. I literally felt like I was beat up after I read the ending. For those who like a happily ever after—oh, you definitely get one. But be prepared to go on a heart flopping ride before you get there, and it’s oh-so worth it.

What I loved most about this book was the originality of the storyline. I really enjoyed the author’s take on heaven and hell, soul collecting, and what maybe happens after death. I hadn’t read anything like this before, so to me, it was fresh, new and exciting to read. The author’s writing, as always, is smooth and seamless.

I really can’t say enough about how much I loved this book. I consider it a must read. If not for the storyline, then for those two adorable characters. Highly recommended.

TNA_Signature_Lynn

 

 

 

 

You can buy Reaping Havoc here:

Amazon US

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5 Stars, BJ Sheppard, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Devil’s Jawbone by BJ Sheppard

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Amazon

Title: Devil’s Jawbone

Author: BJ Sheppard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 139 Pages

At a Glance: This author’s creativity is not only impressive, but he’s also just a bit disturbed in only the best possible way.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: As night descends on the town of Devil’s Jawbone, no one is safe. The veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, and the darkest side of human nature is boiling to the surface. The supernatural and the natural are colliding, and in this sleepy town, the bump in the night is taking human form. Innocence will be lost; the villain will become the victor; spirits will rise and Satan himself will come to town.

In an eerie collection of short speculative fiction, author BJ Sheppard will grab your imagination, bringing new life to the classic campfire tales synonymous with the scariest of occasions. Halloween will never be the same again.

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Review: Welcome to Devil’s Jawbone, the place where a person’s convictions can be every bit as terrifying as their afflictions…where the only difference between a surgeon and a butcher lies somewhere within intent.

Author BJ Sheppard has tapped into the darker side of his imagination and pulled together a collection of horror stories that showcase the human monster which has the potential of lurking within all of us. Starting with “Legion,” this anthology takes on an eerie tone as the author begins to draw his circle. Imagery and allegory are painted in rich tones of the unknown in a poetic prose that does nothing but make the reader curious about what sort of place he’s leading us into. As it turns out, this author’s creativity is not only impressive, but he’s also just a bit disturbed in only the best possible way for those of us who love a good chill up our spines.

As we move along through each of the subsequent tales, we witness every human failing that can be twisted into horrifying realities—because, as we all know, it’s not the unknown and impossible we should fear most. What ought to strike true terror in the hearts of man is the potential for evil that lives among us, those whose fanatical persuasions and twisted passions and psychological maladaptation are as nearby as the killer who walks by us on the sidewalk and decides whether today is the day we live or die. This omnibus of the macabre leads its readers through the valley of the shadow of death, and we… we should fear its evil.

No one is immune from Sheppard’s distorted treatment of life and death and the in-between in Devil’s Jawbone. From mothers to serial murders, we are offered a glimpse inside the minds of the afflicted. From a twisting of the innocence of a child, to the betrayal of a lover which sets the wheels of retribution into motion, to the reimagining of “The Hook” (that scary little childhood tale so many of once told as we huddled under our blankets), each of these short stories seem to have nothing in common save for their setting and the fact that they’re each more deliciously disturbing than the next. Until, that is, the author’s deft and well-crafted finale, “The Devil at the Crossroads,” which brings the entire collection back around upon itself and ties everything together into a single tapestry that left me more than a little gleeful at its cleverness.

Being a true lover of horror, especially the sort of which exposes a terrifying side to our humanness, I found myself flipping the pages of Devil’s Jawbone and telling myself, “This story is my favorite.” Until I got to the end of the next and had to reevaluate my opinion. Do I have a favorite? If hard pressed I would say it’s “The Ties That Bind,” only because there’s a special sort of depravity in its romantic notions, which I found wickedly lovely.

As the horror genre isn’t a niche everyone frequents, I can’t say I’d recommend this novel to the tried and true romance aficionados, but I can say without an instant of hesitation that BJ Sheppard has offered enthusiasts of the morbid an unsafe haven called Devil’s Jawbone, a place I was more than glad to reside in for a while.

From the safe distance of my Kindle, of course.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

You can buy Devil’s Jawbone here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Carol Lynne, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Reviewed by Maryann, Wilde City Press

Review: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly by Carol Lynne

Amazon

Amazon

Title: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly

Author: Carol Lynne

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 99 Pages

At a Glance: Carol Lynne creates another well done horror/paranormal story here, with dangerous spirits, satanic worship, possession and old tales of horror.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: After taming the Ghosts of Alcatraz, Fisher Marx left his position as head of the World Police Unit to take a job in the small town of Toblerville. He’d hoped to live out his life in quiet splendor while still using his skills to protect the Hickory County residents, but everything changed when he heard rumors of a young man who claimed to be the victim of regular attacks by a ghost.

Unable to put the young man out of his mind, Fisher decided to investigate the situation. What he discovered in the run down house outside of town would change his life forever.

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Review: The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly is the sequel to Ghost of Alcatraz, where we first meet Fisher Marx. Carol Lynne creates another well done horror/paranormal story here, with dangerous spirits, satanic worship, possession and old tales of horror. These are two excellent stories, but a word of warning: this book does include sexual abuse and violence.

This story picks-up with Fisher starting a new life, but he’s not at peace yet. He’d seen a lot of crazy things during his ordeal at Alcatraz prison, with Jensen Black and Brian Phipps. He hears things being said about a young man, Patrick Donnelly, which are treated as a joke by his fellow officers. He just can’t let it go, so he seeks out Patrick with every intention of helping him. What he finds is a young man who is being sexually abused and tormented by his father’s spirit.

Fisher witnesses the abuse that Patrick is going through, and rescues him, but the “living spirit” follows Patrick to Fisher’s house.  Fisher decides to take Patrick to Pont-Aven, France, and put as much distance as possible between Patrick and the spirit.  But nothing can stop the evil. Fisher has been seeking advice from his friend, Brian Phipps, an ex-parapsychologist, and Brian and Jensen arrive in France to help Fisher and Patrick figure out why Patrick is plagued by the spirit.

Both Fisher and Patrick are searching for something: Fisher wants someone to make life worth living, and Patrick needs real love and peace in his life. Even though there is an age difference between them, I believe it’s a spirit that unites them together. I thought the same about Brian and Jensen when they met in Ghost of Alcatraz. Carol Lynne also introduces some new characters—Gavin, Ian, and Sal—who add an odd twist to this story.

I was really surprised and glad to see this series is continuing. It has been a long time since Ghost of Alcatraz was released (2011), the story that takes us to the year 2020 and a new Alcatraz prison where we meet Jensen, Brian and Fisher for the first time. I liked that she brought Jensen and Brian back for Fisher’s story and am hoping she will continue to bring us more eerie adventures in this paranormal world.

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You can buy The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal, Reviewed By JJ, Santino Hassell

Release Day Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Stygian

Author: Santino Hassell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 217 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this book. I recommend Stygian to anyone who loves horror, paranormal, and dark m/m romance.

Reviewed By: JJ

Blurb: Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

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Review: After the death of his brother, Jeremy suffers from bouts of madness. He is still trying to get back on his feet when he joins the band called Stygian. He is also motivated to join due to his crush on the guitar player, Kennedy. The book begins when the band decides to rent a house for the summer in order to write new music. However, everything goes wrong from the beginning. No one in the band is on the same wavelength, and they are always fighting with one another. To make matters worse, there is something very creepy about the house and its owners, Hunter and his sister. Even though things don’t feel right, Jeremy ends up becoming closer to Hunter and distancing himself from the band. Fearing the resurgence of his psychosis, Jeremy keeps his suspicions about the house and its owners to himself until it is almost too late.

In addition to being a great book, this genre was a new experience for me. Though there are paranormal and romantic elements, Stygian feels more like horror than anything. I loved how the story kept me on my toes due to not knowing what scary thing would happen next. However, I especially loved the psychological element and the mind games they get sucked into. Due to Jeremy’s past, he was more inclined to doubt his sanity rather than believe the messed up things happening around him.

Another aspect of this book that was impressive was the complicated relationship dynamics between the band members. Jeremy is somewhat lost, but he’s in a band with guys who are also quite lost and damaged. Through their adventure in the house, Jeremy learns painful things about his band mates that help him put his own suffering into perspective. It takes the band almost falling apart before they have the strength to come together and look out for one another. In addition to being suspenseful, this book was also quite sexy.

I loved this book. I recommend Stygian to anyone who loves horror, paranormal, and dark m/m romance.

TNA_Signature_JJ

 

 

 

You can buy Stygian here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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Giveaways, Santino Hassell

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Stygian Blog Tour with Santino Hassell

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Hi, everyone! Give us a hand in welcoming author Santino Hassell to TNA today, on the kickoff for the Stygian blog tour. Enjoy Santino’s guest post, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance at some great prizes, including:

*A queer paranormal book pack
*A “gothic” tote bag
*A Stygian t-shirt
*A signed copy of Stygian

Good luck!

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I’m With the Band

When I was in high school, I was very briefly in a band. I wasn’t patient enough to learn how to play an instrument on my own and my parents were definitely not about to shell out the duckets to put me in lessons, so I sang. I’m not saying I sang well, but I tried my best and my bandmates only heckled me… a little.

My experience being in a band, and being around other garage bands, was that it can be extremely dysfunctional. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time together, but it was often an intense situation. Five guys with big personalities in one room trying to make a coherent piece of music sounds like a setup for shenanigans. And it was. Constant bickering, nitpicking of each other’s parts and contributions, lateness, imbibing, irresponsibility, and then the slow build of resentment.

I’m not saying ALL bands experience these things but mine certainly did, and I poured some of that into STYGIAN.

STYGIAN is a book about four disaffected queer guys in their twenties who haven’t had a lot of luck in life, and are trying hard to make their band work. The trouble is, the collective chips on their shoulders breeds discontent and most dangerous of all—distrust. However, the feelings shared by these bandmates are so intense that there’s hope for them to overcome their past trauma. They just have to deal with pissing matches, jealousy, and the often frustrating reality of unresolved sexual tension in the process. Oh, and there’s also that whole paranormal element…

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StygianFSBlurb: Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroways’ secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || All Romance eBooks || Barnes & Noble

Add Stygian to Your Goodreads Shelf

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Excerpt: “What the hell is wrong with you?” Kennedy exuded the type of impatience he usually saved for packed all-ages clubs that required wounding and maiming to reach an exit. “You’re cultivating your own brand of bitterness at a breakneck speed, and it’s a little fucking irritating.”

Jeremy’s face warmed but he didn’t deny it. It was why he typically sucked up insults and snide comments— his own comebacks made it clear he was more hurt than angry. Which was so much worse.

“I don’t know. I’m just… something.”

“Enlightening.”

Jeremy groaned, covering his face with his hand. “I’m sorry, okay? Just tell me what you wanted to tell me, and I’ll stop being a brat.”

