Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
Expected publication: January 26th 2016 by Broadway Books 

A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world--or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn't sure she's still got what it takes to be the hero.

City of Stairs was a remarkable book, a multi-genre crossover success that was impressive in both scope and range, with strong characters, an even stronger mythology, and some inventive conflicts and action sequences. I'm really looking forward to seeing where Bennett takes the story next!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Eroticism of the Vampire by Elizabeth Donald (GUEST POST)

There’s a moment early in the horror film The Devil’s Advocate where Al Pacino is literally breathing down Charlize Theron’s neck.

He’s encouraging her to wear her hair up and expose her lovely neck. The neck, he says, is the battleground between the mind and the body.

He’s clearly macking on her. And he is the devil. Just so we’re clear. But he’s not wrong: the neck is a highly erogenous zone for many people, and maybe it’s the battleground between mind and body, but when a vampire starts snacking, the body usually wins.

The eroticism of the vampire is a trope going all the way back to its origins. Its more modern incarnations as teen heartthrob may have caused horror purists to throw fits, but the vampire as tragic romantic, the vampire as a creature of the heart, the vampire as a monster borne of sexuality – this is nothing new.

The most famous, of course, is our good friend the Count. As many have observed, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was brimming with sexual energy. The three weird sisters who “go to their knees” for Jonathan Harker are not nuns, folks. It’s fairly obvious in classy Victorian language that the vampire’s hold over Lucy and Mina is a sexual one, and the romances between humans and vampires have persisted throughout their literary history.

In fact, if you want to get deep in the English-lit weeds, you can pretty much track the eroticism of the vampire by the sexual freedom of the era in which it appears – the more buttoned-down the society, the less sexual its imaginary monster. A highly erotic vampire for the Victorian era, though the vampire of the Roaring Twenties was pretty much a monster – no one sought to do anything with Nosferatu but run away, quickly. Later incarnations of Dracula into the 1950s were definitely stumbling efforts into sexual control – the creature uses mind control to force you into his will, so you might be enjoying it, but it’s not your fault. It’s the perfect monster for a frustrated era.

By the time Stephen King wrote Salem’s Lot, he had intentionally jettisoned most of the sexual angle. It was the sexual revolution, as he wrote in Danse Macabre, and with free love abounding through the 1960s into the 70s, he felt as though “the sexual engine that powered (Dracula) had pretty much run out of gas.”

Of course, when King wrote that in 1980, he could not have predicted the AIDS epidemic, and other sociological factors that brought the sexual revolution back to a buttoned-down, just-say-no era. And we see the rise of Anne Rice’s brooding vamps of New Orleans, of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake in sexual thrall to a host of vampires, and Buffy gets to work with the stake as the works of Charlaine Harris and Sherrilyn Kenyon continue to sell like the proverbial hotcakes, to say nothing of the Twilight phenomenon.

The sexual nature of the vampire also makes it fun to write. Anything can kill you, but a monster that can seduce you? Conversely, the manner in which the vampire is created – in most versions of the folklore, of course – give rise to their own dramatic license. A vampire was once human, after all, and often retains a bit of that human’s personality, memory and consciousness. I quite enjoyed delving into the vampire as conflicted – not brooding, necessarily, or complaining about being cursed by awesomeness, but both drawn to humans and instinctively seeing them as food.

For better or worse, the vampire is the most sexual of creatures. He controls your mind as well as your body, and he will give you pleasure as he takes what he wants, and you can derive all the disturbing psychological inference from that as you might wish. But there is a reason why he persists in our imaginations, enduring as werewolves and zombies and ghosts (oh my) come and go as horror trends. He is the creature that taps into dark desires, and sometimes, the mind simply cannot overpower them.


About the Author

Elizabeth Donald is a writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturnal Urges vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. In her spare time, she… has no spare time.

Find out more about her at elizabethdonald.com.

Twitter:  @edonald


About the Book

Nocturne Infernum
By Elizabeth Donald

Nocturne Infernum includes the original three chapters in the Nocturnal Urges series, an alternate version of present-day Memphis in which vampires walk among us, but are not treated as our equals. They work the night shift, the jobs no one else wants, and they're not too happy about it. Meanwhile, humans take advantage of the pleasures vampires can provide, but call them friends? Lovers? The gap between human and vampire stretches wide as death rises in the streets of Memphis.

