The Odd and The Strange by Harvey Havel #giveaway

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The Odd and the Strange: A Collection of Very Short Fiction by Harvey Havel ~ Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Surrealist, Fabulist

A Collection of Very Short Fiction from a variety of genres, including but not limited to horror, science fiction, politics, and the surreal. These celebrated very short stories have been collected over a number of years and have been published in a variety of online e-zines and posted on various websites.

THE ODD AND THE STRANGE by Harvey Havel is a collection of urban tales that toe the line of reality.

The subtitle of Harvey Havel’s THE ODD AND THE STRANGE is A Collection of Very Short Fiction. A better one would be A Very Long Book of Normal-Sized Short Fiction. There are 89 stories in all, most 5-10 pages long (though a few stretch to nearly twenty), with unassuming titles like “Visitation,” “Girlfriend,” and “Daughter.” Though set in the real world, the stories tease reality with nameless characters–the candidate, the doctor, the Big Man–and fantastical occurrences, similar to the parables of Jorge Luis Borges (Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish language literature).

Being a librarian, I was eager to read the story “The Librarian.” A young male librarian–unnamed, naturally–looks into a mirror in his office and sees not his reflection but a woman with “walnut hair luxuriously long and her skin as supple as a young girl’s.” He has seen her many times, and though the two cannot touch, they can talk. What do they talk about? The books he steals from the library and passes into the mirror for her to read. Eventually, his boss confronts the librarian over the missing books only to be told that the latter he gave them to his mirror-world girlfriend. To prove this claim, the librarian tries to summon the woman, and when she doesn’t appear, the librarian smashes the mirror. You can imagine the rest.

Some stories are less Borges and more Stephen Crane (author of The Red Badge of Courage): bleak, violent. Like “Lightning Love,” narrated by a wife whose husband changes into . . . something (the twist at the end is brilliant). Others are political fables, like “Santa Claus and Madam Secretary,” which makes Havel’s proclivities as clear as the image on a 98-inch TV. His style can be clunky–one woman’s breasts are described as “shaped like a queen’s”–and some endings are telegraphed. A few stories, like “Sex Toy,” are more like story fragments. Yet THE ODD AND THE STRANGE is quite an accomplishment: unusual, provocative, and honest.

Mixing the fabulism of Jorge Luis Borges with the bleakness of Stephen Crane, the tales contained in Harvey Havel’s THE ODD AND THE STRANGE draw the reader into a world they won’t soon forget.

~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader

**Get this book at 50% off at Smashwords and check out Harvey’s other books – a lot of them are FREE or on sale at Smashwords too!**

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Would you like a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card or an ebook of your choice from the author (1 winner each)? Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Harvey Havel is a short-story writer and novelist.

His first novel, Noble McCloud, A Novel, was published in November of 1999. His second novel, The Imam, A Novel, was published in 2000.

Over the years of being a professional writer, Havel published his third novel, Freedom of Association. He worked on several other books and published his eighth novel, Charlie Zero’s Last-Ditch Attempt, and his ninth, The Orphan of Mecca, Book One, which was released several years ago. A full trilogy of this work had been completed a few years after Mr. Big is about a Black-American football player who deals with injury and institutionalized racism. This book was published in 2017. It’s his fifteenth book.

The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill is his sixteenth book, and his seventeenth is a non-fiction political essay about America’s current political crisis, written in 2019. He has just now published his eighteenth book, The Odd and The Strange: A Collection of Very Short Fiction.
Havel is formerly a writing instructor at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey. He also taught writing and literature at the College of St. Rose in Albany as well as SUNY Albany.

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An interview with Author Harvey Havel:

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I went to a tiny college in Hartford, Connecticut.  In my sophomore year, I joined a fraternity.  In my senior year, there was a fraternity brother of mine named Jason Morfoot who told me this story about a group of guys who wrote poetry and literature all the time, smoked a lot of pot, dropped a lot of acid, and drove around in a psychedelic-painted bus with the Grateful Dead.

