A Journey of Love?
Love of journeying? This book is in two parts. In the first, a college student (Anna) falls in love with her professor. It seems a romance bound to fail, and Anna resorts to flirt with a friend. Her love for the professor stops the flirting. Here the first part ends. To get over her confusion and — perhaps — to make something of her life, Anna goes to France for a holiday.
In my opinion, the first part worked well — it was easy to relate to Anna and her friends. The second part was for me less convincing. It was marred with too much description, making me wonder if this was a travel magazine or a novel.
In places, the narrative came across as memoir or true story. Was that intentional? All in all, the author might benefit from mixing the cards differently. AL Kent has potential.
Ken Stark, Stage Three: Bravo
A Zombie Fantasy with Unusual Aspects
The biggest surprise in ‘Bravo’ was that the horror didn’t take the main stage in this Zombie postapocalyptic fantasy. It was the characters, full-blown and believable, that carried the narrative. True, there were the expected pro- and antagonist types, but none of Stark’s characters was set in stone. They lived through hell, and their personalities developed stage by stage. Stark presents his readers with love and hate, leading to misunderstandings and final acceptance. That made this an impressive read. True, there’s much blood and gore, and Stark doesn’t leave much to the readers’ imagination. Supposedly this is what the average zombie fiction reader expects. The question remains, do they expect the earnest warning against taking science too far? Do they realize — and value — the call for humanity? These were the elements that impressed me the most. An author must have skills far beyond creating a plot. If that skill blossoms, it doesn’t matter what means and effects he or she chooses to bring across a message. This is the third part of Stage 3, but the book can stand alone. Highly recommended
JS Frankel, Wink
An Aeneidic Quest
Virgil, a hapless schoolkid, blinks in and out of his normal existence. He is one of the ‘invisibles’, kids that nobody cares to know or befriend, a target for bullies. His father is dead, and his mother finds it difficult to cope with her loss. As his vanishing episodes become increasingly frequent, the FBI steps in to find out if they can use Virgil’s extraordinary abilities. Their probing finally propels Virgil to another place. Is it in space or in a parallel universe? Nobody knows for certain. Lonely at first, Virgil finds a brave new world and, eventually, other people. Some are friendly, but in any world, humans veer towards strife. It takes only one ruffian to topple the balance.
Frankel writes confidently and with a deep understanding of his YA readers. There is a savour of old myths and human longings in his compelling yarn. Not only that, it is a fervent call for humanity and a warning against abusing the world, any world we might find ourselves in. Highly recommended.
Cynthia Hamilton, Girl Trap
A PI and Event Planner with a Troubled Past
Madeline Dawkins suffers from nightmares. She’s escaped her persecutors but not the aftermath of her distressing experiences. Nonetheless, she functions in society and develops two(!) businesses. Her experiences make a PI career the obvious choice, but she’s enough of a woman to love creating beautiful events. To stay efficient she had an assistant, who had to leave because of an investigation trauma. Her new assistant is untested. Madeline isn’t certain that he’ll live up to her expectations. Her partner, Mike searches one woman in LA, while Madeline must open a dormant case and take up a twelve-year-old thread in a catholic school to find another woman. Against all odds, the cases intertwine.
Clearly, this is part of a series, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out Madeline’s past. I haven’t read the first two volumes, but to me, it may have been an advantage. It amused me to put together the back story from the current happenings.
Hamilton puts her story together in a convincing fashion, although the double strain of two missing women makes for complications.
Despite the striking plot, the narrative failed to excite me. I can’t pinpoint exactly what gave me a sense of being let down. Was it the omniscient narrator, telling me Madeline’s feelings? Was it too many adjectives? A remote third-person narrative can work, but in my opinion, it works better in other genres.
KV Wilson, Spiritborne
Shapeshifters and Werewolves Against the Inquisition
Man v Nature. The Covenant v Werewolves (Lycans) and Shapeshifters (Yeva’si). Skye Matthews experiences blackouts. They’re the beginning of a new phase of her life, a secret and dangerous phase. It takes her through her local urban landscape through secret portals to the world of Lycans and shapeshifters. In her everyday world, the Covenant reigns and wages war against everything not quite human. A tale of growing into a foreordained fate, Wilson puts emphasis on the obstacles a young woman must face. It doesn’t help that nobody has revealed this inheritance to her. It’s an interesting fact that there are parallels to the Spanish inquisition in the Covenant’s attitude to everything ‘heretic’.
KZ Howell, Dream State
A New-Age fantasy
Can dreams influence reality?