Nocturnal Urges. It's the most popular club in the Memphis nightlife. Part legal bordello, part feeding ground for the city's vampires, Nocturnal Urges offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. It's the ultimate addiction: both drug and sex at once. For the vampires, it's the only way to survive in a world where the creatures of the night are a dark underclass, ignored until the humans need another fix.

Into this world comes Isabel Nelson, a young woman seeking only a night's pleasure. But after Isabel's lover takes her to try the bite, she cannot stop thinking about Ryan, the dark vampire with whom she shared her lifeblood - and who is now suspected of murder. Isabel falls into a world where passion and love are miles apart, where life and unlike have little meaning... and someone is hunting in the shadows.

A More Perfect Union. Samantha Crews has lived a long time in the shadows of Memphis, working at Nocturnal Urges and hiding from the vampires that darken her past.

Det. Anne Freitas is stuck with a new partner, a young woman with a chip on her shoulder. Now they're assigned to investigate a series of threats against congressional candidate Robert Carton, for whom Samantha volunteers.

But Samantha is falling for Danny Carton, the candidate's son - an idealist who wants to make life better for humans and vampires alike. But there's a lot Danny doesn't know about Samantha.

He doesn't know she's a vampire.

He doesn't know she works at Nocturnal Urges.

He doesn't know his own father is one of her clients.

And he doesn't know what's stalking her...

Abaddon. The Lady Zorathenne requests the honor of your presence at a celebration. A toast, if you will. Followed by a feast.

Beneath the dark Memphis streets, something is stirring. Filled with ancient fury. Seeking revenge on the ones who live above. A revenge born in fire.

The fires are ranging in Memphis and no one is safe. Ryan and Samantha must descend into darkness beyond their imagining to find answers to the mysteries of the past, as Detectives Freitas and Parker seek the truth about the present.

And the return of an old foe could make the future a dark place indeed... save for the flames of Abaddon.


Tour Schedule and Activities
9/28/2015 The Den of Debauchery's Garden Gazebo Guest Post
Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
Book in the Bag Author Interview
Shells Interviews Guest Post
Come Selahway With Me Author Interview
Armand Rosamilia, Author Guest Post
Bee's Knees Reviews Review
Deal Sharing Aunt Author Interview
I Smell Sheep Review

Saturday, September 26, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

A huge week in the Ruins with some great guest posts, a giveaway that's open all weekend, an exciting early review, and some cool new additions to the shelves . . .

Breaking Myths and Religious Fables guest post & giveaway by Kristi Charish

You Don’t Want to Read This Book guest post by Lesley Conner

Horror Review of Voices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde

Scarecrows guest post by Brick Marlin

The Spectre of Undeath guest post by Peter Welmerink


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.


2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Earth is no longer humanity's only home, and the woman who designed miracles of engineering on an unprecedented scale will be led into a plot to destroy these new worlds

Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice
Set in eighteenth-century Italy, this is the story of the exquisite and otherworldly sopranos who are revered as idols and, at the same time, scorned for all they are not

The Eye Of Heaven by Clive Cussler
The Fargos discover a Viking ship in the Arctic ice, filled with pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico, setting them on the trail of a thousand-year-old mystery

For Review:

New Megiddo Rising by Lars Teeney
America has become a theocracy where order is kept using the technology of the [Virtue-Net] and where the disenfranchised masses are one step closer to all-out rebellion

The Last Exodus by Paul Tassi
As Earth lies in ruins following an extraterrestrial invasion, a hardened survivor will join forces with traitorous alien scientist and a captured merciless raider to escape to the stars


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley is proving to be an absolutely perfect follow-up to the first book in the saga . . . which is precisely the same kind of outcome I'm hoping for with Owl and the City of Angels by Kristi Charish!

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Breaking Myths and Religious Fables by Kristi Charish (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

Breaking Myths and Religious Fables:
AKA How I write a novel
by Kristi Charish

Like most authors out there I loved stories from a very young age, particularly myths of the Eastern European variety (thank a Ukrainian heritage and monsters that actually eat the children). One of the things I loved about the myths (besides the fear induced from cannibalistic witches eating children) was how they would morph and change depending on the author or even the country/region the story originated from. In a lot of ways, myths and legends are tapestries that reflect the distinct population and community who are doing the telling.