Once I heard this story, I asked Jason to tell it to me over and over again, probably to his chagrin.  I was so charmed by what the Beats did way back when that I said to myself, ‘Gee, maybe this writing thing is for me.’  Of course, it never turned out the way it turned out for them, but I never would have gone into writing had Jason not told me about the Beat Generation.  At the time, it sounded like they lived a fairy-tale life.  Perhaps they did.

Where were you born/grew up at?

I was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971.  I immigrated to the United States when I was just a newborn.  My family first moved to Buffalo, New York, and over the years, we found ourselves in New York City by the mid-1970s.  Back then, New York City was in dire straits – high crime, intense poverty, drugs, etc.  I still can’t believe how my mother got through it all, living in the toughest neighborhood in the city at the time, which was then known as Alphabet City, or what is currently known as the Lower East Side.  God must have been with her the entire time.  I am really amazed at how she persevered. She was incredible woman, even though our relationship was not.

What inspired you to write this book?

Interestingly enough, these stories were somehow stored on my computer for several years before I accidently found them in a hidden file on my hard drive.  I discovered nearly ninety short stories that I forgotten I had ever written.  It turns out that nearly seven or eight years ago, the poet, John Allen of Albany, New York, had asked me to submit stories for his website, The New Surrealist Institute, which is now defunct.  This site had really been thriving, and a core group of authors had submitted avidly to it.  It was also quite popular with many readers.  When the website went offline, I had simply forgotten about the stories.  When I found them, I just knew I had to compile them into a book.

I wouldn’t say that anything in particular inspired me to write these stories, though.  The ideas came to me out of nowhere, which is why it took a lot of effort to construct them.  Some of the political stories were inspired by the 2016 elections, for instance.  There’s a science fiction story that is more a personal response to my past relationships with friends who have now grown up to do amazing things with their lives.  A couple stories are tributes to old friends of mine who had passed on: a painter friend of mine who had committed suicide in the 1990s and also a Black-American bluegrass musician who had recently passed away a couple of years ago.  But I can’t say exactly how I got the ideas for them, which is strange.  They are very diverse and, I hope, fun to read.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Right now, I am working on a book about September 11, 2001, when the Word Trade Center in New York was hit by a terrorist attack.  I haven’t been working on the project consistently as of late, though, but I hope to have it done in a couple of years.  Sometimes, life gets in the way of writing every day, which is something I made sure to do.  But I really do want the September 11th book to be my finest publication, so it is always on my mind, and when I am working on it, I am working really hard.

Who designed your book covers?

I have to do everything on the cheap, as I have self-published for a long time.  I usually find ready-made covers on the web, purchase them, and use them for my book covers.  I use a site called www.selfpubbookcovers.com.  There’s a guy named Rob there who runs the show, and he has always been very responsive and helpful.  He has hundreds of covers to choose from.  Hiring designers for the job is just way too expensive for me.  Ready-made covers from great designers are a great way to package my books.

Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

Never give up!  Never give up!  Never give up!

How long have you been writing?

I have been a professional writer for nearly 30 years without much success.  While I have published 18 books, it seems that it is hard to attract the public to read them.  I am definitely not able to make a living off of any of these books.  Instead, I have a fixed income every month from a variety of sources, including Social Security Disability, that has sustained me for all of these years.  While I am very happy to see all of my peers succeed and do very well in life, it has been equally as difficult to remain within the same income bracket for so long.  But then again, if you are concerned about the money, writing is definitely not the right career path to choose, or so is my experience.

Lately, I have been taking it easier.  I hope to continue writing for the rest of my years, but I do admit that I am a bit tired of always being broke and pinching pennies all the time.  That is the hard part.  But somehow, I have made it through, and my books are all out there, should anyone find them.

What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?

I invest a lot in the research process.  After a general story idea comes to mind, I refine that idea into a plot outline.  Once that is done, I target those parts of the plot that I know nothing of. 

