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gospall

REVIEW BY ALLAN KRUMMENACKER

4 – STARS “An Eerie Blend To Satisfy Horror Enthusiasts…”

Mix one part voodoo, one part devil worship, three parts darker side of human nature and you get “The Haunting of Gospall”.

The author does a wondrous job of blending these three elements into a intricate yarn that transcends the high seas. He starts us off with a brilliant opening scene upon the SS Gospall in the 1800’s, showing a keen insight of what sailors and captains faced on the open waters during one of the more contentious periods between England and France.  We’re introduced to characters we come to admire and care deeply for, both in the 1800’s and the present, as the tale unfolds and a mystery that links the two time periods slowly unfolds.

We meet Sean, who is blessed unwillingly with psychic talents that has led him down a dark path once before.  The author also introduces us to his beloved Sophie who not only listens to him when he starts telling her about strange events that led not only to his mother’s death, but also the strange visions and encounters he has been experiencing.  Led by Sophie, they start digging deeper into the mysteries which leads them to a meeting Seamus Mallom, a former exorcist, with demons of his own that led to his hanging up his white collar… so to speak.

Soon the trio find that all that is happening around them and the world seems linked to the final fate of the Gospall, the villainous pirate Santia that had usurpsed command of the vessel, and an island where the darkest of magics were being performed.

Sins of the past and a final battle for salvation hang in the balance, but is it already too late for the world?

A ripping good yarn, especially for the Halloween season.

AMAZON:

https://www.amazon.com/Haunting-Gospall-Solomon-Strange-ebook/dp/B07FW33WW5/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539195210&sr=8-1&keywords=solomon+strange

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And I’m back, sort of.

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Okay, I’m still a bit unwell, but finally on the mend. In the meantime let’s continue with that discussion about some of the things I learned putting together our first anthology.

First off it was somewhat easier than creating an entire novel. With a novel you have to keep track of so many things like character development, interactions, subplots, pace of the story, etc.  Now with an anthology, you still have a lot of stories to contend with but each one is self-contained and has its own beginning and end. You don’t have to be worried about how they fit into the main tale. Plus you can have a greater variety of characters and give each tale a flavor all its own. Sounds pretty easy so far right? Well, here’s where things started to get a little more complicated for me.

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Like a novel, an anthology does need to have a certain feeling of cohesiveness to it. There must be some facet or factor that makes the reader feel like the stories all belong together in that one volume. This is of course fairly easy to do when you’re dealing with a bunch of stories by various authors dealing with the same subject matter. “The Penguin Book of Vampires” is a great example. It contains dozens of authors within its pages with each one using an actual vampire character or a variation on that theme.

Another simple method of dealing with this cohesive problem is to do an anthology that contains works by the same author. One of my favorite authors is the legendary Isaac Asimov, a prolific writer beyond compare.

Asimov

Throwing a collection of his works together should be easy right? Wrong! While known for his volume of work in the field of science-fiction, Mr. Asimov also wrote mysteries, as well a huge body of non-fiction. So here you have to ask yourself what kind of anthology would you want? Do you want to have a sampling from different areas of his works to showcase just how versatile he was? Or would you rather want to focus on just one genre of his work at a time? Considering the volume of work the man left behind, most anthology creators have chosen the latter. This was especially true when he was still with us.

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In the case of his mystery sleuths “The Black Widowers”, the publishers gathered all his published tales with these characters who solve puzzles and mysteries while sitting in a restaurant. The publishers also got Mr. Asimov to create an introduction to each collection (there were 5 all together), as well, but they didn’t stop there. Mr. Asimov provided some brand new tales that had never been published to make each collection more special. Furthermore, he add afterthoughts to every story giving the readers new insights to his characters as well as how he came up with the puzzles.

From there I started looking through the other anthologies by various authors (HP Lovecraft, sci-fi and horror collections) in our personal library to see what was done in those cases. And guess what I discovered, each collection had an Introduction/Preface depending on if the works were all the same author or by various authors. Furthermore, just about every tale in each anthology also had some thoughts at the beginning or end of it talking about the author, or thoughts they’d had on the work. Quite different than just having an “About the Author” at the end of your novel. Naturally we had hour work cut out for us, but there was still the issue of a feeling of connection between the stories.  Did we have one or not?

