First Lines Friday – 22nd January 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines of the book I am currently reading

Maya was special, so her father said from the moment she was born. Of recent years it was far less common that a mother survived childbirth. Upon delivering, the bleeding so often wouldn’t stop, and where one life was given, another was too often taken away. Being with a child was now more a curse than a blessing, and what should have always been a joyous event for any couple, husband or wife, soon started to become a sentence of death. A husband knew that to gain a son or daughter was to often lose the mother, or if she survived, for her to be a pale shadow of her former self.


And The Book Is…

Kings & Daemons by Marcus Lee

This is the first book in Marcus Lee’s The Gifted and The Cursed trilogy.
I am less than a quarter into this book but I can honestly say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. Look for a full review here on my blog soon! The characters are really well described and very different to one another. I plan to also read book 2 in the trilogy, Tristan’s Folly before the third and final book in the series, The End of Dreams comes out next month.

Description

If you like fantasy tales of conquest, dark kings, daemonic heroes, and magic, you’ll love ‘Kings and Daemons’ by Epic Fantasy author, Marcus Lee. This is a spellbinding Dark Fantasy novel which will enchant you with its plot of ambition, revenge, love, and tragedy. What the gods give with one hand, they take away with the other, for if you are gifted, you shall also be cursed.

Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King, and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.
Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.
Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come. 

Amazon links:

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Daemons-Fantasy-Adventure-Gifted-Cursed-ebook/dp/B0896XKZQ2

US: www.amazon.com/Daemons-Fantasy-Adventure-Gifted-Cursed-ebook/dp/B0896XKZQ2


About the Author

Writing hasn’t always been my main hobby … but it has always been there, lurking in the shadows, serving me well when called upon.

As I look back over the years, I realise I was guilty of writing many short stories, as well as poetry, and I’d like to think, that even if they were never intended to be published, they were nonetheless warmly received by the intended recipients.

Then in 2019, I was inspired to write not just a short story, or poetry, but a book. Then, suddenly, one book turned into a trilogy and a labour of love, and it was a love I wanted to share with the world.

So, here we are. The pandemic that put my career in sport on hold also gave me the opportunity to lavish time on my alternative hobby, or if demand dictates my new career.

However, only you, the reader, will decide whether this trilogy which is still a work in progress, will be the first of many. I genuinely hope so.

Who knows, now these creatives juices are flowing, I might just keep on writing anyway.

Epic Fantasy has been my favourite genre since I first read The Odyssey and The Illiad by Homer as a seven-year-old. Now it’s my turn to see if I can bring another world to life in the imagination of others.

My website is www.marcusleebooks.com
You can contact me through my webpage with any feedback, on this, my debut book.


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Cover Reveal! The Well of Shadows by S.A. Klopfenstein – January 21st 2021

The Well of Shadows

Today in conjunction with Storytellers on Tour I am bringing you the much anticipated cover of the fourth book in the hugely popular Shadow Watch series by S. A. Klopfenstein – The Well of Shadows. Thank you to Justine and Timy for letting me join the cover reveal party! Due out on May 15th 2021, this YA Epic Fantasy follows on from The Shadow Watch, The Rage of Saints and The Darkling Queen. Add these three books to your goodreads ‘To Be Read’ list before the fourth instalment comes out!

As with the three previous installments in the Shadow Watch series, the cover of The Well of Shadows is illustrated by the highly talented Ömer Burak Önal whose work can be viewed here: https://www.artstation.com/equin0. And here it is…

Cover Illustration: Ömer Burak Önal ( https://www.artstation.com/equin0 )

I think you will agree with me that it is a beautifully illustrated, highly atmospheric cover with the mists swirling around! There is a definite epic fantasy feel to the design.


Book Description

On the brink of another War Between the Worlds…
The Gallows Girl will determine once and for all…
If magic will save the world or bring it to ruin.

Reeling from the events in the Ruined Empire, Tori must rally her few loyal followers to
save her friends and face foes on two fronts. The Darkling Queen has sentenced
Mischa to death in a bold attempt to lure Tori into a trap. The Gallows Girl must find a
way to outwit the sorceress who hijacked her rebellion and stole her magic, so she can
face an even greater threat.
For the chancellor searches the world for the mythical Wellspring, the power of creation
itself, in a final scheme to take back his throne. If he finds the heart of magic, it could
plunge the world into a darkness beyond all imagining.
Tori must face her demons and harness new magic, if she has any hope of preventing
another magical war from ravaging her world.
But there can be no peace without sacrifice.

Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion to the Shadow Watch series.


Author Information

S.A. Klopfenstein grew up on a steady dose of Tolkien and Star Wars. As a child, he wrote his first story about a sleepwalking killer who was executed by lethal injection. He lives in the American West with his wife and their dog, Iorek Byrnison. He can be found exploring the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or daring the halls of the high school where he teaches English and mythology.


Author Links

Website: https://www.authorsaklopfenstein.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sa_klopfenstein
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorsaklopfenstein
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saklopfensteinwrites/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/saklopfenstein


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Indie Spotlight – John F. Leonard

This week on Indie Spotlight we have our first male author to take up the challenge and talk about his experiences with independent publishing. Welcome to my blog, John! Both John and next week’s author, Dylan J. Morgan write horror – so I decided to change the banners up for the next two weeks! Hope you like them!

John messes around with words for a living. He was born in England and grew up in the industrial Midlands. A place that lives in his heart. It’s where he learned to love scrawny cats, the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains.

Education was mostly English, Art and History – Grammar School style – everything else came later. The employment record is somewhat difficult to summarise (chequered is the word that springs to mind). Shop worker and office boy, sculptor and odd-job man, fraud investigator and thief. It’s all the same, when you boil it down. Pay your way and try to have a good day.

He enjoys apocalyptic stuff, horror, comedy and football (not necessarily together). A family man, John now lives a few miles from the old Victorian house in which he was born. Scribbling scary stories seems to keep him vaguely sane (accurate at time of writing). Current projects include more tales from the Dead Boxes Archive, another everyday cosmic horror novel from the Scaeth Mythos, and revisiting the post-apocalyptic world of Collapse.

Contact John F. Leonard here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/john_f_leonard
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/list/14953570.John_F_Leonard
Website: www.johnfleonard.com/
Amazon Author Pages:
UKwww.amazon.co.uk/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6
USwww.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6


Before we start, I’d like to thank Sue for giving me the opportunity to contribute to her blog. My world revolves around writing. Some of it fictional, a lot commercial – writing and consulting for websites. It’s a pleasure to get a bit more personal and combine the two.