Murder, mind-warping drugs, clearheaded dreams, sex as a power game. Thriller or horror or both?
Edgar Cayce, the mystic and clairvoyant, features as the premise for this extraordinary tale.
Dream State draws on sleep experiments and lucid dreaming. In this connection, it may be important to remember that ordinary humans only use a fraction of their brains. This is a thoughtful analysis of the possibilities and dangers of experimenting with extraordinary minds. Recommended
Joyce DeBacco, Angel Wishes
A Gentle Romance?
Tea and comfort between friends. Will Addie choose to live for her quaint antique shop or go for a commercial career in New York? Which of her admirers will be her final choice? The childhood friend, Gabe or the flashy restaurant owner, Barry? Notable is the angel doll that infuses a red thread of wonder and hope throughout the story. Joyce DeBacco is the skilled narrator of this contemporary romance.
Ingrid Foster, My Father’s Magic
A parallel Universe, Albion, Steeped in Ancient English Myth
Esme, father Drake (Sorcerer), Fiancé Geoff (control freak and evil entity), half-sister Natasha, and childhood friend Stone. In a catatonic state, her mother is incarcerated in an asylum.
In the beginning, Esme’s father, Drake dies a seemingly natural death.
This sparks Esme’s education to become a Witch. It’s her fate to lead the witches, the wizards, the giants (Henry Brien and Helga?) the shapeshifters, and the fairies, in their fight against evil as well as for a natural, and balanced world.
JB Morris, Love Revisited
High Society Lady Meets Ex-soldier in an Unexpected Romance
Seth, an ex-soldier and Pamela, a society woman met on a plane. This apparently insignificant occurrence won’t leave their thoughts. He is unemployed and drifting, while she lives with her mother and daughter in her NY apartment. Their chance encounter sets new forces free and compels both to rethink their lives. Pamela’s mother does her worst to thwart the budding relationship. Morris takes us through the ropes and keeps us guessing.
It was easy to slip into this book and relate to its characters. Being a sequel to Seth, it shows Morris’s ability to combine back-story with developing the plot. His characters are easy to recognize and believable. Love Revisited is another take on the romance genre and works for me.
Ivy Logan, Broken Origins (The Legend of Ava)
Ava Carries the Ultimate Responsibility
Ava, a Heichi sorceress, can time-travel and sees what she shouldn’t see. Ms Logan builds the myths in this prequel to her fantasy series The Breach Chronicles on a simple premise, the interdiction against getting involved when time-travelling. Ava and her friend Selena break that prohibition and suffer the consequences. Their efforts create a worse situation than the one they wanted to avoid. The death of a young girl ultimately sparks rebellion and war between humans and supernaturals. Hence, the sorceressess’ withdrawal from the world and the beginning of the Chronicles. My only problem with this prequel is that it’s too short. Ms Logan hasn’t time or space to evolve her story. Through this, it becomes breathless and sometimes difficult to follow. Her ideas are good and deserve better.
Eva Pasco, Mr Wizardo
OZ and Kansas Revisited in Slick, Modern Writing
L Frank Baum didn’t live in vain. His inspired fiction lives and influences us to this day. So, in Eve Pasco’s Mr Wizardo. Her casual allusions to the rainbow bridge, the yellow brick road, and the other paraphernalia of OZ bring home a valid point. We need fantasy, courage, wisdom, and love to become human. To be compassionate and generous.
Doreen is Dorothy. She wears the red slippers. Of course, that’s an allusion to the film rather than the silver shoes of Baum’s invention.
Scott is the Scarecrow without a heart, Lyle the Lion without courage, and Tim the tinman without a brain. This is where the biggest difference shows. Mr Wizardo isn’t a fake. He’s the real thing and shows it through his compassion and understanding of the four misfits that assemble for his funeral.
This is a fun and appealing tale with a deep significance.
© HMH, 2019]]>
She was soft and white with striking pink eyes
Patient to a fault, unless, when gathering wool,
You happened to cut deeper than intended.
She’d nip your finger and look sadly reproachful
Until you repented and promised never to do it again.
Her brood of three,
Bundles of white just like their mother,
Were pliable creatures with rose-red eyes
Long ears and fur, pledging yarn in abundance,
But long-lived, opposing the end of their dam.
Nothing presaged her sudden demise.
One morning her life snuffed out brought us sadness
And an unforeseen burial beneath the old apple tree
© HMH, 2013]]>
These drawings are all from the eighties, which is easy to perceive. I drew them with coloured pencils on paper, and they were my first attempts at designs. I sewed the first two designs and reused the fabric from the lavender dress more than once.