For instance, I wrote a book about football.  While I had known about football from playing it in my youth, I needed to investigate how professional players practice, not generally, but specifically.  So, with that example in mind, I had to go to the library, or surf the internet, to find books that detailed the drills that professional coaches used in their practices.  I took this information and then put them on notecards.  Then, I added this information to the plot outline and created a chapter-by-chapter outline with the research included in every respective chapter.  That’s how it has worked for me thus far.

Also, I find it extremely important to include a bibliography at the back of the book, should I use research.  That way, the writing is based not only on my imagination, but also cold, hard facts.  One should always cite one’s sources anyway.  Plus, I have found it really fun doing the research.  It’s incredible how much I have learned about a variety of subjects over the years.  When writing historical fiction especially, research is always key.

What do you think about the current publishing market?

Not much.  But then again, I haven’t read much of what is out there.

Pen or type writer or computer?

I usually hand-write a manuscript, revise it on paper, and then I type it into the computer, constantly revising it. I then print out the manuscript and revise it again.  But I usually do this chapter-by-chapter, not the entire manuscript at once.  I find it easier to break it down into manageable parts.

I used to hand-write it and then use a typewriter, but luckily for everyone, the personal computer came along.

Advice they would give new authors?

Definitely do not put all of your eggs in the one basket of writing.  If you are going to write or edit for a job, or work as a journalist for a decent salary, that’s fine.  But please do not make the same mistake I had made by banking it all on writing fiction novels at an early age.  Even though I have developed as a writer through hardship, I don’t think it was really all that worth it. 

If I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen a career with a good salary, so that I could have afforded a good car, attracted a nice girlfriend, afforded a simple house, and did what most of my peers have done, or at least developed how most people are portrayed in the media of today.  I wouldn’t have had such a cavalier ‘all or none’ attitude about a becoming a writer. 

Betting it all on the one hand and winning at it is the stuff of dreams and fantasy and not reality.  I am definitely not saying that it won’t happen, though, because a new author definitely could hit the big time with a book or a number of books.  But if you find yourself broke and on the street in the freezing cold, as I have witnessed in every city I have lived in, you should really stop and reassess where you are heading.  In my opinion, it is not possible to write under conditions of abject poverty for too long.  Better to get a roof over your head before writing that next line.

I am happy to be one of many tour hosts sharing information about The Odd and The Strange by Harvey Havel.

To Have or Have Not by Jared K. Chapman (giveaway)

Jared K. Chapman is an author, filmmaker, and educator. He is a native Californian who spent his formative years at school in frigid Alberta, Canada with his father and summer vacation in arid central California with his mother. He holds degrees in psychology & religious studies and is currently a doctoral candidate studying the social psychology of extreme groups. He lives in a little oasis just east of Los Angeles with his wife and three sons. 2HVØRHVNØT is his debut novel.

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2HVØRHVNØT: To Have or Have Not by Jared K. Chapman ~ Genre: Dystopian Superhero Fantasy, Horror

Welcome to Fellowship City, where the Haves are super-powered, and the Have-Nots are just like you.

The Mighty have all the wealth, fame, power, and superpowers, but even they are subject to the monastery’s control. To maintain peace, telepathic monks see into the past, present, and future to police the other Mighty and the minority of powerless Citizens, who have nothing but their identity tags tattooed on their wrists.

Twenty-year-old Mario lives with his kid sister in one of the many camphouses on the island south of the city. Unlike the other citizens he stands in line with every morning waiting to be bussed to work, he actually likes his downtown job and the Mighty restaurateur who employs him. 

At least, he did.

This morning, the grisly, undetected murder of his boss changes everything. In a flash, Mario becomes the primary suspect and must race against time to prove his innocence in a world that oppresses the powerless.