You’re very welcome, John. I’m finding it very interesting comparing different authors’ perspectives on the whole process of choosing indie over traditional publishing. What made you decide to publish your books independently?

For me, the decision to publish independently was spurred by a conversation with a well established author in the horror/post-apocalyptic genre. It’s best he remain nameless here, suffice to say that I have the utmost respect for the man. Anyway, this nameless saint had Hodder & Stoughton printing and promoting his books. I didn’t ask him to read anything, merely for advice about finding a reliable agent and/or publisher. His answer was brutally honest and far from encouraging. Basically, irrespective of whether the writing was good or bad, I had more chance of relieving myself in the Queen’s handbag.

So, basically, it was publish independently or don’t publish at all. I suspect this is the hard truth for the majority of writers. The traditional publishing space is small and shrinking as we speak. It’s easy to spend fruitless years searching and submitting and while you’re busily achieving nothing, the manuscript is slowly going to mould in a drawer or corrupting in a seldom opened folder on the laptop.

You’ve got to weigh the odds and make a decision that works for you. For me, it came
down to some stark options. Try to land an unlikely publishing deal or strike out alone on Indie Road. I was always going to choose the latter. It’s just how I am. Invest an unquantifiable amount of time and energy in something that could be hopeless or shift my arse and get cracking? Really no choice at all.

What are the benefits of being an indie author?

The biggest advantage of going indie is freedom. Beholden to nobody, you choose your own projects, set your own deadlines and decide when to press the publish button. The only contractual obligation is with yourself.

Practical considerations aside, there’s a hell of a lot to be said for full artistic control. From front cover to closing paragraph, you have the final say. There is an enormous sense of personal satisfaction in working this way. It doesn’t preclude external input, many indie authors enlist other folk to help with their books. The essential difference with indie is that collaboration is a choice rather than imposition. 

Sounds like the perfect place to be? Heaven on earth for a writer, perhaps? Well, no, not exactly. For one thing, not everyone is the same. The aspects of publishing independently which attract me, the complete and utter responsibility and freedom from interference, will for some be a fairly direct route to the funny farm. Even when it’s great, the indie road has some pretty spectacular potholes.

What challenges do indie authors face?

Indie authors face unique challenges. Turning that manuscript into a published book can be a proper conundrum to the uninitiated. Let’s not even bother talking about proofing and editing, subbing out mundane stuff like formatting and image manipulation costs a pretty penny. Most indie authors aren’t in it primarily for the money, but that doesn’t mean they set out to make a loss. 

In any event, by hook or by crook, you get there. The book is written and it’s now sitting resplendent on the virtual shelves.

Job done, time to kick back and relax, right? Light up a fag and pour a drink, if that’s your bag. You’ve earned it.

Not on your nelly, mate. This is where the real work begins.

Indie authors tend to wear a lot of different hats. Definitely the writer. Usually biggest fan and harshest critic. Possibly editing assistant and graphic artist. Let’s throw in dog’s body and toilet cleaner for good measure. There’s also a better than even chance that you’re the marketing department. And by the way, this is the most savage and demanding marketing department in the world. Unforgiving and relentless. Promotion and social media are the special Langoliers (yeah, I like Stephen King) reserved for indie authors. This breed of Langolier has a rather particular appetite. Instead of chewing up the past, they chow down on a writer’s here and now. Without constant diligence, today and tomorrow will be swallowed whole.

It seems like a very daunting prospect, particularly the first time you attempt to wear all these hats yourself. What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?

I find offering advice to aspiring indie authors very difficult. We all arrive on Indie Road with our own specific skill sets. Plus, we have different destinations in mind. I know my grumbling reference to marketing will ring bells with quite a few writers. But for others, publicising their work will be the easy peasy lemon squeezy part of the ride. In truth, I enjoy Twitter and promotional stuff despite the disastrous impact on time management (it’s infinitely preferable to formatting a paperback). The point is that independent authors share certain qualities whilst being an incredibly diverse bunch. As a consequence, my advice is general:

1) Don’t expect to earn a fortune and, at the same time, don’t let things slide into pure vanity project. Make it fun and meaningful.

2) Identify the relevant genres for your story and keywords which relate to those genres. The Amazon taxonomy is worth study.

3) Buy the best laptop you can afford and backup everything to another place.

4) Grow a thick skin. Criticism comes with the territory. Often helpful but sometimes downright painful.

5) Don’t pay too much heed to advice. The clue is in the name. We’re independent, the rules are there to be rewritten.

Great advice for newbies there. What have you learned from being an indie author?

If I’ve learned anything from being an indie author, it’s to be more tolerant. Folk are astonishing. Unbelievably intelligent and kind and, on occasion, very stupid and somewhat dull.

I’ll try to briefly explain the above statement. My take on this is that trying to squash life into words is a noble pursuit and not as simple as you might think. By publishing a book, and then engaging in what follows, you open yourself to the world. That amounts to the best and worst of humanity, given free rein in an inevitably unfair environment. It’s not dissimilar to how indie publishing has produced a parade of stunning stories and also spawned some right dross.

What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

The Dead Boxes Archive, a collection/omnibus of horror stories, has just been published and will take me nicely into 2021. As mentioned, the work doesn’t stop just because the book is available. Running alongside this Dead Boxes thing is the development of a new website. It should be good, if I can ever devote the necessary time to my fabulously professional developer.

Beyond that, I’m considering a venture into the darkest of lands. I have a stupidly long list of new ideas and am pushing them down in favour of re-writing/re-editing my first effort. This was an outrageously (with hindsight) ambitious novel of 160K words. Going back there is the scariest of prospects and yet one which is becoming irresistible.

We’ll see. After all, it’s up to me.

What can I say in conclusion?

For me, Indie Road was the only road to take. Freedom, with lots of potholes.

Thank you very much for joining me on my blog today, John. I look forward to hearing more from you about the Scaeth Mythos.


5 of John’s Books

View all of his books here: www.amazon.com/John-F-Leonard/e/B01BHUE6Z6

The Dead Boxes Archive

The Dead Boxes Archive is a collection of stories and books that share some sort of association. It’ll evolve over time. Themes and events in Dead Boxes lore cross over with the Scaeth Mythos. They’re interwoven, separate but intimately linked.

The Dead Boxes?
Scary, awesome things. They can be easily overlooked. They’re ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway.

If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique.

You could have one and not know it.
Be careful.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You really don’t.
Believe me.