© HMH, 1987 + 2019]]>
Do They Work?
A while ago, I visited a prompt generator and, among others, got these: The poisoned Rose and The Mysterious Yacht. I’ve forgotten the rest. Couldn’t find anything else that was remotely interesting. It made me wonder if some of these sites are condescending and expect that you’re unable to think for yourself. The issue here is that if you’re uncertain about what to write, it’s seen as a failure. There is a difference though. For me, it’s easy to figure out what my novels are about – there was always this urge to write and explore the flawed family theme. You may ask why. But the answer won’t be to find in this essay.
With short stories and especially flash fiction, the situation is different. It’s a media that I tend to see as a playing ground. Sometimes the ideas come easily. At other times, I draw a blank. Tonight is such a night. No matter, the search for prompts made me think about writing. There is an endless theme.
What strikes me about writing prompts is that getting three random, or seemingly random, words work better for me. It’s probably because three words that don’t have a superficial connection pushes my brain to make associations. Voila, the start shot reverberates through my mind. Free association is a psychological tool that works for scientists (Psychiatrists) as well as musicians (composer/songwriter) and authors. Looking back at the two prompts I noted, they appear closed in on themselves. Should one mix them up though, the situation might change. We won’t use ‘the’ but mysterious, rose, yacht, poisonous. Perhaps one adjective is enough.
Rose/Poison/Mysterious/Yacht? Is that better? Let me see. Free association brings up Belladonna. A rose is a flower, A foxglove is a poisonous flower and the poison you get from it is belladonna. A beautiful lady can be called a rose. A beautiful lady could be rich too (it isn’t a must) but a rich lady could possess a yacht. There: we’ve connected rose/poison/yacht. What about mysterious? How to bring that into the equation?
There is something mysterious about beautiful ladies. Is that enough? That is an interesting sentence. It could be spoken by a man thwarted in love. Of course, he could be rich and possess the aforementioned yacht. Would our lover be thwarted badly enough to become murderous? Would he take her out on his yacht and make short work of getting rid of her? How? With poison, and a stone to weigh her down? Does he do this kind of action often? If so, he has evolved into a serial killer.
We have a story growing with hardly any effort. It’s true that being thwarted in love doesn’t necessarily make you a serial killer – not even of beautiful ladies. On the other hand, there could be a mystery buried in there. A genetic fault that he doesn’t know about. A childhood trauma that is buried deep in his subconscious. That would open an avenue for a psychologist – a criminal profiler – to take on the case. All of this it’s up to the writer to make plausible and bring together in a coherent plot. Without these jumps through several mental hoops – no story.
We’re far away from a logical plot, but it’s just a matter of letting the ideas mature. Don’t force the issue. Let the concept simmer for a while. The essence will generate a story – sooner or later. This is a game, but it helps to stimulate the creative muscles. So much is clear.
Next up is writing the story. Come to think of it, this idea is so complex that it could be fleshed out to a mystery novel or a thriller. If it must be a short story, it might be sensible to discard part of the associative ideas. Leave out the mystery and you have a revenge story. Leave out the beautiful lady – and you could write nonfiction about poisonous flowers. Not so appealing maybe, but people need to know about nature’s dangers. There are too many vegetable poisons. You don’t need a speckled band to traverse a small hole in a wall for creating suspense.
© HMH, 2019]]>
A feathery frame supporting
Little pieces of sky
Blue wonders, offering heady fragrance
And fairy visions.
A breeze carries soft petal chimes
That cause the soul to resonate.
A question springs to mind.
With such wonders
Why do we sense
Futility and darkness?
Our little lives
Could open like blossoms
Carrying blue balm
To narrow minds.
Let us find courage
To live and to love.
In our slight hearts
Rapture can flourish.
We may find lost visions
In an old-fashioned garden
© HMH, 2019]]>
Harrowing and Realistic
Touching the Wire is about guilt and shame. It analyses complexities that we habitually manage to avoid. It’s about surviving under impossible conditions – or chose the only way out. It’s about facing life when you wish to die. This book takes its readers down the abyss and leaves us no option but facing the horror that is deep inside every human being.
Shame and guilt are hard taskmasters. Rebecca Bryn shows the agony and regret, the love lost and the emptiness – the pain — and the forgiveness. Her strong prose makes the protagonist’s humanity realistic. She creates a balance between his background and remorse. Here is a vivid and absorbing read that will make you think — and think again. Highly recommended.
