Monday, 31 October 2016

Literary Pumpkins

Happy Halloween. My favourite time of year. That gentle chill in the air, the leaves turning to shades of red and orange and there are pumpkins. I adore pumpkin carving, especially seeing example of true art carved into the large orange gourds. I have compiled a top five of literary themed pumpkins. After that are three choice pumpkin themed recipes. Enjoy


John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and...I'm guessing Fifty Shades. Simple easy designs.


Well...its a different interpretation of this particular book series.


Hunger Games - The Mockingjay


The boy who lived.


Tolkien wins, handsdown.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dusty Pages Review: The Baine Chronicles

Blurb for Burned By Magic:

In the city of Solantha, mages rule absolute, with shifters considered second-class citizens and humans something in between. No one outside the mage families are allowed to have magic, and anyone born with it must agree to have it stripped from them to avoid execution.

Sunaya Baine, a shifter-mage hybrid, has managed to keep her unruly magic under wraps for the last twenty-four years. But while chasing down a shifter-hunting serial killer, she loses control of her magic in front of witnesses, drawing the attention of the dangerous and enigmatic Chief Mage.

Locked up in the Chief Mage's castle and reduced to little more than a lab rat, Sunaya resists his attempts to analyze and control her at every turn. But she soon realizes that to regain her freedom and catch the killer, she must overcome her hatred of mages and win the most powerful mage in the city to her side.

 Set on an alternate version of Earth, I got the first book in this series under one of those limited time free offers. The minute I started reading it, I didn't want to put it down. I was drawn into the world and the mystery of what was going on very quickly and when I saw there was more, I instantly downloaded them. I read the next four installments in two days. I loved the characters, but their development is a little slow. The romance between the heroine Sunaya and her chosen beau, took forever to come to fruition.

There is plenty of action in these books but some of the twists I saw coming. You could tag early on who was going to be key bad guys later because they kept popping up. I was a little upset with amazon who advertised the five books as the complete series, only to find out there is in fact a sixth book scheduled for publication on the 30th of December. I hope that this will be the last because if the author intends to drag it out any further (as in my opinion the first three books felt like one book merely chopped up into three pieces) I will lose interest.

I give this a series rating of

Monday, 24 October 2016

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...James Dorr

1. Tell me about your upcoming
Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth and where you got your inspiration for it?

On a far-future, exhausted Earth a ghoul – an eater of corpses – explores the ruins of one of its greatest cities in hopes of discovering the one thing that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the premise, the quest that introduces us to the 16 stand-alone chapters, about half in fact already published in various venues as complete short stories, loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe, of the most poetic subject being the death of a beautiful woman (which also informs, in its way, my previous book The Tears of Isis) and of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.” If these statements be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?

2. Why did you want to write this book?

For Tombs the stories, at least the first of them, preceded the book, yet they seemed to “want” to come together, rather like the stories in books like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. That is, even if complete in themselves, they seemed to be part of something bigger, in this case a sort of future history of a people already aware of its approaching doom, if not in this lifetime, at best in no more than a few generations. That’s far enough, then, that one needn’t despair, to strive to live only in the moment, but nothing that one accomplishes is going to be long remembered either. Yet legends still are, somehow, created – perhaps through some larger need of humanity – and these are the legends presented here. Ones that, in having created this world, I felt myself compelled to discover.

3. How do you feel about public appearances? Do you do them often?

I dote on them. I don’t travel much, but when I do I try to get to science fiction or horror conventions. I love being on panels, as well as just chatting with fans and with fellow writers and poets. In a way I feel it’s kind of an extension of the writing, almost an obligation to have that extra connection with people who read my work – or at least to be available for it – not to mention an excuse to get away from familiar surroundings. Locally, too, I’m a member of a non-genre Writers Guild and, while I may not get to every event, I make it a point to participate in monthly poetry and prose readings.

4. If you were asked to review a fellow author/friends book would you be honest?

I would certainly try to. At the same time, though, I would try to put on a positive spin, and if I felt something fell short to explain why. And of course in the case where I’m doing it as a favor, I’d be happy to give them a look at it first and, if they thought I was too off base, to not publish it.

5. What do you plan to do next?

One project on the back burner is a new poetry book about vampires, this one in the guise of a handbook giving advice to the newly bitten. It would have some pieces of flash fiction too, instructional narratives perhaps of those who had successfully made the transition. Also, whether this comes together or not, some of these stories are in a continuing series themselves, based on a New Orleanian urban legend of les filles à les caissettes -- the “casket girls” – who came to that city in 1728, a few of which have already appeared in places like Daily Science Fiction.

6. How do you think the self-publishing boom has affected the book industry?

With the exception of occasional poems I might post on my blog, I don’t self-publish myself, partly because having some kind of a gatekeeper helps keep me honest. If I can’t convince an editor, somewhere, to like it enough to publish, how can I justify asking others to pay to read it? But that’s just me. The real problem, I think, is in self-promotion – with more and more books coming on the market, how does one prevent one’s own, however published, from being buried in the crowd? For that, bless you, Sonnet, for giving us one place to introduce ourselves and our work! But also I would beg other readers, if you come across a book you enjoy, please consider reviewing it, even if just to say that you liked it, and sharing it with others on places like Goodreads and Amazon.