Part READY PLAYER ONE. Part DIVERGENT. Part MINORITY REPORT. Totally Superpowered! 2HVØRHVNØT has fast-paced action, suspense, horror, and mature themes that are sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

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Would you like a chance to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card or one of three Exclusive Signed Prints by Derek Smith (cover designer/artist)? Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!


What inspired you to write this book?

I had a thought in my head about to be or not to be but applying it to the situation of haves and have-nots, which resulted in the title to have or not to have. I thought that was too presumptuous and cumbersome, so I kept thinking and though To Have or Have Not sounded much better, and I am a Hemingway fan, so there’s a little homage there. I kept thinking and thinking about this title and one day while driving home the numeronym popped into my head 2HVORHVNOT. I thought that would be a cool title for a book, so I began to think what a book with that title would be about.

I immediately thought about a tattooed identity code on someone’s arm. I thought about how it could be scanned and used in the future like credit cards, but I thought that was too obvious and really wasn’t sure what the story would be. Poor people are Have Nots and can’t even use their codes while the reach people can… it seemed like something I’ve seen many times before. So, my mind went somewhere darker. What if only the Have Nots have these identity codes and they’re forced on them? I began to think about the Holocaust and poor lives lost in the camps. I began to think about Nietzche’s idea of the Ubermensch inspiring the Nazis. I began to think about Japanese internment camps and signs that said No Jews Allowed or Colored Only Section. I began thinking about the X-Men stories where normal people wanted to round up the mutants and put them into camps. Then, I thought what if that was flipped. What if the people in power, the majority, were the ones with superpowers.

I started to think about what kind of world that would be. I drew upon a lot of the social psychological theories I had learned through the course of my collegiate life. I found myself really drawn to Sherif, Asch, Milgram, and Zimbardo’s famous experiments. Ultimately, I wanted to delve into conflict resolution between two completely different groups. I also drew upon my religious studies and my interest in science-fiction/fantasy, post-apocalyptic/dystopia speculative fiction, particularly 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Dark Tower Series, Running Man, Demolition Man, Minority Report, and Ready Player One. All of these inspired me to create the world of Fellowship City.

In Fellowship City, there is a caste system with the highest, most powerful Mighty being the telepathic seers, monks of Sol & Luna, who police the other Mighty. This creates a world without heroes or villains, because the monks stop any crime or wrongdoing, even wrong-thinking before it happens. They eliminate the bad elements to create a utopian world for them, but in doing so, life is mundane. Their superpowers are meaningless. In this world, a pyrokinetic has a job as a barista reheating coffee in the ceramic mugs of old customers. But in nearly every utopia we find some dystopian element, and for those without powers, this world is a nightmare. They are forced to serve the Mighty, live in camps or slums, and must be tattooed with their scannable identity codes.

What can we expect from you in the future?

This book is launching a world. I am currently working on a prequel trilogy describing the rise of the Mighty. I’m editing the first book, writing the second, and have the third outlined and ready to go. I’m also working on a short story that doesn’t fit in the prequel books or in any sequel books, and I have plans to write more of these short stories to complete the world. I set up 2HVØRHVNØT to have a sequel, which I am currently outlining and expect to release next year. After that, I plan to write a third book in the series, making it a trilogy. I also plan to write three shorter books focusing on three of the character’s origin stories.

Once I have published all the Fellowship City books, I would like to complete the epic novel I started in 1996.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in 2HVØRHVNØT: To Have or Have Not?

There are tons of colorful and interesting characters in my book. The two primary protagonists are Mario and his sister, Zelda. They live in a camphouse on the island south of Fellowship City. Mario works downtown at a trendy restaurant where he has recently been promoted from dish-boy to server. Zelda is still under 18, so she doesn’t have to do “real work,” although she volunteers her time in the orphan house when she’s not the story-keeper for a role playing game called SOFA that she plays with her friends.