When I was finally introduced to religion in an academic sense through public school, I saw more similarities in the deities and biblical characters with myths than I saw differences. In fact, most religions that survive today share similar plot threads with myths that reflect the things that often preoccupy our minds, such as death, greater purpose, and a perceived struggle between good vs evil.

As I’ve moved from scientist to author though, the thing that has really struck me is how plastic the details in religious fable, myths, and legends are. Characters and plots change depending on who is telling the tale. Whether the stories are Christian, Hebrew, Islamic, or tales that pre-date modern religion, the archetype characters are often the same but the details and origins change. A great example of this is Saint Moses from Abyssinia, who depending on who you ask is portrayed as everything from impoverished saint to a fleeing Ethiopian prince, an escaped Egyptian slave and thief. It all depends on which legend you consult. This morphing nature of myths and legends is a theme I’ve embraced in all my writing, taking both modern and ancient religious characters from fables and warping them to suit my tale.

The best yarns are routed in a grain of truth.

Why do I find myself preying so much upon common themes in mythical stories? For one, I love the transformative aspect of writing. But more importantly, the best stories (and lies, the line is very grey) are routed in grains of truth. Whether it’s reimagining the legend of King Solomon or the origins of Dier Dar Musa, the mysterious Syrian Monastery of Moses the Abyssinian, or even taking famous mythological characters such as Hermes and placing them in a modern setting, if it’s done well it pulls your readers in. Our reading noses respond to something that smells familiar.

All my stories have involved setting myths and religion on their heads. Besides adding to the fabric of a story, I think this remolding does something else; it makes us rethink the purpose of these legends and fables and gives them a modern resonance. Myths and legends are plastic by nature, and when they’re forced to maintain their shape they stagnate (many a biblical story comes to mind) and risk loosing their relevance and cultural appeal. In my mind that’s a sure fire way to kill a story, and it strikes me as incredibly tragic. (Marauding armies and dissenting peasants throughout history also have a fantastic record killing off stories, and are still doing so spectacularly in modern times).

Will feathers be ruffled by some of my reimagining? My version of King Solomon and the origin of a particular Syrian temple might very well, but I think more than anything it’ll get people to think and ask questions, which is always one of my goals…

Well, that and tomb raids/snake chases. Can’t have enough of those.

I want to leave off thanking Bob for having me back on Beauty in Ruins. For those out there not in the know, I don’t think there is another blogger out there who hosts as many Canadians as Bob, and he deserves a huge round of applause…

It likely has something to do with the fact that Bob is in fact a manifestation of Thoth, the displaced Egyptian deity of writing. Currently waiting out his banishment from the Nile in our tumultuous times for failing to embrace the new alphabets (he always preferred hieroglyphs- possibly a miscalculation and mistake in retrospect), Thoth-Bob found his way to the East coast of Canada where he’s set himself up as the watcher of writers in his adopted homeland (Even though they don’t use hieroglyphs- still a point of contention). Diminished in- though never absent of – his mythical power, Thoth-Bob’s temple now consists of the internet platform you see here, Beauty in Ruins, where he grants authors what influence over the writing world he still wields.

But like all Gods, Thoth-Bob is fickle and tempestuous in his praise…Beware the angering of Thoth-Bob at your peril…

And make sure to sacrifice bacon.

I have it from the ever-reliable Facebook that Thoth-Bob accepts bacon as an offering for his favours, preferably maple smoked.

But not Tim Horton’s - NEVER Tim Horton’s. The great and mighty Thoth-Bob does not appreciate the soup and sandwich line-ups when they should only be selling donuts….


About the Author

Kristi Charish is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Simon & Schuster), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment in the Owl series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Oct 5th 2015, and the third and fourth installments, OWL AND THE ELECTRIC SAMURAI, and OWL AND THE TIGER THIEVES, will be released in 2016 and 2017. THE VOODOO KILLINGS, book 1 in her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, is out May 10th, 2016.

Kristi is also the Canadian co-hosting half of the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast and has a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.


About the Book

Owl and the City of Angels
by Kristi Charish

The wild second adventure for unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world—from the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish. For fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and the like.

Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, international antiquities thief for hire, is settling into her new contract job for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon with a penchant for ancient, supernatural artifacts. And now he has his sights set on some treasures of the mysterious Syrian City of the Dead that are sitting in a recluse’s private collection.