James Donaldson, Witching Hour
An Entertaining take on Cults
A doomsday setting, a blood cult, a damsel in distress. A hero who takes on an entire village in an endeavour to debunk the myth that holds the cult together. The elements of Donaldson’s Witching Hour are simple, but he adds some unexpected twists. The proverbial brawny henchmen add comic relief, but the protagonist, the hero, Nash knows how to fight. Nash’s thoughts sustain the plot in an entertaining read that will keep his readers enthralled.
Kate McGinn, Winter’s Icy Caress
FBI, Vengeance, Ice, Love, Betrayal
Kate McGinn is a good writer – I read one of her short articles, which was brilliant. In the hope that her novel writing would have the same standard, I bought Winter’s Icy Caress. There is much to say for her writing, the prose flows and the storyline benefits from her skill. On a personal note, her heroine’s obsession with her love interest’s looks became repetitive. Other than that, the plot was engaging with many twists and turns. McGinn keeps her readers guessing.
Cindy Davis, Final Masquerade
How to Escape the Mob
Witnessing her fiancé murder his best friend pivots Paige Carmichael onto a headlong flight. Without time to consider the danger, she takes some money and a precious coin out of her fiancé’s safe. Then she absconds with her booty. Her hope that clever disguises will help her gain safety backfires again and again. So far, this novel doesn’t distinguish itself from most suspense fiction. What makes it stand out is that the protagonist learns that there’s more to life than shopping and looks. At first, a shallow character, Paige learns that friendship, honest work, trust, and love for pets, as well as humans, enriches life. Recommended
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps, Wham
Wham is a fitting title to a dystopian scenario that hits you between the eyes. There are elements of Margaret Atwood in the class divisions, but the authors have their own style. They bring across their message with compelling prose. The characters, be they elves, fairies, wizards, potentates, or ‘ordinary’ school children, are convincing and real. The world building is as strong, and the wasteland of the ‘normal’ world contrasts resoundingly with the hidden fairy country. As the first book of a series, it sets the scene for coming adventures. Here, my personal view is that ‘Wham’ is too short.
For me, the problem with series is that the necessary hook often leaves the reader without a sense of closure. True, if the ending is definite, there’s no reason to continue. All the same, there are several examples of series (e.g. by Guy Gabriel Kay or Ursula Le Guin) where every part has a conclusion, although the readers want to know what happens next.
This doesn’t detract from the excitement and heart-stopping agitation that Wham gives its audience.
Soleil Daniels, Halfborn
A Confrontation with Guilt
Coral hides. Her occupation is staying away from people — unless her needs force her hand. That’s when she seeks society, knowing that she must clean up afterwards. Money isn’t a problem, but her cravings are. Mostly she is in control and does only what is necessary. Enter Marshall Kevin O’Neal, and Coral’s life changes forever. She loses control for the first time in her life and there’s no way back — neither for her nor for him. His suffering makes her aware that there are questions to answer. The only problem is that she doesn’t know where to find the necessary knowledge.
From then on Coral’s life becomes one long trip. She must tackle her guilt, although she has no idea of the reasons behind her action. She and Marshall go on the road, to escape the consequences of their actions and to find out what they’ve become.
This is strong meat and an unusual twist on vampire mythology. Daniels presents an allegory that shows how lack of knowledge can pull people out of their comfort zone. Bonded in their lust and guilt, Coral and Marshall must learn who they are or face the consequences.
The characters are believable and engaging, but more than that, their troubled journey creates a brooding backdrop for the conflict they face.
William Gareth Evans, Within the Glass Darkly
A Traditional Vampire Tale.
WGE draws on the original vampire mythology, as narrated by Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker. Their inspiration partly originates in Hungary, with Countess Elizabeth Báthony (1560-1614), a serial killer of magnificent proportions. It may not be the greatest wonder that the vampire idea caught on in the nineteenth century, when female sexuality was ignored, and male sexuality was repressed.
WGE spins his tale, using some of the well-known Le Fanu characters, as well as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Van Helsing. The action takes place around the Parisian Vampire Theatre that Anne Rice celebrates in her vampire series.
With all these references, it is astounding that WGE manages to present his personal take on the mythos. He does it with panache and conviction, adding his own ideas and bringing his celebration of this bloodthirsty chapter in literary history to life. The introduction of a male counterpart to Carmilla, works wonders. The age-old vampire is a formidable fiend. His first killings make your hair stand on end. To find out more, read Within the Glass Darkly.
