Térata does All The Things, drowns them in Red Bull, lights them on fire and throws them off a cliff.
The title Térata is from the Greek meaning “Monsters,” but this is more than just a monster story. It crosses horror with science fiction and fantasy. But above all, Térata is full-throttle action-adventure.
From the Publisher
Hidden in the folds of the world we know is a world of monsters. Forced into discretion by the rules that govern reality, these powerful beings fight, love, and die in the shadows around us. This is their story.
The sheer number of characters and names in Térata would give the Silmarillion a run for its money. Many of the characters are shifters, meaning they have two types of physical bodies – a monster form and a human form – which gives some characters two names.
Many of the characters are POV characters too. With so many characters going after (or running away from) so many things, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Those wanting a single headspace will want to look elsewhere.
The monsters in Térata have super powers on the level of demigods. They are super-fast. And super strong. And they heal like Wolverine on crack. Sniper headshots and severed limbs hardly slow them down. I appreciated the quick fight scenes, and the fact that characters did occasionally die, which lent real danger to every fight.
Plot / Story
Térata is a great example of Speculative Fiction, that is, “What happens when we cross fantasy, science fiction, horror, thriller and action-adventure?” The book lists under Occult at Amazon, but it is much more than that – nanotech, DNA manipulation, tarot cards, alternate realities and talking swords that absorb souls. All the things are here.
As I mentioned, the story has so much going on, it never lags. All the interconnected plotlines reminded me of Game Of Thrones, a large and busy world. But the writing always makes it clear what the current character is doing. Goals are clearly asserted and how-did-we-get-here is clearly explained, so you’ll always know what people are doing and why.
Térata contains more doors ripped open and limbs torn off than all the stories I’ve ever read put together. Characters ripped doors off of houses, cars and even safes because it was faster than opening them conventionally. They ripped their own limbs off to reduce their body mass. (And shouldn’t one really do that in the shower? Makes cleanup a snap!) The levels of speed and aggression even during the non-fighting scenes lent a fantastic, comic book feel to the story.
Térata is mostly set in modern-day Minnesota. From Minnehaha Park to downtown Minneapolis to the banks of the Mississippi River, Michael gets the details right, using just enough description without slowing the story.
Some of the story takes place in an alternate reality realm called the Confluence. I was really interested in this place and it played a major part in the story, but it didn’t spend enough time or detail there. I definitely wanted more of the alternate reality and how it was different than the real world.
Language / Voice
Michael’s writing is snappy and clean. Térata almost reads like a graphic novel, with quick, broad strokes.
The sense of humor is superb, the timing of the jokes breaks the tension perfectly. And a broad range of pop culture references abounds. Much of the dialog contains a clever snarkiness and biting wit.
[easyazon_link identifier=”0692269797″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Terata on Amazon[/easyazon_link] (affiliate link)
Check out Térata by Michael Allen O’Leary Jr. #AmReading #Book #Review #Monsters
#Action #SciFi #Fantasy #Thriller #Monsters Térata has it all!
Don’t know about you, but I liked 2015. I wouldn’t trade my 2015 for SIX 2014s. Hope your 2015 was great, too. Here’s some highlights from last year, and a look at what’s to come…
Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy, the demigod behind Motorhead finally ascended to full godhood. I’m reminded of a joke:
Q: If Lemmy and God got into a fight, who would win?
A: Trick question. Lemmy IS God.
He was once quoted as saying he would continue wearing black “until they come up with something darker.” My onstage look in Jagged Spiral was definitely influenced by Lemmy, and I won a costume contest in 2014 with my Lemmy impression as you can see here.
See ya buddy. You’ll be missed. Tell David Bowie and Alan Rickman that I said “hi.”
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”1613747969″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/61m1eu2ck9L-1.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”329″]Ytasha was guest of honor at the 2015 Diversicon convention, where she presented her book Afrofuturism – the world of black sci-fi and fantasy culture. Now Afrofuturism is more than just a book. It is a movement of art, music and literature that strives to “…break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.”
I had several great discussions with Ytasha about her book and the topic of Afrofuturism. Ytasha did not create Afrofuturism, but she is a champion of it. Her book and her readings and discussions are really helping to raise awareness that #BlackArtsMatter and she does it in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening. A must read.