Most bring nothing but misery. A few offer better, in the right hands that is. Some lie dormant and unnoticed. A Dead Box can corrupt and contaminate the owner unless handled with extreme care and a great deal of respect.

Box is a deceptive term. They aren’t generally boxes, they appear as everyday objects. A painting, or sculpture. A musical instrument or a toy. Anything you can imagine. But they’re never mass produced items. They’re always unique.

They are sundered parts of a bigger whole. The original Box fell through a crack in the past. A tale lost in the mists of time. Known only through word of mouth and obscure writings.

If those parts are ever reassembled, existence will change.
Light will flare, diminish and die. Substance will dwindle and disintegrate to nothingness. The human universe will fold in upon itself. Life as we know it will be extinguished.
If enough, but not all, of the Boxes were assembled, the possessor will be able to change the nature of reality. Not necessarily break the universes, but alter the fabric of life and death.

A Dead Box also features in the Bad Pennies novel. Indeed it’s an integral part of the narrative. But whilst at times overlapping with the Scaeth Mythos, the Dead Boxes are a distinctly separate entity. They’re their own very definite kettle of stinky fish.

Buy The Dead Boxes Archive here:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08P7VHWS7

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B08P7VHWS7

Add The Dead Boxes Archive to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/56211306-the-dead-boxes-archive


The Bledbrooke Works

A story of the Scaeth Mythos.

Ever notice how some places don’t feel right? No rhyme or reason, they’re just unsettling, without you being able to pinpoint the cause.
The vaguely suspicious demeanour of the locals. The pewtered quality of light. The old and indefinably alien smell that blows on the breeze …difficult to say for sure, but there’s definitely something.
Bledbrooke is one of those places. It’s always been different to other towns.

Quaint and quiet, a little backwater with a somehow dark charm all of its own. Once you get used to it, you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
It’s not all sweetness and light though. There are problems.
A new one has just appeared. The drains on Cinderlake Drive are bubbling unsavoury water onto the street. Even worse, the toilets are blocked and spitting nastiness at some affluent backsides.
The town council reckon it’s a fatberg – one of those awful accumulations of wet wipes, grease and other unmentionables.
There’s only one man to call…

Donald Hobdike, world-weary and well past his prime, this sort of issue inevitably ends up on his chipped desk. When it comes to the sewers in Bledbrooke, he’s seen it all and more besides. Knows them better than he knows the back of his wrinkled hand.
Or so he thinks.
Maybe the labyrinthine warren beneath Bledbrooke still has some surprises in store for him…

THE BLEDBROOKE WORKS is a tale of everyday unpleasantness and cosmic horror. A short novella of subterranean terror seen through the eyes of an ageing engineer and a young hoodlum. One a pillar of the local community, the other an outsider who wouldn’t know communal spirit if it ran up and bit him on the bottom.

Buy The Bledbrooke Works here:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QDSDNN8

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDSDNN8

Add The Bledbrooke Works to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/45017475-the-bledbrooke-works


Congeal – A Post-Apocalyptic Horror Story

It starts with reports on the news of an inland lake turning semi-solid.
Surely, a media joke, some lame April Fool’s prank?
The before and after pictures are vaguely ludicrous and oddly disturbing, the contrast stark and strange.
First, darkly rippling water that hints at hidden depths. Slightly spooky and perfectly normal. Next, a putrid blotch of clotted sludge which bears little resemblance to anything aquatic.

It isn’t a joke.
And pretty soon, that greasy, sickening substance isn’t confined to an inland lake.
It’s spreading. Flowing over fields and filling streets.
Each morning brings a new revelation. Countryside denuded of life and towns empty and echoing.
The night is when it changes, becomes something that consumes. Something infinitely worse than a congealed impossibility.

CONGEAL is a short tale of apocalyptic horror. How the world ends may not be how you expect. Nuclear Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse could get beaten to the punch.
Our apocalypse may come from below.
An ancient, cosmic entity bubbling up to the surface in search of food.
It’s also the story of one individual and her fight to stay afloat in a sea of despair.

Buy Congeal here:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07T74SCKM

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07T74SCKM

Add Congeal to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/52382624-congeal


Bad Pennies

Bad Pennies is the first book in the Scaeth Mythos.

Seeing a stranger die is the worst thing that Chris has ever witnessed. Picking up the dead man’s wallet is a mistake, a moment of weakness. That’s all it takes, one impulsive act, for reality to unravel. Because pocketing the wallet is only the beginning.

Dark forces swim below the surface of the world… They change their shape but never go away… They find a way through…

Chris Carlisle experiences an everyday horror. A morning starts out bad and gets worse. Wrong place at the wrong time and life takes a wrong turn. But even the blackest clouds have silver linings. He gets a little slice of luck to balance out the horror.

Just goes to show, bad often comes bundled with good. Sometimes, they bleed into each other until you can’t tell them apart.

That’s where the strangeness begins, when the miraculous starts to rub shoulders with the mundane and monstrous. Chris has stepped onto a long road that leads to a hideous and horrifying destination. Dark and dangerous stops are dotted along the way. The pavement is crumbling and craziness shining through the cracks.

Enough for him to question his sanity and come to the conclusion that madness may be the easiest way out. Sometimes need and greed get mixed into a deadly and deceptive cocktail.

He’s going to discover that dark and dreadful things lurk within spitting distance of the ordinary and routine. That there are levels of horror and layers of knowledge which defy any rational explanation. Impossible creatures crawl along the shady seams of the world. Monsters wait in the shadows.

The walls of reality are thinner than we know. In places, they’ve been hollowed to a hazy veil that struggles to hold back the horror of what lies on the other side.

Chris is going to get a glimpse of an eternal darkness. Become acquainted with a supernatural hunger that has endured aeons and echoes down the ages.

HE’S GOING TO ENCOUNTER THE SCAETH. A CREATURE THAT IS OLDER THAN TIME AND TWICE AS MERCILESS.

Chris thought life was grim. He has no idea. He thought he was hard up. He doesn’t know what debt is. They say that money is the root of all evil. They also say that the bad penny always turns up. That’s so true. Those crappy coins have a nasty habit of coming back.

Bad Pennies is the first book of the Scaeth Mythos, a terrifying vision of horror that will haunt your dreams.

Buy Bad Pennies here:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0762HPJ8Y

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B0762HPJ8Y

Add Bad Pennies to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/40890272-bad-pennies


Doggem

Doggem is a dark fairy tale in the Dead Boxes Archive.

“Sentience? I’m just a throwaway toy, an inanimate object. How can I have thought and emotion? Opinion and experience? I’d shrug my shoulders if I could. The world is brimful of mystery.”