Millie Thom, Shadow of the Raven
Finding Balance among Vikings
In Mercia, the Vikings raid with impunity. That makes it easy for an envious brother to stage fratricide and usurp power. The true king’s family suffers the consequences. Millie Thom brings the political tensions, the greed and resentment to life. There is a gallery of believable characters, led by to boys, Eudwulf and Alfred. Through his captivity and thraldom, Eudwulf becomes familiar with Danish everyday life. To survive, he gets involved and learns to appreciate that Vikings aren’t all monsters. That doesn’t mean that he stops wishing for revenge, both against the Viking that killed his father and against the Mercian Traitor. Back in Mercia, Alfred lives a toddler’s life, although he early develops an awareness that not everybody can be trusted.
Tiptoeing through rustling leaves
My ascent lithe
Lonely girls reach
For tenuous calm, in time
To their dropping steps
Empty boats quiver
The water is motionless
Soon the sun descends
Bare feet ascend
Never was my step lighter
Rustling leaves fall
© HMH, 2018]]>
These sketches were for
© HMH, 1987/2019]]>
There’s nothing like my bed. When the pillows are arranged and I dive under the duvet, ready for an evening of writing and reading, it’s bliss. One of those moments when it’s impossible to deny that life is wonderful. To think that it’s a habit to go to bed. Every evening ends with a quiet time. My laptop and pad are ready for my thoughts. Even the most inane ones. What more does a person need?
The frustrations – the daily frustrations disappear. It’s time to snuggle and take delight in simple pleasures as above. True, this isn’t the only use that a bed provides. Let me not digress. Yes, let me. A bed is for sleeping, right? False. A bed is also for sleeping. It is for quiet talks at the end of the day — if one has somebody to share intimate thoughts with. It’s for passionate love-making – if one gets there and doesn’t resort to the floor or a kitchen table. Beds are far superior though.
Beds are for building caves with blankets and duvets and pillows, or for staging pillow fights. The last idea may not always be appropriate. On the other hand, beds are versatile. They may not be the best site for extensive breakfasts, especially because of the crumbs. A cup of tea or coffee works, if one doesn’t spill it. Film viewing? Sure thing. Telly? Not for me. My preference is settling down for a writing session. A few cars pass, or a couple of girls chatter. Then the street-noise calms. The flat is darkened except for a small table lamp beside my bed. My feet get warm and my mind soars. What will be my theme tonight? Will it be a rant, a short story, musings about my work in progress? It all depends on what’s uppermost in my mind.
Sometimes, it’s just a blow by blow account of the day. Not so interesting, but probably practical. It’s difficult to remember when certain affairs started or ended if one doesn’t write them down. The best moments happen when a sudden idea develops. Beds are fertile for busy minds. Or is it the other way round? Can beds make busy minds fertile? That makes sense. If they (the beds) also help procreation – that’s another matter altogether. That is, if procreation doesn’t take over and decide to pounce, negating well-laid plans.
That was a digression. Back to bed. My bed. Warm and snug. The ultimate in cosiness. The helping hand for crying over spilt milk. There’s nothing like the comfort a bed offers a saddened heart. Yet, a bed can become your worst adversary. The enemy that won’t let you be comfortable. The lair for bogeymen. They prefer living under the bed though. Mostly, they’re easily scared away. Just turn on the light and they disappear. Pouf.
Have I forgotten something? Naturally. Beds are dream machines. Everything is possible in a bed. You can fly — and there’s no need for fairy dust. Just close your eyes and soar. In dreams, you can be a hero or a victim. You can have the entire spectrum. Want to experience being a spy? Try a dream. Want to laze your time away in a flower meadow? Nothing is easier. Want to get lost in a mysterious house that grows new rooms as you roam? Close your eyes and find exquisite tapestries, fabulous divans, shadowy corners, and ballrooms, candelabras, or staircases going up and down and in circles. Careful that you don’t get dizzy. The next you know, you wake up, stretch, and a new day begins. Alternatively, it’s still night. Ah, but that is a bonus. That means time to start over.
Read a little, turn out the light and the dreams wait, just around the corner of the pillow. Don’t despair if sleep doesn’t come instantly. That gives time for reflection. Only, don’t think too hard. Muse upon something pleasant. Take a sip of water. If necessary, take a turn in the darkened flat. Certain yoga positions can be practised in bed. Wiggle your toes. Arrange your pillows. Sooner or later, everything will come together and harmony reign. If it doesn’t, don’t curse the bed. It provides the nest, but it can’t take away your improper thoughts. Improper for creating harmony. All other thoughts are proper.
Welcome. A bed is a kingdom in miniature. Use it but don’t abuse it. It’ll always be ready to welcome you, give you warmth, and a good night’s sleep. Enjoy.
© HMH, 2019]]>