[easyazon_link identifier=”1613747969″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture on Amazon[/easyazon_link]
Fiction Highlight Reads of 2015
I succeeded in my 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge by reading 24 books in one year. 8 Fiction, and 16 Non-Fiction. My Fiction Reading Highlights of 2015 included a diversity of great fiction stories. (Amazon affiliate links – Thanks for your support!)
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00VR2F5DC” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]10,000 lines by Kate Bitters[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”1442497653″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Ambassador by William Alexander[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”0986377503″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]A Circus of Brass and Bone by Abra Staffin-Wiebe[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B019ABWGJC” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Child of the Daystar by Bryce O’Connor[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00YDGI98C” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Orphans by Roy C Booth and Axel Kohagen[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”B012EI9M4A” locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”0990815765″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Joy to the Worlds by Raven Oak and Maia Chance and several others….[/easyazon_link]
[easyazon_link identifier=”1596066199″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]The Adventures of Princess and Mr. Whiffle – the Dark of Deep Below by Patrick Rothfuss and Nate Taylor[/easyazon_link]
And I haven’t quite finished [easyazon_link identifier=”B00UO08J18″ locale=”US” tag=”zero00b-20″]Doctor Dead: A Percy and Quincey Adventure[/easyazon_link] by Tyler Tork
My best surprises were Ex Machina and The Martian. I had no real expectations for either one, and they both really delivered. Spy was also pretty funny. And Terminator: Genisys was a clever way to sort of ‘reboot’ that series. Crimson Peak was so beautiful, you could watch it with the sound off.
Spectre was classic Bond, although I have to agree with the people calling “try hard” on the villain. “The architect of all your pain…” ugh. Skyfall still reigns supreme as the best Bond film ever.
Mad Max: Fury Road delivered way more than I thought I would. And Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well. Must have been tough to honor the originals and still live up to the hype. Avengers and Ant Man were good too, although I see the Marvel brand getting weaker (Sony’s Fantastic Four didn’t help) and the DC brand getting stronger.
Jupiter Ascending was meh because it tried to do ALL THE THINGS. Didn’t even see the final two Hunger Games movies, but I did see Insurgent, which is pretty much caps off all the YA stuff for me. At this point, Hollywood has turned the YA genre into one contrived, “Chosen One” dystopian mess.
My friends paid me to watch The Hateful Eight, and it was the same dreadful Tarantino film he always makes. And It Follows was downright dumb. I didn’t catch Straight Outta Compton or Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in the theater, but I’ll watch for them on netflix…
I blogged about Arcana 2015, which was a major convention for authors and fans of all fiction spooky, weird, horrific or otherwise “Dark Fantastic.” Catherine Lundoff and Benjamin Percy were Guests of Honor. Made some nice connections there.
#AmWriting – Invisible Flying Pony Saves the World
They say self-publishing your first book is the hardest, and it better be. For a short story, this is taking an incredibly long time to finish. I’ve been bouncing this manuscript back and forth with editors and layout people. The first book for the series is DONE as in, I hold the virtual copy in my digital hands. But the rest of the series and the world-dominating gameplan is still being developed. I want to have a good headstart with this series before I pull the trigger.
When I do, y’all going to wanna stand back.
This much I do know. The first story will be free to members of my mailing list. So sign up here, and you’ll have it the microsecond it goes live.
#AmWriting – Secret Projects
I’m writing a story which essentially crosses the Loch Ness Monster with Hill Lake, MN, and a healthy dose of Lovecraftian… ah, I’ve already said too much. Currently, Lure is in rough draft format, going through critique. Hope to have this done in 2015, maybe even include from pix from Hill City, MN, where the story is set.
The Reason We Don’t Have Flying Cars Yet
It’s 2016. Where the hell are the flying cars? Instead we got drones, which are cool, but you can’t ride one to work. And it kinda pisses me off. I decided the automotive industry must be cursed, and that struck me as a great idea for a story. Think Christine with a flying car. It’s coming along nicely, not sure how long it’s going to be at this point. Don’t even have a real name for it. Probably looking at early next year.