The mattress sank under the weight of Kennedy’s muscular frame. They were close—a little too close—and Jeremy swallowed heavily. Proximity to Kennedy was always a distraction, but with them alone in the house, with their bodies tucked close enough for Jeremy to smell the cigarette smoke and clean sweat clinging to Kennedy’s skin, it was also too intimate. Too easy to remember the night on the porch and all of the things that could have happened if Kennedy had been serious. If he’d opened his mouth a bit more. Let Jeremy taste the hot wetness inside.

Realizing he’d been staring, and imagining, Jeremy shifted his weight and tried to roll away. Kennedy held him in place.

“You’re not a brat.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m just a kid.”

“Jesus Christ.” Kennedy’s breath gusted out. “It’s not an insult. What do you want me to call you? Baby? Darling?”

Jeremy’s face went from warm to burning. “You could just call me Jeremy. Believe it or not, I’m not in fucking love with you like everyone claims,” he lied. “I don’t need terms of endearment when the three syllables in my name work just fine.” Kennedy said nothing, and Jeremy pushed on with a burst of bravado. “And the only time I let a guy call me baby is when he’s in my ass.”

Peripheral vision gave a clear view of Kennedy’s mouth falling open as he did a slow circuit of Jeremy’s sprawled body. “And when’s the last time that happened?”

“The bathroom of that club in Galveston. When we opened up for the Party Kills.”

Kennedy’s gaze sharpened. “Are you kidding me?”

“No.”

“Who?”

“The drummer.”

“You—” Kennedy caught Jeremy’s chin between his thumb and index finger. “You let that monkey-sticking kandi kid nail you?”

“He’s hot,” Jeremy said defensively. “Tall. Hard body. Who cares if he used to cover himself in beaded bracelets in, like, the ’90s?”

Disapproval radiated from Kennedy. And something that sent his lip sloping in a mean curve. “You sure know how to pick them. What’s next? That creepy bastard who owns this hellhole?”

“Hunter isn’t creepy. He’s nice. He even showed me how to get to his house in case I need him for anything.”

“Oh, I bet he fucking did.”

“Dude, what is your problem? Why do you even care whose dick I ride? It’s not like you want me to touch yours.” Jeremy rolled onto his side. Attempts at being brash kept leading to embarrassment, and he really needed to quit while he was ahead.

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Santino HassellAuthor Bio: Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Find Santino at: Website || Facebook || Twitter || Goodreads

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Eric Arvin, Giveaways

Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: The Rascal by Eric Arvin

Rascal Blog Tour Banner

Welcome to The Rascal blog tour with Eric Arvin. We’re so pleased to be a part of helping Eric promote his newest novel, with an exclusive excerpt from the book for you, as well as a couple of great giveaways.

The Grand Prize on the tour is the chance for one lucky reader to win a $20 Gift Card to the e-tailer of choice.

The Runner-up Prize is the chance to win one of THREE e-copies of The Rascal–and, let me tell you, this is the perfect book for some October thrills and chills!

Here are the details:

  • Leave a relevant and thoughtful comment at each stop on the tour for a chance to win a $20 gift card. The titles of some of your favorite scary and spooktastic books? Loved the Goosebumps series as a kid? That counts. :)
  • Tour organizers will select a winner at each stop on 25 October 2015 for the $20 Gift Card. Winners of the THREE e-book copies from The Novel Approach will be selected on 13 October 2015.
  • Must be 18 years or older to enter.
  • Void where prohibited.
  • No residency restrictions apply.
  •  
    And that’s it. Enjoy this little teaser, and good luck!

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    TheRascalCover200x314Blurb: Lana is a faded movie star who lives alone in a big house on a hill that overlooks the sea. She has lived this way since the death of her daughter and the disappearance of her husband.

    Jeff and Chloe are a couple who live in a cabin below the big house. It was Chloe’s idea to strengthen their marriage; but she see’s now that it isn’t working. Jeff has become obsessed with the cabin and the old water well. Chloe only sees strangeness around her.

    One night while talking on the computer with Ethan, Jeff’s brother, a feeling of dread comes to the fore. When Ethan see’s a figure behind Chloe, he leaves his boyfriend and baby and sets out to save Jeff.

    Chloe, Ethan and Lana come together to fight an evil that would destroy Jeff. Will they suc-ceed or will all of them fall to the taste of a young cannibalistic ghost?

    Buy Link: Wilde City Press || Amazon Pre-Order

    The Rascal will be available from other third party e-tailers on 14 October.

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    Excerpt: Chloe Singh-Cane felt the town’s sense of reverence and expectation as she walked from the old, beaten Jeep into the small grocery store with her husband, Jeff. The few people on the sidewalks abruptly stopped what they were doing and looked at the strangers as if in rapt gratitude. Their expressions verged on hunger. Chloe walked as close to Jeff as he would allow her. His personal space was still precious to him where she was involved.

    The store clerk, a razor-thin woman with willows for fingers, watched them from beneath the rims of her glasses. A pleasant, if knowing smile never shifted or fell. There was no one else in the store.

    It was a small cubicle of a shop that had been there since the town’s founding. Like all of the structures on the main street, it seemed stoic and stuck, as if the shelves and walls were still adjusting to fluorescent lighting and the computer age was but science fiction. Arts and crafts were sold alongside loaves of bread and bags of candy. Individual colas could still be purchased out of an icebox. There was a smell of nostalgic comfort: wood stoves and wax candles.

    Jeff went to the pharmacy aisle and picked up a bottle of aspirin. It had been a long drive and his back was hurting him. Chloe had volunteered to take over, but he shrugged her off as if her suggestion was an annoyance.

    Chloe wandered around the store, happy to stretch her legs. She was still surrounded by silence, but at least this was a new silence. In the Jeep, Jeff’s silence had been covered by rock music. In the store, it was disguised by pop-flavored piano music and scented candles. She picked up a bag of candy corn and a bag of sour gummies.

    Jeff was waiting at the cash register. He had a cold bottle of root beer to wash down the aspirin. The clerk put down the tabloid magazine she was thumbing through and continued to smile at them as she rang the items up. The lighting behind her caused her long fingers to cast thin shadows.

    “Just passing through?” she asked, her voice a scratchy, nicotine-lined thing.

    “No,” Chloe offered. “We bought a cottage up on the hill.”

    The clerk’s bagging of the items slowed to a crawl. Her eyes swallowed them. “The little place up on Bad Luck Hill?”

    “Is that what it’s called? Why in heaven’s name is it called Bad Luck Hill?”

    The clerk’s item bagging picked up. “Silly reasons. Or none at all. Who can remember how things get their names?”

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    EricArvinHeadshotAbout the Author: “Some of [Arvin’s] work is as direct as Hemingway with the sensitivity of O’Connor or Shields, and yet others nuanced as if Maupin wrote a letter to Penthouse.” – Thom Fitzgerald, director THE HANGING GARDEN 

    Eric Arvin resides in the same sleepy Indiana river town where he grew up. He graduated from Hanover College with a Bachelors in History. He has lived, for brief periods, in Italy and Australia. He has survived brain surgery and his own loud-mouthed personal demons. Eric is the author ofmWoke Up In A Strange Place, Subsurdity, Simple Men, Galley Proof, and various other sundry and not-so-sundry writings. He intends to live the rest of his days with tongue in cheek and eyes set to roam.

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    Tour Schedule: 

    7 Oct – Prism Book Alliance

    8 Oct – The Novel Approach

    9 Oct – Rhys Ford

    10 Oct – Joyfully Jay

    11 Oct – Love Bytes

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    5 Stars, Eric Arvin, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Wilde City Press

    Release Day Review: The Rascal by Eric Arvin

    TNA Page Turner Resized

    TheRascalCover200x314Title: The Rascal

    Author: Eric Arvin

    Publisher: Wilde City Press

    Pages/Word Count: 61500 Words

    At a Glance: For fans of horror, The Rascal is a must read.

    Reviewed By: Lisa

    Blurb: Lana is a faded movie star who lives alone in a big house on a hill that overlooks the sea. She has lived this way since the death of her daughter and the disappearance of her husband.

    Jeff and Chloe are a couple who live in a cabin below the big house. It was Chloe’s idea to strengthen their marriage; but she sees now that it isn’t working. Jeff has become obsessed with the cabin and the old water well. Chloe only sees strangeness around her.

    One night while talking on the computer with Ethan, Jeff’s brother, a feeling of dread comes to the fore. When Ethan sees a figure behind Chloe, he leaves his boyfriend and baby and sets out to save Jeff.

    Chloe, Ethan and Lana come together to fight an evil that would destroy Jeff. Will they succeed or will all of them fall to the taste of a young cannibalistic ghost?

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    Review: As you would do with any review, bringing your personal preferences into account, I’m going to start out by asking you to take into consideration that when other girls were reading Forever and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I was under the covers and sleeping with the lights on, reading The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror and every single Stephen King book I could get my hands on while watching movies like The Other and The Omen on late-night television. In other words, the horror fiction genre has been a staple of my avaricious reading habits almost from the time I started devouring chapter books. So when I say Eric Arvin’s The Rascal is a brilliant book, it comes from the perspective of someone who is perhaps a little more demanding in what constitutes a chilling mindfreak of a horror story. The kind of story that when the writing leaves off, the imagination takes over, which is all the fun of reading horror.

    The Rascal, in fact, reminds me a lot of the earlier days of Stephen King: Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Pet Sematary, The Dead Zone. Arvin offers us, from the outset of this novel, a macabre glimpse of what’s to come, then eases back, eases us into a placid sense of menace. Do you remember the scene in It, when the little boy is sailing his paper boat in the rain swollen gutter? It’s this innocence juxtaposed with the utter certainty that evil isn’t far away which informs every great horror novel—it’s the loss of innocence that terrifies us. Not even youthful innocence lost, specifically, but the absolute stripping away of everything that means safety and security to us. The Rascal is a book that takes any shred of hope we may have for its characters and grinds it under its heel.

    There is a certain foreboding wrapped up in the rather uneventful, small town of Wicker when we visit with Jeff and Chloe Cane, the place they intend to make their new home, to try to craft a new beginning from the wreckage of their marriage. Wicker is much like any little burg on the map—insular, friendly on its surface. But deep down, you know there are secrets… With names like Bad Luck Hill and No Hope Creek, we know the calm idyll is nothing more than an illusion and that the danger is only going to grow as the story progresses.

    It does.

    The little cottage on Bad Luck Hill is the place that should signal a fresh start but quickly becomes a harbinger of ill omen. It’s the place where peace and hope are nothing but dead and bloated corpses, suffocated by dread and misery. It’s the place that can make even the most jaded cry out to a god they don’t believe in. This is where we find Jeff and Chloe and the former actress, Lana Pruitt, who sold them the little cottage situated between the deadly cliffs and the dark woods—even knowing there was a resident evil lurking there.

    If you’ve ever read Woke Up In a Strange Place, The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, or Wave Goodbye to Charlie, you’ll know the hallmark of Eric Arvin’s writing is his ability to turn a phrase just so, so that you suddenly see everything you thought you knew from a different angle. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law” – it does not mean what you think it means. For Jeff and Chloe, who are adventure tour guides, it’s the greatest irony that Death is the one journey for which they could never have prepared. Life is the one adventure they may not survive.

