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Three Very Good Reasons to Read Ship of Fools

Three Very Good Reasons to Read Ship of Fools published on

Ship of Fools is creepy as hell. Read it with the lights on, no matter how shiny your kindle is.

The take on religion is both honest and poignant. There are two religious main characters in Unto Leviathan: the bishop—grasping for power—and Father Veronica. The latter’s faith is true and deep. She believes firmly, and often retreats to the manufactured wilderness on the ship to pray and seek succor from God. The bishop, however, who has spent his life preaching and leading others, is revealed to have no faith. He uses religion like a boxing glove and a manipulative tool. Russo is a good enough writer that it’s easy to ignore the fact that the Church would not resemble itself after how many millennia from earth as we know it the ship is removed.

In the end, the story isn’t about individuals, or even about an institution as old and settled as the church. There are a lot of questions raised in the first part of the book. Who are the main character’s parents? Is the kid the son of the captain? How is it the dwarf hid from justice all those months? At first, it seems like finding out these answers will be part of reading the book. Part of me is irritated that these mysteries went unanswered—why set the mysteries up, if they won’t be explored? But the entire book skews when the danger of the alien ship is revealed. The author made a point to reveal these minor character threads as largely unimportant and petty against the menace and totality of the ship they found. It’s well done, but I still want the mysteries to be explained. That is simply how my head works.

Home to generations of humans, the starship Argonos has wandered aimlessly throughout the galaxy for hundreds of years, desperately searching for other signs of life. Now an unidentified transmission lures them toward a nearby planet-and into the dark heart of an alien mystery.

Stock Characters You Need During the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE + a Giveaway

Stock Characters You Need During the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE + a Giveaway published on 2 Comments on Stock Characters You Need During the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE + a Giveaway

David Monette has written our guest post this week. More about him and his latest work at the bottom of this post. Also, a giveaway of his books. YES!

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Which seven stock characters would you keep around you in order to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Now that is an interesting question. As the author of the zombie trilogy, In the Time of the Dead, I’ve had to answer a ton of zombie-related questions, and I can truly say that I’ve never had such a query put to me.

Thanks, Galleywampus scribes, for your originality!

Seal Patrol 72dpiSo… my first thought when I read both the question and then the list of examples I was shown was: how can I pick from this massive assortment of characters? I mean, there was everything from the Reluctant Hero (a person who doesn’t seek adventure or the opportunity to do good, and often doubts his or her abilities to rise to heroism. However, circumstances result in the character’s becoming a true hero) to the Girl Next Door (an average girl with wholesome conduct). Then I thought, “Wait a minute. Go through this slowly, look at it seriously. Who out of that list would you want around you if something like a zombie apocalypse were to occur?”

With that in mind, I looked through the list again. And here is what I found…

Crow and Hand BW72dpi1.- The first one I would choose would be the Absent-Minded Professor character (a scientific genius). The reason I would choose such an individual would be because I think it’s smart to have really smart people around me, even absent-minded ones, and even in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and especially when no one else can think of a way to make that flamethrower you really, really need.

2.- Keeping that in mind, I then thought, “Yeah, I’m going to need another smart guy around to keep a lid on the absent-mindedness of that first guy.” So that is why my next choice was a regular Professor, a “non-scientific genius” person, a doctor who is pretty smart and can remember that the flame thrower doesn’t need to be strapped to the user with a complicated array of belts and harnesses that serve no purpose other than look impressive, and who can also do something useful like slap a splint on my broken arm.

3.- Now, having a couple of pretty smart guys around me is great, but I’m really going to need someone, maybe a lot of someones, who can really kick butt. That leads me to my next four selections, starting with the Action Hero (a film hero protagonist with unrealistic resistance and fighting capabilities). Because who can’t use a guy like that to carry the flamethrower into battle with the zombies?