Evil Looks Good
Ah, the creative hostage I have tied up in the basement. I was forced to realize that the sheer scope of this project outweighs my own abilities right now, but only because I’m currently working on seven short stories at the same time. As I unload those projects from my brain and build my mad book business and marketing skills, this project will become an epic event. Think book+music+theater. I’ll get a freaking tattoo if I manage to pull this off.
If any of these projects sound interesting to you, you’ll want to jump on my email newsletter and I’ll keep you up to date.
Back in May 2015, I gave a discussion of writing groups at MNSpec, and at the next meetup, I received two offers from two different people to join two different writers groups. I had no idea these groups even existed. In fact, no one knows they exist, because they are secret. (Btw, you are sworn to secrecy…)
So I’m now officially in three different writing groups. Time will tell if this is too many. For now it’s giving me plenty of work to critique, and plenty of feedback on my own writing.
Mastering Social Media On An Author’s Budget
Writing quality stories is hard work. So is publishing. Therefore, self publishing is hard work squared. There’s lots of pieces to master, marketing being a part that often gets glossed over with the answer “Social Media!”
But social media is not an answer to marketing, it’s a tool. And even within each different social media platform, there is much to learn.
I have a presence in many of the social media, but I was by no means a master of any of them. In 2015, I decided to change that. I decided to pick two platforms to master, and work on growing them.
I’ve always liked Twitter, even though I didn’t understand it at first. What’s cool about Twitter is that it doesn’t filter content. If I share something with my 22,000 followers, and they all happen looking at their twitter feed, they all get it.
Over 2015 I read a bunch of books and watched several video courses on mastering twitter. Just learning about tools like tweetdeck and using lists completely changed my experience of twitter. Once I had the tools down, twitter became a fun and easy platform to connect with real fans of dark fiction, as well as other writing resources.
Goodreads is made for people who love books. It’s a great way to get recommendations for new books and authors, which makes it a natural extension of authorship. I wouldn’t expect every author to have a twitter page, but I would expect them to be on goodreads.
This one was kind of a cheat, because I was already using it. LOL. I’ve used goodreads for years to track my reading progress. But using goodreads as an author is a little different, so I read some books about it and got more active in some communities there (along with some splash damage from my twitter following) I’ve made quite a few new connections. I’ll hit the 5K limit on friends this year, so you should hurry if you want to friend me up at goodreads.com/conradzero.
“But Zero, What About Facebook?”
Um, probably because IHateFacebookWithThePassionOfSevenMillionSupernovae. It’s proof that Billions of people ACTUALLY CAN BE WRONG. Ahem.
[insert visual of tear on cheek]
Aw hells, quit yer cryin already. Fine. I built a damned author page on fb too. You happy now? But I haven’t promoted it at all. Although I see I got a few hundred people spilled over from twitter to friend me up there as well. Now that I’m more confident in what I’m doing with twitter and goodreads, I’ll make 2016 the year I take fb seriously so you can expect to see some growth there very soon.
Sadly, I never heard from Adrian Swartout. I can only guess this isn’t going to happen, but at least I tried.
Wow, I’ve got so much up my sleeve that I’ll have to modify my wardrobe.
I love youtube, and use it a bit, but not nearly enough. I’ve tried out periscope and I’m looking into vine now. My goal is to dial in a method of connecting with fans through video in 2016.
While cleaning up over the holidays, I found enough items that I could have a garage sale. Not crap, either. I’m talking movies, books, music and even some electronics. Instead, I think I’ll try giving some things away online. Somehow. I’m still not sure of the best method for the giveaways, any suggestions?
I’m spinning up a couple new websites in order to get reviews and other things off of my author blog. Expect those to go live early in 2015.
New Fiction Format
This one is the hush-hushest of all. I’m creating an entirely new format for delivering fiction stories. Stay tuned.
I’ve revamped my email system, and more importantly, this is where I’m going to start putting much of my authorly efforts in 2016. It won’t be nonstop pleas to buy my book, I promise. I plan to keep it short and really sweet, so people will actually look forward to receiving it. Sign up here, so when I do take over the world, you’ll be on the insider’s list: https://conradzero.com/cult-of-zero
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”1483441245″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/51bL9Qlj8wL.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”333″]Dragon/Human Hybrid Protagonist For The Win
I wrote a post awhile back about how I actually do judge books by their book covers. And when I saw the cover for Child of the Daystar, my money was spent. But despite the awesome cover art you can see here, it’s not just the quality of the artwork that sold me.