My book has three episodes, and Mario is the main protagonist of the first episode. He likes working at the restaurant, because the Mighty who employs him is a good guy compared to some of the other horror stories he’s heard. He and his sister lost their parents seven years ago and lived in the orphan house until Mario was able to get his own camphouse and take Zelda in as her guardian. He’s always felt responsible for her and even now fears that he may not have prepared her for the world she will soon enter, because he’s treated her like a princess ever since. Mario has an eidetic memory, which serves him well as a server, but it’s not always entirely perfect. He’s filled with internal conflict as he blames the Mighty for the loss of his parents but needs to work for the Mighty to survive.

Zelda becomes prominent in episode two. Her brother is the most important thing to her in the world and when things look bleak, she feels that she needs to do something. Usually, she seems rather level-headed and the leader among her friends, but her brother is her kryptonite. She gets tunnel vision and will stop at nothing to protect her protector. She’s smart, funny, and athletic… a butt-kicking princess.

Where did you come up with the names in the story?

Mario and Zelda are obvious, I think. Their father loved the retro games of yesteryear and named his children after his favorites. Jakandy is actually named after Jack Handey from Deep Thoughts on Saturday Night Live. DerMööve is a telekinetic of German ancestry, so I was going for something that could get that across. The Arcane Sawyer just came to me out of nowhere as a blend of Paul Bunyan and Thor. There are many more names with backstories, but I don’t want to give too much away.

I am excited to be one of many tour hosts sharing information about To Have or Have Not by Jared K. Chapman.

Faith Marlow ~ Author Interview

We have a very special guest today, Faith Marlow is a USA Today best selling author of dark fantasy/paranormal/horror with Vamptasy Publishing.

Check out a few of Faith’s books below!

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The Caging at DEADWATER MANOR by Sandie Will

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Sandie Will is an international award-winning psychological thriller novelist who lives in Tampa Bay, Florida, and works as a geologist by day. She has published two novels and another is on the way. Her first novel, The Caging at Deadwater Manor, is a young adult psychological thriller/horror that received first place in the 2018 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards for young adult/new adult fiction and an honorable mention in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards for young adult horror. Her second is a recently released adult psychological thriller/horror titled, The Takings that is a Finalist in the 2020 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards for Blended Fiction. She is currently working on the sequel which will be released in 2020/2021. She has been married to her husband, Charlie, for over 30 years and they have two sons. Her favorite place to write is in her back room “treehouse” in the arms of an old oak.

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The Caging at Deadwater Manor by Sandie Will ~ Genre: YA Psychological Thriller, Horror

“This book is ‘One flew over the Cukoos nest’ on speed.” Goodreads reviewer

A dad with a vendetta. An unsuspecting daughter. A psychiatric hospital known for questionable acts. And staff who keep secrets in the attic.

FIRST PLACE – FLORIDA WRITERS ASSOCIATION – ROYAL PALM LITERARY AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT/NEW ADULT FICTION
RECIPIENT OF THE 2017 READERS’ FAVORITE HONORABLE MENTION BOOK AWARD IN YA HORROR

On a cold, January evening, fourteen-year-old Jeannie Kynde is told that her beloved mother drowned in the murky waters along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Her distraught father turns on Jeannie, no longer the caring father she once knew. Four years later, Jeannie is finally old enough to escape her father’s clutches, but he has different plans. He imprisons her at Deadwater Manor, a psychiatric hospital with an unscrupulous past. Between endless psychiatric treatments and a hospital staff up to no good, Jeannie faces insurmountable odds as each day ticks away. Will she be locked away forever? Or can she fight against the nightmare that has now become her world?

If you like suspenseful shockers, you’re sure to love this psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and stay with you long afterward. Check out the great reviews on this novel that debuted on the #1 Hot New Releases bestseller list.

Note: This book is intended for mature young adult, new adult, and older audiences due to profanity and sensual content.