All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy. They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school. All they have to do in return is write his diary.

It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family. Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary. Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket. He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence. Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.

Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night. And George? Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.

Doggem is a spooky little tale about toy dogs and dark doings. A gently disturbing horror story. But beware, this charming cocktail of witchcraft, imagined folklore and paranormal fantasy might just bewitch you. Not easy to pin down genre. Without doubt it has a certain heart-breaking beauty to it. Maybe it’s a modern fairytale. A scary one, flavoured with a dash of the occult, written for an adult audience. After all, fairy tales feature the supernatural and have a magical aspect to them. They often have old cottages and eerie, unnerving woodland settings. Wickedly enchanting women and innocent children. Ancient evil and everyday greed.

Doggem is a short story, one in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive. The Dead Boxes? Some objects are frightening things and the Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category. They can be easily overlooked. Ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. A mobile phone, a piece of art… a child’s plaything.

Take a closer look. You’ll see something unique. You could very easily have one and not know it. Exercise caution. They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.

None are the same. Except in one regard. You don’t need one. You might think you do, but you really don’t.

Believe me. 

Buy Doggem here:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07L318QLJ

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B07L318QLJ

Add Doggem to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/43125253-doggem


Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?

Rounding out the end of January, I will be talking with Dylan J. Morgan, author of horror, sci-fi and dystopian fiction. Hope you will join us!


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WWW Wednesday – 20th January 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Taking on a World of Words, where you just answer three questions:

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


What am I currently reading:

I am taking part in a readalong of the Dragonlance Chronicles hosted by Jodie of the Witty and Sarcastic Book Club (@WS_BOOKCLUB). This is the first book in the series and the first time I have read anything from this series. I am thoroughly enjoying it. There are some very funny characters in it, lots of action and excitement, descriptive world-building, dragons, mages, what more could you ask for from a fantasy epic?? I am looking forward to continuing this series as there are 3 more books in this series and they are all quite lengthy.

Book Blurb:

Life-long friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales with strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chanced encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman who bears a magical crystal staff draws the companions deeper into the shadow forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all themselves.

Goodreads link:
www.goodreads.com/book/show/259836.Dragons_of_Autumn_Twilight

Buy Here:
US: www.amazon.com/Dragons-Autumn-Twilight-Chronicles-Dragonlance-ebook/dp/B004G606K8/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Dragons-Autumn-Twilight-Chronicles-Dragonlance-ebook/dp/B004G606K8/


I also just started Kings and Daemons by Marcus Lee. I’m finding it very well-written and difficult to put down – but I am only 10% into that one so can’t comment too much yet. Marcus’s third book in this trilogy comes out in February and I have signed up for the StoryTellers on Tour blog tour for it, so I wanted to read the first two books in the series first.

Book Blurb:

If you like fantasy tales of conquest, dark kings, daemonic heroes, and magic, you’ll love ‘Kings and Daemons’ by Epic Fantasy author, Marcus Lee. This is a spellbinding Dark Fantasy novel which will enchant you with its plot of ambition, revenge, love, and tragedy. What the gods give with one hand, they take away with the other, for if you are gifted, you shall also be cursed.

Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King, and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.
Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.
Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come.

Add to your goodreads list here:
www.goodreads.com/book/show/53835724-kings-and-daemons

Buy here:
US: www.amazon.com/Daemons-Fantasy-Adventure-Gifted-Cursed-ebook/dp/B0896XKZQ2

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Daemons-Fantasy-Adventure-Gifted-Cursed-ebook/dp/B0896XKZQ2


What did I just finish reading?

I don’t often read horror but made an exception for this anthology of stories and novellas. There are seven stories and they are creepy and horrific. Night Service was my favourite story – a tale of a hapless young man taking his new girlfriend back to her place on the night bus and all Hell breaks loose…

Book blurb:

The Dead Boxes Archive is a chilling collection of short horror stories and horror novellas. Together for the first time in one volume, seven tales from the critically acclaimed Dead Boxes series.

Dead Boxes are scary things. Wonderful and dreadful secrets hiding themselves in plain view.
On the surface, they often appear to be ordinary, everyday objects. Items which are easily overlooked at first glance. Perhaps that’s just as well because the Dead Boxes are as far from ordinary and everyday as you can get. They hold miracle and mystery, horror and salvation, answers to questions best not asked and directions to places better left unfound.

This collection offers an insight into some of these delightfully eerie articles. A stunning omnibus of old school inspired horror, the brooding and ominous variety. Not to say that there isn’t a little gore and gruesome in the mix. But one of the beauties of horror is that it comes in many forms. Blood and guts don’t need to be stars of the show for a story to be dark and disturbing. Something that will stay with you long after the reading is done.

There are five tales that are available to buy as individual books and two more with limited availability. The exceptional Linger is previously only published in the charity horror anthology, Diabolica Britannica. The Screaming Mike Hawkins Story is new for this collection.

Our diabolical banquet opens with Call Drops, a deliciously dark look at second hand shops, car boots and the infernal treasures which sometimes lurk within them. It might give you pause for thought about our ever-increasing reliance on the ubiquitous mobile phone.
“10 out of 5 stars” – Erik Henry Vick, author of Demon King.

Next up is the rather beautiful and deceptively innocent Doggem. In many ways, this short story defies description. It’s about a toy dog and school days and so much more. Ordinary families with folklore legacy, mundane existence amidst vaguely mythical settings, witchcraft and the supernatural. All mixed with apocalyptic undertones.
“The Velveteen Rabbit meets Rosemary’s Baby” – Barb Taub, author of Do Not Wash Hands In Plates.

A Plague of Pages is a nightmarishly enjoyable look at the perils of writing fiction. Betrayal, revenge and instruments of ultimate evil are blended into a mesmerising and horrific cocktail. Written well before the terrible events of 2020, it also touches upon historic pandemics and the prospect of present day apocalypse.
“ a wonderfully creepy read” – Gingernuts of Horror, premier UK horror review site.

Night Service is a tale of travel and terror that quickly gets up to speed and then doesn’t slow down until the haunting finale. A warning for all the night owls out there who use those last dance, last chance darktime buses. It can sometimes be a helluva ride!
“ flies by …excitement, chases, tension and bloody gore galore” – Char, leading Horror Aficionado and Vine Voice.