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To answer this question I found myself going back to the original source for many of the stories in our anthology, our online blog “The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition”.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 


Blogger’s Note: I know I promised the second entry about things I learned about putting together an anthology, but the bug we’ve been fighting turned into bronchitis, possibly bordering on pneumonia.  So we’re both on heavy antibiotics which does not make for very sensible thinking or analyzing, much less writing.  So please bear with us and hope you enjoy this latest book review.  We hope to be back in the saddle very soon.  Thank you.

 

raising steam

 

This particular offering by the late-great Mr. Pratchett was a wonderful read, in my opinion. I’ve seen other reviews where people lamented that his declining health was clearly showing in this book saying things like “it wasn’t as funny…” or “…it felt like this was his farewell to the fans…” etc. A lot of this is understandable considering the rare form of alzheimer’s he is fighting. But for me, this book felt more like a wonderfully wild ride that took us to various parts of the Discworld, just as the invention of the first train in Ankh-Morpork intended.

Pratchett uses the invention of the first steam engine to take us all over and reintroduce us to a number of old and familiar faces and places. We go back to Uberwald to visit Lady Margolotta, The Low King of the Dwarves, Bonk, the goblins, Harry King “King of the Golden River” (a river you would not want to swim in by the way folks), Commander Vimes and the Watch, Death, Lord Vetinari, and of course the incorrigible scoundrel of the piece Moist Von Lipwig.

We get to see some of these wonderful characters interacting with each other in various ways, some for the first time like Lipwig (the “reformed” con-man) working with Stoneface Vimes. Mr. Pratchett has been modernizing his world little by little throughout the series introducing the “Clacks” for communicating quickly over great distances, the first newspapers (spreading information to not just the gentry, but the common man), a new monetary system that is not based on the gold, so the addition of the steam engine seemed quite appropriate. With each book he brings his scattered characters closer to one another, while still providing a fun-filled thrilling ride along the way.

In “Raising Steam” he delivers that same fun but in a big fast noisy way. Well worth the read.

Fall Colors


A Fabulous Autumn poem by Aurora Jean Alexander

Writer's Treasure Chest

I wake up one day the world’s still bright
but the sun’s got weak when it shines its light.
I want to feel the warmth, but still it seems
there is that milky veil around the beams
**
I go outside, I see the pearls of dew
on flowers, grass, even on the bird that flew
just up while quavering its beguiling song,
His wings are brown as he flies along.
**
When I get up the streets are still
cloaked by fog, the air is chill.
Humidity turns streets all black
when will their light gray be back?
**
The leaves are turning red and brown
some yellow ones look like a crown.
It’s colorful, with ‘rust’ and ‘sunshine’,
with ‘umbra’, ‘burgundy’ and ‘red wine’.
**
Beige and chocolate, light charcoal
bushes, hedges, trees change whole.
Orange, teal and pumpkin pie
are the warm new colors under sky.
**

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*Blogger’s Note: I know I promised to continue about our experiences with creating our first anthology, but massive colds have been kicking us around.  Hope to get back to that subject next week.  Until then, here’s another book review.  Enjoy*

Grandma's Trunk

This was my first venture into the writing of Miss Grogg and I have to say I was quite pleased. This tale took me down the winding passages of my own childhood memories involving friends, relatives, and grandparents (who I sorely miss).

The story begins with Brandon having to move into his little brother’s room, because his elderly great-grandmother is coming to live with his family. Brandon is not happy about this and even resentful. But we quickly see the conflicting emotions within him early on when he first meets his great-grandmother who is full of spunk and not one to be pushed around in spite of her advanced age. But in addition to that fiery spirit she brings an old fashioned trunk that captivates not only Brandon’s imagination but those of his little brother Melvin and their cousin Alisa.

Soon the trio find that there may be more to great-grandma than meets the eye, making Brandon’s feelings towards her more complicated. Eventually we learn that he’s afraid of growing too fond of her because she is so old. He has already lost his other grandparents who were not nearly as old as her, and he still misses them terribly.