BACKGROUND:
The inspiration for the story came from Sandie’s beloved father who worked in various psychiatric hospitals during short periods of his career. In the attic of one such hospital, he made a disturbing discovery – one that bothered Sandie so much, she had to create a story around it. Though fiction, many parts of the book intertwine the patient routines, treatments and outbursts that she learned from her father and other research in a way that makes the story vivid through Jeannie’s perspective.

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I’m excited to be one of the many tour hosts sharing information about The Caging of Deadwater Manor by Sandie Will.

The Man From Milwaukee by Rick R. Reed

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago, who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.

The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother, dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.

Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him, and just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.

Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?

**Get the book for 40% off when you buy from the publisher !!**

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Why I Wrote The Man from Milwaukee

by Rick R. Reed

As a writer, the question I get asked more than any other is, “where do you get your ideas?” If I’m grumpy, I might snap, “From the dollar store—a buck for a dozen,” but usually, I do try to satisfy the questioner’s curiosity in a sincere way.

Why write a book centered around serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer? The first reason that springs to mind if I’m honest is that I’ve always been fascinated by true crime and serial killers in particular. Before you get the wrong idea, I am about as mild-mannered as they come. But the psyches of twisted people have always fascinated me because I think we’re all a combination of good and evil, of angels and demons, of secrets we might not want anyone else to know. Now, for most of us, those things are, of course, not in line with homicidal leanings, but I think we can all agree that life is comprised of both shadows and light, for all of us.

My main character, Emory Hughes, is one of those people. He is the main character of the book and it’s through his unreliable eyes we see the arrest of Dahmer and why he tries to contact him in prison. He’s surprised when Dahmer writes back to him, but believes they share a bond—they’re both self-loathing homosexuals who would change if they could. In Dahmer, Emory Hughes sees a kind of peer or friend. This is how twisted his mind is and how great his hatred toward his own homosexual leanings are.

After the book describes this sick fascination shortly after Dahmer’s arrest in July of 1991, Emory writes to the killer for the first time:

Dear Mr. Dahmer,

You don’t know me, although our paths might have crossed one night on one of your visits to Chicago. But I doubt that. I’m sure I’d remember if you and I had ever been in the same room.

I wanted to take a moment and write to let you know there’s one person out here who understands what you’re going through. I fight my own demons, day after day, and know that sometimes our best intentions get crushed under the weight of needs we have no way of understanding, let alone escaping, try as we might to be good.

I know.

I know what a horrible thing it can be to be compelled to do things you know are wrong, evil, but for whatever reason, you’re built to be unable to resist these needs. I have them. To some degree, I suspect we all do. Yours are much worse than the average person, yes, but that doesn’t mean you wanted to feel the things you felt. Things that drove you to do what the papers say you did…

Anyway, if you get this letter, I’d love to hear back from you. I know right now the whole country hates you and gazes at your face with horror. But I don’t. I see a young man like myself, confused and full of pain because he can’t help being who he is.

We’re both twisted. In different ways, but I do know what you’re going through right now, believe it or not. I see you sitting in a cell, maybe relieved now that your hands have been tied, so to speak.

You can be good now.

I envy that, just a little bit.

I wish I could be good. I’ll keep trying, but it seems like the harder I battle the demons inside, the more they persist.

Anyway, if you get this (I don’t know how mail to prisoners works—I’ve never written to anyone in jail before), please take the time to consider me a friend you can talk to.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting your response.

Very truly yours,

Emory Hughes


I’m excited to be one of many tour hosts sharing information on The Man From Milwaukee by Rick R. Reed.

Black Zodiac ~ giveaway

Black Zodiac by Zizi Cole
Genre: Supernatural Horror, Suspense

Bastian Bucco, ghost hunter. Charged with gathering the souls of those chosen to fill the Black Zodiac. A nexus that holds the ultimate power. The souls must be of those who died suddenly. Those whose lives embodied the essence of the Black Zodiac.

The things that motivate people in life, carries over into death. Sex, revenge, power- these are the stories of the chosen ones. The ones to fulfill his duty. But why were they chosen? What, or who has selected these beings?