7. A duck walks into a bar, what does he order?

If he’s a bourbon drinker, Wild Turkey straight up, if only to see how the other side lives.

8. Is there one area of your writing that you’ve always wanted to improve upon?

Characterization, trying to capture the beautiful weirdness that makes a person an individual in only a handful of words. I think occasionally, in some of the “casket girls” stories for instance, I just might achieve it.

9. Are you still learning who you are?

Absolutely! In fact that may be part of the point of writing, or sharing whatever bit of ourselves in any art form. At least for me, I think reaching a point where I stopped learning about myself would be death.

10. Glass half full or half empty?

It depends. Am I pouring or drinking?

11. Why did you choose to be a writer?

At one time I thought I might be a painter or a graphic artist – some capacity in the visual arts. But then I found I had more talent for describing a thing in words than in lines or colors, to try to get you as a reader to fill in those qualities in your own mind, as well as so much more. To smell it, to feel its texture, its music (I might mention I also lead, and play tenor in a Renaissance recorder consort), and if it’s a person to see for a moment in its mind as well.

12. Who was your first crush?

Carolyn Jones in the role of Morticia in the original 1960s television show The Addams Family. In some ways she still is.

“The city had once lived, blazing with light. The books all described this. The Ghoul-Poet sat in the midst of a heap of them, pages torn, rotting, spread out all about him. This was a library, the pride of New City, or rather a square that had faced the library, that had received this avalanche of thought -- words embossed on parchment -- that cascaded down when the library burst, its walls weakened by age. It was a treasure trove, this mountain of dreams and abstracts, histories and myths. Some true, some perhaps not.”

These, then, were the legends of the Tombs, the vast Necropolis and its environs . . .

. . . of corpse-trains that plied bridges crossing the great river, bearing the City’s dead, braving attacks from flesh-eating ghouls
. . . of ratcatchers, gravediggers, grave guards, and artists
. . . of Mangol the Ghoul, of musician-lovers Flute and Harp who once played back a storm, of the Beautiful Corpse
. . . of seas filled with monsters, a mass-death of animals, secret tapestries teaching children about a past great war, the dangers of swamps 
. . . a city consumed by a huge conflagration, a woman frozen for thousands of years 
. . . a mission by airship to rescue a man’s soul 
. . . a flower that ate memories. . . 

These are just some of the wonders, the horrors, to be found in the pages of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, scheduled to be out from Elder Signs Press in Spring, 2017.  

About James

Born in Florida in the USA, raised in the New York City area, in college in Boston, and currently living in the Midwest, James Dorr is a short story writer and poet, specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician.



Amazon Author Page:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Myth Vs Mouse: Pocahontas

Another tail from Disney based on history or myth is that of Pocahontas. A Native American princess who befriends English settlers in the new world. How accurate is this portrayal? Well here are three things that history tells us, that Disney doesn't.

1. John Smith Romance

A romance was fashioned around these two much later by fiction and has no bearing on the facts. When John Smith came to the new world, the young Pocahontas was around about the age of eleven. A most they could be called friends, as she used to bring supplies of food to him when the James Town rations were thin, helping him to survive through difficult times. When he was injured, much like he is in the movie, Pocahontas was not there and he was aboard a ship back to England before she knew of his accident. The James town settlers in fact told her that he had died and she stopped coming to the settlement altogether.

2. Saving John Smith from Death

John Smith was captured by the Native American chief Powhatan and held captive for several months but in his first account of this, his life was never in danger and sometime later he was let go. It was during his capture, about a couple of months in that he actually met Pocahontas and befriended the girl. Much later, when he was alive and well, living back in England and heard that Pocahontas would be coming to England, did he change his story to make a hero that saved his life. It was a possible publicity move to ease her into English society.

3. Romance with John Ralph

Her romance with her real life husband was the subject of a second straight to DVD to movie in which she is sought out by John Ralph, to return with him to England to convince the king that they were not savages. This is not the case. John Ralph was a tobacco planter whom she married after she was captured by the English during a period of hostility in 1613, after her conversion to Christianity. Can we say Stockholm syndrome? The couple do travel to England, once already married and she is presented as the civilized savage becoming quite the celebrity. However she never returned to the new world, the location of her grave is unknown in the district of Gravesend, England.

It is also worth a mention where Disney portrays her as a princess and vital to the tribe, this was not in fact the case. Although she was a favourite of her father, she was far, far at the bottom in the line of succession. It favoured Powhatan's brothers first, then his sisters and then the children of his sisters. Unless there was some sort disease that wiped out most of the tribe, Pocahontas would never have taken over.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the real story behind the Disney classic.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Dusty Pages Review: Skin Game

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day. As Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it's something awful.
This time, it's worse than that. Mab's involved Harry in a smash-and-grab heist run by one of his most despised enemies, to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure horde in the world - which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the Underworld.
Dresden's always been tricky, but he's going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess - assuming his own allies don't end up killing him before his enemies get the chance....