4.- That selection would be followed closely by a Conanesque character (a character inspired by Conan the Barbarian) and…

5.- the Super Soldier! (a soldier who operates beyond human limits or abilities) both of whom would, you know, charge into the fight at the side or in front of the Action Hero, doing action hero-ey type things… wait… aren’t those the same thing? Doesn’t matter. I choose all of them.

6.- And next, just to keep them in line, I would choose the Elderly Martial Arts Master who would look upon my broken arm with pity and hang back to protect me while the two fighter types charge in with the flamethrower and assorted blades and/or guns.

7.- Finally, I would chose the Hardboiled Detective (a gruff, tough and streetwise detective) because he would know the best place to hole-up and rest after we burnt through that nasty mess of zombies so that my poor arm could heal.

Sasha Climbing Wall 72dpiWhat an awesome crew, huh? The only thing to figure out would be why the heck such an impressive array of characters would want a bloke like me around, what with my broken arm and all. Oh, yeah! They’d need someone around to witness their antics and tell the story!

Whew.

That was fun! If you want to pick your own 7 Stock Characters, head to this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_stock_characters It’s where I got the titles and the descriptions for mine.
Enjoy!

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About the Book

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They thought they had escaped.

The battle for Washington DC is behind them, and the last remnants of the human race have fled from their undead enemies to a remote Caribbean island where they try to salvage what is left of humanity. But even here, the zombies have come. Led by the architect of the holocaust, an invading army wreaks havoc trying to acquire the one thing that can stop them, and the one thing a small contingent of soldiers knows they must never get.

Join with Sasha, Terrance, Virgil, and the little girl, Max, in an all or nothing gamble as they fight down the road to either salvation or horrible defeat in the thrilling conclusion of this series.

About the Author

authorpicDavid Monette was born and raised in the cold rural hinterlands of upstate New York. As a typical kid in a typical community, life for him was pretty… typical. He liked to draw creatures and contraptions but as the second born of four sons, such ability was merely a convenient way of standing out from the crowd. As he inexpertly stumbled through high school, his talent for capturing the images in his head onto paper was noticed and encouraged by both teachers and family members.

Without any other idea of what to do with himself after graduation, besides a vague idea of doing something art oriented, he decided to attend Mohawk Valley Community College where he received his associate’s degree in Advertising Design and Production. Acting on excellent advice from his teachers at this institution, he went on to Syracuse University where he learned a great deal about art and eventually wound up with a bachelor’s degree in Illustration.

With a disturbingly large amount of student debt and a decent portfolio, he learned what it was to be a starving artist. Namely, he found that artists don’t starve; they simply pick up an endless series of part time work to pay the rent while continuing to plug away at their true passion. This was essentially what he did until he received his first illustration job and from that point on, he didn’t look back. As an illustrator, his highly detailed fantasy and science fiction work has appeared in many books, magazines, board games, and collectible card games for such varied publishers as Dell Publishing, Wizards of the Coast, and Atlas Games. Initially, he had completed these diverse projects utilizing oil and acrylic paints as well as pen and inks.

As digital technology continued to improve, however, he decided it was time to tackle the arduous task of mastering the computer and eventually figured out a way to adapt his style to a digital format. With this knowledge and experience, he went back to school and received his master’s degree in Illustration from the University of Hartford. While there, his instructors reviewed his written work and had strongly suggested that he combine his writing ability with his talent as an illustrator to chart his own path.

And hence, an author was born.

