The Blurb on Other People’s Word: Mentralysis

December 15, 2017 at 1:44 am (writing, horror, dark fantasy, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Review – House of Bloodstein: Mentralysis – by Ren Garcia

I’m a true fan of Ren Garcia and I’ve read all of his books to date (well, I’m working on Kat now.) Mentralysis started in a very puzzling way. I was very intrigued to see where it was going. Ar first it seemed similar in some aspects to his other books, but off in a way, straying from some anticipated norms.
Then it took a turn to a place darker than any of the others and I found that more than a little disturbing. I thought: “This book is nasty! Nasty, nasty, nasty! I love it….”
Understand, this is coming from an avid reader of all speculative fiction, who especially loves both horror and fantasy. I found the storyline of this book the most creative and original of all Ren’s books, and considering he’s a master world-builder, that’s saying a lot.

In addition to an edgy and moving storyline, the new characters were delightful and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed Laika, a Haitathe – quite a force to be reckoned with and one of the pivotal components of the story. Ren also turns some of the pre-existing characters on their heads (with a well-thought out explanation, of course.)

He presents his heroes with conniving villains who provide some exceptional challenges. They offer up equally exceptional resolutions in return.

If you are looking for some genre-bending, speculative fiction with a fresh approach to a great story, this book’s for you.

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

Spring Blitz 2017 – The End Is Nigh

May 2, 2017 at 9:40 pm (horror, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

My blitz is all over now but the waiting. I do already have a couple of acceptances (and multiple rejections).  I should have posted this wrap up on Sunday, but I beg off based on illness (I had a cold), taxes (I had to finish them up) and gardening (we planted this weekend.)

I had meant to write this following review up as soon as I finished the book, but all the things I mentioned above got in the way. Besides, I find writing a review is something better done once I’ve had a chance to mull things over.  And so, I’ve been mulling.

The first thing I want to say is that Zeroes, by Chuck Wendig, was a breath of fresh read.  After having read a handful of very formulaic Sandra Brown thrillers, which while entertaining on a basic level, had seriously flat and repetitive characterization and even reused the “father gave daughter up for adoption but regretted it later” plot line, I needed something with substance.  Zeroes had substance, and then some.

First of all, I always judge a book by its characterization, and the characterization in Zeroes offered novelty and depth.  The cast was diverse.  While one of the protagonists…perhaps you could call him the protagonist-in-chief, because there were technically five protagonists (six if you want to count Harris who perhaps is more of a strong secondary,) is very much a white male everyman, he certainly doesn’t “save the day”.  In fact, he is heavily reliant on the diverse other characters in his hacking group and would have gotten nowhere without them.  There’s a rocky romantic thread with the exceptionally competent Aleena and the “buddy” component with DeAndre, and even the aging mentor/father figure in Wade.  While in essence none of these plot elements are original, what makes them different are the strengths and weaknesses of the particular characters and the out of the ordinary dynamics involved.

And then there’s Reagan – the best part of the book for me.  She’s the character I both loved and hated the most.  She’s the one I could identify with even though in some ways I despised her…someone I could have been if my life had taken a different turn at some point.  She’s callous, brash and unapologetic.  She’s also clever, creative and conniving,  Plus she’s broken.  All the protagonists are in some way, but you can see it most in her because she’s brutally honest about it.  Her most notable shining moment is my favourite part of the book and without it, the story would have been lost.

I can forgive a book with a weak plot line as long as the characters are good, but I didn’t have to in this case.  The plot had oodles of dark intrigue and thrilling action with enough complexity to keep me interested.  And I have to say that I loved the little introductory chapters for each of the characters.  It gives you a chance to properly “meet” them before jumping into the story, so that you actually care what’s going on.

I picked up this book out of curiosity because I follow Chuck’s well-written blog.  Now I will probably go out of my way to read more of his books.  This one was a winner.

Here’s one of the recent release of one of my flash fiction stories from a prior out.  Check out “Pure Mime” at Body Parts Magazine.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Spring Blitz 2017 – Hanging in There

April 21, 2017 at 2:12 am (Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

I completed my 20th submission for April today, despite not keeping up with regular blitz blog posts. I blame mundane tasks that have gotten in the way, like helping with homework, chasing chickens (see the dastardly Pecan here to the left) and doing my taxes, and not so mundane tasks like being eyeball deep in Chuck Wendig’s Zeroes (which I hope to review on Monday.) I’ve been testing new venue waters too which has meant investing more time to broaden my call searches.

I’ve been waiting on a couple of new releases expected shortly. Forest Seclusion (adult content warning) is now available here, and there will be more to follow fairly soon.