Miss Grogg fleshes out her characters extremely well and makes the reader dwell upon family and friendships, as well as the realization that even though we may one day have to say goodbye, there is so much to be enjoyed in the here and now.

AMAZON:


Last night Helen and I finished the final story for our upcoming anthology!

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Thank you!  Thank you!  You’re all being too kind.  But today’s post is not to talk about the anthology itself, as much as what went into making it.  How did it differ from writing full-length novels?  Was it easier?  Was it harder? What was the process like?  Where did we get all the stories for it, etc.?

Well, for starters, coming up with a decent number of stories was and wasn’t hard really.  Helen had been writing stories long before e-books and well before I tried my hand at penning a tale.  I can easily say I learned so much from her earlier attempts at getting published, and let me tell you she got damn close to seeing some of her work in print.  But, that’s a tale for another entry.

What I want to say is that I learned a lot about what to expect when I decided to try  going the traditional published route.  Although in my case, I started shortly after the birth of e-publishing and after 2-3 years of trying to get an agent to represent and hearing over and over again “You’ve got something here, but you crossed several genres and I wouldn’t know what publishing house to try and sell it to.”

You see, at that time (and this still seems to hold true today) publishers don’t like to take risks on unknown authors or mixed genres. They want a straight up “Mystery”, “Thriller”, “Horror”, “Science Fiction”, etc.  They’re not keen on trying to sell a book that crosses multiple genres like the Para-Earth Series which we classify as “Paranormal/Sci-Fi”.

Nope

Now some of you may be pointing out that they do it more often these days, but most of those authors are well-known like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, J. K. Rowling, etc. who all have proven sales track records.

Anyway, getting back to how our upcoming anthology came to be a reality.

During that 2-3 years I tried to get published the traditional way, more stories were taking shape.  New characters and ideas were forming.  One of them was vampire I called Nathan Eoghan (pronounced Ewan) Steward.  I swore I’d never do a vampire character, unless I could introduce new angle or angles to the character.  Yet I still wanted to keep a lot of the traditional trademark strengths and weaknesses people have come and know and recognize.

By this time, I had already been blogging for several years and had learned from other writers the concept of giving sneak peeks into upcoming works, and even sharing short stories.  This is done to introduce characters and concepts to prospective readers and build a demand for them.  So, after creating a vampire character that would fit nicely into our paranormal/sci-fi concept, I began doing short stories with Nathan over on a new blog called “The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition”.    Over the course of 3 years we had a number of tales about Nathan and introduced a number of his friends who appeared with him in “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”.  And we’re still making new stories.  And that presented a problem, how many people want to wade through 4-5 years of blog posts to read all those stories?  Furthermore, most of those tales are rough 1st drafts and it shows.

During this time, I noticed some of my fellow authors who had created short stories on their blogs were bundling them into anthologies and that got us thinking.  With all the stories we’d already created, why couldn’t we create an anthology centered around all those stories on the blog?  While it sounded nice and easy, it also didn’t feel completely right to me.  While having all those earlier stories put into a more convenient format, shouldn’t we give the readers more?  Shouldn’t there be new never before seen stories in the collection?  Furthermore, should the stories not be just about Nathan but his friends, and even characters from our first two novels “The Bridge” and “The Ship”?

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This led to Helen coming up with the idea of recycling some of her earlier works which were firmly established in the realm of the macabre.  With a little reworking and adding scenes, she felt a number of those pieces could easily fit in with our Para-Earth Series, while also giving those unread tales a chance to finally see the light of day.

*Now I want to pause and say one thing.  Remember how I told you all, many posts ago, never to toss out your unfinished works, or fragments because you never knew when they might fit into some new idea/concept?  This is a perfect example of why you do that.  You just never know when that day might come.*

So right there, we had some brand new stories to slip into the anthology.  But we didn’t stop there, we went ahead and created several more brand new stories just for the collection itself.  The result?  One third of the tales appearing in this anthology are completely brand new.