    In the end, when love has been tested, faith has been broken, hatred has been simmering so close to the surface that one need only stare into the abyss to see that misery stares back, it’s how much one is willing to sacrifice for the sake of an estranged husband, and, for Ethan, an estranged brother, which brings this story’s evil to its conclusion. I love this book. I yelled at it, cursed at it, I shuddered at every single visual Arvin paints into an atmosphere that’s permeated by dread. There are things that go bump in the night. Then there are things that want you to suffer unimaginable horrors. That’s the rascal. He is the symbol of lost innocence, of evil, of insanity, of retribution. The rascal wants his pound of flesh in a most literal and chilling way.

    And Eric Arvin delivers.

    TNA_Signature_Lisa

     

     

     

    The Rascal is available for purchase here (watch for other e-tailer purchase links soon):

    Wilde City Press

    Wilde City Press

    Amazon Pre-Order Here:

    Amazon US

    Amazon US

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    5 Stars, Bey Deckard, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

    Release Day Review: Better the Devil You Know by Bey Deckard

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    Better the Devil You KnowTitle: Better the Devil You Know

    Author: Bey Deckard

    Publisher: Self-Published

    Pages/Word Count: 39000 Words

    At a Glance: Sick, twisted, brutal, filled with the unexpected, and I loved it.

    Reviewed By: Lisa

    Blurb: Byron is tall, handsome, well spoken, wealthy, and has outstanding taste in wine and food. You’ll be impressed by his impeccable attire and eloquence in conversation, ranging from Baroque art to the newest advances in pharmacology. With his charming smile and elegant manners, Byron truly is the perfect date… and who doesn’t love a man who appreciates opera?

    What’s the catch, you ask?

    Just this: if Byron finds you suitable, he will subject you to utterly depraved forms of torture.

    No, I’m not talking about S&M.

    Byron will mutilate, rape, and then kill you. Don’t think that you will survive the encounter, because you won’t. He has a perfect record.

    Intrigued? Would you like me to arrange a rendezvous? It has to be in the next few days because he’s leaving on a trip south to much warmer climes, and his calendar will be completely full.

    Yes? Very good. I will make a reservation for two under the name of Smith.

    Who am I? I’m Gloria, his personal assistant.

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    Review: First off, let me say that one of the things I will never do is read a book that’s dark and twisted (a lot twisted), or one that contains material which some may consider triggers—or, situations that may just plain offend a person’s sensibilities—and then say, unequivocally, “You have got to read this book!” We all have comfort zones and boundaries, and pushing those boundaries doesn’t make anyone braver or more intellectual or more open-minded than someone who chooses not to do so. Having said that, I personally have been waiting a long time for this book in the M/M genre.

    Okay, not this book, specifically (I’m still waiting for someone to write an M/M Jack the Ripper novel), but rather, a no-holds-barred psychological horror story along the lines of “I ate his liver with some Fava beans and a nice chianti,” only more graphic in detail and agitating in its horrifying displays of insanity. What I’ve been waiting for is a novel that would engage and repulse, all at the same time, and Bey Deckard has delivered in a big way with Better the Devil You Know, a perfectly twisted tale that looks at evil through the eyes of a serial killer, the devil, and questions a psychopath’s ability to be redeemed at the hands of Lucifer himself.

    Byron Danielsen, former doctor and this story’s antagonist, is a sick son of a bitch (if you’ll pardon my français). John Wayne Gacy? Ted Bundy? Jeffrey Dahmer? Pfft. Byron makes their crimes seem uninspired and amateurish by comparison, and I’m in awe of Deckard’s imagination—which is one of the reasons I love this niche of fiction. No, I’m not living vicariously in any way through the genre, I’m not at all titillated by the extremes of perversion herein, but I am fascinated by the abnormal psychology of the depraved and irredeemable. When they say “truth is stranger than fiction” (in an ironic bit of perfection, a quote attributed to Lord Byron), they aren’t talking about books like Better the Devil You Know. It’s difficult enough to comprehend when we see crimes of a particularly brutal and aberrant nature on the news, but when we read a story such as this, all we can do is feel grateful the author’s imagination isn’t one born of experience…or fruitful as inspiration.

    Byron is… what is Byron? He is repugnant yet is possessed of a certain charm and refinement, which is what makes him such a dangerous beast—what makes so many serial killers dangerous, in fact—their ability to blend in and to attract victims by preying on our inability to see what lurks behind the veil of normalcy. He has the advantage of luring his victims to him, masquerading as a human, if a little odd, when, in fact, there is a monster lurking beneath a hotbed of psychosis. That is what makes this book, and those like it, so terrifying—we know without question that human monsters exist. And his crimes against these innocents are of a nature so foul—if we can really measure murder by degrees of obscenity—that I was left with no other choice but to keep turning pages to see how the author would bring this story to a conclusion. And, I persevered gladly.

    In an interesting genre-jump, the plot soon merges with the metaphysical when Byron must give the devil his due. Literally. The Prince of Darkness aims to make Byron pay for his depravity, sending him to Hell, where Byron must endure the ultimate in karmic payback in an effort to harvest even the smallest seeds of regret for his crimes. In an even more interesting twist, Lucifer becomes a sympathetic character when pitted against Byron, which was a fantastic juxtaposition in the flipping of roles, but remember, he is Lucifer, so even in our seeing him from a softer angle, he’s still Satan, still the Lord of Flies who is determined to make Byron remember the one victim he seems to have erased from his memories.

    There is no doubt this book is compelling. There is no doubt this story is well written, never once sugarcoating Byron’s crimes or insanity. There is also no doubt whatsoever that this book is not a romance in any way. Nor is this a book that will appeal to anyone but the reader who loves a chilling and macabre and thoroughly bent antagonist.

    Does Byron redeem himself in the end? Mmm… I shan’t even attempt to weigh out an opinion on that one. But, to quote another famous author, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

    TNA_Signature_Lisa

     

     

     

    You can buy Better the Devil You Know here:

    All Romance eBooks

    All Romance eBooks

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    payhip.com

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    5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, Reviewed by Lisa, Rick R. Reed

    Retro Review: A Demon Inside by Rick R. Reed

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    Title: A Demon Inside

    Author: Rick R. Reed

    Publisher: DSP Publications

    Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

    At a Glance: An intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride.

    Reviewed By: Lisa

    Blurb: Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

    But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror.

    First Edition published by ManLove Romance Press, 2010.

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    Back in July of 2010, when I was still a fairly wet-behind-the-ears newbie to blog reviewing, I grabbed a book from an author whose Tales from the Sexual Underground I’d just read two weeks before. This book, as you can probably glean from the titles, was a vastly different reading experience.

    When Mr. Reed contacted me to let me know he’d pulled a quote from my review to use as a blurb on the front of the new cover for A Demon Inside’s re-release, I was both shocked and humbled, and I’m also grateful that he saw something worthy in what I look back on now and can see just how much my reviewing style has changed (and improved, I hope) over the course of the last five years.

    So, in honor of this 2nd Edition of one of my earlier reviewing experiences for a book that invokes the spirit of some of Stephen King’s finest tales, here’s a rerun of my review:

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    Review: Rick R. Reed’s A Demon Inside is an intense, macabre, edge-of-your-seat, don’t-read-it-in-the-dark thrill ride. From the prologue to its final chapter, I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough to see what would happen next.

    The story opens in a dark winter forest in 1845, where the reader witnesses a lone gypsy woman consigning her baby boy to his eternal sleep. The scene is dense with tension, mystery and a sense of foreboding that sets the mood up beautifully for the entire book, as the reader experiences the results of this gypsy’s invocation over her son’s grave.

    Hunter Beaumont is an orphan. At the age of five, when a child isn’t nearly old enough to understand the concept of life, let alone death, Hunter witnesses his parents’ murder but has experienced a form of post traumatic memory loss that has helped him escape the worst of the trauma. Hunter’s family legacy holds a dark secret that has cursed his ancestors for generations, and Hunter learns the true meaning of being orphaned when his beloved grandmother succumbs to cancer, leaving him entirely alone in the world. On her deathbed, his Nana exacts a promise from Hunter—to destroy his family’s ancestral home, Beaumont House, a place he’d never known existed until that moment.

    The Beaumont family legacy has also left Hunter a wealthy young man, but his sheltered upbringing leaves him a man susceptible to the human predators who would prey on his innocence. Dr. Jay Blackstock, the doctor who saw Nana through her waning days, is just such a predator, a scavenger who feeds on Hunter’s naiveté. Jay manipulates and insinuates himself into Hunter’s life so entirely that his ultimate betrayal of Hunter’s trust leaves the young man broken and wary.

    After having made a trip to Beaumont House with the family lawyer, during which time Rick R. Reed serves us a mere morsel of what’s to come, Hunter decides to go against his Nana’s dying wish to destroy the house and instead, aspires to make it his refuge, a sanctuary from the social order that is determined to make him its victim. It doesn’t take long for the reader to understand that Beaumont House holds strange and terrible secrets, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been drawn into this story, feeling as though, like Hunter, I’d become ensnared in a residual web of nightmares reaching out from the past to grab hold of my reality. Just as society had deemed to victimize him, so does Hunter’s home seem determined to exact a deadly price.

    Michael Burt is introduced to the story as the caretaker for a neighboring property, living in a cottage at the edge of Hunter’s estate. Michael is a ruggedly handsome and affable man who, living with the loneliness of the remote location of these estates, looks to befriend Hunter, but Hunter, who has determined that he can’t afford to trust anyone, makes it clear to Michael that friendship is not on his agenda. Michael, as fate would have it, is also penning a novel based on the local folklore surrounding a mysterious gypsy woman – some called her a witch – who lived in the area near the mid-1800s. As more and more unexplained phenomena occur in Beaumont House, legend becomes portent, and Hunter has to choose whether to stand firm, or cut and run.

    There were times during the reading of this novel that I didn’t know whether to cheer Hunter for a hero, or curse him for a fool. Perhaps there’s a fine line between the two, and the side of the line the protagonist falls on depends on whether he succeeds or fails at his quest. The one thing I do know for certain is that Hunter had me holding my breath and devouring pages in a frenzy to decide whether he would be hero or fool at the end. My final determination is that Hunter was a foolish hero – how’s that for not choosing sides? One important lesson Hunter does learn is that detachment and independence aren’t synonymous, and sometimes it takes great strength to learn to depend on others.

    A Demon Inside is an enthralling read that kept my nerves stretched taut as a tightrope, leaving me spellbound from beginning to end.

    TNA_Signature_Lisa

     

     

     

    You can buy A Demon Inside here:

    All Romance eBooks

    All Romance eBooks

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    Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, Rick R. Reed

    DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and Rick R. Reed

    DSP Publications

    Happy Tuesday, everyone, and Happy Release Day to Rick R. Reed! Rick has graciously agreed to come tell Genre Talk all about his new Horror-Romance, A Demon Inside, which is available for purchase right now from DSP Publications. He’s also brought us an excerpt, but first, let’s have a look at what Rick’s newest is all about.