What actually sold me was the concept that the cover conveyed.
Lets be honest: Dragons are Cool. You know it. I know it. We all know it. So human/dragon-hybrid-warrior in a dark fantasy setting is an easy decision for me.
Of course a great cover and even a great concept are no indicator of writing quality. Thankfully, Child of the Daystar is very well written, and Bryce O’Connor is definitely on the track to win some fans over with this strong debut dark fantasy novel.
Get Readers To Care About Monster Protagonists with this ONE CRAZY TRICK
Bookplanner Manages Publishing – “The Cure For Publishing Paralysis”
If you’re a self-publishing author, hopefully you’re aware of Joel Friedlander’s work at thebookdesigner.com and his must-read mailing list. Joel recently announced a new service called Bookplanner, and he calls it “The Cure For Publishing Paralysis.”
Bookplanner is project management software made specifically for publishing books (ebooks or print or both). The software guides you through each task in the book publishing process. The tasks are divided into functional areas:
Prerequisite Tasks (Social media accounts, ISBNs and such)
Production (Print and ebooks have separate production areas. Depending on your project, you may have one or both of these.)
Bookplanner requires very little info to get started. Pregenerated templates create the task list and due dates for you.
Templates based on different project types get you started quickly by auto-generating all the tasks required, including their start and stop dates.
Because it’s super easy to create and delete book plans, bookplanner encourages you to experiment with the different templates available. Create new book projects from the templates, then explore, tinker, and compare the plans. Keep whatever works best for you, and delete the rest. You can have an unlimited number of book projects.
Once your project is in place, the master task list leads you through the steps of creating, editing, and publishing a book.
Bookplanner Master Task List
Bookplanner at the Top Level view shows all the tasks for your book project divided into functional groups.
Listmakers rejoice! The master-task view shows all tasks in order, broken down into the groups or functional areas mentioned above. The order of the tasks cannot be changed. Completed sections can be hidden, which keeps the current active group of tasks easily available. Hidden sections of the completed task groups can be unhidden with a click.
Bookplanner Task View
The task view in bookplanner provides a description of the task at hand, and a simple text field for your notes.
Selecting a task takes you to the task view, showing a pre-generated (and uneditable) description of the task, and a giant field for entering notes. The feather-pen in the upper-right can be used to edit the duration of the task. This will adjust the deadlines for all other tasks auto-magically. The duration is the only part of the task you can edit.
The notes area is EXTREMELY simple. Text and links only. No graphics, and no html. As someone who works under a wordpress menu for hours, the notes section felt limiting to me. I hope updates to the software will allow users to add external files like graphics and manuscripts. (Although one could work around this by linking to files in google drive…)
Scroll down from the notes section to find three more task-specific resources:
Expert Guidance – Provides relevant info on the task-at-hand.
Additional Resources – Link to relevant articles, primarily on Joel’s extensive website thebookdesigner.com
Referrals/Partners – Links to bookplanner partners providing task-specific services (Editors, reviewers, etc.) who can help you check that task off the list.
Bookplanner Calendar and Gantt View
Bookplanner’s Gantt Chart view provides a top-level view of your publishing plan
The Gantt view offers a top level overview of the entire publishing process, showing only the functional groups, not the individual tasks. This is the kind of 20,000 ft view that is lacking in many project management systems, and I really appreciate that bookplanner includes it.
Calendar view shows each task on the calendar as you’d expect.The calendar gives single week or month views only. Clicking any task in the calendar views takes you right to the task! Nicely done!
Calendar View in bookplanner
You can only view the calendar or Gantt chart for one book project at a time, which is probably a good thing. Even individual projects can get pretty complicated. Both the Calendar and Gantt charts open just above the master task list, so you can easily shift between views by simply scrolling down the page.
The paint isn’t even dry on bookplanner, so some minor issues are to be expected. The software will be improved as it gets used and receives feedback. The issues below are things that directly impact the functionality of the software. I’d expect them to be fixed asap:
Edit/Delete To Do Items – Any “To Do List” items you manually add to a project cannot be renamed or removed. You also can’t set the due date or duration for them, as there’s no edit/delete button!