Plus, we also added an afterthought following each story, sharing some of the who, what, where, and how each tale came into existence.  We thought it only right to share some of what the writing process can be like and hopefully inspire others to take that next step in whatever creative endeavors they are involved in.

Now, seeing how long this entry is getting and knowing there’s still a lot more to share, I’m going to end this one here.  I know I covered a lot of background areas today and haven’t really gotten to more of the technical and details of actually what went into the building of the anthology.  But rest assured that will be covered in the next installment.

Until then take care and keep writing everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Words of wisdom from a very wise man and great writer Seumas Gallacher.

Seumas Gallacher

…blasphemy?… heresy?… ravings of a mad writer?… signs of an author finally succumbing to the madness that years of tilting at imaginary characters bring?… that this ol’ Scots Jurassic scribbler should posit that the purpose of creative writing is NOT to achieve perfection?… p’raps, Mabel, but just hold on a minute with that frantic phone call to the lunatic asylum to come and cart me away… in a lifetime of reading, my choices of literature have been as broad as can be… Steinbeck, O’Hara, Ruark, Christie, Dickens, Eco, Fitzgerald, Child, Austen, Churchill, Burns, Chaucer… an endless list of library index heroes… every name there acknowledged as classic in his or her own metier, regardless of genre… sparkling storytellers all… but equally, I have noted in many instances, flaws, sum’times, in their narratives… incomplete closure on certain endings… use of language occasionally misplaced… part of that may be attributed to…

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Thank you cardFirst I’d like to thank all the guest bloggers, authors, and reviewers who were so kind to supply our blog with posts. It gave me some much needed time to get some rest and help family members who had suffered a terrible loss. It also allowed us to get back to work on our anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time” which will be coming out in early October, a perfect time for creepy stories and tales of encounters with strange beings. With only two stories left to be completed and edited, we will soon be lining up Beta-Readers and then doing our final edits.

Work has also been progressing on “The Door” latest full-length novel in the Para-Earth Series, and “The Pass” the first installment in a brand new series co-written with Richard Caminiti.

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In the meantime, I have been studying and purchasing the necessary equipment to begin audio-readings. As you can see below I’ve been slowly setting up a “Recording Studio” in our office/guest room.

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Now some of you may be asking “Why are you doing this? Don’t you have enough writing to do?” Well the answer is simply, a growing number of people have been telling us that they’d love to get our books but they prefer “Audiobooks” because they don’t always have time to sit and read. Or they lose track of the book they’re reading, etc-etc. This I can believe because I know a number of our co-workers are driving from over the hill from San Jose or Monterey, you name it. Plus, there are a number of folks who always have earbuds on and are not always listening to music.

“Why do it yourselves? Why not hire someone to do the reading and converting them into audiobooks?”

Once more I refer back to a number of folks who’ve actually heard me doing public speaking and reading aloud who insist I should be the one to do the audio-readings. And there are a number of readers who would prefer to hear the words spoken by the one who actually wrote them. This is a preference I share, I love hearing the author bringing their work to life because who understands the story better than they do?

As for how soon will any of our books be ready for audio? I’ll simply say that we’re just experimenting with audio-readings at this point. I’m going to try my hand at some classic short stories by others like HP Lovecraft and share them here and on YouTube to get feedback and maybe some tips from those who are more experienced in doing audiobooks. Furthermore, I want to know what it’s like doing audio recordings, who knows it may lead to a new character or even a storyline. After all they say write what you know, and drawing from life is always a much more satisfying for me when I’m creating a story.

Now if any of you are interested in hearing what happens on this little journey, I am planning on sharing in detail what I experience and learn as this adventure continues. I’ll be starting with the equipment and why some of it was chosen in an upcoming entry. And as I said before, I’ll be sharing some of the actual audio recordings for you all to get a taste of what the results are like.

Minions

Again some of my first attempts will be short pieces by other authors some which are in the Public Domain. I’m choosing those first because there is a volunteer project called LibriVox which is similar to Project Gutenberg which takes books/stories in Public Domain and are making them available for free here on the internet. However, it’s much easier to reproduce typed words than it is to get audio versions and LibriVox depends on volunteer readers to record and submit works for public enjoyment, especially for those who are blind for instance.