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    a demon insideA Demon Inside

    Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’s never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s wishes, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

    But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, Michael Burt, a caretaker for the estate next door. The man might be his salvation… or he could be the source of Hunter’s terror.

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    Carole: So, Rick, you’ve visited with us before to talk about your Suspense-Thriller IM and how it was difficult to pin it to just one genre. Now you’ve got A Demon Inside, which is categorized as Mystery-Suspense but is pretty heavy on the Romance too. So if I ask you to tell us about your genre, which one(s) are we dealing with?

    Rick: Do I have a genre? Am I restricted to only one? Can I check more than one box? See, I love writing—and reading!!—all different sorts of genres. My favorites for both are romance, horror, dark suspense, and thrillers. I suppose, since this post concentrates on my latest release, A Demon Inside, I should tell you about my love for horror. I think I love horror because it’s a very pure genre, with a very pure objective: does it frighten you? Just like the key question for comedy is: does it make you laugh? Horror has the same emotional touchstone, how the author gets you to that fearful place can vary, but he or she must hit that bottom line—to scare you. I find the best way to do that is to appeal to our universal fears, which have to do with protecting our own lives and those whom we love. Horror in a way is like romance, because it’s about distilled and universal emotions, often with the same signposts—rapidly beating heart, uptick in respiration, and so on….

    Carole: You’ve been writing M/M for quite a while, since before it was really a genre. You must have seen a lot of changes from then until now.

    Rick: When I first began seeing the term m/m romance, I wasn’t even aware I was writing it. I thought I was just writing stories about people I knew (i.e. gay people) and their desire to love and be loved, possibly the strongest and most universal of all desires. When it became a “thing” I realized that I didn’t always color within the lines (my endings might be happy for now, for example), but I think there is room for diversity in m/m romance, just like there’s room for it in life. And thank god for our differences, as well as what brings us together.

    Carole: Tell us about A Demon Inside

    Rick: I think A Demon Inside is a bit of a throwback to the gothic horror novels of the past, set in contemporary time and place. It’s the story of an outsider, a sheltered young gay man, fleeing the world and its pains to hide away in a big, old, and foreboding house he inherited. Of course, the house, he comes to find is not empty, but occupied by a presence more fearful than anything from which he tried to run. It’s a very traditional kind of horror story, but with a gay twist.

    Carole: A Demon Inside is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels, but at the same time, there’s as much Romance in this book as there is Horror, isn’t there?

    Rick: There is. At its heart, as with almost anything I write, there’s a love story. What’s fun about this is the suspicion I build that the love interest could also be the source of the fear and danger.

    Carole: Ah, keep ’em guessing, yeah? That’s why they call is suspense! ;) Speaking of, this is always my favorite question: Tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of A Demon Inside?

    Rick: Short answer: I don’t know how I thought of it, but I once had the realization that one of the most horrifying things I could imagine is to awaken in a pitch-dark room, thinking I’m alone but then to hear someone nearby whispering my name. Just the idea of that gave me chills…and Hunter experiences that in A Demon Inside…and it was really that little thing that inspired the whole story.

    Carole: Wow, it is a little thing, but it packs a disturbing punch, doesn’t it? *shudder* And hearkens back to so many classic horror tales. So are there any movies or TV shows that have inspired you when it’s come to your horror works?

    Rick: When I was a little boy, I was a huge, huge fan of the horror soap opera, Dark Shadows. I used to run home every day to watch it. I had Barnabas and Quentin posters on my wall, a scrapbook and even the series soundtrack album. I believe that series, and its trafficking on horror tropes, was definitely an inspiration.

    I would also mention a couple of movies that probably also taught me a lot about horror and especially how things unseen can be scarier than in-your-face gore and blatant shock value. Those are: The Haunting of Hill House and Carnival of Souls. They’re both so moody, atmospheric, and truly nightmarish. They stick with you.

    Carole: They really do. THoHH especially has one of the best opening paragraphs of all time, in my opinion. And no doubt your work will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with it.

    Thanks so much, Rick, for being with us here today, and much success with your new release.

    And thank you, Awesome Readers, for spending time with us today. Please enjoy the following excerpt from Rick R. Reed’s new release A Demon Inside, then scroll down to the bottom of the post for the buy links.

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    Excerpt: Hunter stands in front of a blackened Beaumont House, transformed into a silhouette by the dying crimson sky behind it. One by one lights come on in the house, small pools of light. By themselves the double doors of the house open. Hunter backs away, then stands paralyzed, staring at the open doors as if they have issued an invitation to him, which, in a sense, they have.

    The night air cools around him. The red sky deepens in hue, displaying swatches of lilac, deep purple, and blue. The orchestra of frogs, crickets, and cicadas grows louder in proportion to the quickly encroaching darkness.

    Hunter shivers, and the house looks more and more tempting—warm. But he feels an unreasonable, unnamable dread. The warmth, he thinks, is deceptive. The house is calling to him, he’s sure, but it’s a siren’s call, with purposes he won’t even begin to fully understand until he’s walked firmly into its clutches.

    Just as he is about to turn away, he glimpses figures moving inside. He turns back slowly and sees his parents on the curving staircase, about halfway up. They stare at him, their expressions impossible to read. His mother raises a hand, beckoning.

    He needs no more incentive. He hurries to the house, picking up his pace as his parents turn, ascending the stairs into the shadows. As Hunter crosses the threshold, his parents vanish into darkness.

    He can hear their whispers, though, as he mounts the steps. He gets to the top and sees them at the end of the corridor, watching him. Hunter feels tears gathering in his eyes and starts to run to them.

    And slams into a mirror.

    He steps back, disoriented, and looks in the opposite direction, but there is only a hallway, almost pitch black, awaiting him. Turning back, he looks again into the mirror and sees the same dark, empty corridor.

    Suddenly he is surrounded by whispers, snatches of conversation, music… all of it fading in and out like someone spinning an old-fashioned tuning dial on a radio. Frozen, Hunter stands peering into the black, trying to force the rapid adaptation of his eyes to pinpoint the source of the noise.

    Where has all the light gone that he had seen from outside?

    He is seized by fear, his heart pounding, hairs standing up on the back of his neck, a scream trapped in his throat. All around he can feel a presence. Blindly he dashes down the hallway, hands outstretched, groping. Webs stick to his face, Insects attach themselves to him until all he can feel are sickening crawling sensations all over his body. Ahead in the dimness, something with a hairless tail and glowing eyes skitters into the darkness.

    A light comes on at the end of the hallway. Gratefully Hunter lunges toward it.

    He gasps when he enters the room. It is his grandmother’s bedroom, right here in Evanston. With his fist Hunter stifles the scream about to emerge. Nana lies propped once more on the pillows, her eyes engaging and imploring him.

    “Destroy Beaumont House.” His grandmother makes the command over and over again, a litany, her voice dead and toneless. Soon other voices join in, people hidden in shadows in corners of the room. The chorus rises in volume until it hurts his ears.

    And then it stops. Hunter moves toward his grandmother, but before his eyes she morphs into something else, something scaly with feral yellow eyes.

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    A Demon Inside is available now in both ebook and paperback from DSP Publications and Amazon, as well as other retail outlets.

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    Rick R. ReedAbout the Author: Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

    You can follow Rick via the following links: Website || Blog || Facebook || Twitter || E-mail

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    Thanks to everyone for joining us for this edition of Genre Talk, and thanks, as always, to Lisa and the gang here at The Novel Approach for letting us come and pretend we know what we’re doing for a little while. Please join us next time when we drag Luchia Dertien into our genre circus and sic the scary clowns on her, just for giggles. ;)

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    5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, John Inman, Reviewed by Maryann

    Review: The Boys on the Mountain by John Inman

    Title: The Boys on the Mountain

    Author: John Inman

    Publisher: DSP Publications

    Pages/Word Count: 330 Pages

    At a Glance: This is a very well written horror story by John Inman, and ranks right up there with Stephen King, in my opinion.

    Reviewed By: Maryann

    Blurb: Jim Brandon has a new house, and boy is it a pip. Built high on the side of the San Diego mountains by a legendary B movie actor of the 1930s, Nigel Letters, the house is not only gorgeous, but supposedly haunted. As a writer of horror novels, Jim couldn’t be happier.

    But after a string of ghostly events sets Jim’s teeth on edge and scares the bejesus out of his dog, Jim begins to dig into the house’s history. What he finds is enough to creep out anybody. Even Jim. It seems long dead Nigel Letters had a few nasty habits back in his day. And unhappily for Jim, the old bastard still has some tricks up his sleeve.

    As Jim welcomes his ex, Michael, and a bevy of old friends for a two-week visit to help christen the new house, he soon realizes his old friends aren’t the only visitors who have come to call.

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    Review: First, I have to warn readers there are some extreme cases of abuse in The Boys on the Mountain, so it may be offensive to some. It is descriptive, shocking and scary. This is a very well written horror story by John Inman, and ranks right up there with Stephen King, in my opinion. It drew me in from the start, and I couldn’t stop reading no matter what happened. In a way, it’s a sad tale too, as we have heard of such abuses in this day and age, and I can’t even begin to imagine how this would have been handled in the 1920s and ‘30s.

    Most of the time setting for this tale is the 1940s, during World War II. Many of these young boys were homeless and used their youth and beauty to earn money just to stay alive. Timmy (TJ) Johnson, Kenny, Arturo, Charlie Simms, Jeremiah (Jerry), Josh, and Joey; and the exception, Allan Crisp—these are only a few of the boys who faced horrific tragedy.

    During this time, Nigel Letters was aging, and work in Hollywood had disappeared for him. He amassed his wealth as a B-horror movie actor in the ‘20s and ‘30s, but left the Hollywood life to live in the secluded mountains of San Diego, where he committed suicide.

    Seventy years later, we find Jim Brandon and his faithful dog Rex moving into Nigel’s eighteenth century Mexican hacienda. Its purchase price was worth it to Jim, as it gave him the solitude he was looking for. And, the house was supposedly haunted. Being a horror story author, what more could he ask for, as eerie occurrences start when Jim and Rex spend the night in the carriage house? At which point he also gains some interesting information from Caroline, his housekeeper, as well as ninety-six-year-old Clarice O’Donnell.

    There is a lot of humor in this story when Jim’s friends Michael, Lyle, Frank, and Stu show up and practically move into his home, which helps to balance out a lot of the horror in the plot. As a horror story fan, I was really pleased that Jim’s friends didn’t call him crazy or didn’t believe what he was telling them. There was great camaraderie between all the friends—no one ran off screaming. The rekindled romance between Jim and Michael was a plus to the story too, as Michael showed how much he was willing to sacrifice to be with Jim again.