Author Links

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1 prize containing all 3 ebooks of the trilogy

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Review: The Hookman Legacy by Hayley L. Bernard

Review: The Hookman Legacy by Hayley L. Bernard published on 1 Comment on Review: The Hookman Legacy by Hayley L. Bernard

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Black Ash Swamp has given birth to a new or perhaps very ancient legacy; a curse that has befallen upon a small town in Connecticut: The Hookman of Black Ash Swamp. A curse dating back to the ancient Indians and early pioneer explorers… The Hookman is a mythical swamp creature with a very unique power. When he hooks people, they don’t just simply die. Anyone who encounters The Hookman vanishes completely, so no trace of their life is left. Anything they’ve ever owned, anything they’ve ever written, anything they’ve ever done, disappears and no one knows they’ve ever existed. Not even their own parents… Zachary Hartman is a popular boy in the sixth grade. Even though he is a year older than Lynn, they become fast friends when he rescues her from being eaten by a huge snapping turtle. Yet Lynn is unable to save him when The Hookman emerges from the water and scratches Zachary’s arm. The wound is far more serious than it appears. Zachary keeps vanishing from sight against his will. He and Lynn are in a race against time to confront The Hookman and kill him before Zachary is gone and forgotten completely…

Remember the Hookman? The first time I ever heard a variant of this story, it was a foggy night, and my parents and I were sitting in traffic on a two lane highway. There was an accident up ahead, and it was damn hard for emergency services to get out there to clear the road. My mom decided that this was the perfect moment to tell her seven year old creepy stories. It’s one of those memories that really sticks. I’m not the only one — the Hookman has long since been an urban legend (it was even featured in the movie Urban Legend — Joshua Jackson’s character died a grisly death), and Sam and Dean of Supernatural have gone up against them.

The Hookman Legacy takes advantage of the popularity of the modern day fairy tale. It’s deceptively slow at the beginning. Bernard takes her time weaving a creepy story based on a legend most people know. The heroine is a child poised to become a teenager, thus almost ready to leave behind any odd fears of that which goes bump in the night — almost ready, but not quite. I read this in one afternoon on a rainy day, and it’s an excellent way to spend a quiet afternoon.

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Hayley Bernard lives in Philadelphia, where she writes and paints. The Hookman Legacy was published by SNM Publishing.

Review: Rend the Dark by Mark Gelineau & Joe King

Review: Rend the Dark by Mark Gelineau & Joe King published on

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About the Book

From the authors’ website:
The great Ruins are gone. The titans. The behemoths. All banished to the Dark and nearly forgotten. But the cunning ones, the patient ones remain. They hide not in the cracks of the earth or in the shadows of the world. But inside us. Wearing our skin. Waiting. Watching.

Once haunted by visions of the world beyond, Ferran now wields that power to hunt the very monsters that he once feared. He is not alone. Others bear the same terrible burden. But Hunter or hunted, it makes no difference. Eventually, everything returns to the Dark.

Review

This is the second novella written by Mark Gelineau and Joe King in their ongoing, over-arching series, Echoes of the Ascended. One of the interesting things about this wider series is that there are four distinct series under the Echoes of the Ascended banner, all taking place in the same world. Each has a different feel.

The first novella, Reaper of Stone, which we reviewed HERE, had a high-fantasy face, and followed Elinor as she became a Reaper.

This second book is about a monster-hunting acolyte. It has more of a horror-fantasy vibe. A little more like a Van Helsing. Some of the gruesome aspects reminded me a bit of The Monstrumologist, though this is distinctly a different tale.

Ferran is the protagonist here, or at least one of them. We follow him, beginning with his childhood, from his humble origins in an orphanage. He sees monsters. The people who run orphanages hate it when the little blighters under their control see weird, disgusting, scary monsters, so when he freaks out upon seeing that the juggler isn’t what everyone else thinks he is, the orphanage is not pleased.

We get a really cool passing mention of the lead characters from the other three story lines Gelineau and King are working with: Elinor, Alys, Roan, and Kay. Though the stories are each separate and self-contained to some degree, it is enjoyable to see little glimpses of where the world intersects for these characters.

Ferran is eventually taken in by a group of people who hunt and kill the blackhearts, and he is trained. By the time we meet him again, he’s not a scared child hiding from the juggler. He’s a badass monster hunter, complete with a chain in one hand and something like a naginata in the other. We meet some other characters here, but giving too many details here will give too much away. The most interesting of these others is Mireia, who acts as a spiritual bard; her songs seemingly aid the flow of battle in the group’s favor.