There’s just one wrinkle. To stop the resurrection of an undead army that could wreak havoc on Los Angeles, Owl must break into a heavily guarded archaeological sight in one of the most volatile regions in the world. A detour through Libya and a run-in with Somali pirates sends the clock ticking hastily toward total paranormal disaster.

Meanwhile, Alexander and the Paris vampires have stopped stalking Owl’s apartment, but they have by no means forgotten their death grudge against her. To top everything off, Owl finds out the hard way that there is nothing heavenly about the City of Angels...


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 24, 2015

You Don’t Want to Read This Book by Lesley Conner (GUEST POST)

You Don’t Want to Read This Book
by Lesley Conner

You want to tell everyone when your first novel is published. Shove a shiny new copy in the hands of every person who happens to pass by you and declare, “I wrote this! This is my book!” It’s exciting and an incredibly big deal. For most writers I know – myself included – when you first start putting words to paper you have no idea whether or not it will ever see the light of publication. I would say for most new writers, when we begin our first novel, we’re certain that it will not be published. I mean, think of the odds. Do you know how many people out there have written, are currently writing, or have started to write a novel? Tons! So you finish your novel (that’s the first hurdle), then talk yourself into submitting it (second hurdle), AND a publisher accepts it… Yeah, that’s special and it’s normal to want to share it with everyone.

But before you get to that point, it’s also normal to hand a first or second draft off to a friend or family member and ask their opinion. You need cheerleaders to get you over that first hurdle, someone to tell you that you’re on the right path, to keep going, but that chapters 3 and 21 really need more work. (You don’t want cheerleaders who are going to tell you everything is great if it isn’t.)

This is exactly what I did with my novel The Weight of Chains; I sent it to a few friends who seemed interested in reading it. The Weight of Chains is an alternative history horror novel inspired by the crimes of a nobleman named Gilles de Rais. It is violent and graphic, and sort of clashes with the stay-at-home mom/Girl Scout leader part of my life. So when the topic of my novel inevitably comes up during play dates or dinners with my friends, I hear one phrase over and over. “Lesley’s novel is really good, but you don’t want to read it.” The friend who had read the book wears a shocked, kind of guarded look on their face, and I can almost hear the voice in their head whispering, “I let Lesley watch my kids. Is this really a good idea?” My other friend who hasn’t read the book yet replies, “It’s okay. I like horror. I want to read it.” And thus the cycle continues.

My husband keeps suggesting that I post a link to Gilles de Rais’s Wikipedia page on my Facebook account so that our family and friends will realize that I didn’t make up all of the horrible things I wrote in The Weight of Chains. That way, if someone says anything I can point to the link. Sort of a “It wasn’t me, he did it,” reaction.

My mom goes as far as telling family members not to read The Weight of Chains. “We’d really appreciate if you bought a copy, but don’t read Lesley’s book.” I’m not sure if she’s afraid that I’ll suddenly be banned from family functions or that my immediate family will be stricken from all family wills, but thanks, Mom.

Every time any of these happen, I smile sheepishly and nod my understanding. The Weight of Chains isn’t a book for everyone and that’s okay. But the more it happens, the more I begin to wonder if there is something wrong with my book, if there’s something wrong with me.

In my day job, I’m the managing editor of Apex Publications. One of my duties is to set up reviews and guest posts for our upcoming releases. As a result, I have good working relationships with several book bloggers/reviewers. Total score in the “It’s time to market my own novel” game. A few weeks before the release of The Weight of Chains, I started reaching out to reviewers who I’ve known for years, explaining that my debut novel was coming out and asking if they would be interested in a review copy. While writing these emails I found myself inserting lines like, “Not to discourage you, but I do want to warn you that my novel is…..” What?!? What was I doing? Now, not only were my friends and family warning people away from my book, but I was doing it. The whole point of being a writer and having your novel published is for people to buy it and read it and love it and share it with all their friends. That is not going to happen if I’m putting bright yellow CAUTION tape across every copy out there.

I’m proud of The Weight of Chains, so don’t read it. I’m excited to share it with readers and I hope that a lot of them love it, so don’t read it. It is violent and graphic and, yes, it deals with a topic that is still considered taboo by most writers, even in horror, so don’t read it.