Task Ordering with To Do Items – The available templates are nice, but they can be limiting. If they don’t include steps that you use, you can manually add them as To Do Items within the functional area, but they are segregated from the main task list. There is no way to ‘insert’ your tasks into the chain of events.
For example, if you do a third round of edit/revisions instead of two, that is not an option included in any of the templates. Adding those tasks as To Do Items won’t affect the timeline of that section. And you have no control over the time for manually added “to do” items, as I mentioned previously. There is also no way to insert your “to do” items between other tasks.
Furthermore, there is no way to arrange the order of your own To Do Items. If you want to see them in order in the project then you’ll need to enter them in REVERSE order, as each new item entered goes on top of the list.
Task Dependency Is Not Enforced – I was able to mark tasks as completed when they still had unfinished prerequisite tasks. For example, I was able to check off the “Final Interior Proofread” when none of the other interior tasks were complete. In some cases, I was able to ‘break’ the Gantt chart view by doing this.
It makes more sense to me for a warning or question to pop up, or perhaps auto-complete previous tasks in the dependency, or grey out the option to complete tasks which have unfinished prerequisites.
Achievements To Unlock
Here are some areas where bookplanner could improve their already awesome product.
Google Drive Integration and/or File Storage – Currently bookplanner does not have any kind of file storage. You can’t add any kind of files to the project. You can’t even graphics to the notes section. This is almost a deal-breaker for me. I want a system which manages the entire book project in one place, ideally storing all the project files, including every revision, every word doc, every version of the cover art, every updated version of the epub. Worst case, bookplanner could connect to Google Drive’s API, and save links to the files stored on google drive.
Cost Tracking – There are no tools I know of that will let you do publishing project management AND allow you to track expenses. The first person to make that tool for book publishing is going to hit gold. These are the questions it should answer: How much will this book cost me to publish? Where did I spend all that money? Where can I find areas to reduce cost on future publications?
Google Calendar Integration – Would be nice to have book project calendars sync to google calendar so I could see where I’m at in the projects without logging into bookplanner.
Personal Service Provider Database – The Partner Referrals section is nice, but not editable. I work with my own group of editors, reviewers, two different crit teams, street team, etc, and it would be ideal to be able to store these contacts within bookplanner and select them for the relevant tasks for easy access.
Edit/Crit/Reviewer Integration – Sending manuscripts out for crit, then collecting the crit, then revising the manuscript is a pain. Same with editors/artists and their revision files. Same with ARCs and beta readers. Same with reviews and bloggers. Much of that pain could be remedied by a system which allows external collaborators to upload their critiques/artwork/reviews/etc., right into the book project.
Distributor Integration – Dreaming here, but once the file integration is in place, it’s a button-press away from uploading the finished files to createspace, ingram spark, lightning source, smashwords, etc.
Community Forums – The task-specific ,expert guidance and related info sections are nice, but they won’t answer all questions. There is definitely some value in having a community resource to fall back on.
Service Provider Ratings and Reviews – There are many service providers out there. So many, that I’d like to see reviews on them, preferably by people who have used their services. The ability to add service providers manually and rate their services within Bookplanner would be very helpful.
Analytics and Reports – I’d like to see how my finished projects stack up against other metrics. Which section of the publishing process took me the longest? How fast did I publish this book compared to my previous books? Compared to other bookplanner users? Compared to the industry average? This data would become more useful/meaningful as I completed more and more projects to get more accurate baselines. With that kind of reporting, I could work on tightening my process, and make my publishing business more efficient.
Overall Review of Bookplanner
The software just went live on Monday, but I can already tell that Bookplanner will be an absolute dream for self-publishers. Bookplanner is like hiring a project manager’s assistant for your book publishing project.
Bookplanner makes creating a book publishing plan impossibly easy. Tell it what kind of project you’re working on, and when you want to start. Give it a name and push a button. Bookplanner creates a task list, expert guidance, links to related articles, links to service providers, and puts all the tasks on the calendar with due dates. You won’t find a VA to do that for you at $5.99 a month. I used to do this all myself with free project management software, but bookplanner will save me a ton of time, which makes it well worth the price to me. (Especially since I’m tracking seven book projects at once!)