If large spider-things scare you silly, you’re going to have a bad time. Or, a good time, if you like being scared. Same thing with zombies, or things like zombies. Puppet-people. Monsters in people suits. Because that’s what’s being hunted here. Dark times.

I’m excited to read the third book, which sounds like a sort of noir-fantasy hybrid. I love hybrids. I enjoy noir titles. You’ve probably noticed that I read a lot of fantasy. I’ve enjoyed the first two novellas in the Echoes of the Ascended series. I won’t be reading quite as many titles in November (hello NaNoWriMo) but the first Alys title, Best Left in the Shadows, will be coming out in November, and it is on that list.

About the Authors

Mark and Joe have been writing and telling stories together for the last 25 years. They share a love for the classic fantasy tales of their childhood. Their Echoes of the Ascended series brings those old epic characters and worlds to new life.

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Guest Post: Who Doesn’t Love Clowns, Eh? by James Walley

Guest Post: Who Doesn’t Love Clowns, Eh? by James Walley published on

clown-tragique-1911Who doesn’t love clowns, eh?

Anyone? No? Not even you at the back? Come on, they’re wonderful. The way their painted, mask like faces grin with the gleaming insanity of a serial killer. Or the when you’re home alone, late at night and you hear a high pitched giggle from somewhere in the dark downstairs. Delightful.

As it turns out, a small demographic of people known as the human race seem to find these traits, well, downright terrifying, and as a result, clowns have become the stuff of nightmares. Or at the very least, not something that you’d have at a children’s party, which is ironic, really.

With that in mind, it really was a no brainer to have these juggling demons inhabit the dreamscapes of The Forty First Wink, where they are free to slink around in dark recesses, and generally remind us that in every nightmare, there is a pair of bulging eyes, a toothy grin, and a pair of brightly coloured pantaloons in every murky alleyway, basement, or giant, revolving bouncy house. Okay, maybe that last one is just Marty’s dream, but you get the general idea.

And what better way to give face to the brightly painted denizens of your nightmares than to have the daddy of all clowns chase our protagonist through the streets of his own dreamspace? Mr Peepers is the alpha clown, the Godjester, the greasepainted Grim Reaper. Basically, if you pull up to this guy’s drive-thru, you’re likely to come away with an Unhappy Meal.

Put simply, clowns are the perfect nightmare fuel. There are even experts on the subject, probably scarred as children by some jibbering madman who sneaked up on them, holding a bunch of balloons.

“It is the fear of the mask, the fact that it doesn’t change and is relentlessly comical.”

This is another reason why I chose clowns as my antagonists for The Forty First Wink. Their raison d’etre is comedy, but are viewed as anything but. Wink is a work of funny fiction. For that to work, I wanted to present a world that was warped, demented, and ever so slightly larger than life. Funny and scary can work so well together, especially if you include something that is supposed to be one, but ends up being the other. We can all laugh at clowns, uneasily and casting furtive glances towards the nearest exit, but the fear is still there, and it grows, even within the comforting surrounds of a comedic romp through someone’s dreamspace.

clowns-skula-and-yeroshka-1914_jpg!BlogWhen a bunch of clowns come cartwheeling into a scene, all bets are off. We don’t know if they’re going to make an amusing balloon animal, or rip your face off and wear it like a hat. They’re unpredictable, and that’s what makes them so deliciously creepy.

The Forty First Wink: The Fathom Flies Again, book two in the Wink trilogy, is due to come out soon, and in its pages, the clowns crank it up a notch. They slither out of the darkness to drag away unsuspecting innocents. They assemble, chanting nursery rhymes outside of the local police station. Warped and twisted abominations, magnified to the power of hell no, and set loose on an unsuspecting town. Released from the constraints of nightmare, and unleashed upon the real world.