I’ve also received a new acceptance – a year and four days in the making.  I was on the brink of retracting that submission when the acceptance came through, but I was pleased to see the wait was worth it.  I try to give a submission plenty of time before retracting, but I usually figure a year is enough.  Sometimes I do let them sit longer though, if I’m not anxious to resubmit.  At the same time I received a quick confirmation that another submission had made it through phase one of a three phase review process.  Fingers crossed. 🙂

And, or course, this month isn’t without its rejections – 5 so far, with two of the submissions clearing the year long mark.  It only pays to be patient some of the time.

I may not post again until Monday.  I have a short story I hope to finish and then it’s back to working on taxes.

But at least gardening’s not that far off … right?

Permalink Leave a Comment

Let’s Blitz Again – Review Edition

October 20, 2016 at 1:52 am (fantasy, horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

screenshot-2016-10-19-at-10-48-31-pm-editedTwo more submissions have been sent to magazine markets, both new to me.  They are both stories I’ve only submitted once or twice before, so I’m still not sure how they’ll be received.

At the same time, I received an e-mail regarding the upcoming release for one of my two acceptances this blitz.  I should have more details to share here soon, when we get closer to the print release.

Since I finished the story I was working on yesterday, I decided to work today on a review of a book I just finished reading.  Here are my thoughts:

Review – Ren Garcia’s The House of Bloodstein

I’ve always enjoyed Ren’s space opera books for their high adventure and detailed world building, with added elements of fantasy and steampunk, quite dark in some places thanks to shadowtech.  But this new addition to his series leans even more into my favourite genre, horror, which made the read more enjoyable for me.  This particular novel continues the story of his second generation of characters – the first generation appearing in the original League of Elders series.  Kay, Sam, Phillip, and Sarah are offered the opportunity to participate in a game, not as players, but as collectors of some highly sought after game pieces.  There is a twist to the invitation that inevitably leads into dangerous terrain, facing off with dastardly villains, a crazy gun-toting revenant and space zombies far scarier than your average zombie fare.  Joined by King, an artifact creature crafted to assist and defend them and Thomasina/Rose, Phillip’s romantic interest, the characters encounter everything thrown at them with their usual bold flair, making for a wild ride with some incredible fight scenes.  Overall it was a wonderfully fun read.

My only advice is that this book wouldn’t read very well as a stand-alone novel, so if you haven’t read the rest of Ren’s series – start at the beginning and work your way up to this.  His series is definitely one of my favourites.

Time to start a new story – more from my blitz later.

Permalink 1 Comment

Let’s Blitz Again – October 2016 #7

October 10, 2016 at 2:45 am (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

60999_10150252267550032_2451068_n-editedAnother day, another first time submission. I actually wrote this one for a different submission call, but it was a second attempt after the first one was rejected, and I didn’t quite get it done in time.  I have mixed feelings about it, but the same thing can be said about some of my greatest successes so I’m not about to toss it away without giving it a try.  It could surprise me.

I didn’t get to the review I want to write, but today was a busy day and tomorrow promises to be just as busy.  Jugger, swimming, shopping, cooking, veggie prep, and working on the blitz doesn’t leave much time for anything else.  I meant to bake some bread and freeze some greens today, but that didn’t happen.  Instead I ended up experimenting with quinoa, broccoli and cheese.

Back to more hunting out submission calls.  Maybe I can find a couple looking for reprints.

Permalink Leave a Comment

October Submission Blitz 2015 – Success

October 12, 2015 at 5:03 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Day 12 of my blitz and 12 submissions complete, several of them to pro-rate venues.  The good news is that I’ve already received two responses and both of them were acceptances.  I’ll post the details when I’m free to share them.

My scary little girl of the day is a classic C – Carrie.  Stephen King’s start as the King of Horror began  with a teenage disaster who found supernatural powers to go with her adolescent angst when she reached puberty.  Throw in a crazy zealot of a mother, school bullies and a bucket of pig’s blood and say hello to a freak out of epic proportions.

And for a bonus today, a review.  Here’s one for Ren Garcia’s Stenibelle:

With this installment Ren Garcia’s Shadow Tech Goddess series, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It had all of the wonderful world crafting and characterizations typical of his writing, but with its female protagonist/PoV, I was a little wary about how I would connect with the story.

I like to see stories that give female characters plenty of agency, especially adventure stories, and that’s difficult in the Victorian-esque patriarchal social-settings common to Garcia’s League of Elders series. It allows for dashing male heroes wielding great power and charm, but the female characters before this novel ,have been either demure, villainous, or struggling to control and wield what power they have – bordering on insane, damaged by their power or seeking isolation at the expense of their relationships.