So, that’s all I have to report for now. In the meantime we’ll finish getting the anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time” ready for release, as well as getting other writing projects closer to finished first drafts.

Until next time, keep writing!


Cover Three Bags Full

REVIEW BY HELEN KRUMMENACKER

     Mystery stories have to work hard to set themselves apart from the crowd. Some do it with an underlying nonfiction theme, such as mystery novels/recipe books. Special settings can be useful. Most of all, characters are a way to be distinctive and memorable. There’s an entire bookshelf in our house of mysteries with animal detectives.

Cats make up the majority of animal detectives, able to roam freely and unobtrusively. Three Bags Full takes a different, and possibly unique path. As the name suggests, the mystery is being worked on by… sheep.


It begins with the discovery of the death of their shepherd. Even they can tell it is not natural causes, because he has had a spade stuck in his body. Whether it is the cause of death or not, it is a definite sign of violence and took place in their pasture, at night, while they were in a barn. They are disturbed; it is very like and yet unlike a wolf attack. The sheep vow that, as he protected them and cared for them in life, they would see his killer brought to justice.


From early on, it is evident the sheep are unusual (and some of the most interesting subplots come from the secrets of the sheep themselves being revealed). Even so, they are terribly unsuited for the task ahead of them– to solve a murder, one must understand how human society functions, and they start out knowing so little about it that they draw conclusions like the priest’s name is God, because they heard him welcome people to the house of God. He seems to talk about himself a shocking amount. (I find their attempts to understand religion quite amusing.) They also have to understand those parts of their shepherd’s life that don’t involve them, and, indeed, we the readers are somewhat puzzled by the parts that do. He seems to have deliberately brought in sheep that might have been in danger elsewhere, won’t sell any of them, reads books to them, and wants to take them on a tour of Europe.

The best thing, for me, is that the write, Leonie Swann, puts so much empathy into working out the way sheep might think. They aren’t little humans in wool coats; they are nervous, social, forgetful (except for Mopple, the Memory Sheep, who acts as a sort of living notebook for the flock), and they can gather information through their sense of smell. They also have their own culture; human society may be a mystery to them, but they have their own aphorisms, superstitions, and generational knowledge. Within the flock, each sheep still has individual identity. Miss Maple is extremely clever, Othello is brave, Cloud is kindly, Zora has imagination, and there are many more special traits and sheep.

     I would recommend this even without having finished it yet. It is the kind of book where the experience of reading and thinking about it make the journey a joy, regardless of how the plot wraps up in the end.


Death Light Moon

REVIEW BY HELEN KRUMMENACKER

Death by the Light of the Moon by Joan Hess was something I picked up from a Friends of the Library sale, a paperback mystery marking itself as A Claire Malloy Mystery. I’d never heard of the series, but the description was interesting. An eccentric, rich elderly lady dies the evening of a party that was meant to reveal her heirs. The protagonist is there by virtue of being a daughter-in-law, and barely knows the family.

The basic plot is grounded in the “cozy” style of mystery– the murder takes place in a somewhat remote area, limiting the suspects mostly to the family, with a few hints about something more being afoot. The protagonist is not a professional detective, just someone with a knack for coming across trouble and ask questions. As the story goes on, it becomes a bit less cozy in both the genre and descriptive sense, as more bodies turn up and the protagonist becomes a target, giving a bit more of a thriller vibe at times.

I found this to be not only satisfying as a mystery. The author has a sense of humor and a way with words. The prose makes for a light, easy read, and yet there are digs, gentle in some cases, hard in others, at real ways in which worse aspects of human nature tend to surface, reminiscent of Jane Austen, or perhaps P.G. Wodehouse. From the self-absorbed digressions of a teen, to the small-town police who almost prioritize getting along over getting answers (but who do change their approach appropriately as events unfurl), to the sexism and racism causing real, secret problems for a family of Southern aristocrats, the foibles are observed with wit and honesty. The protagonist even has her own failings

It would have definitely been worth buying at full price, and I look forward to finding more of the series.

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