Of course, not everything in this garden has a shiny red nose. Clowns and clowns alone are so book one, and what is a sequel if not a reason to dial up the shenanigans to eleven?

Coming in hot on the heels of clowns as things nobody wants anything to do with, ever, is the unseen thing under the bed. We have all leapt under our covers as children, being especially careful not to leave limbs exposed or, heaven forbid, hanging over the edge of the bed. That would be way too inviting for the monsters which dwell mere inches beneath us in the darkness, wouldn’t it?

Beneath that blanket, you felt safe, didn’t you? So long as you didn’t make a move, or a sound, the thing hiding in the shadows couldn’t get you. And for some reason, even as adults, on dark and stormy nights, we still remember this, and pull the covers up tightly around us. Because it’s still there, hiding, waiting. Perhaps hoping that the door between reality and dreams might be left open, just a crack, and they can come oozing through, mingling with the shadows and grasping at that stray pinkie toe which peeps out over the edge of the bed.
Of course, they can’t hurt us really. We tell ourselves over and over, as the bedside light flickers, and the shadows close in. It’s just a dream, right? Right?

We may not all have a monster under our bed, or a clown waiting in our closet, but it would be nice to have a crew of miniature toy pirates to watch our back, wouldn’t it? Just to be on the safe side.

About the Author

8291459Hailing from the mystical isle of Great Britain, James Walley is an author who prefers his reality banana shaped.

His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014 scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humour, fantasy and the unusual. (It’s really, really, really good. Seriously, buy it).

A clutch of follow up work, both short and long (including books two and three in the Wink trilogy) are in the offing, and have a similar demented flavour.

When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.

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Lost in Lovecraft: Two Anthologies of Weird Horror

Lost in Lovecraft: Two Anthologies of Weird Horror published on
This is a totally normal picture of myself and my totally normal baby. Nothing to see here, move along.
This is a totally normal picture of myself and my totally normal baby. Nothing to see here, move along.

What was I thinking? Seriously. I agreed to review a pair of Lovecraft anthologies, nearly back to back.

My brain has been bombarded by some twisted, disturbing tales. There were some standouts in each anthology, and I will mention these.

I’ll be writing a separate review for each anthology, highlighting what I felt were the strengths of each grouping. I will not be comparing the two to each other overmuch. They really are unique from one another–each has a distinct tone, brought about by the excellent editing skills of Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles (She Walks in Shadows from Innsmouth Free Press) and Kat Rocha (Whispers from the Abyss from 01 Publishing).

Full disclosure: I’m an H.P. Lovecraft virgin. After reading what happens to virgins in these books, I’m sort of okay with that. I hate that I haven’t read the material that inspired these tales. Sure, I’ve played some tabletop games, observed South Park’s quite obviously accurate representation of Cthulhu, and even own a shirt with Cthulhu as the greater of the evils for the 2016 election. I’ve become accustomed to the culture without reading the tales. That hasn’t changed recently, but I feel that I have a much better grasp of the mystique of the Mythos.

 

She Walks in Shadows

She Walks in Shadows Cover

Released 10/13/2015 by Innsmouth Free Press.

This is a dark book. A dark, disturbing, terrible book. I enjoyed it immensely. Of the two publications I’m reviewing, this one is willing to dig more deeply into taboo subjects. Rape and torture frequent these tales, and left me queasy.

All of the stories, illustrations, and the cover were created by women. It was edited by women.

On the one hand, this book is a triumph for women who have been told that women just don’t do Lovecraft. According to Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, co-editors of this work, “The first spark was the notion, among some fans of the Lovecraft Mythos, that women do not like to write in this category, that they can’t write in this category.”

On the other hand, ignoring, if you must, the gender of the writers, this is a hell of a compilation of stories.

Some of my favorites were some of the darkest. I can’t go into every story here, because I have a totally normal, non-possessed child to hug in the morning and I like to sleep, so I’ll pick a few of my favorites and pull a Reading Rainbow and tell you to go read it yourself, you rapscallion. That’s what Burton says, right?

I really enjoyed “Turn Out the Light” by Penelope Love. The pre-note states that this is “A re-imagining of the life and death of Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft.” This story finds a gentle lens for Lovecraft, despite the content matter. The disordered narrative works perfectly for the tale of Lovecraft’s childhood and his mother’s institutionalization and death. A bit of darkness, of Lovecraft’s Mythos, enters the otherwise real events.

Nadia Bulin’s “Violet is the Color of Your Energy” is not for the faint of heart. The first paragraph is a winner:

Abilgail Gardner Nee Cuzak was sitting on the bathroom floor, thinking about the relationship that mice in mazes have with death, when a many-splendored light shot down from the stars like a touch of divine Providence.

This opening line really does reflect the rest of the story in intriguing ways. This one really bothered me, which is probably a good thing. Abigail Gardner, her children, and her husband start this tale out perfectly normal, and by the end of the tale of weird corn, insanity and plenty of deaths Spoilers can be highlighted within the parentheses (if the deaths of children at the hands of their own parents bother you, as well as a dead dog, don’t touch this one) we are left with a blunt, hard ending. My heart hurt during and after this work. I had to set down the Kindle and do some story-planning to get my mind right. This story is written expertly, and I’ll keep my peepers open for other works by Bulin.

Molly Tanzer’s “Cheerleading Squad” took a delightful tone shift from the prior works in the anto. It features some Christian cheerleaders, is set during the early 1990s (I think, based on DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince reference) and featuring an H.P. Lovecraft character via the gender-bending (or is she>) Asenath who returns from summer with a whole new look and attitude. (I used Google). I felt like the story used some expectations of the genre to turn our perceptions upside down.

Whispers from the Abyss

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Released 10/11/2013 by 01 Publishing.

I think I received a copy of this book because a second installment just peeked over the horizon. It certainly doesn’t hurt to remind people, “Hey, Whispers from the Abyss was pretty good, and wouldn’t you like another helping of sea monsters, demonic beings and Old Gods?” Well, yeah! Why not?

While there were a great many stories here, and the serious ones are also entertaining, My favorites in this anthology were generally humorous. The stories are often short.

“Iden-Inshi” by Greg Stolze has an intriguing voice to it. It’s dark, grows progressively darker, and ends down a deep, deep well of darkness.

“My Friend Fishfinger by Daisy, Age 7” by David Tallerman is short, but there is a fun bit of dark irony to it. Look, just don’t trust these fishy people, okay kid?

“The Decorative Water Feature of Nameless Dread” by James Brogden was humorous. I enjoyed the couple listening to a radio program in which a caller is trying to get help identifying a strange creature that has encroached upon his property. Just a little Deep One is all.

Erica Satifka’s “You Will Never be the Same” felt like a dark science fiction tale: an episode of Doctor Who, maybe, or a short, Lovecraftian version of This Alien Shore by C.S. Friedman. I wanted to know more about the world that gave birth to the events of the story. Yes, there’s the Lovecraftian Mythos, but there’s something else there, too: a ship traveling across dangerous space and the madness therein.

Also available:

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From Goodreads: The WHISPERS FROM THE ABYSS anthology series returns with more H.P. Lovecraft-inspired fiction created for readers on the go. Contained within are 25 spine-chilling tales by Laird Barron (The Imago Sequence), Cody Goodfellow (Spore), Greg Stolze (Delta Green), A.C. Wise (Future Lovecraft), John Palisano (Dust of the Dead), John C. Foster (Dead Men), Orrin Grey (Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts), Dennis Detwiller (Delta Green), Chad Fifer (The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast), Konstantine Paradise (Coven), and many more. Now come, begin your slow descent into madness…

This can be purchased at Amazon, and other book retailers.

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