In this vein, Stenibelle is at a disadvantage compared to her male counterparts right from the start. She starts at a major low and swings out far in the other direction to the point of arrogance and aggression, and I found myself hoping there would be some balance to come. Despite my frustration with her situation and her behaviour, the story was still very enjoyable.

At first Stenibelle didn’t have her own agency – “lesser” than her male counterparts – and she had to have an extra hand up. Considering her social setting, however, there was no way of avoiding some disadvantage because of her gender. My discomfort at her struggles is a compliment to the author’s storytelling skills – I wouldn’t have felt frustrated in the face of her circumstances if I hadn’t been so invested in the characters and the storyline.

There are other examples of empowered female characters in the story. Gwen was very strong in this book, despite getting beaten in a physical fight. Stenibelle was using unfair tactics to win and Gwen took the loss graciously without being cowed by it.

Alesta is also empowered, and my favourite character in the book. She works outside the boundaries of society because of her spiritual beliefs. She does what she feels is right and sometimes that meant being assertive. She’s quite powerful even though she is humble about it and doesn’t resort to throwing that power around carelessly.

Stenibelle, or Bel, does undergo growth of character. With the help of her friends, Bel, finds her agency and owns who she is. As Bel’s confidence grows it changes her dynamic with other characters, such as the bullying, villainous Professor Shurlamp. Shurlamp then has less power over her.

I really liked the changes that happen at this point in the book. Bel had to shake free the shackles of societal expectations and the unwarranted doubt it had created within her. Then she assumes responsibility for her fate directing the outcome of her adventure. In the end, I thought that this was one of Ren Garcia’s best stories yet. I look forward to the next one in this series.

Permalink Leave a Comment

You May Have Noticed…

September 16, 2014 at 11:54 am (Fervor, Reviews, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , )

I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m still trying to make heads or tails of the fact that my publisher, May December Publications, has decided to release the majority of its authors, which means the better part of my novels will soon be out of print (in fact, Transcendence already is and the others will soon follow.) If you were thinking of purchasing any of the novels, you may want to grab them now while you still can. Some are being offered at deal prices – Fervor for $4.83 for example.

I can appreciate the reasons behind their decisions. MDP is a family run business and they are dealing with some very serious personal issues at the moment. They are choosing to concentrate their limited time and resources on the publication and promotion of the managing editor’s books instead. This a a more profitable option for them.  I understand their choice, it makes perfect sense, and I expected things to go this way for some time. Unfortunate circumstances just prompted it sooner rather than later.

So now I’m left deciding if I want to put the work into self-publishing these novels, try to find a new small press publisher or just sit on them for a while and mull things over.  My writing effort of late has been going into short stories and I am still publishing those with other publishers.  My Snowy Barrens Trilogy will still be available.

I will have to go about disabling the buttons and links here on WordPress for things no longer in print .  It will take me some time to update everything, so bear with me.  It sort of feels like I’ll be starting all over again from the beginning, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The only thing  I’m unhappy about losing are the reviews I’ve amassed on Amazon, especially for Fervor.

Anyway, MDP and I will be parting on good terms.  I wish them luck and I enjoyed working with them.

On to the next adventure.

Permalink 3 Comments

Horror in the Green

March 18, 2014 at 2:50 am (dark fantasy, horror, Links, Reviews) (, , )

I was inspired by a Horror Addicts blog post to write about my own experiences with Irish horror for St. Paddy’s Day. I have to confess, I love Irish horror flicks. I think the average lower budget Irish horror movie is superior to comparably financed ones from other English-speaking countries.

I’m not just talking Irish-themed movies as discussed in “EVIL St. Patrick’s Day Watching?” (although I have watched Leprechaun, as well as Grabbers, Citadel and Shrooms which they included in that post and many of the flicks mentioned were filmed on the Emerald Isle). I’m specifically talking films I’ve enjoyed that were filmed in Ireland by Irish filmmakers and that have nothing to do with Leprechauns or Little People.

There’s something about Irish sensibilities that seem to make their scary stories scarier.

The first Irish film that really “grabbed” me was “Grabbers.” It sounded hokey at first glance, and I watched it as a lark, but it turned out to be a pretty good horror movie – quite scary with reasonable cinematography and acting. I suspect the same film made in North America would have turned out campy and formulaic with less flavour.

“Citadel” was startling and had me cringing and jumping, but I hadn’t even realized it was Irish. I didn’t enjoy it as much as “Grabbers”. The plot wasn’t as solid and there were slow points, but it was still worth the watch and better than many other lower budget films I’ve wasted my time watching.