The ghostly Burntbridge Boys might initially appear to be about professional football. Don’t be deceived. When a Dead Box is involved, fraud and corruption in sport are only the tip of a demonic iceberg that spans dimensions and stretches into the dim and distant past.
“Sammy’s meeting with Burntbridge’s Chairman Millicent is stunningly good” – Terry Tyler, author of The Devil You Know.

The spooky old house, a gothic horror staple, gets a fresh lick of paint in Linger. Inheriting lots of money and a gothic mansion from a father you never knew sounds like some sort of dream come true. This revisit breathes new life into a horror classic.
” the Gothic …concentrated to its essence, with the richness this implies ” – Ramsey Campbell, British Horror Legend.

We conclude with The Screaming Mike Hawkins Story, a darkly inventive final twist from a mind filled with bleak and creative twists. Part author’s note, part biography, the shadowy career of Michael Hawkins is a mystery wrapped in more than one conundrum.

Add to your goodreads list here:
www.goodreads.com/book/show/56211306-the-dead-boxes-archive

Buy here:
US: www.amazon.com/Dead-Boxes-Archive-Horror-Diabolical-ebook/dp/B08P7VHWS7

UK www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Boxes-Archive-Horror-Diabolical-ebook/dp/B08P7VHWS7


What will I read next?

In February I am taking part in a blog tour through Damppebbles.com for Yearn To Fear by Chas Murrell.

It is an Australian Spy Thriller, the first book in The Lamarr series.

Book Blurb

The greatest scientific invention of modern times…
Capable of curing humanity…
But more adept at controlling it…

Sydney scientist, Marcus Hall, is developing a radical 5G Wi-Fi receiver for CSIRO. With access to secretive Lamarr computer chips – this technology promises billions to repair Australia’s ravaged economy. On a caffeine boosted whim, he inadvertently discovers a therapeutic breakthrough in neuroscience. Or so he thinks…
His seemingly trustworthy lab partner, Henry, is an unlikely Australian spy. His official duty is keeping tabs on the project and their Lamarr chips. But the whole project is now classified top-secret.
Marcus remains blissfully unaware of the many secrets surrounding him, until he witnesses the graphic murder of a colleague. Could this event reveal Henry as a master deceiver and ruthless double agent? Will the scientific discovery be fatal for Marcus, those he loves, and the one he yearns for? Marcus faces a soul tearing dilemma: is the only means of stopping the carnage to weaponise his prototype?
Foreign intelligence agencies realise the top-secret breakthrough is priceless. One particular spy leads the race to seize the invention. A psychological master of the long game, espionage, and extortion, his only rule according to Kung Fu: Win.
Friend and foe alike confront this psychotic mastermind. All will FEAR him, but is their FEAR real? Only the next six minutes will tell…

Add to goodreads To Be Read list here:
www.goodreads.com/book/show/55879197-yearn-to-fear

Buy here:
www.amazon.com/Yearn-Fear-Australian-Thriller-Lamarr-ebook/dp/B08MTFMK6J

www.amazon.co.uk/Yearn-Fear-Australian-Thriller-Lamarr-ebook/dp/B08MTFMK6J


Related Posts


First Lines Friday – 15th January 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines of the story I am currently reading

He stood naked on the altar, staring up at the crucifix.

He claimed he came to destroy the world.

This wasn’t the first deranged man I encountered inside the Münster Cathedral, but he was the most tenacious in his ravings.

When I called the police, the woman on the phone sighed. A naked man inside a church did not constitute an emergency.

I strongly disagreed.

She sighed again, then said an officer would be here in twenty minutes, if one was available.

I cleared my throat, wanting to alert the man of my return.

He turned and met my gaze. Sharp eyes of green cut into my core, almost into my very being. I didn’t know if they wanted to love me or end me.

Lyra Wolf

And The Book Is…

Truth and Other Lies by Lyra Wolf

The first book in the Nine World Chronicles.


Description

Nothing is trickier than the truth

All Loki the trickster god of Asgard wants is a quiet, peaceful life where he’s free to needle Balder, occasionally stir up the inter-realm porridge pot, and get Thor to dress in women’s garments (for all the best reasons).

Getting beset by sudden, painful, and terribly inconvenient visions of blood, ash, and death are definitely not on his to-do list. But, because of some small, ridiculous remnant of caring that refuses to be extinguished, Loki feels he must save Asgard…and that means warning Odin, his least favorite god (next to Thor).

But getting the gods to believe the boy who cried Fenrir is harder than it looks, and time is running out, not just for Asgard, but also for a mortal woman named Sigyn who may just hold the key to Loki’s future.

Loki is about to find out the hard way that the only thing crueler than truth are the lies behind it all.


About the Author

Lyra Wolf

Lyra Wolf is a Swiss-American author of fantasy and expert character tormentor.

Born in Indiana, home to a billion corn mazes, she now lives in Central Florida, home to a billion mosquitoes. She loves Mozart, traveling, theme parks, and raising procrastination to a fine art.

When Lyra isn’t fulfilling the wishes of her overly demanding Chihuahua, you can find her writing about other worlds and the complicated people who live there.

Lyra has earned a B.A. in History and M.A. in English.


I am reviewing Lyra’s book on behalf of Storytellers on Tour.

My full review will be available as part of the blog tour on 29th January 2021. Don’t miss it!


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Fly Free (Light of Faerie, #1) – by Allison Rose

So excited to be a part of this, my very first blog tour, hosted by Storytellers on Tour! There is even a giveaway at the end of this post – so keep reading right to the end… Please check out the other reviews of this book on the Storytellers on Tour website. They do a fantastic job highlighting books written by indie authors of fantasy and science fiction. Thank you to Justine and Timy for hosting my blog on their tour!

Fly Free Book Description

In the land of Faerie, lies are easily disguised as truths.

They were raised like sisters, the heir to the Court of the Day and her guardian.

And as rebellion darkens the land of the Day—and the faeries of Court fall under a dark magic that disconnects them from the land, dooming them to a slow, agonizing death—they will question all they know to be true.

Sevelle, the Light of the Day, is destined to rule one day. She possesses a rare form of magic, the ability to heal the powerful connection between faeries and the magic in the land, the connection that gives them life—if only she could figure out how to use this magic, or even find it within herself.

Jae lives in the shadows, watching over Sevelle as her guardian and listening to the whispers of Court brought to her by the winds. She longs for a life outside of Court, but knows her duty to Sevelle is more important than her own desires.

But when an unexpected proposition comes from none other than Lex, son of the rebel leader, Sevelle and Jae realize their lives will never be the same—and that evil may be within their own court more so than in the rebels that oppose them.

Walking paths far different than they imagined separates the sisters, but then a secret is revealed that may break them apart forever.

Fly Free is the first installment of the Light of Faerie series. Enter a land of magic in the midst of a power struggle, where all is not as it seems and love may be found in the most unlikely places.

Fly Free by Allison Rose
SERIES: Light of Faerie (#1)
PUBLISHED: September 20, 2020 (Self-Published)
PAGES: 252
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult

Check Fly Free out on goodreads

Buy Fly Free Here:

US: www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0897DZ4YG

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0897DZ4YG


My Review

4/5 stars
I was provided with both a paperback copy and a kindle version of Fly Free by Storytellers on Tour as part of the blog tour for this book, Thank You very much!


Fly Free takes place in the Land of Faerie. The territory is split by the Great Divide, which cuts right through the middle of the land. One half, that to the west of the Great Divide, is occupied by the faeries of the Day Territory, whereas the eastern half belongs to the faeries of the Night Territory. Each territory has its own ruling Court. A map of the Land of Faerie is provided at the beginning of the book.

We meet the main characters of this story in the Day Court, located to the south of the Land of Faerie. Sevelle, the heir to the Day Court, who is also known as ‘Light of Day’, or simply ‘The Light’ appears to be the daughter of the Queen, Shayna, who is known as ‘The Glorious’ and Drake her husband.

The action in the first few chapters all takes place in the Day Court and is told mainly in third person with the focus switching between Sevelle and her guardian, Jae (short for Sanjae). Occasionally we are presented with snippets of the faeries’ thoughts in the first person point of view. 

The magic of the Land of Faeries is known as the ara and is accessed by Spirit faeries through the earth and by other faeries via Telk stones. The majority of these stones are owned by the Court. A group of rebels believe they should be distributed more fairly amongst the commoners of the land.

The magic manifests itself in different ways depending on which type of faerie they are:

  • Lex, the son of the rebel leader, can communicate with animals. He has become firm friends with Ash, a bird of prey called a halkyr, and can communicate with him using only his mind.
  • Jae can use the winds to bring her snatches of the conversations of other faeries. In this way she was ideally disposed to being a spy in the Court for the rebel faeries.
  • Sevelle is supposed to be able to communicate with the Sun but is struggling to develop and control her power. She should be able to use the power of the Sun to heal other faeries – a skill which would be very useful during the blight.
  • The Glorious is able to read the minds of other faeries whether they are willing or not.

All of these powers appear to be boosted by the mysterious Telk stones, which I do not feel were given enough explanation in this book.

It did not matter how close these faeries got to the ground, the source of the ara. It would not make them stronger. They were all born with a certain amount of ability, a range of connection to the land around them. Increasingly, more had been born with little magic. Those born with more power rose in the ranks and usually ended up in a position of power…”

Allison Rose

The faeries of the Day Court have been led to believe that Lex’s father, Lore, has caused a blight, which is sickening the faeries and robbing them of their magic, but is he truly the cause?

The characters within this story are mostly likeable. The only real villain of the story is the despotic ruler of the Court of Day, The Glorious.

Jae is strong and skilled with weapons. Although a teenager, two years younger than Sevelle, she has spent her life training to protect her charge, and she proves herself to be loyal and brave. She takes her role as guardian of the heir to the throne seriously. 

Sevelle is a kind and caring teenager. She is a positive influence on those around her. She is determined to negotiate with the rebels for peace and also shows bravery in her own way. She is defiant and stands up to The Glorious for what she believes in, despite her fears of repercussions. She will make a great leader, since she is neither afraid to stand up for her beliefs, nor frightened to confront and negotiate with the leader of the rebels.

Drake appears to be wise and kind but defers to his wife, The Glorious, who is ruthless enough to call in the Faeries of the Night to kidnap Sevelle before she reaches the rebel leader.

The Glorious constantly puts the success of the Court of the Day, and therefore her own success as ruler, ahead of her own daughter’s happiness and emotional security. We learn that she used to employ the services of a torturer known as The Punisher, who has since been banished to the human realm, but who was able to wipe clean the memories of faeries who were not in favour with The Glorious. She is a devious leader who will employ whatever tactics she finds necessary to accomplish her goals.

Lex is a charming rebel, able to gain people’s favour easily. He displays integrity and determination for fairness. He is a potential romantic partner for both Jae and Sevelle and they both easily fall under his spell. 

Another character we meet along the way is Ash, a large bird of prey like a hawk who allows Sevelle to ride on his back during the journey to the mountains. As mentioned previously, Ash is a halkyr, able to put images into the minds of those he likes and trusts by way of communication. He shows Sevelle an image of darkness inside the core of Lex, which eventually enables Sevelle to find her power and save Lex from the Darkness which is threatening to consume him from within. As a result Jae finds herself jealous of Sevelle’s bond with Lex.

We also meet Lakera, a mezra, which appears to be a black panther-like beast. Lakera is the leader of the mezra and the familiar of Kye, who is the female leader of the faeries of the Night Court.

A poisonous illness, known as the blight is affecting a large number of the faeries who are beginning to weaken, to lose their connection to the magic of the Earth, known as the ara and to rot. If only Sevelle could harness her healing powers and use them to save the faeries.

We become aware that a band of rebels is trying to restore the balance in their land between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ and that Sevelle’s guardian, Jae, is in league with the rebels and has been passing information to them via Lex, the son of the rebel leader, and his companions Couren and Verity. The Glorious has made it known among the faeries that the rebels are the source of the blight and must be stopped. There is much drama and political intrigue at play in this story – both between the Glorious and the band of rebels, and also between the Court of the Day and the Court of the Night.

We learn that Sevelle’s aim above all else is to restore peace between the Court and the rebels and she is persuaded by Lex, the bewitching son of the rebel leader that if she ventures with him into the mountains to meet with his father, Lore, she may be able to do so via negotiating with him, rather than by the violence favoured by The Glorious. Sevelle tells her mother that she may be able to meet with the rebels if she is allowed to leave the court and travel to the mountains. Her aim is to try to bring an end to the blight and save all the affected faeries, but The Glorious does not seem particularly convinced that talking peacefully with the rebels is the way forward:

“They are targeting the commoners as well. These stunts cause pandemonium in the villages. If we do not strike back, we will look weak. We would be handing them the power to destroy us.”

Allison Rose

The Glorious tells Sevelle to leave right away if she is going to go and at first it is not clear whether she will be welcome to return, despite being the heir:

“Do not argue. Find a way to end the rebellion and you may keep your position as heir. On your own. Such is the way of rulers.”

Allison Rose

Halfway through the story there are some surprising plot twists which I was not expecting, but which made the story much more interesting and added another layer of intrigue. After Sevelle leaves in search of the rebels, we discover that Sevelle was in fact adopted by Drake and The Glorious due to the healing powers she appeared to exhibit, but has been unable to harness.

Following Sevelle’s departure, poor Jae, her guardian, is now bound to the Court by the will of The Glorious, when all she really wanted was for everyone, including herself, to be happy. She had wanted to leave the Court and join the rebels but her duty to Sevelle, as her guardian, had kept her at the Court. Jae’s determination and loyalty have caused her downfall, as now she is trapped at the Court of the Day and facing a future with her potential partner, Morlan, her solid and dependable training partner, who she does not care for in the same way she cares for her other potential partner, the rebel Lex:

She supposed, to the outside observer, they were perfect for each other. They matched each other in cunning and strength. They practically knew each other’s thoughts. And yet in her mind they always stood on opposite sides of a line, neither of them willing to cross it. He served The Glorious. And Jae pretended to.

Allison Rose

Lex and Sevelle are also potential romantic partners and Jae is left to feel helpless and jealous. What will become of Jae? Sevelle had never even considered leaving the Court, but now that she has, she has discovered that her destiny was never really to be a part of the Court of the Day. Sevelle is determined not to give up on Jae, so we will need to read the next installments in their story to discover what happens to these likeable faeries.

I found this story a lot of fun to read and enjoyed getting to know the characters and their values. There is plenty of intrigue and unexpected twists to the tale to keep the reader interested and I would recommend it to fans of YA and adult fairy stories.


About the Author

Driven by a lifelong passion for words and reading fantasy novels, Allison Rose writes YA fantasy stories featuring faeries, magic, and strong heroines. She has a BA in psychology and is fascinated by how other people think, but her love for reading and writing is greater. When Allison isn’t writing, she is editing and proofreading the works of others. Allison lives with her fiancé, collie mix, bunny, and chinchilla in the place of wild weather also known as Buffalo, New York.

You can find her at www.allisonroseauthor.com


The Giveaway – US Only

Prize: Fly Free by Allison Rose – 1 of 3 paperbacks 

Start: January 10th, 2021 at 12:00am EST

End: January 17th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST

Click on the image or click here to enter. Good Luck!!


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Indie Spotlight – Zuzanne Belec

Today I am welcoming debut indie author, Zuzanne Belec to the Indie Spotlight.

Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the contrasting textures of Africa.  

After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing.  This discovery, and the encouragement from her daughters, partner and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.

About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she knew she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.  

Her debut collection, Layers: A Collection of Short Stories, is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning …


Contact Zuzanne here:

Website: www.zuzannebelec.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/zuzannebelec/

Pinterest: www.cz.pinterest.com/ZuzanneBelec/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZuzanneBelec

Email: zuzanne@zuzannebelec.com


Hi Zuzanne, welcome to my blog.

What made you decide to publish your book independently?

It may sound silly, or selfish perhaps, but as a late bloomer, I don’t have the luxury of queuing long-term in the standard ‘waiting lines’ of trad publishing ;o)  I say ‘luxury’ though, because those waiting periods do make for a great learning curve, which can also serve to enrich the writer.  I sure learnt a lot when I tried it out before opting for the indie way. I personally think it is good to try out the trad way for a while, to learn how the publishing industry works, at the very least. 

What are the benefits of being an indie author?

Besides the natural benefit of being in control of one’s entire writing and marketing process, it also provides great motivation to give it one’s all, to strive for quality work that one needn’t be ashamed of. Also, it provides an internalizing opportunity to improve one’s self-discipline and willpower. It brought out the best in me, as I had to reach deep within – more so than if I were managed by an external entity. I think it gives indie authors the chance to discover what they really have within, both from a creative and a managerial/administrative point of view.

So you need a lot of different skills to be a successful indie author. Self-management is not something everyone is good at. What other challenges do indie authors face?  

Willpower! Plus, besides the technical/practical challenges, there are other internal challenges, like maintaining a good emotional balance, i.e. not falling into depression when things don’t go as one would like, and likewise not becoming overly cavalier when they do! And if we overcome all those challenges, we might just discover something incredible about ourselves …

A good emotional balance is important for us all, I think. In terms of getting bad reviews, it must be very difficult to maintain such a balance and to accept that other people’s opinions of books are entirely subjective and every book will not be to everyone’s taste. But I’m sure it must hurt when anyone is less than positive about your creative output.

What advice would you give to aspiring indie authors?

Constantly aim for improvement. And be patient. Besides that, there is no one bit of advice that would apply to each and every one of us, as everyone is different. I would however say that we should at least be open to those constant bits of advice by professionals, because even if it seems like they might not apply to us, there is a chance that one or more bits of such advice might just impact our work someday – if not now, then perhaps later as one develops more. The trick is to ‘see’ it when it shows up, and then to utilise it properly, and gradually build up confidence that way too …

What have you learned from being an indie author?

Patience. And a whole bunch of techie things!

What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

Another short story collection. And hopefully the first installation of my magical realism series, Paths Taken.

I enjoyed your short story Paths Taken – it will be interesting to see how it develops in the coming series.

Thank you so much for joining me today on my blog, Zuzanne, good luck with Layers and with these new projects. A series with magical realism sounds very interesting – I’ll be on the lookout for Paths Taken.

Thank you very much, Sue, for this wonderful opportunity. It’s great to finally communicate with fellow writers and readers following the emergence from my cave, after so many years…
May your ventures go wonderfully too, just as planned. And to everyone reading this, thank you for your time ;o)


Layers – A Collection of Short Stories

Stories inside

The Christmas Charge

Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari.  At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?

Paths Taken

When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?   

White Noise

All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise?

The Old Man and the Donkey

Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?

The Arctic Haze

Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?

Penny’s Purple Robot

A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?

Mothers

Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.

Yeehaw

Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world? 

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories. 

My Review of Layers can be found here.

Add Layers to your To Be Read list here:

Layers: A Collection of Short Stories by Zuzanne Belec | Goodreads

Most retailers: https://books2read.com/u/4A77zd   

Kobo: Layers eBook by Zuzanne Belec | Rakuten Kobo  

GooglePlay: Layers: A Collection of Short Stories by Zuzanne Belec – Books on Google Play


The Unadorned

A modern story of ancient good. Set in modern India, this is a tale of a chance meeting between a poor boy and an old Brahmin succumbing to senility.  How can an old man on the verge of passing help a boy on the cusp of hopelessness? If you enjoy stories of good and of hope, this story will warm your heart. 