Hats off to the web designers. Bookplanner works great with touchscreen or a mouse, on tablet or smarphone. The interface is clean, responsive and intuitive. Everything is just a click or a scroll away, from big picture Gantt chart to the task details. The software is available as a web-based service only. There is no app or standalone software.
Bookplanner may not be for everyone. It will not store files of any kind, and it does not provide reporting. Some of the value of Bookplanner is in the advice and resources. If you already have a working publishing plan and don’t need advice/resources, then you’d only be using Bookplanner as a task list/calendar/gantt chart and it may not have as much value for you.
Those who want to do things differently may be frustrated by the templates (which must be used, and cannot be adjusted, with the exception of task durations) You can add your own ‘to do’ items, but you cannot make your own custom plan by choosing tasks à la carte. But, with over 35 years of publishing experience and over a thousand articles on the subject, the team behind Bookplanner know what it takes to put a book together. I personally like the fact that someone who knows the path to book publishing has provided a well-tested plan for getting there.
Bookplanner is just starting out, and I know that it will grow and improve as more author/publishers use the tool and provide feedback.
Bookplanner Charter Member Pricing Ends Dec 14th
Bookplanner was just released on Dec 7th, and they are offering charter memberships at the guaranteed lowest price of $5,99 per month until Dec 14th. (Less than that, if you pay yearly.) These reduced rates are guaranteed for life to charter members, regardless of future price increases.
For just a few bucks a month, I’d say if you plan on taking a book from the rough draft stage to published stage, bookplanner is well worth the price.
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”0990815765″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/514loVdSQL.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”313″]Joy to the Worlds is a delightful collection of eight Holiday-Season-Themed Speculative Fiction stories written by four authors.
Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak and G. Clemans serve up an entertaining variety of dark fiction, science fiction, mystery and fantasy stories to spice up your holiday season!
From The Publisher
What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!
This collection stars four authors, each with their own distinct style. National bestselling author Maia Chance, who is famous for her cozy mysteries, dazzles with humor and folklore. IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science. Science fiction & fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past. And for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.
Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds.
Review of Joy to the Worlds
Wild Hunt by Janine A. Southard
An undead detective solves a supernatural murder mystery in this western-flavored dark fantasy. Would have loved some illustrations with this, the world was as interesting as the story itself.
Escape From Old Yorktown by G. Clemans
A quaint Victorian village is not what it seems in Escape From Old Yorktown. This Y/A dystopian tale, blends M Night Shamalyan’s The Village with The Hunger Games and The Twilight Zone. Revolution! Secret Societies! Hidden knowledge uncovered by those darned kids! Great reveals at the end make this story worth the read.
Odysseus Flax and the Krampus by Maia Chance
Yes, that Krampus. Now that Hollywood has discovered Krampus, it’s safe for Americans to recognize that KRAMPUS IS A THING, but I digress. Odysseus Flax and the Krampus has it all – great writing, a snappy pace, great characters, and small-but-clever twists. It’s like your favorite Holiday Cookie – short and sweet, and leaves you wanting more.
Ol’ St. Nick by Raven Oak
Holiday murder mystery… in space! Think Santa Claus vs the Martians crossed with Firefly and a dash of The Sopranos. The pace was like my ex, a little too fast and loose, but still enjoyable.
Bevel and Turn by G. Clemans
A time-traveling Christmas toy and a terrible family curse are at the center of Bevel and Turn. I really enjoyed the awkward, Y/A protagonist, and the relationship angle was well done.
Death Node by Janine A. Southard
This time-traveling cop adventure left me feeling a bit disjointed, but I imagine that’s what time travel does. Would do. Could have done. Ahem. Death Node was smartly written, showing the repeating effects of changing things in the past. Reminded me of The Butterfly Effect, but in a good way.
The Ringers by Raven Oak
A young magician and her family pass through a dead forest and get trapped in an even deader town in The Ringers. Although our hero’s fledgling magical abilities are no match for an evil necromancer, she won’t stop until the town is free from the “Ringers,” bell-ringing horrors who are anything but jolly as they search the town for a different kind of Christmas spirit.
I loved the ideas in this story. Raven Oak really managed to turn holiday traditions on their heads.