I am certain that there will be people who hate my novel because of the topic and because of my refusal to soften what happened to Gilles de Rais’s victims, both in real life and in my book. I am certain, either through reviews or through social media, they will make sure I know they hated it. And that’s fine. People are allowed to not like it. As I said before, it isn’t for everyone. But what I’m really looking forward to is the people who love it. The person who shouts on Twitter, “ZOMG!! Just read The Weight of Chains by @LesleyConner. It’s amazing. Go read it NOW!” and gives me that first experience where someone isn’t saying “You don’t want to read this book,” but is instead saying, “Read this book!”


About the Author

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel.

To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.


About the Book

The Weight of Chains
by Lesley Conner

Gilles de Rais has control over every aspect of his life: the servants he employs, the village he lords over, the carefully crafted visage he shows to the world. He dictates where his subjects live, what they eat, if they live or die. He has ultimate power and wields it with a flourish to conceal the dark desires that lurk behind his smile and the despair within his castle in Machecoul.

When a wizard tasked with raising a demon loses control of the beast, Gilles's tight grasp on his world begins to slip. His cook plans to flee, taking her son away from the dangers of the castle. His guard wants to claim Gilles’s lifestyle as his own. His wizard frantically searches for a way to survive both his lord and the demon he has called into the world. And the villagers – like Jeanetta and her family – move through life in Machecoul too consumed with the task of surviving day to day, and oblivious to the turmoil building within the castle that is threatening to break out and consume them all.

Debut author Lesley Conner brings medieval Europe to life with a tale of evil battling evil. With a ruthless master and a demon wreaking havoc, no one in Machecoul can get through life without bearing The Weight of Chains.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Horror Review: Voices of the Damned by Barbie Wilde

Blasphemous and perverse, equal parts horrific and erotic, Voices of the Damned is as compelling as it is disturbing. While other authors may be equally adept at getting their hooks into the reader, Barbie Wilde has that rare literary talent to be able to twist the chains, to drive those hooks even deeper . . . and to make the reader cry out for more.

Sister Cilice serves as a fitting introduction, inspired as it is by her most famous role - the Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Here, Wilde explores the erotic, blasphemous descent of a masturbatory nun, and introduces us to the making of a Cenobite, painfully eager to take her place in Hell.
“Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain. Glorified be pain!” They are the only words that can still make her laugh.
Zulu Zombies is maybe the best zombie story I've ever come across, mixing a classic bit of historical horror with a very modern (and sexual spin) on the slow-moving monster. It's dark and twisted, with a great sense of atmosphere.

American Mutant is a gleefully chilling tale of power and corruption, secrets and lies, as a church charlatan comes face-to-face with true power . . . which he exploits to the world's horror. If you thought Damien and Regan were chilling, wait until you meet this kid.

The Alpdrücke is a shorter tale, based in German folklore, with a very Twilight Zone type twist. They say the devil is in the details, and it's those seemingly innocuous details that make this work. Nightmarish and laced with dread.

Valeska is one of two stories new to the collection, an original twist on the vampire mythos that strips it of its spiritual elements, making it instead a cannibalistic matter of survival, pitting Sanguine vs Seminal in an age-old rivalry.
"Necrophilia is so good for the soul, even if you don’t have one."
The Cilicium Pandoric continues the story of Sister Cilice and introduces a feminist twist to the tale of the Cenobites as she requisitions a new Pandoric box, designed specifically to recruit the darkest and most depraved of female victims.

Gaia was one of the more surprising tales in the collection, with a pair of disaffected youths picking the wrong house (and the wrong woman) to rob. As much as they wanted to get inside that panic room, they probably wish the door had remained locked. Insanity has never been so much fun.

Polyp is pure Bizarro horror, a disgusting tale of infection, infiltration,and invasion from within - literally. I'm not sure I've ever read anything so horrible as the endoscopic camera being forced out of Vincent's anus quickly enough to burn the doctor's hands. Disgustingly imaginative.

Botophobia was the lone soft spot in the collection, a tale with some nice atmosphere and a few genuine chills, but one that's a little too predictable to be effective.

Writer’s Block was absolutely brilliant, a darkly twisted and shockingly humorous twist on the Misery of psychotic fans, but with a demonic twist. Probably the most genuinely terrifying tale in the collection.
Why suffer a life of misery and enslavement to a woman-hating God of the Christians when you could give yourself to a fallen angel?
The Cilicium Rebellion is the other new story here, a fitting conclusion to both the collection and the story of Sister Cilice. The nun has fallen, she's converted her new sisters, and now it's time for a war of the sexes deep within the bowels of Hell.