I got this book on audio because I love listening to James Marsters reading them. I enjoyed the story very much. I did get a little lost as some of the side characters I had trouble remembering them because they last appeared some time ago.

I absolutely loved the inclusion of some Greek Mythology. I was hoping though that the whole Harry/Karen relationship would get a little more off the ground - he teased me, just when you think its getting good, it turns out to be a fever dream. A bit of a cop out for us dedicated readers. What Harry will do next is completely up in the air and I have no idea when the next volume is due out.

It lacked a little of the punch I usually expect and I'm disappointed about Nicodemus - yet again.

I give it

Monday, 17 October 2016

Meet a Writer Monday Presents...

...Julia French

1. Tell me about your book Hill Magick and where you got your inspiration for it?

Rachel Walker, trying to find a way out of her abusive marriage, finds freedom and danger in the hills of Massachusetts. She lives in the mysterious city of Yarwich, where paranormal manifestations are commonplace, but she can't bring herself to accept the supernatural nature of these happenings. True Gannett, self-taught folk healer and wise man, has to decide whether to flee or stand his ground against Joshua Lambrecht, a powerful wizard who has emerged from isolation in pursuit of his evil objective. Part of my inspiration for this book was the movie Terminator 2, in which two androids battle against each other. The obsolete and frankly outmatched android is the one which ends up winning, which I think is cool.

2. Why did you want to write this book?

I have always had an interest in folklore and the supernatural. The reasons why people would seek to harness magical and occult power are fascinating to me. For example, for a person who feels they are powerless in life, such things would be an antidote to their feelings of insignificance. I also like to show metaphysical principles in action, and the stuff that can happen when people misuse psychic power.

3. If you were asked to review a fellow author/friends book would you be honest?

The author whose review I would be writing could be reviewing my book in the future, so I would be honest and yet kind. If there was something I felt was wrong with the book I would couch it in general terms like, "I felt this character wasn't all he/she could have been," or "I had trouble understanding such and such (as opposed to "it was clear as mud!").

4. If all the world's a stage, where does the audience sit?

Everywhere. Life is a theater in the round with forced audience participation, much like the pep rallies in the high school gym when I was in my teens.

5. What is your perfect pizza?

Sausage, onion, and mozzarella, with extra all of that. I could live on it.

6. If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you have want to have seen?

The early Earth, when the first amphibian crawled out of the ocean onto the land. I would love to watch that, knowing that everything and everyone in the modern world stems from that one event in Earth's past.

7. What is your favourite word?

Currently it's "ensorcel." I love the way it sounds, it's an unusual word and I must find a way to work it into one of my novels.

8. Glass half full or half empty?

Depends on my caffeine intake for the day. Is my coffee cup half full, or half empty?

9. Which of the four seasons do you like the most?

Oh, autumn. It's the time of harvest, ingathering, and getting ready for winter. You start to see nature as it really is, not concealed by the flashy trappings of summer leaves, underbrush, or pretty flowers. Nothing is so beautiful as a gray autumn sky with geese flying overhead, and yellow leaves against black tree trunks.

10. If you joined the circus what would you perform?

Strange to say, this question has actually crossed my mind, so I have an answer. I would have a dog and pony act, because I love dogs and horses, because the odds of suffering bodily harm are minimal compared to something like trapeze artist or elephant handler, and because I could perform the act into my old age if I had to. Job security!

11. If you had the chance for a do over in life, what would you do differently?

I wouldn't have spent so much money on college. I would have bought a small farm with an apple orchard and stayed home and wrote, and spent my whole life that way.

12. Why did you choose to be a writer?

The urge to communicate to others. I want to choose exactly the right words to make you feel what I feel, see and hear what I see, think what I'm thinking. And if I couch it in terms of this character or that, I can express different parts of myself in different ways. I enjoy writing about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations. I work hard to show what my characters go through, what they suffer, how they change and what they learn–or not–from their experiences.

13. What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?

I would love to learn how to draw from life. My drawing talent isn't just zero, it zooms past zero into the negative numbers. When I see somebody draw a person's portrait or a tree or an animal and it looks like what it's supposed to look like, it's a miracle to me. I don't know how people do this thing. I feel like primitive man wondering at a solar eclipse or something.

14. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to? 

Shooting whitewater rapids. I am terrified of drowning or being bashed on rocks, but I also think it would be an exciting, unforgettable experience--provided I lived through it, of course, which there's no guarantee of, and that's why I haven't done it.


Aspiring columnist Rachel Jeffries, seeking escape from her abusive marriage, travels into the hill country of Massachusetts where she is saved from certain death by folk healer True Gannett. Armed only with his great-grandfather's knowledge, True must protect himself and Rachel and stop the swath of destruction started by the powerful magician Joshua Lambrecht and his obnoxious familiar. 

About Julia

Julia French was born and raised in Wisconsin, and currently resides there. She loves cheese popcorn, crafts, animals, and nature, and is teaching herself to play the piano, an unfulfilled ambition left over from her childhood. She has had several short stories published online. Her first novel Hill Magick is available from Amazon, and she is currently working on her fourth book. Her personal philosophy of horror is that knowledge is power, and that it is better to turn and face what is coming to get you than allow it to leap upon your back without warning.