Mr. and Mrs. Mistletoe by Maia Chance
My favorite of the stories, Mr. and Mrs. Mistletoe is a hilarious cross between Fido and The Jetsons. This retro/future mystery sends a prudish town librarian out of her routine life to solve the disappearance of the town’s prized scepter. (For medicinal purposes, natch.) Quality writing and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, mixed with some clever jabs at society -isms. Not nearly long enough.
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”B012EI9M4A” locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/41YjDU7S1AL.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”337″]Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin is an exciting new novel in the Grimdark genre. Spectacular fight scenes, wonderful world-building, and an interesting plot all add up to a dark fantasy story you won’t want to miss!
From the Publisher:
The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.
When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?
For such a small movie, Ant-Man carries a lot of weight.
As someone who grew up on a steady diet of Marvel comics, it’s hard not to be a fan of the Marvel series of movies. The latest entry, Ant-Man, did not disappoint. In fact, it had all the light-hearted, actiony fun of Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney would be proud.
But as someone who enjoys (and writes) kick-ass heroines in my fiction, it’s hard not to be ticked off at Marvel (and DC, and Hollywood in general) for leaving the ladies on the back burner. Sure, Black Widow, Rogue, Storm, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, et al. are definitely included, and they do kick ass, but by now it’s blatantly obvious they are in supporting-roles-only, and they don’t get their own movies.
Fans have been begging DC for a Wonder Woman movie for over a decade now. Instead Warner Bros coughed up Catwoman. And Marvel isn’t helping.
Full Disclosure: Abra Staffin-Wiebe is a fellow member of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group, and I made a contribution to her mothers treatment (see below for details) and in return Abra wrote a bit-character appearance of me into the story. Some links in this article are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!
A Circus Of Brass And Bone is the first novel by author Abra Staffin-Wiebe, publishing under Abra SW. The story takes place in post-Civil War America, in a world without electricity. Rather, Fire Aether powers anything that isn’t run by the low tech of steam. This alternate reality is filled with strange and wonderful inventions like Bone aether (for healing wounds), and aether-powered-mechanical war elephants.
The Loyale Travelling Circus and Menagerie is at sea when they discover their ringmaster murdered, (by one of their own) which is the least of their problems. An apocalyptic aether storm rolls across the world, and the story begins with Chapter One: Everyone Dies.
When the circus docks in Boston, they discover a third of the population has been wiped out, crops are tainted and most aether technology devices are ruined or unstable at best. People are showing symptoms of exposure to the aether storm and what exactly is making all that noise in the woods?
Crossing a steampunk (aetherpunk?) version of The Stand with Carnivàle, A Circus Of Brass And Bone is a rag-tag exploration and adventure by a cast of colorful circus characters in an alternate reality turned upside-down by calamity and devastation.
“In such desperate times, what use is a circus?” [Read more…]
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”160″ identifier=”B00XMCQYC6″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/41ILlziAsoL.SL160.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”109″]If you’re looking for a quick, dark, well-writ-read, look no further. My sister in darkness, Carole Lanham (USA Today Bestselling author of The Reading Lessons) is re-releasing her awesome collection of short stories – The Whisper Jar.
The revised version of The Whisper Jar includes creepy pictures and a new cover which out-creepifies the old cover, and that is no small task.
Review of The Whisper Jar
The following is an excerpt from my original review:
The Whisper Jar blends dark and sometimes paranormal situations into the really-real everyday world with clever writing, an Edgar Allen Poe sensibility, and a splash of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. Carole Lanham writes in her own carefree but intuitive voice. Audiences will slip into these short stories as easily as they would a warm bath, only to be surprised at how quickly the waters deepen. Those looking for a variety of dark character studies, whimsical situations and disturbing relationship dynamics will enjoy The Whisper Jar.
While wandering the AWP Conference, I met Amy Quale from Wise Ink, a Minneapolis-based business offering creative and publishing services to independent authors.
One of the tools Wise Ink is using to promote their business is a beginners-level book titled “Social Media Secrets for Authors ” written by Wise Ink founders/editors Dara Beevas and Amy Quale. The book covers “The Big Four” of author social media: Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. If you’re an author who is just starting out, and don’t have these four social mediums locked down, then I highly recommend this book. It has action plan checklists, ideas for blog posts, and is essential ‘Social Media 101’ for new authors. [Read more…]