“Shrooms” was a little more like your typical slasher/serial killer movie with an Irish setting. It had the suggestion of the supernatural and a fair amount of gore, with an entertaining twist (but not entirely unexpected.) It had plenty of moments that made me jump but it was likely my least favourite of the Irish horror fare I’ve experienced.

Last night, I watched “Dark Touch,” absent from the Horror Addicts list, about a girl who seems to be associated with some sort of malignant spirit and/or has telekinetic powers. There were many moments in this movie that were chilling and disturbing.

Now that I know I have this preference, I’ll be watching out for other Irish spooky delights, and I’ll likely go looking for the others included on Horror Addicts list. I just might find some more horror gems in the green.

Permalink 2 Comments

A Current Endeavor – Closing in on the End

September 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm (fantasy, horror, Links, Reviews, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I’m part way through Chapter 19 of Endeavor with only one chapter to go after this, and I’m hoping to see the last of this first draft by the end of the month. Being a horror writer, October is always a very busy month for me, with book releases and Halloween celebrations. I also have a Submission Blitz planned for this October since the one in April went so well. Here are a few of the things I have coming up:

My first chance at buying my work in a local bookstore! Dead North, an anthology containing one of my short stories is being released by Exile Editions in October. It has already received a great review and it is available for pre-order.

Horrified Press has announced the release of their horror anthology ‘Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers’ edited by Suzie Lockhart & Bruce Lockhart which “dares you to confront the dark behind your eyelids, as no-one is safe to dream in this collection of frightening tales from some of the biggest names in horror.” I have a story in that one. ‘Nightmare Stalkers & Dream Walkers’ will be available in both digital and print formats.

The release of Prisoners of Fate, the third book in my Masters and Renegades series is rapidly approaching. Here’s a sneak peek (above) at the cover. I’ll share more news as it becomes available and I’ll soon be offering up “The Field Test” a teaser tale for the novel involving Urwick, one of the main characters (he was Barb’s favourite character in the series).

Also, I’m hoping to finally release the third book in my Snowy Barrens trilogy. I’ve been procrastinating there, dragging my feet on the last few details.

And finally, I’m eying November and NaNoWri Mo. I’m not sure if I’ll be participating this year. Without Barb to push me, I doubt I can meet the pace required. If I do go for it, I won’t be working on anything new, but attempting to put 50,000 more words into “Sifting the Ashes,” which will bring me close to finishing that novel. We’ll see – I just don’t have the inspiration or enthusiasm without her around.

Anyway, back to Chapter 19…

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Hanna

July 8, 2013 at 11:46 pm (fantasy, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

I usually reserve my reviews…or should I say “recommendations” because I don’t review things I don’t at least like in some way…for books. But movies have words too – otherwise they wouldn’t need screenwriters – so I’m going to offer up my thoughts on the movie Hanna today.

I just saw this movie, and in addition to some pretty fabulous cinematography, it was one of those stories where as a writer you grit your teeth and wish you had written it yourself while you enjoy every minute of it. It included so many of the themes that inspire me in my writing. It had powerful female characters, some beautiful scenes filmed in Finland involving reindeer and wolves, a bucket-load of fairy tale references paying homage to the Brothers Grimm, some delightful scenes set in Morocco and Spain, and a science fiction element involving children, experiments and genetic manipulation (most of you know how interested I am in those things). Oh, and there was oodles of action in just the right places to maintain excellent pacing for the story. As I watched it I was wallowing in cinematic bliss.

The protagonist was fascinating. She was skilled in many ways, exceptionally so for her age, well-learned with just the right mix of social awkwardness and curiosity to make her both interesting and a touch imperfect. She was intrigued by music, fearless, and had a freedom of spirit that some of the secondary characters admired or envied.

Now the niggler, watching with me, did have one or two mild objections regarding the action scenes. He hates the “head-twist-neck-break” manoeuvre common to many action movies that he says is “totally unrealistic” and he protested when one of the main characters did not grab a pipe as a weapon when he had the opportunity to do so (when the villain following behind him did). But otherwise, he mostly kept mum aside from agreeing with me that it was a great movie – and that says a lot.

I won’t offer up any spoilers. I’ll just finish by saying that this movie was heart-thumping exciting, mentally-stimulating, and artistically original – a rare breed in an industry that usually focuses on one of those things exclusively. It gets a big pair of thumbs up from me, and kudos especially to Seth Lochhead who wrote the story/script while in the Writing program at Vancouver Film School. This rates up there as one of my favourites.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »