Review: “Twilight Madhouse Vol. 1”

OK, so let me start with the obvious. Yes, this is the anthology with my story Achievement Unlocked. I have not read the stories until the book was released like everyone else. I will not include my thoughts on my story below (Umm…it rocks!) but what follows are my impressions of the rest of the stories.

Review: Twilight Madhouse Vol. 1

This is a new horror anthology from Schreyer Ink Publishing. (This review and it’s format is based off their post about reviewing anthologies by the way).

1st Story: “Cracked Reflection” by Joanna Michal Hoyt

I gotta be honest, this was my least favorite story of the bunch. There was a ton of description and the setting was evident, but I couldn’t get into it. The story takes place between 1916 and 1919. As the editor notes in the introduction, it was “a time when madness was thought by some to be an illness of the mind, and by others to be a religious affliction. Who is mad her? Who is sane?” I might be the mad one for not enjoying it like I hoped.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 

2nd Story: “The Decent Thing” by Dex Fernandez

This is a slightly disturbing future tale. At first I thought the story was about animals (I know, sometimes I can be slow to catch on!) but as I read, I was caught up in the dark tale. Such a sad state of affairs and hopefully not a future we will see.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

3rd Story: “The Eryxian Talisman” by Cameron Smith

I loved this one! And it does feature an animal for reelz! Cameron Smith weaves an excellent tale of shape shifting with a twist. I can’t but help feeling sorry for poor Maggie as she seeks a new life. Cool story!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

Twilight4th Story: “Achievement Unlocked” by yours truly

I’m not gonna give an opinion, just a brief synopsis. It’s a story about a gamer who gets bored with video games and decides to try something more. It’s one of the shorter pieces in the bunch.

Rating: NA (I gotta be fair)

 

5th Story: “Pick Your Poison” by Colin Douglas

Such terrible choices we have to make at times. This tale explores the choice a mother must make and the consequences of the decision. Not an easy one to read because of the content, but a well written and entertaining story.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

6th Story: “POE 103” by Ken Goldman

An awesome ode to Edgar Allan Poe written with style and attention to detail. I loved the feeling of this story. It evoked Poe through the language and frequent quotes. It explores what happens when someone spends their life studying a great figure of literature. Awesome story I cannot recommend enough!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

7th Story: “Death to the Diddlers” by Karin Fuller

Wow. Talk about making someone squirm! This was a quick tale, maybe just a bit longer than “Achievement Unlocked” but it was powerful and slightly disturbing. Nice twist in the story too.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

8th Story: “Spectrum” by D.R. Perry

I genuinely felt sorry for the girl in this story. She had it bad. It made me think about how many people really have situations like hers. I wanted to help her so much.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

9th Story: “The Other Side of Night” by Max Shepherd

Umm…so, yeah. This story. Really, really well written. It features two siblings; a sister and brother, and explores a difficult circumstance. I thought it was an excellent examination of loss and the havoc it wreaks on the mind.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

10th Story: “The Werewolf, the Vampire, the Demon, and the Girl” by L.J. McLeod

Rounding out the anthology is this story featuring a werewolf, vampire, demon, and a girl on Halloween night. It’s an entertaining read as the three monsters stalk the same prey. Fun way to end the collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Overall, I was impressed by the varied collection of stories presented here. Obviously I knew my story and had a special connection to it, but read within the whole as part of this overall compilation I saw the theme of madness running from story to story. I was exposed to other authors I hadn’t yet read but look forward to more from them.

Look for more from Schreyer Ink Publishing as they look to release at least two more volumes in the “Twilight Madness” series. You can get this anthology here.

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Review: “Fire Eyes Awakened”

The book Fire Eyes Awakened: The Senturians of Terraunum Series (Book 1) by author R.J. Batla is an exciting, thrilling read from start to finish.

The book follows the tale of young Jayton Baird who has his superpowers (my words, not the authors) “awakened” only to find out they are more than he expected.

He bands together with others who’ve been “awakened” to go on a quest to save and reunite the world.

Fire EyesI thoroughly enjoyed this future dystopian world where humans with new powers can manipulate objects and nature itself. The setting was vibrant and exciting. For the most part. the characters were well written and engaging.

The book is written with various POV’s. For some, the switch between third and first person POV might be jarring. The switch isn’t mid-chapter, but some chapters are third while most are first. I didn’t mind it at all. I followed the story easy enough and didn’t have a problem with the alternating POV’s.

Another issue some might have is its blatant Christian overtones. Again, not something that bothered me in the slightest, however I can see how some readers might be turned off by the language. To me, it’s the author’s world and I have no issue with it at all.

I enjoyed Ryan’s writing style. Jayton is written as a witty 20-something and he’s approachable. I liked his banter with the reader and felt it added to his character. The cast around him worked for me. Their various powers complemented each other and helped the quest progress.

One of the only knocks I can say is that as much as I liked the characters, some of them didn’t connect with me. The cast is so huge, it was hard to feel empathy for all of them.

If you enjoy The Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson, this might appeal to you. I highly recommend the book and look forward to the sequel.

Review Circles for Authors

Are you an indie author or an author looking for more reviews? Well, let me help!

I’ve created a private Facebook group to address this and hopefully help us all as we work on our promotions.

Let me get this out there to be clear: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW EXCHANGE! We will NOT review book for book. You will not be expected to review a book from an author who is reviewing you. That would make for a dishonest review (or at the very least, the temptation to leave a higher review since you’d expect them to give you a higher review). I don’t like how that works and I don’t condone it.

In it’s most basic form, it works like this:

Review Circle

 

Here are a few guidelines to consider:

All authors will be expected to buy the book they’re reviewing as long as it’s $1.99 or less. If it’s over that price point, I want the author to gift it to them or send the reviewer a free copy.

I prefer reviewers buy the book to give the review the “Verified Purchase” tag. But I also want people to stick around and if they gotta keep paying more than $1.99 per book for something they may or may not normally read, I feel it’s asking too much.

Reviewers will have two weeks to read and review the books. All authors participating must not argue with the review received. These are honest opinions and if your work isn’t up to par, work on it first.

All reviews are honest. If as an author you get a review lower than what you expect, please do not argue with the reviewer. By submitting to the Review Circle, that’s the chance we take. That’s what an honest review is. This is not an opportunity for us to hand out five star reviews “just because.” It’s meant to help each other gain honest reviews of our work. Honest doesn’t always mean pleasant. Again, please do not argue with the reviewer.

Reviewers, though you are tasked with leaving an honest review, please be courteous. We’re not trying to discourage our fellow authors with negative remarks. You can voice your opinion in a thoughtful and constructive manner. Please do not crush your fellow authors.

For the book you’d like to have reviewed, please make sure your book is well constructed and edited, preferably by a professional. This is not a Beta reading circle. We are working under the assumption your book is a final product. What we read is what any reader would read. Make sure it’s the best representation of your book.

Try to keep all books requesting a review under 350 pages or less. Since this is a fairly quick turnaround of two weeks, longer books won’t work well. If your reviewer is OK with a longer book, go ahead and submit it. If not, please consider a different book.

By participating in the Review Circle, you must be ok with reading various genres. I will try to assign reviewers according to their tastes but I can’t guarantee it’s gonna be in your wheelhouse. If that happens, please keep an open mind and review the book on its merits as a story, not on if you like the genre. We can all learn when reading outside our specific genres.


So that’s it. I’ve run something like this in a Facebook group I’m part of, but I think it’s time to branch out and start a group based solely on this premise. If you’d like to join and are ready to be reviewed while offering your honest reviews, please send over a request to join the Review Circle for Authors Facebook Group. Thanks!

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Hey everyone, I wanted to share a few reviews with you today. I’ve never commented like this on reviews so let me know if I’m committing some faux pas.

For writers and authors, reviews are the lifeblood that pushes us forward. They can also make us cringe and get all defensive, though retaliation is a horrible thing to get involved in. It’s much better to suck it up and deal with the review as a learning tool, as a means of improving your craft. You gotta take the bad with the good and balance it out.

Anyway, here are three reviews I received recently for my book The Selection.


File_001I loved this review! So many great comparisons. I’m a bit humbled by them to be honest, but there’s a lot going on here that makes me think I nailed the feel and tone of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 


File_000 (2)This review further emphasized to me my tone and feel of the book was what I hoped it would be. It’s so tough to know how people will react to your work until you start seeing the proof in the reviews.

 

 

 


File_002

So this was my latest review and I love the honesty. The end of The Selection is pretty tough to take and I wanted a big hook to make the reader want more. So far, for the majority of readers it has gone over like I wanted. There are some who don’t agree with how I ended it and that’s perfectly fine.  I wouldn’t argue with any review that said the end sucked (or about anything in the book for that matter). That’s the opinion of the reader and I respect that.

 


 

There you have it. Three of my most recent reviews. I’m still in awe every time someone reads my work and feels compelled to leave a review. It’s fulfilling to know what I present to the reader is being accepted and enjoyed.

If you want to see for yourself what all the chatter is about, you can get The Selection on Amazon for only .99 now through August 31st. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free to read. When you do, please consider leaving a review. Honest reviews are the best ones, even if you hate it.

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Review: Tales From Alternate Earths

As a student of history, I’ve always been fascinated with great moments in time. Of course we can’t change what happened but there’s an entire branch of fiction dedicated to exploring the “what if’s” of history. Alternative history as a genre is often difficult to define and even harder to write.

“Tales From Alternate Earths,” the latest anthology from Inklings Press, presents eight tales of wonder and “what if’s” that reach back to ancient Romans (and earlier) to events not far removed from our present. And the collection they’ve assembled does alternative history right.

The collection starts with a fascinating tale from Jessica Holmes rewriting the events of Sept. 26th, 1983 when the Soviet early warning nuclear detection system incorrectly alerted that the US fired intercontinental ballistic missiles. She reimagines the events as if the Soviets believed the alert and the consequences of that action.

Author Terri Pray follows with a detailed account of the last days of Julius Caesar, but not as we know it. It was so well written I forgot entirely about Caesar’s true demise and found myself buying in to her retelling.

From there the collection reimagines Earth as ruled by dinosaurs from the imaginative story “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon” from Brent Harris and Ricardo Victoria.

Nuclear war and the rise of JFK to presumed world leader in the story “One World” by Cathbad Maponus is an intriguing take on a very well known figure.

Rob Edwards takes a real event, the meteorite that struck a remote Russian forest, and places it in another setting in urban London in his tale “Stargazing on Oxford Street.”

“The Secret War” by Leo McBride is an excellent tale of what truly inspired H.G. Wells. The tone and feel of this story easily one of my favorites in the collection.

Daniel Bensen’s “Treasure Fleet” tells the tale of a Chinese empire that’s converted to Islam and discovers the New World. Though well written and highly unique, I couldn’t quite get into the story as much as the others.

The collection ends with another of my favorites, “Tunguska, 1987” by Maria Haskins. This time traveling tale grabbed me from the first line and didn’t let go till the end.

As the fourth offering of short stories from Inklings press, I found this anthology to be imaginative and original. This was the first time Inklings Press opened the doors to out-of-house authors and it was a welcome addition to an already strong field of writers.

If you like to guess the course of history and how things could be different if only one thing were changed, this collection is for you. I can’t recommend this enough. Even if you aren’t a student of history, pick the anthology up. The writing is so strong and convincing you’ll not be disappointed.

You can get the anthology from Amazon.

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Review: Nonlocal Science Fiction (Issue #1)

There are numerous excellent science fiction and fantasy journals, e-zines, and magazines out there for consumption. Publications such as Fantasy and Science Fiction, Azimov’s, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and others offer exciting and well written stories by proven and up-and-coming writers. There really isn’t a lack of options when it comes to great science fiction and fantasy.  So where does Nonlocal Science Fiction add to this already well represented field?

Nonlocal Science Fiction is a quarterly anthology published by 33rd Street Digital Press. According to its website, the primary focus is to “expand the science fiction genre by working mainly with new and independent authors and giving them a legitimate outlet for their work.”

At first glance, Issue #1 (published in March of 2015) comes across as a well constructed work. The cover art is tremendous and the formatting and general look of the inside is high quality. I was quite surprised on opening the anthology at how well it looked. Though it was their first offering,  it didn’t suffer from lack of organization or direction. It was clear a lot of effort was put into it.

Going beyond the aesthetics, the writing was pretty darn good as well.

I’ve fallen victim to the pretty book cover of an indie author only to be disappointed by stories with flimsy plots or barely intelligible prose. However there are those moments when I find an indie author and instantly have a new favorite writer (Luke Smitherd, Teresa Lo, and Jennifer Wells just to name a few)

Nonlocal Science Fiction brings a platform to expose new authors to those who might not find them otherwise and they do so for less than a cup of coffee at most places.

The stories range from space exploration to westerns to time travel to world building. The diverse stories provide an eclectic yet interesting mix of voice from emerging writers. This first volume also includes two serials which are sure to keep readers coming back for more.

A few stand-out stories include “Marigold’s Memories” by Reva Russell English about wanting to remove certain memories, “Shoot the Devil” by Nicholas C. Rossis; an interesting time travel piece, and “Catalyst” by Aaron Hamilton; a creation story with a twist. The writing is crisp and the stories engaging.

Not to say that Nonlocal Science Fiction will soon be the “it” place for writers, it does hold its own as a viable, affordable source for great writing by authors unknown to most readers. For the cover price of $2.99 per issue, it’s hard to say it’s not worth it.

You can find issues of Nonlocal Science Fiction on Amazon or through links on their website.

Give it a try. You might find your new favorite writer!