Barbie Wilde's most famous role may have revealed something dark within her soul, but its in Voices of the Damned that the darkness takes root, spreads its arms, and embraces a new audience. It's not just a collection that's shocking and obscene, however, but one that's imaginative, meaningful, and exceptionally well-written.

Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: October 31st 2015 by Short, Scary Tales Publications

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Scarecrows by Brick Marlin (GUEST POST)

by Brick Marlin

An object, usually made to resemble a human figure, set up to scare birds away from a field where crops are growing.
a person who is very badly dressed, odd-looking, or thin.
an object of baseless fear*.

*(Internet definition of scarecrows)

Scarecrows not only frighten crows and sparrows, their glowing silhouette under a moonlit night portrays an eeriness to any passerby’s. Almost as if the artificial humanoid would detach itself from its wooden cross and began lurking around in the field. Since movies, made for television and cinema, have been developed about this odd, man-made creature it has helped surface fear for the viewer.

But what about the scarecrow in L Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz?” Nope. No fear found here. An opposite approach for the viewer, leaving one to smile as Baum’s scarecrow dances a jig on the yellow brick road, has a goofy personality, and is in search of a brain.

However, Johnathan Crane’s portrayal of the scarecrow in “Batman Begins” is far from goofy, returning to the fear we all know and relate to when hearing of one of these man-made humanoids in horror.

And the series “Supernatural” had a pagan god known as the Vanir which resided in an ancient tree brought to the U. S. by Scandinavian immigrants. Each year the people of Burkitsville, Indiana present a young man and woman as a sacrifice to ensure the prosperity of their town and crops. The god inhabits the form of a scarecrow made from the body of its previous victims and murders using a hooked blade.

In summary, scarecrows can definitely be dreadful-looking creatures displayed on a wooden cross, or posing as an innocent yard decoration. Could the idea of yard decorations suddenly come to life, perhaps infested with servo units, designed to kill their owners in their sleep? Each scarecrow choosing their buyer by telepathic transmission? Each scarecrow intending on murdering, forcing the world into apocalyptic terror?

Huh…maybe there’s a story there.


About the Author

Brick Marlin has been writing since he was a child. From an early age he was exposed to older horror movies. The great ones making their mark in history. He also tackled reading the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Dean Koontz, Charles Dickens, Harper Lee, H.G. Wells, etc. Thus, he decided to engage himself and write horror, dark fantasy and dark sci-fi, scaring readers such as his parents, his friends, neighbors, and even leaving a few school teachers scratching their heads wondering if the boy should be committed or not with his gruesome tales of terror. Short story ideas continued to visit. A book idea or two sometimes stopped by for a sit.

In 2007 he decided to take a more professional approach with his work. Hence, as a member of the Horror Writers Association, already having nine books published by small presses – this you hold in your hand, constant reader, makes his tenth –  nearly thirty short stories published, adding to the few anthologies and collaborations with other authors, Brick Marlin trudges onward, hoping to achieve more creations, wallowing in the brain pans of his characters, giving them the choice whether to twist the knob and enter through the Red Door, or enter through the Blue Door where a group of servo monkey badgers are consuming packages of cinnamon-flavored Pop Rock Candy with a Kung Fu Punch of caffeine.

Twitter: @BrickMarlin


About the Book

Shadow Out of the Sky
by Brick Marlin

A scarecrow crucified on a wooden cross made from a pair of two-by-fours sits in a field of corn, placed there to frighten away birds and protect the crops. Under its straw hat large buttons pose as its eyes, placed there by child’s fingers, view something sinister in the grave sky, appearing in front of the full moon.

Twisting, it forms into a sleek black mass, peering down upon the town of Woodbury. Four demons called The Reckoning has pulled this shadow, this urban legend from the past, out of an unmarked grave to bring terror across the planet, shoving it toward an apocalypse.

Now it cuts through the air, as if it were opening wounds in flesh, peering down at the first house that it hovers over...

Shadow Out of the Sky is Book One of the Transitional Delusions Series.