    TNA_Signature_Maryann







     

    You can buy The Boys on the Mountain here:

    OmniLit/ARe

    OmniLit/ARe

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    5 Stars, Audio Book, JCP Books, Jordan Castillo Price, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

    Audio Review: Camp Hell by Jordan Castillo Price – Narrated by Gomez Pugh

    Audio Gem

    Title: Camp Hell (PsyCop: Book Five)

    Author: Jordan Castillo Price

    Narrator:: Gomez Pugh

    Publisher: JCP Books

    Run Time: 10 Hours and 55 Minutes

    At a Glance: The PsyCop series is the perfect marriage of author and narrator.

    Reviewed By: Lisa

    Blurb: Victor Bayne honed his dubious psychic skills at one of the first psych training facilities in the country, Heliotrope Station, otherwise known as Camp Hell to the psychics who’ve been guests behind its razorwire fence.

    Vic discovered that none of the people he remembers from Camp Hell can be found online, and there’s no mention of Heliotrope Station itself, either. Someone’s gone through a lot of trouble to bury the past. But who?

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    Review: Fans of any book series, regardless of genre, will know what I mean when I call Camp Hell a transition book. It’s the book in the series where the hero hits a point in his story arc that signifies an evolution from which there’s no turning back. Victor Bayne has come to that crossroad in Camp Hell, Jacob Marks along with him, and it’s in this book that the PsyCop series transitions from outstanding speculative fiction to entering a class in the M/M genre all by itself.

    Up until now, Vic has been rather a blank slate with regards to his time at Heliotrope Station—a.k.a. Camp Hell—and it hasn’t helped that he can’t find a single mention of the place, or of himself, on the internet. Camp Hell has become the one spectre Victor Bayne, medium extraordinaire, can’t see. Nor can he find any trace of some of the names he remembers from his stint there—as if neither the place nor that period of time were even a reality on his physical plane of existence. Except that Vic knows Camp Hell was real, and now he’s located someone to help him dig up and sift through some of those repressed memories.

    We learn some things about Vic in this installment of the series, some pretty revealing things, one of them being that before Jacob stormed into Vic’s life, there was Stefan Russo. And Victor loved him. But, not quite enough to prevent Vic from keeping his face turned toward the sun and bolting from Heliotrope Station at the first opportunity. Stefan, now Steven Russell, fourteen years later, is the one who will help Vic remember the fragments of their time together at Camp Hell. Which leads to another of the things we learn in the process, and that’s how very few people—if any—Vic has in his life that he can trust with every part of himself. But we also finally get to see that Jacob comes first on that list.

    In Camp Hell something quite significant also becomes much clearer with respect to the relationship between Victor and Jacob, and what Jacob means as a presence in Vic’s life. Vic’s life is death—so much of his existence revolves around the dead, but Jacob…Jacob is a source of life and energy that Victor knows he can trust, possibly even cling to when he needs it, and it’s a great contrast which is juxtaposed even further in that Vic also knows that to work with Jacob would drain him dry, in no uncertain terms.

    Not only does Camp Hell excel at exposing more about the characters in this series we’re already familiar with, it also introduces some new players whose roles will be significant as the plot thickens and this series progresses. But where this novel reaches its pinnacle is in the supernatural elements Jordan Castillo Price has imagined, which is not only written with an impressive amount of detail but in a bone-chilling, goose-bump inducing, full-on horror genre fashion. The true horror, however, may be the reinforcement that human monsters exist.

    The imagery in the climactic scene with Vic, Jacob, and the ghost at LaSalle Hospital is some of the most vivid fiction I’ve ever read, or, in this case, listened to, the kind of scene you still see when it’s over, every time you close your eyes. Not only that, but it’s such a pivotal moment for both Vic and Jacob, and was the aftermath of us empathizing just a little more with Zig, as well as it being the precursor to a touching and quite human moment with Warwick, a poignancy that doesn’t hit you until that “ah-ha” moment, and then makes your heart clench in empathy.

    What could have possibly made this book better? Only one thing: Gomez Pugh narrating it. I’m running out of superlatives to heap on this man’s head, to be perfectly frank, and I remain impressed by not only his capturing Vic’s wit, pragmatism, and an insouciance the medium doesn’t necessarily feel—though attempts to project when anything more would reveal too much—but he continues to come up with new pitches and inflections for the impressive array of characters, both male and female, in the PsyCop series. The addition of Richie (aka Einstein) and his giggle; Dead Darla, who sounds exactly like a woman who’d be called Dead Darla; Con Dreyfuss, the wolf in hemp clothing; and Stefan, whose pretension and personality ooze from Pugh’s vocal cords, only serve to elevate this novel’s intensity and provocativeness.

    The PsyCop series and Gomez Pugh were made for each other, the perfect marriage of a narrator who clearly appreciates the material he’s performing, and a series that uses his vocal prowess to its best effect.

    TNA_Signature_Lisa







     

    You can buy Camp Hell here:

    Audible.com

    Audible.com

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    DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, John Inman

    DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and John Inman

    DSP Publications

    Oh, the horror! And I mean that in the best way possible. ;) John Inman is here with me today to tell you all about ghosts and haunted houses and moldering skeletons in creepy closets. I’m talking, of course, about John’s new release The Boys on the Mountain, released just yesterday from DSP Publications. So light your candles and get out your Ouija boards—but first, let’s have a look at what’s in store.

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    tna-dspp--john inman for 05-13The Boys on the Mountain

    Jim Brandon has a new house, and boy is it a pip. Built high on the side of the San Diego mountains by a legendary B movie actor of the 1930s, Nigel Letters, the house is not only gorgeous, but supposedly haunted. As a writer of horror novels, Jim couldn’t be happier.

    But after a string of ghostly events sets Jim’s teeth on edge and scares the bejesus out of his dog, Jim begins to dig into the house’s history. What he finds is enough to creep out anybody. Even Jim. It seems long dead Nigel Letters had a few nasty habits back in his day. And unhappily for Jim, the old bastard still has some tricks up his sleeve.

    As Jim welcomes his ex, Michael, and a bevy of old friends for a two-week visit to help christen the new house, he soon realizes his old friends aren’t the only visitors who have come to call.

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    Carole: So last time you were here, John, I called you DSP Publications’ answer to Stephen King, and though you demurred, I haven’t seen anything yet to change my opinion. Now, I know one of King’s least favorite questions is “What is it about the Horror genre that appeals to you?” so let’s be evil and start with that one.

    John: Horror stories are always fun. Usually they are so over the top that they make the writing of them a true blast. In horror you can let your imagination take you wherever you want to go. There are no restrictions of reality or time or reason to hold you back. Next to flat out gooshy love stories, which I adore making up, I enjoy writing bloody, creepy, scream-inducing horror stories the best.

    Carole: Quite the contrast there! Now, horror as a genre has such broad appeal. Why “narrow the audience,” so to speak, by featuring the M/M dynamic?

    John: I guess it boils down to being who I am. Since I’m gay, the M/M perspective on a story is just the way I instinctively go. I’ve always written male on male, even before I ever sold a manuscript and before I ever knew there was actually a market out there for that type of story. And at this late point in the game I don’t think I could change because it’s the only way I know how to write.

    Carole: And why should you, really? Okay, so let’s move on to the good stuff. Tell us about The Boys on the Mountain.

    John: This book was sort of a test for me. It was my first foray into writing a ghost story. It was also the first time I tried writing a story that encompassed two separate time periods, decades apart. I have published ghost stories before this one but The Boys on the Mountain was written before those. Boys is the story of a serial killer of young men who lived half a century earlier than when the present day part of the story takes place.

    Nigel Letters was an old ham actor of the forties who starred in a string of B movies and made quite a name for himself doing it. He also had a few kinks in his persona that his fans didn’t know about at the time. Fast forward five decades. James Brandon is a writer of horror stories who is buying the old Letters home situated on the side of a mountain in Southern California. Once there, he realizes, through his pen, that something horrible once happened in that house, and the victims of that horror are still in residence. When his coterie of gay friends come for two weeks to christen the house, they find themselves in a battle with the ghost of Nigel Letters who still wields control over the poor souls he murdered here fifty years before. And not everyone survives the battle.

    Carole: Yikes! Sounds like a book to be read with all the lights on and maybe a guard dog or two. ;)

    So, The Boys on the Mountain is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in The Boys on the Mountain and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

    John: The Boys on the Mountain was accepted by Dreamspinner Press about three years ago, and has been on hold until the new DSP Publications imprint opened up, because they thought it would be a better fit. While Boys is indeed a romance, the romance part of the story is overshadowed by the spooky stuff. My other release through DSP Publications, Willow Man, was likewise held in limbo until the imprint went live. Both books are horror, and both are ghost stories. Anyway, they’re here now, and I couldn’t be happier. Stephen King has always been one of my favorite authors. I think I’ve read every word he’s ever written write down to his grocery list, so if the reader sees any similarities (not in style and deftness of execution, mind you, I could never match King for that, hell, nobody could) but in mood and basic imagery, then I hope I’ll be forgiven.

    Carole: *refers John to intro and whistles* Ahem. All right, now it’s time for what’s always my favorite part of Genre Talk: Tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of The Boys on the Mountain?

    John: The germ of an idea for this story came into being one spring day in San Diego when I was visiting the San Diego Zoo. It’s about a 15 minute walk to there from where I live so I go there quite often. Anyway, one early morning I snuck into the zoo when they first opened and not too many people were around. I was happily hiking the trails and pathways of the zoo, all by myself, chomping down on a humongous bucket of popcorn, when I strolled through the valley of big cats. There were almost no people around at all. It was still really early in the morning and some fog lingered from the night before. As I was passing this vast wire cage that reached about 15 feet high and 30 feet across, a black panther came storming out of the bushes and crashed flat out into the fence, feet first, hissing and snarling and spitting, not two feet from where I stood. Needless to say, my popcorn went flying and I damn near peed my pants. That cat meant business. I guess he thought I was on the breakfast menu. I have never forgotten that moment, and I knew I had to work it into a story. So believe it or not, all 150,000 words of The Boys on the Mountain came from those few seconds of abject terror when I stood in the fog at the San Diego Zoo and tried not to keel over in a dead faint when that black panther flew at me out of the bushes. Haha. I did manage to work the moment into the book though. It also gave me one of the major players in the story. Tania, the puma. And what a bitch she is!

    Carole: (Do you see why that’s my favorite part? Always such awesome answers!) Okay, for this last question, I basically just asked John what he would like to talk about. Here’s what he came up with.

    John: Since I’ve been told I can say anything I want during this part of the interview, I would like to direct a couple of words to the people out there (you most certainly know who you are) who have a dream to become a writer. To you I would like to say just one thing. Do not ever give up. Hold true to your dream. Practice your craft. And read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Trust me, every rejection letter and every unanswered query you are faced with now will make the final signing of your first contract all the more exciting – and well earned. I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do. Oh, and more thing. Write from the heart. That’s where the best words always lay hidden.

    Carole: Oh, John. You’ve gone and made everyone all swoony now. Thanks so much for being with us today and best of luck on the new release!