Find out in the Black Zodiac. Things will never be the same…

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Zizi Cole, a born and bred native of Missouri, resides in a small town with her two boys and cat.  When she isn’t writing, she likes to spend time with her children and do some reading.

She is a writer of horror, and more recently, has branched out into the realm of fantasy. She’s been an active member in the Indie community- making the best-seller list in her categories, she has also been nominated for several awards including “Best Horror Author”. Zizi’s co-authored fantasy, Afflicted, won second place for “Best Retelling” with Enchanted Anthologies in 2017. Her DAMNED series also took third place for “Best Horror” with Wild Dreams Publishing. She looks forward to meeting her fans at events and connecting with them on social media.

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Would you like a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card? Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I’m Zizi Cole. I have been published for almost three years now. My first book Sweet Nightmares came out April 29, 2017. I started writing my first novel because I was bored and laid off from my muggle job. I wrote Sweet Nightmares in a month. Once it was done, I knew I had to publish it. It was a compulsion.

I think realistically I have always been a writer, just haven’t always put pen to paper. I would journal my feelings and thoughts when I was younger and still do when things become too much, but it was something I’ve always done. I would tell stories to my cousins. We would do a round robin type of storytelling.

What is something unique/quirky about you?

I’m shy. People tend to think that I am loud and outgoing, which I am once I get to know you, but I’m innately shy and takes me a while to open up. I was never good at making friends, but the friends I have are ones that I will have for the rest of my life.

Where were you born/grew up at?

I was born and raised in Missouri. I still live in the town I went to high school in. It was only the second town I have ever lived in my entire life. It is a small town, quaint town.

If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

I’d spend it with my kids.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I watch the Golden Girls or Gilmore Girls. I like the comedy and repetition. I also read or listen to audiobooks.

How to find time to write as a parent?

I find time to write as a parent after work, usually after the boys go to bed. Now that they are older, they give me time to write after I get off work, but I have a hard time concentrating on my books when I can hear them in the other room.

My best time to write is in the morning before everyone gets up. It is calm and peaceful, giving me time to think and let my imagination go wild.

Do you have a favorite movie?

I am a fan of the Hunger Games movies. I’m not sure what it is about them that pull me to them, but I absolutely love it.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?

I would love all of them to become a move, but I would like to see The DAMNED series to be made into a movie trilogy or Black Zodiac to be made into a Netflix original series. I would also love to see The Missing in a movie. Can I go back to my answer of all of them? 😊



The Shining (Movie Review)

Would you prefer to watch the video review, instead of reading it? Click on the video below!

I love receiving review requests. So, when a request to review The Shining came in, I jumped on it. Did I really need a reason to re-watch The Shining? No, but I’ll take it. 🙂

SHOW RATING OVERVIEW ★★★★★ (5 Stars)
Writing/Story: ★★★★★ | Cinematography:  ★★★★★ Character(s)/Acting: ★★★★★

STORY LINE:

Jack Torrance, a writer and former teacher, signs a contract to spend the winter, with his family taking care of an old hotel with a violent past. Secluded in the Colorado mountains for 5 months, Jack, who is recently sober, slowly gets more violent and angry. His son, Danny, tries to use a special talent, the “Shining”, to inform the people outside about what is going on in the hotel.

MY 2 CENTS:

The Shining has always been one of my favorite horror films. It is perfect in just about every way. When The Shinning was first released, in 1980, it received mixed reviews. People didn’t really know what to make of it.

The fact that it was nominated for a Razzie award – honoring the worst of cinematic under-achievements – just blows me away. In my opinion, it is pretty perfect! Much like Citizen Kane or Schindler’s List, I can’t think of anything wrong with this film.

Sure, it’s metaphorical and it leaves the audience wondering what they just watched. What is wrong with that?  