Tour Schedule and Activities

9/21 Erin Fanning Review
9/21 Wag the Fox Guest Post
9/22 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
Novel-ties Review
Armand Rosamilia, Author Guest Post
Deal Sharing Aunt Interview
fuonlyknew Review
L. Andrew Cooper's Horrific Scribblings Review
Bee's Knees Reviews Guest Post
Azure Dwarf Guest Post
Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top-Tens List

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Spectre of Undeath by Peter Welmerink (GUEST POST)

The Spectre of Undeath
by Peter Welmerink

Why does this whole zombie apocalypse thing appeal to us while often times scaring the beejeezuz out of us?

I was recently playing a 1-day video game demo of DEAD ISLAND: RIPTIDE, a zombie FPS (first-person shooter). I won’t go into the whole game setup or plot (because I just started it and am just going with the—blood—flow), but I started in the hold of a ship that is in peril. Klaxon alarms going off. Captain yelling over the intercom ABANDON SHIP. My character is by himself, only a crowbar in hand (that I found), and has to make his way up out of the hold and off the ship. The powers off except for the emergency lights and flashing red warning lights. All the big metal doors between rooms are sliding, grating on their hinges. Strange sounds are coming from the whole ship…though one cannot tell EXACTLY what they are.

I haven’t even run into one of the Undead, but I am biting my lip, palm sweaty on the mouse, fingers twitchy above the WASD keys.

I am buying this damn game because 1. It excites me, and 2. It is already scaring the shit out of me.

So what is the appeal of it all?

I think it is mainly about SURVIVAL.

Like any post-apoc or dystopian society storyline or situation, we want to see who survives, how the protagonist(s) survive, IF the protagonist survives. And definitely when you are up against the Undead, who are, well, pretty much dead already, how the hell do you survive that?

And you add that fear of being infected or afflicted or simply torn to shreds by sharp broken teeth and jagged broken fingernails…by a dozen or so pissed-off, flesh-hungry zombies…

Yeah, it’s damn unsettling.

And the bonus is, if you start searching through a lot of zombie-infested novels and movies, there is a slew to choose from and A LOT that ARE NOT the same take on the same old world-falls-zombie-eats-your-face-off.

You look at movies like I AM LEGEND and WORLD WAR Z. Different take on the Undead subject.

Books: Jack Wallen’s I ZOMBIE I, Armand Rosamalia’s DYING DAYS, Rob E Boley’s THAT RISEN SNOW…great writers, great experts on zombidom, all different takes on this whole Undeath subject. And those are just a few.

This crazy spectre of Undeath: it appeals to our need to see and read survival in a world populated by shambling, rotting horrors, to see how one survives and who will survive…while scaring the little brown pebbles out of us. Really, because one never knows if…

If we might just have to survive, some day, the Undead.

*evil laughter*


About the Author

Peter Welmerink was born and raised on the west side of pre-apocalyptic Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes Fantasy, Military SciFi, and other wanderings into action-adventure. His work has been published in ye olde wood pulp print and electronic-online publications. He is the co-author of the Viking berserker novel, BEDLAM UNLEASHED, written with Steven Shrewsbury. TRANSPORT is his first solo novel venture. He is married with a small barbarian tribe of three boys.


About the Book

Hunt for the Fallen
By Peter Welmerink

Captain Jacob Billet
Journal Entry - Sunday April 5, 2026

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the undead are roaring…

Amassed at the UCRA east end enclosure, the dead strain the fence line while soldiers keep watchful eyes, the survivors on the opposite side of the rising river about to lose their minds.

It’s a crazy time: nonstop precipitation; everyone's up in arms; paranoid city council members with an asshat City Treasurer. Water, water everywhere. Zees dropping into the churning drink. Troops afraid of being stitched up and thrown back into the fray as Zombie Troopers. Tank commanders getting itchy to head out on their own after drug-laden shamblers. Reganshire insurgents trying to extract our west side civvies for some unknown reason, possibly pushing the city into taking heavy-handed action against them.

Then there’s some black-haired dead dude staring at me through the fence, grinning like he’s off his meds.

And I thought Lettner was a headache.

All this sh*t might give me a heart attack.

Hunt for the Fallen is Transport Book Two.


Tour Schedule and Activities

9/21 A Work In Progress Interview
I Smell Sheep Guest Post
Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
shells interviews Guest Post
Book in the Bag Interview
Sheila Deeth Book Blog Guest Post
Bee's Knees Reviews Review
WebbWeaver Reviews Guest Post
Vampires, Witches, & Me Oh My Top Tens List
fuonlyknew Review
Coffintree Hill Guest Post
Armand Rosamilia, Author Guest Post

Saturday, September 19, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

A quiet week on the page with just a pair of reviews (don't worry - we've got 4 guests stopping by next week), but a busy one on the shelves . . .