    And thank you, readers, for coming along for the ride. As a reward, please enjoy the following excerpt from The Boys on the Mountain, and look for the buy links at the end of the post.

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    Excerpt: A TOUCH at the side of my neck brought me crashing back to the present, my connection to the past lost in the space of a second.

    Michael stood over me, smiling down. His hair, freed of the stocking cap and considerably thinner now than when we were an item, poked up around his face in a dozen different directions. Bed hair. Crumpled, baggy pajama bottoms hung precariously from his slim hips, and he sported a nicotine patch on his upper arm. He was trying to quit smoking again, a quest he had pursued off and on and with a constant lack of success since the day I met him.

    But for the smoking, and a few too many drinks occasionally (especially when the five of us got together), Michael was something of a health nut, popping God knows how many vitamins every day, jogging or racewalking every morning, working out at his gym four evenings a week. Compared to him, the rest of us were slugs. We basically kept ourselves trim with periodic bouts of starvation. Michael did it with hard, steady exercise. His devotion to it was mirrored in the clean, trim lines of his body.

    I snaked an arm around his waist and pulled him into my space, pushing my face into the sprinkling of hair on his firm, rippled stomach. His skin felt sleep-warm and heavenly.

    He rested a hand against the back of my neck. “This may come as a surprise to you, Jim, but most life forms require sleep to survive.”

    I grinned and kissed his stomach. He not only lived a healthy lifestyle, he had also taken it upon himself to constantly lecture the rest of us on the advantages of one. For my part, his lectures usually oozed in one ear and dribbled out the other without making any long-lasting impressions anywhere in between.

    “Nag. What time is it?”

    “About an hour before dawn. The sky is just beginning to lighten.”

    “Is that what woke you?”

    “No,” he said, chuckling. “A warm fuzzy body crawling into my bed is what woke me. I was hoping it was you.”

    “Hmm. Who was it?”

    “Rex.”

    “He misses you.”

    “Anybody else around here miss me?”

    “Yeah. I do. All the time.”

    He ran his fingers through my hair. “Right. That’s why you moved to practically another country. We’re twenty miles from the Mexican border, for Christ’s sake. When the wind is right, you can probably smell the salsa.”

    “Right now I can smell only you,” I whispered, breathing in the familiar fragrance of his warm skin.

    I felt a stirring beneath the fabric of his pajama bottoms before he gently took a step backward. “Let’s not complicate matters,” he said, but there was a smile in his voice. “We have other things we should be concentrating on.”

    “Like what?” I asked innocently.

    “Well, gee, let me think. Judging by all the paperwork scattered around you, you’ve just been mysteriously channeling the story of another boy who was murdered in this house more than fifty years ago. Our friend is lying in the back bedroom with first-degree burns over most of his face and so strung out on pills and booze that he doesn’t realize he should be in pain. And, oh yes, you’re in the process of buying a home that is crawling with ghosts and goblins and demons, and we need to be checking the yellow pages for a good exorcist before one or all of the spooks living here decide to set fire to the rest of us. Did I miss anything?”

    “Well, there is the small matter of the beast who attacked my dog, but I suppose that would fall under the general demon category, unless you’d prefer to sublist it. Organization is, after all, your middle name.”

    “And chaos, my friend, is yours. It follows you wherever you go.”

    I studied his face. “Is that why you left?”

    He smiled. “Who said I left? Maybe I’m on hiatus.”

    “If that’s what it is, it’s been a long one,” I said, but I could feel my heart doing a happy little patter. Maybe there was hope for us yet. Michael apparently was harboring the same thought. At least I hoped he was.

    “Complications aren’t necessarily bad things,” he said, moving closer.

    “Not bad at all,” I agreed.

    “And the other stuff we can work around. Ghosts. Goblins.”

    “Demons. Absolutely.”

    I slid my lips across his stomach. “Fuck it,” he said. “Let’s go to bed.”

    “If you insist.”

    He laughed. “You’re so easy.”

    I pulled the drawstring on his pajama bottoms and watched them slide to the floor.

    “And you’re so hard.”

    “Nice segue,” he said.

    “Thanks. I’m a writer. We’re good at things like that.”

    “What else are you good at?”

    “Let me refresh your memory,” I said. And I did.

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    john-inman-17Author Bio: John Inman grew up on a tiny 60-acre farm in Indiana. His childhood was a happy one. He spent most of it barefoot with a cane pole over his shoulder, fishing and roaming the countryside and dragging home every wild creature he could get his hands on hoping to make it a pet, much to his mother’s horror.

    Longing to see the world (what kid doesn’t?), he joined the Navy two minutes after graduating from high school. The Navy carried him all across the Orient before finally landing him in San Diego, California, a city he fell in love with at first sight. He lives there to this day with his husband John (yep, John and John), and an assortment of pets they’ve happened to adopt along the way, (Yep, he’s still doing that too.)

    The one great longing that has stayed with John his entire life, from his childhood on the farm, to his years in the Navy, and all the way up to retirement from the working world, was the need he felt to write fiction. And he did. He wrote every chance he got, from elementary school all the way through to Social Security.

    John calls this passion of his a wonderful addiction, and he thanks God every day that he suffers from it. Since he can’t think of a happier way to spend his remaining years on this marvelous planet, you can now find John seven days a week, merrily slogging along on his computer, doing what he most dearly loves to do.

    Writing. (And there’s usually a pet on his lap while he’s doing it.)

    You can follow John via his website, his blog and/or Facebook

    Buy The Boys on the Mountain now in ebook or paperback from DSP Publications, Amazon, and most other major distributors

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    Next on the chopping block for Genre Talk is… eek! Me! J Tullos Hennig will be turning the tables and giving me a taste of my own medicine and other mixed metaphors. So, until then—thanks and happy reading, everyone!

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    5 Stars, Ally Blue, Horror, Reviewed by Jennifer, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

    Review: Down by Ally Blue

    Title: Down

    Author: Ally Blue

    Publisher: Riptide Publishing

    Pages/Word Count: 380 Pages

    At a Glance: Not for the faint of heart but a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with horror, suspense, and the deep.

    Reviewed By: Jennifer

    Blurb: Seven thousand meters below the ocean’s surface, the crew of the BathyTech 3 mineral mining facility has found something remarkable: a rock-like sphere of unknown material and origin.

    For Mo Rees, the discovery calls to his inner explorer and adds color to his dull miner’s life. Even better than the promise of new knowledge is the unexpected connection he forges with Dr. Armin Savage-Hall, leader of the team brought down to study the thing.

    For Armin, the object is the find of a lifetime. It could prove his controversial theories and secure his scientific reputation. And Mo is a fascinating bonus.

    Then crew members start behaving strangely. Worse, they start to change: their eyes glow purple, their teeth sharpen. Then the violence begins, the brutal deaths. As BathyTech descends deeper into chaos, the surviving crew works desperately to find the cause of the horrors around them. What they uncover could annihilate the human race. And they can’t stop it.

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    Review: Ally Blue is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw that she was releasing a horror novel, I was thrilled. Until I found out where it takes place.

    The bottom of the ocean.

    So therein lies my dilemma. I love Ally Blue so much I purchase her ebooks, read them, love them, and then as soon as that book is available in paperback, I buy the paperback. I own every single book she has written in ebook, and every one that has been released as a paperback sits on the top shelf of one of my bookcases. She writes romance and horror very well. I was a huge fan of her book Oleander House when I discovered it, and devoured the entire Bay City Paranormal Investigations series and its spinoffs. She builds creepy creatures and worlds, and I just love it.

    But I’m terrified of deep water. And that’s where this book takes place. In the deepest waters you can find on our planet. I took a chance, and while I was scared out of my wits reading half of her descriptions, I enjoyed every moment of the story.

    The novel is set in the fairly near future. Things have happened to the earth, and while some of it is mentioned, not all the details are given. We do know that there have been disasters and power outages that caused chaos around the world. There’s also technology that allows miners to mine the ocean floor, walking out into the crushing pressure seven thousand feet below sea level, and still live. Together the miners live side-by-side with scientists who study the surrounding area. When a mysterious object that simultaneously exists and does not exist is found, Mo and Armin are thrown into each other’s paths, and their fates are irrevocably entwined.

    First and foremost, this book is a horror novel. So while yes, there is a romance between Mo and Armin, that is not the focus of the story. Most of the sex happens off page after a fade to black and time skips. There is only one explicit scene between them, and it’s much later in the book. So if that’s all you want out of a book, then this isn’t for you. But you’ll be missing out on a great novel.

    I’m not the biggest fan of horror. I mean, there are some movies I like, but I haven’t always read horror novels. I just never got into them, as most do nothing for me. This one, however, terrified me because of the setting. Ally Blue portrays this incredibly complex world at the bottom of the ocean, and I couldn’t help but think of all the things that could go so horribly wrong down there. I mean…honestly. So much can, and there’s not much you can do about it.

    The onset of the horror is pretty slow at first. The suspense builds as readers follow Mo and Armin as strange things start to occur. First there are the bizarre shadows. Then the little squiggles at the corner of Mo’s vision. Headaches. Irritability. Full out psychosis.

    I wondered how the novel could possibly end well, given all that was happening, but Blue makes it work. I cried at the end—her books tend to make me emotional—but it was such a great ending. The last lines were perfect and really went with the characters. Mo and Armin grow throughout the novel in so many ways, but despite all those changes, they are at heart the same men from the beginning of the book.

    The secondary characters in this novel are also fully developed. All of the doctors from Armin’s group to the crew of BathyTech3 have their own personalities that make them people I wish I knew. Even DAISY. I don’t know how Blue managed to make me like a TARANTULA but she did. I hate spiders. They are my second greatest fear after deep water, but somehow this author made me like her character—and yes, it’s possible for a spider to be a fully realized character. But I guess if any author was going to do it, it would be this one.

    Whether you’re a fan of horror or not, I highly recommend you checking this book out. If I can manage to do it even with all of my fears, so can you! I just might have hid under the covers more than the typical person…and, maybe I got nervous every time a shadow twitched from the car lights outside, but whatever. I can always sleep next week or something.

    TNA_Signature_Jennifer






    You can buy Down here:

    All Romance eBooks

    All Romance eBooks

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    Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, Rick R. Reed

    DSPP Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and Rick R. Reed

    DSP Publications

    Hullo, all! Since Lisa has yet to bar the doors of The Novel Approach, I’m here today with DSP Publications author Rick R. Reed to talk about suspense and serial killers and anonymous hookups. But all in a good way! (…Wait, is there a good way to talk about serial killers? 0_o Eh, Rick will figure it out.)

    But first, let’s take a quick look at what Rick has in store for us with his new release, IM:

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    IM-400x600The Internet is the new meat market for gay men. Now a killer is turning the meat market into a meat wagon.

    One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, and charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. When the first body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. At the scene, the young man who discovered the body tells him the story of how he found his friend. But did this witness play a bigger role in the murder than he’s letting on?

    For Comparetto, this encounter is the beginning of a nightmare—because this witness did more than just show up at the scene of the crime; he set the scene.

    Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth—before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity… his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message… it stands for instant murder.

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    Carole: Thanks for being here with us, Rick. How about we kick things off with the basics: tell us about your genre.

    Rick: Thriller, suspense, horror…I think there are many overlaps here (even with mystery) and they all fascinate me. I think IM falls as much into the psychological suspense category as it does the thriller category. Either way, the book (and the genre) are marked by escalating peril (suspense) and, usually a sense of dread. What should keep people turning the pages in any good thriller is an investment in the characters, so you need to keep reading to discover what happens next.

    Carole: Why M/M?

    Rick: I write M/M or gay fiction because I’m a gay man myself. I have an investment in telling the stories of my “people” in a way that I hope is entertaining, thought-provoking and, more often than not, touching.

    Carole: I’m sure your fans would say your work is all those things, Rick. So tell us about this release in particular. Tell us about IM.

    Rick: It’s been a long journey with IM, because this is its third edition. It was originally published in 2007 as a paperback by the Quest imprint of Regal Crest Enterprises. The book struck a chord because it plays on both the fear and excitement of anonymous online hookups, a form of meeting up that continues to grow. This new edition is, if I may say so, the most awesome edition. Starting with the arresting and gorgeous cover design by Reese Dante, the book has been thoroughly re-edited, so I think this is the best possible version of IM for readers.

    Carole: IM is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in IM and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.

    Rick: I was thrilled that one reviewer recently compared the terror in IM to that found in The Silence of the Lambs, one of my favorite thriller/horror tales. I suppose IM fits better at DSP Publications because of the escalating suspense and sense of dread that defines the plot arc. We have one twisted serial killer at the heart of things—and a compelling mystery: is this killer even alive? Or was he murdered himself? The romantic aspect of the story is strong (it’s between the Chicago cop investigating the case and the love interest he finds along the way—a librarian who helps him with more than just research). Because the suspense of the story is so predominant, the romance naturally takes a back seat, so I think that’s why IM is such a splendid fit for the new imprint.

    Carole: Okay, you’ve told us about the journey of IM’s publication. Now tell us about the evolution of the story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of IM?

    Rick: It occurred to me, when I was younger and single and guilty myself of doing a little hooking up online how anonymous it all was. How you could, on many of these sites, interact via the site with instant messages and in no time at all, have a stranger at your door. While that stranger could be key to all sorts of earthly delights, he could also be your worst nightmare—and thus, a story was born. Add to that the fact that these online connections are difficult to track, and you have an almost perfect crime scenario—something very tempting for a psycho killer.

    Carole: In today’s online/high tech world, a plot like this would seem to have such broad appeal, whether in mainstream or gay lit. circles. Why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?

    Rick: I think that’s fairly obvious. While I’m sure online hooking up takes place all the time in the straight community and even the lesbian community, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s nowhere more prevalent than in the gay male community. It’s that two-sided coin of risk/excitement versus danger/peril that, I think, makes the story work particularly well with gay men as antagonists and protagonists.

    Carole: So, besides the obvious Awesome book, you’ve gotta read this! every author hopes a reader gets from their book, what’s the one thing you’d like to see readers take away from IM?

    Rick: I think one thing people have told me, over and over, is that IM made them think twice about hooking up online. You just never know, with such anonymity, what you might be getting yourself into. You could end up with a future lover, future fuck buddy, future husband…or having no future at all. It’s the chance you take when you roll the dice online.

    Carole: Excellent advice, Rick. Thanks for chatting with us today, and happy hookup—er, I mean best of luck on your release! :D

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    Rick R. ReedRick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). His novel, Raining Men, won the Rainbow Award for Best Contemporary General Fiction.Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

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    Buy IM now in ebook, paperback and Kindle.

    Follow Rick through his website, his blog, or through Facebook and/or Twitter.

    Join us next time on Genre Talk when Andrew Q. Gordon will come bearing yet more gifts!

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    3.5 Stars, DSP Publications, Horror, John Inman, Reviewed by Janet

    Review: Willow Man by John Inman

    Title: Willow Man

    Author: John Inman

    Publisher: DSP Publications

    Pages/Word Count: 336 Pages

    At a Glance: Though unevenly paced, this book turns the unusual into the horrific

    Blurb: Woody Stiles has sung his country songs in every city on the map. His life is one long road trip in a never-ending quest for fame and fortune. But when his agent books him into a club in his hometown, a place he swore he would never set foot again, Woody comes face to face with a few old demons. One in particular.

    With memories of his childhood bombarding him from every angle, Woody must accept the fact that his old enemy, Willow Man, was not just a figment of childish imagination.

    With his friends at his side, now all grown up just like he is, Woody goes to battle with the killer that stole his childhood lover. Woody also learns Willow Man has been busy while he was away, destroying even more of Woody’s past. And in the midst of all this drama, Woody is stunned to find himself falling in love—something he never thought he would do again.

    As kids, Woody and his friends could not stop the killer who lived in the canyon where they played. As adults, they might just have a chance.

    Or will they?

    Dividers

    Review: As soon as this book came up for review, I grabbed it. I have read and enjoyed almost all of John’s books over the past few years, and was dying to read this one too. I do not have a horror background, mystery/ suspense type books are my norm, but I loved Head-On and A Hard Winter Rain, so I figured I could handle the change of genres by one of my favourite authors. His characters are always quirky and extremely well defined, and the settings for his stories are vivid; be it a mountain, farm, or a rooming house, I can always picture exactly where the characters are and their surroundings.

    In Willow Man, Inman does this very well indeed. I can clearly see the dreaded canyon, dark and full of scrub, trees and rock. I can picture Woody’s house and the backyard and even his Mother’s roses. Woody is the MC of this book, and most of what we see is from his POV. He is a musician who is returning to his childhood home for the first time in a dozen years. He left his home after his parents were murdered, and took his music on the road; he struggled with drugs and cleaned himself up, and now has hopes of breaking through with his music, with a couple of shows he will perform in his hometown. But Woody had more than just his parents’ death as a reason to avoid his home, and we are introduced to the cast of characters through recurring flashbacks to Woody’s 13th year, and the summer it all went wrong.

    Willow Man was scary for thirteen-year-olds, but the true scope of its evil nature is unveiled as the intervening years are played out with the adult Woody and his best friends. The group of 5 kids have a very close and dynamic relationship that John explores fully. The blindness of acceptance that kids have for one another is tempered through hindsight to the youthful yearnings they each had, and is an added layer to the traumatic events they survived. The scene where Woody and Chuck seek to draw out the Willow Man, while riding Woody’s bike double, is so real and vivid that a week later I can still see it clearly in my mind. John’s ability to paint a scene with words is enviable and a true talent that shines in this book.

    A good portion of the success of a really scary horror story comes from the constant build up of dread that an author creates, and John does this well many times in this book. For me, though, the timing and/or pace was off somehow. It seemed that just as I was totally involved and full of anticipation, the story switched from past to present, or vice versa, and then the tension had to be rebuilt. It created a lag for me in the flow of the story, and I found it to be a slow read and a lot to absorb.

    This is not a book for the faint of heart, as it is a dark and tangled read, with lots of blood and gore, and a sexual predator twisted into the plot. The idea that sparked this tale—a plane crash that John actually witnessed—is gruesome with possibilities that he takes great advantage of. It is typical of horror to turn the unusual into the horrific, and this he has done very well.






    You can buy Willow Man here:

    Barnes & Noble

    Barnes & Noble

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    Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, John Inman

    Guest Post: Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and DSP Publications Author John Inman

    DSP Publications

    Greetings all, and we hope you had a fantastic New Year! I’m here today with DSP Publicationsanswer to Stephen King, John Inman, author of the newly released horror novel Willow Man. Actually, he’s kind of DSP Publications’ answer to lots of things, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

    Carole: You’ve written a range of works in different genres, from romance to mystery to zombie humor, and now horror. The common thread through most of your work seems to be gay lit, so with that in mind, tell us about your genre.

    John: The way I see it the gay genre isn’t much different than straight lit as far as the writing goes. The same principals of construction apply. The same plot devices are brought into play. It’s still just as tricky in gay lit as it is in straight to create a story line from start to finish that doesn’t fall flat on its face somewhere along the line. The only real difference is that in the gay genre, a predominance of the characters are gay, natch. And being a gay man, that to me is what makes the writing of gay lit fun. I don’t have to pretend to be anything I’m not. I can truly draw from my own experiences, whereas delving into the thought processes of a straight person always makes me feel like I’m walking on pudding, just a teeny bit unsure of every step I’m taking. When you say, “tell us about your genre”, the first words that come to my mind are this — writing gay lit makes me feel at home. It’s where I belong. It’s where I love to be. And that’s what this genre means to me.

    Click Here To Purchase

    Click Here To Purchase

    Carole: Tell us about Willow Man.

    John: The idea for Willow Man was born from an actual experience of mine. One September morning all the way back in 1978, I was standing at my dining room window when I heard a loud boom in the sky. Looking up I saw a jetliner, with flames spewing from the side, angling down toward the earth. And to my left I saw a small plane tail-spinning straight down in freefall. When the jetliner struck the earth less than half a mile from where I stood, shaking the very floor beneath my feet, the explosion was deafening and the sky across the city grew immediately dark with black, billowing smoke. 144 people died that day when PSA Boeing 727 Flight 182 collided over San Diego with a small Cessna. It was 9:01 in the morning. I’ll never forget it. When the idea to write a horror story came to me, I knew, since that plane crash was one of the most horrific things I had ever witnessed, I would somehow have to incorporate it into the story. So I did. There was no prisoner on board PSA that day as depicted in the book, or none that I know of. Nor was there a detective taking him to justice. But I thought, what better way to bring a monster to life? And wouldn’t it be fate’s greatest irony, to let the one truly evil man on board be the only one to survive the crash? In malevolent spirit, at least. And now that I had the bad guy, I had to find his adversaries. And to me, one of my favorite aspects of horror stories is the juxtaposition of good and evil, purity and cruelty. That’s why much of the story is told from the viewpoint of children. For what good is horror, without innocence for the horror to prey upon?

    Carole: So, as with most DSP Publications books, we shouldn’t mistake this for a romance, then.

    John: While there is a love story in Willow Man, it is most certainly not the main crux of the story. I suppose that is why this book fits better in the DSP Publications imprint, rather than the more Romance-oriented DSP. But to be honest, it is a fine line that is often a little blurred in my mind. Why DO some books fall under Romance, while others don’t quite make the cut? And rather than drive myself nuts worrying about it, this is where a writer’s faith in his publisher comes to bear. I leave it up to DSP to steer my books in whichever direction they choose. Hell, I’m just thrilled to death to be published at all. And the wise souls at Dreamspinner Press know what they are doing far more than I do. I just write. That’s all I do. That’s all I WANT to do. I envy those writers who are masters at marketing themselves. I truly do. But that’s not me. I don’t much worry about the business end of the trade. That’s why, when you are lucky enough to find a publisher you trust completely, as I have done, you can just concentrate on the writing. And to be able to do that, my friend, is a treasure like no other.