Available for free download here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/o5o4a1


Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?

Next Thursday (21st January) I will be welcoming John F. Leonard to the Indie Spotlight. John is an independent author of Horror stories.


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Cover Reveal! Stones of Light by Zack Argyle – January 12th 2021

Stones of Light

Cover Illustration: Ömer Burak Önal https://www.artstation.com/equin0

Chrys is trapped in his own mind.
Laurel has lost her threadlight.
And Alverax may have doomed them all.
What have they done?

Stones of Light is the second installment in the epic fantasy Threadlight series written by Zack Argyle. It is the sequel to the very popular Voice of War which was an SPFBO award finalist for Best Fantasy Book 2020.
It’s expected publication date is April 4, 2021. Make sure you look out for it!


Voice of War

Praise for Voice of War by Zack Argyle:

“Richly descriptive…wildly creative…brilliantly told.” Indies Today

“Voice of War does most of the things right and keeps the stakes high throughout the narrative.”

“The world building is top notch”

“Voice of War is such a good start to the Threadlight series and leaves you wanting the next book!”

—SPFBO Award Finalist for Best Fantasy Book 2020


Book Description

While preparing for the birth of his first child, Chrys Valerian is tasked with uncovering the group responsible for a series of missing threadweavers–those able to see and manipulate threadlight. With each failure, the dark voice in his head grows louder, begging to be released.

A young girl from a secret city in the center of the Fairenwild veers off course to explore the streets of Alchea. She never expected that her journey would end in chains.

Far in the deserts to the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.

When Chrys learns who is responsible for the missing threadweavers, they come for him and his family. He must do everything in his power to protect those he loves, even if it means trusting strangers or, worse, the dark voice in his mind.

Together, they will change the world–whether they intend to or not. 

Goodreads link: www.goodreads.com/book/show/55808604-voice-of-war

Amazon.com/Voice-War-Threadlight-Book-1-ebook/dp/B084F96GFZ

Amazon.co.uk/Voice-War-Threadlight-Book-1-ebook/dp/B084F96GFZ


About the Author

Zack Argyle was raised with a wonderful family motto: don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. What better way than to write fiction? He spends his days writing code and his nights writing epic stories about family, love, loss, friendship, and pain all
intermixed with a heavy dose of the fantastical.


Author Links

Storytellers On Tour: https://storytellersontour.online

Website: https://www.zackargyle.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFFAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZackArgyleAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zackargyle/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19323086.Zack_Argyle


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Layers by Zuzanne Belec

Description

Eight short stories on the power of the human spirit.

Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness.

From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world.

With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.

In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?

In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?

In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise?

In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?

In the Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?

In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?

In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.

In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.

Buy Layers here:

https://books2read.com/u/4A77zd

Add Layers to your Goodreads To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/55892406-layers


My Review

4/5 stars
I read a Kindle version kindly sent to me by the author, Thank You, Zuzanne!

Zuzanne Belec is a well-travelled individual and her interest in other cultures and countries shows in her choice of settings and characters for her stories. Each of the eight stories is set in a different country and I enjoyed her rich descriptions of locations and the people we meet in them.

I found these eight stories to be cleverly thought out, witty and very entertaining. Full of interesting characters and snippets of unexpected descriptive detail. When the ‘three batty grannies’ with a penchant for tea, cucumber sandwiches and sherry go on their safari in The Christmas Charge and find themselves staring down a charging bull elephant, we are treated to the detailed description of his wrinkles, the blood vessel patterning in his ears and the grooves of his tusks. This particular story is tense and we fully expect the poor dears not to survive:

The car wouldn’t start, and the charging bull was now only a few feet from us – trunk raised and ears whooshing gleefully.

Zuzanne Belec

Paths Taken is a detective story set in modern day Brazil which contains magic, zombification and characters with super powers. The message of the story is to be brave enough to face your fears:

“…sometimes it’s the most difficult paths that are the right ones to take!”

Zuzanne Belec

Some of the themes touched upon by the stories include mental illness, work/life prioritization, family stubbornness/forgiveness, facing our fears and making the most of every moment we have in life. As such they are probably of interest to a more mature adult audience – people who have begun to consider such subjects in their own lives – rather than younger readers. They will be enjoyed by people who have travelled and experienced other cultures and countries as well as those who enjoy experiencing travel from the comfort of their armchair.

These stories are of varying lengths and genres and are easy to read. I don’t think there are any themes included which readers need to be wary of.

You can download a free copy of one of Zuzanne’s story, The Unadorned here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/o5o4a1


About the Author

Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the contrasting textures of Africa.  

After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing.  This discovery, and the encouragement from her daughters, partner and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.

About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she knew she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.  

Her debut collection, Layers: A Collection of Short Stories, is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning …


Related Posts


First Lines Fridays – 8th January 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines of the story I am currently reading.

(This is a slight cheat in terms of these being the first lines from one story within a collection of short stories, rather than the first lines of the actual book.)

Just twenty feet from George, the polar bear reared up on its hind legs. It sniffed at the howling wind that smoothed its silvery fur. George stumbled backwards, feeling for the bear mace in his breast pocket. He pulled it out, closed his eyes and sprayed. Then a crosswind slapped it back straight into his face.

This wasn’t exactly how George’s evenings typically ended. Nor how he’d for a split second imagined his life might end. But his days usually did include a lack of good luck here and there. Like four days ago, when we invited him along with us to conduct field tests near Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. He’d forgotten to put on his sunscreen. Thankfully, that evening the medical officer confirmed he suffered only first-degree sunburn. And only yesterday, he got a light case of snow blindness when he lost his goggles on the way to visit our borehole testing site nearby.

Zuzanne Belec


The book is….

The story those lines were taken from is called Arctic Haze.

Book Description

Eight short stories on the power of the human spirit.

Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness.

From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world.

With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.

In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?

In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?

In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise?

In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?

In the Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?

In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?

In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.

In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.

Buy Layers here:

https://books2read.com/u/4A77zd

Add Layers to your Goodreads To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/55892406-layers


Download a free story by Zuzanne Belec here:

You can download a free copy of one of Zuzanne’s stories, The Unadorned here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/o5o4a1


About the Author

Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the contrasting textures of Africa.  

After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing.  This discovery, and the encouragement from her daughters, partner and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.

About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she knew she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.  

Her debut collection, Layers: A Collection of Short Stories, is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning …


Related Posts


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