Waiting on Wednesday with The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Sci-Fi Review of Husk by J. Kent Messum

Fantasy Review of The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.


Eyes of the Calculor by Sean McMullen

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

For Review:

The Zen of Zombie by Scott Kenemore

Kill by Numbers: In the Wake of the Templars by Loren Rhoads

The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies, Vol. 1 by Clark Ashton Smith

Bat Out of Hell by Alan Gold

The Weight of Chains by Lesley Conner


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

I made some good progress with Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey this week, and the events of Chapter 40 guarantee I'll be spending a lot of time with it this weekend. I'm still planning to dive into Crimson Shore by Preston & Child, but I also need to get started on Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley as it's going to be my first scheduled review for The Speculative Herald (but more on that soon).

What's topping your shelves this week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Expected publication: November 3rd 2015 by Scribner

A master storyteller at his best—the O. Henry Prize winner Stephen King delivers a generous collection of stories, several of them brand-new, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.

Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.

Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant reader—“I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”

As much as I like his classic doorstoppers, there's no doubt that King is at his finest when he's focused. His short stories and novellas are some of his best work, so I'm always keen to see a new collection. Some day, I would love to land an ARC of his work, but the fact is he doesn't really need my help. Not that I'll ever stop hoping! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sci-Fi Review: Husk by J. Kent Messum

Proving that he's not just a one-trick pony, and that Bait was no debut fluke, J. Kent Messum manages to successfully imbue an old science fiction trope with new life (pun intended) in Husk.

Set in a not-too-distant future, Husk finds humanity on the brink of self-annihilation. The people of the United States are downtrodden and depressed, victims of their own culture of consumerism, and living at the mercy of their creditors overseas. For 99% of people, it's a pretty grim time and place to suffer the indignity of existence. For the wealthiest 1%, however, there are quite literally no limits. As it turns out, all the conspiracies are true, and earth-shattering advances in areas like medicine and technology are available for those wealthy enough to afford them . . . and privileged enough to know they exist.

One of those new technologies is that of husking. In one of the greatest (and most quickly suppressed) breakthroughs of all time, scientists have found a way to completely map (and replicate) the human brain. This allows the very rich to have their consciousness downloaded to a computer, where they can live on in the virtual realities of their choosing. While they do have limited interaction with the world, even digital immortality isn't enough, and so husking was born. It's dangerous, it's expensive, and it's highly illegal, but for up to 72 hours at a time, the rich dead can hitch a ride, take control, and live life to its fullest. With no fear of death and no restraint, they push these temporary husks to their limits, indulging in anything from extreme sports, to wild orgies, to the kind of recreational drug use that makes Charlie Sheen look like a tee-totaling altar boy.

Rhodes is a husk, a new kind of whore for a new kind of future. He sells his body (quite literally) to men who want to use and abuse it. It's not a bad life - his contract prohibits lasting physical damage, and his clients provide the cures or detox treatments for whatever they put his body through - but it's beginning to take it's toll. Thoughts, images, and feelings are beginning to creep in on him, remnants of what his body was used to do while he lay dormant and unconscious. They're too brief and too fleeting to really explain anything, but they're enough to clue him into a deeper and more depraved conspiracy. When a dead husker begins invading those pseudo-dreams, and the faces in missing persons reports start triggering those mental spasms, he really begins to wonder if the rich really are playing by the rules of illegal husking.

Husk is a crazy, paranoid, trippy ride through one man's subconscious. We're never quite sure what he's seeing or what it all means, but we do share his suspicion of at least one client, and the prologue ensures we're already aware of the growing trend of huskers who have lost it, snapped, and gone psycho on complete strangers. To Messum's credit, although I guessed at a few twists, I did not see the biggest one coming, and certainly didn't anticipate the full ramifications of the depraved conspiracy. This is an uneasy, unrelenting, unsettling read, but one that insists you keep on following the clues. Along the way, Messum has a lot to say about our vanities, our addictions, and our own self-exploitation, putting a very dark social face on a very dark science fiction thriller.

If you were shocked by how far Bait pushed the limits, know that it's got nothing on Husk.

Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 30th 2015 by Penguin

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary paperback of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.