    Carole: So, you’ve told us about that horrible plane crash and the inspiration for this story—how did it evolve from that devastating scene you witnessed and into Willow Man?

    John: This story was a long time coming. I have worked on it off and on for several years. Long before I was ever published at all, in fact. It is one of my first submissions to DSP and they held it for years while waiting for the new imprint to come to fruition. And as I was saying earlier about trust, DSP was exactly right in holding back on its release. Because of that decision, Willow Man now has a truly comfortable home with DSP Publications. Before, it would have been a DSP novel that would never have really fit in with the rest of DSP’s romance-driven catalog. It’s hard to carry a romantic storyline within the confines of a true horror story, because horror is just too overpowering for romance, I think. People who buy romance novels, want romance. People who buy horror, want horror. Maybe now, with DSP Publications alive and kicking, we writers can play with both themes at once, within the boundaries of the same book, dropping in just enough of one to season the taste of the other. It makes the writing a lot more fun to know you can go wherever it is you want to go without the restrictions of a strictly romantic plotline hanging over your head. But don’t get me wrong. I love writing romance. The more sugary the better. The wooing, the winning, the sex, it’s all great, and I get as gooshy as the next person reading it. But with DSP Publications up and running, it’ll be fun to be able to spice up those stories with a little gore and mayhem now and then. I’m smiling right now because just thinking about it makes my fingers itch for the keyboard.

    Carole: Okay, you had a novel just waiting around for years, waiting for a suitable publisher to invent itself because before now, one simply didn’t exist. Why wait? Why not just change it and mainstream it? Why did this story need to be told with the M/M dynamic?

    John: I have been writing my entire life. Short stories and poems when I was a kid, novels as an adult. As an adult, almost every book I have written, and that numbers about 20, was told under the umbrella of a M/M dynamic. Probably because, as they say, you should write what you know, and since I’m gay, what the hell was I supposed to write about? Lumberjacks? Well, maybe SOME lumberjacks. Heehee. Wait, I’m getting off track. The simple truth is, I was writing M/M before I ever knew there was an actual market out there for it. God knows I wasted enough years sending manuscripts to the wrong publishers. Which reminds me, by the way. A good tip for aspiring writers? Research publishers before you waste their time and yours sending them stuff they don’t deal with. I learned that one the hard way, but then, I’ve always been a slow learner. And truthfully, the whole marketing thing is a huge mystery to me anyway. Like I said before, writing is what I love. I leave all the other stuff to wiser heads than my own.

    Carole: And lastly—here’s a question authors either love or hate, but I think it’s one of the first ones we answer for ourselves: Why do you write?

    John: And there it is. The million dollar question. Why do any of us do what we do? Why does my next door neighbor edit chemistry textbooks for a living, and pride himself on doing it the best he possibly can? Why does my partner tear himself up running marathons at the ripe old age of 65, and then come home so tired he can barely walk but still beaming like a lighthouse with a million-watt grin on his face? I write because it is something I was born to do. I can think of no other reason. I did it as a child. I do it as an adult. I’ve grown tired of a lot of things in the long course of my life, but writing is not one of them. Every minute of the process is fun. Even the minutes when I’ve lost my way and I find myself pulling my hair out trying to find my way back. Yep, believe it or not, even that is fun. Well, maybe a few days later it’s fun. Writing is also heart-wrenching at times. Bad reviews. Poor sales. Rejection slips. Computer crashes where you lose four chapters and head straight for the scotch before girding your proverbial loins and sitting down to rewrite the damn things all over again. A lot of being a writer hurts. But then one day you get an email from a reader in Casper, Wyoming, and she thanks you for helping her come to grips with the fact that her son has just told her he’s gay. Or you find a letter in the mail from a young man in Altoona, PA, who says your writing inspired him to want to be a writer himself. Or you get a note from a young woman in Brussels who is sick with cancer, and who tells you your book made her laugh for the first time in months. I’ve received those letters. And there’s your answer. That’s why I write. That’s EXACTLY why I write.

    Carole: Awesome! Thank you, John, for spending some time with us and answering questions. And thank you, Lisa and TNA readers for stopping by. A preview of Willow Man is available on Amazon.

    Dividers

    Author BioJohn Inman grew up on a tiny 60-acre farm in Indiana. His childhood was a happy one. He spent most of it barefoot with a cane pole over his shoulder, fishing and roaming the countryside and dragging home every wild creature he could get his hands on hoping to make it a pet, much to his mother’s horror.

    Longing to see the world (what kid doesn’t?), he joined the Navy two minutes after graduating from high school. The Navy carried him all across the Orient before finally landing him in San Diego, California, a city he fell in love with at first sight. He lives there to this day with his husband John (yep, John and John), and an assortment of pets they’ve happened to adopt along the way, (Yep, he’s still doing that too.)

    The one great longing that has stayed with John his entire life, from his childhood on the farm, to his years in the Navy, and all the way up to retirement from the working world, was the need he felt to write fiction. And he did. He wrote every chance he got, from elementary school all the way through to Social Security.

    John calls this passion of his a wonderful addiction, and he thanks God every day that he suffers from it. Since he can’t think of a happier way to spend his remaining years on this marvelous planet, you can now find John seven days a week, merrily slogging along on his computer, doing what he most dearly loves to do.

    Writing. (And there’s usually a pet on his lap while he’s doing it.)

    Order Willow Man now in ebook and paperback HERE and HERE.

    Follow John at his website or on Facebook.

    Next time on Genre Talk, Yeyu gives us a fascinating education on Chinese modern fantasy.

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    Dreamspinner Press, Rhys Ford

    Guest Post and Giveaway: Duck Duck Ghost – Hellsinger Investigations: File #241 (Epilogue) by Rhys Ford

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    Hey! I am Rhys Ford… speaking to you in my own… okay that doesn’t work. Does anyone else remember Don Carnage!? He’s speaking at you in his own voice! Ah, the esoteric memories. You’ll probably want to skip this part during the next few…*coffs*…okay, over a dozen blogs as I parcel out a short tale featuring Wolf and Tristan!

    Welcome to a Hellsinger Investigation!

    There will be prizes and giveaways. Be sure to hit up each blog for an update on the investigation. I have brought in for this tale of ghosts and shenanigans two special prizes (well many of them…but two!). You might have seen them already; a pair of cuddly alpaca and a braided leather Wolf sigil bracelet. You’ll be able to win one or both at each stop with a Grand Prize to be given away at the end of the tour. Continue reading

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    4 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Horror, Love Lane Books, Meredith Russell, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

    Review: “Dead Things” by Meredith Russell

    “Too often something was lurking around the corner ready to bite you in the ass. Literally.” – Meredith Russell


    Title: Dead Things

    Author: Meredith Russell

    Publisher: Love Lane Books

    Pages/Word Count: 182 Pages

    Rating: 4 Stars

    Blurb: Devin never thought he could find hope or love among the ruins of a broken world. Not until he found Noah.

    When Devin Reid returned home from his final tour in Afghanistan he thought he’d seen the worst of what people could do to other people. It turned out he was wrong. Continue reading

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    5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Horror, Reviewed by Jackie, Rhys Ford

    Release Day Review: “Duck Duck Ghost (Hellsinger: Book Two)” by Rhys Ford

    Title: Duck Duck Ghost (Hellsinger: Book Two)

    Author: Rhys Ford

    Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

    Pages/Word Count:

    Rating: 5 Stars

    Blurb: Paranormal investigator Wolf Kincaid knows what his foot tastes like.

    Mostly because he stuck it firmly in his mouth when his lover, Tristan Pryce, accidentally drugged him with a batch of psychotropic baklava. Needing to patch things up between them, Wolf drags Tristan to San Luis Obispo, hoping Tristan’s medium ability can help evict a troublesome spirit haunting an old farmhouse. Continue reading

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    5 Stars, Hank Edwards, Historical Romance, Horror, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Wilde City Press

    Hank Edwards’ “Blood & Stone” Kicks Things Up A Notch In Venom Valley

    Title: Blood & Stone (Venom Valley: Book Three)

    Author: Hank Edwards

    Publisher: Wilde City Press

    Pages/Word Count: 229 Pages

    Rating: 5 Stars

    Blurb: Josh Stanton’s mother has been held prisoner by the vampire Balthazar for fifteen years. As Balthazar has turned the residents of Belkin’s Pass into vampires under his control, Josh, his lover Dex, former saloon girl Glory, and US Army Sergeant Walker Maxwell fight to contain the undead uprising.

    As Josh struggles to control his power to raise the dead, the group is pursued to the abandoned Fort Emmerick. There they make plans to take the battle to Balthazar’s cave, uncertain if all of them will live to see the light of day once again. Continue reading

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    4 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Erotica, Genre Romance, Heidi Belleau, Horror, Lisa Henry, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Tina, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

    Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau’s “Bliss” Is Too Good To Be True

    “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” — Every Parent Ever


    Title: Bliss

    Author: Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

    Publisher: Riptide Publishing

    Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

    Rating: 5 Stars

    Blurb: They’re always happy.

    Rory James has worked hard all his life to become a citizen of the idyllic city-state of Beulah. Like every other kid born in the neighboring country of Tophet, he’s heard the stories: No crime or pollution. A house and food for everyone. It’s perfect, and Rory is finally getting a piece of it. Continue reading

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    Dreamspinner Press, Rhys Ford

    Exclusive Excerpt: “Duck Duck Ghost” by Rhys Ford

    BLURB: Paranormal investigator Wolf Kincaid knows what his foot tastes like.

    Mostly because he stuck it firmly in his mouth when his lover, Tristan Pryce, accidentally drugged him with a batch of psychotropic baklava. Needing to patch things up between them, Wolf drags Tristan to San Luis Obispo, hoping Tristan’s medium ability can help evict a troublesome spirit haunting an old farmhouse.

    With Wolf’s sister handling Hoxne Grange’s spectral visitors, Tristan finds himself in the unique position of being able to leave home for the first time in forever, but Wolf’s roughshod treatment is the least of his worries. Tristan’s ad-hoc portal for passing spirits seems to be getting fewer and fewer guests, and despite his concern he’s broken his home, Tristan agrees to help Wolf’s cousin, Sey, kick her poltergeist to the proverbial curb. Continue reading

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    Daniel A. Kaine, Wilde City Press

    Daniel A. Kaine Leaves No Question Unanswered On The Slasherazzi Blog Tour – And There’s A Giveaway


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    Hi everyone, and thanks for stopping by as we kick off the second week of the Slasherazzi blog tour. And thank you to The Novel Approach for having me.

    Just a quick note about the giveaway: you may notice the giveaway has reset this week. Don’t worry, because it hasn’t. There are actually two giveaways. This second one will be running until the 27th, giving you a second chance to win if you’re unlucky in last week’s draw, which will conclude on the 20th. If you’d like to check out last week’s stops, you can view the schedule at the bottom of my home page.
    Continue reading

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