Writing/Story: ★★★★★

I loved the novel. It was one of the first books I ever read that truly scared me. And the film, although very different than the novel, had the same effect. I have read that Stephen King hated the movie and recently read the following quote:

“The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, ‘Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.’ And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.” ~ Stephen King, on The Shining

In my opinion, yes, the book and the film are very different. However, just because I love the book doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the movie for what it is. The Shining is a classic horror film that will, until I die, send chills up and down my spine and nightmares into my sleeping mind.

Cinematography ★★★★★

This film has some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen and to say that about a horror film is pretty amazing. Most horror films, especially these days, are all about the jump out at you scares, the blood and gore, and less about the visual aspects of the film.

The opening scene, where he is driving up the mountain, is stunning.

Fun fact… Although the inspiration for the fictional hotel came from Colorado’s Stanley Hotel, Kubrick ended up using Oregon’s Timberline Lodge for the exterior shots of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel and all of the interior scenes were filmed in England.

The entire film, from the opening until the closing credits, visually draws you in and leaves you on the edge of your seat in anticipation and fear.

Character(s)/Acting: ★★★★★

Jack Nicholson is absolutely fantastic in this film. When you first watch him, he is oddly and uncomfortably comical. His is so light hearted in some of the scenes, especially the terrifying ones. However, as you watch his insanity settle in, you realize it is a great performance. One of the scariest scenes is when Jack is stalking his wife up the stairs. He is telling her, with a crazy smile on his face, “Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in. …”

Shelley Duvall appears to be on edge and devastated throughout this entire film. I’ve heard that Stanley Kubrick treated Shelley very poorly throughout filming. Some people say he did it in order to get this devastated performance, and although I don’t agree with his methods, I have to admit it worked. Watching her, you truly do believe she is afraid… devastated… and just completely lost.

Danny Lloyd is amazing and, in my opinion, gives us one of the all-time best child actor performances. He is natural and completely believable. I find it hard to believe that his film credits pretty much start and end with this film. However, he does make an appearance in the film Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. But, I was disappointed to find out he is playing just a spectator and not reprising his role as Danny.

FUN FACT:

There is a photograph at the ends of the film, that shows Jack Torrancce, Jack Nicholson’s character, smiling at the 1921 July 4th Ball at the Overlook Hotel. It leaves the audience on edge, because it leaves you questioning reality. Has he been there the whole time? Was he there before? The worst part is that the questions are never answered.

When asked what the photograph means, Stanley Kubrick said, “The ballroom photograph at the very end suggests the reincarnation of Jack.” That would mean that Jack Torrance is the reincarnation of a guest or someone on staff at the Overlook in 1921.

MY FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Some places are like people: some shine and some don’t.”

“I like you, Lloyd. I always liked you. You were always the best of them. Best goddamned bartender from Timbuktu to Portland, Maine. Or Portland, Oregon, for that matter.”

This quote makes me wonder… ‘I always like you.’ Is he referring to the fact that he knew him before, from time spent at the hotel? Plus, the mention of Portland, Oregon… is that a nod to the fact that the exterior hotel shots were filmed in Oregon? Just food for thought.

TO SUM IT UP:

This film is a terrifying glimpse into the declining mental state of a man on the edge. It’s a horror film where the lead character – a drunk on the wagon – is an abusive husband and father. Sure, it is an extreme situation but the fact that this type of thing can, and has, happened makes it all the more disturbing.

This movie came out in 1980, so you’ve probably already seen it, but if not, I highly recommend it.  Especially if you plan to see Doctor Sleep while its still in the theatres… watch The Shining first, even if just to reacquaint yourself.

Have you seen The Shining? If you have, let me know your thoughts, in the comments below. If not, I recommend seeing it for yourself and forming your own opinion.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.


No One’s Home by D. M. Pulley ~ Book Review

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  • Title: No One’s Home
  • Author: D. M. Pulley
  • Publication Date: 9/1/2019
  • Genre: Horror | Ghost Thriller | historical mysteries
  • Pages: 397

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RATING OVERVIEW (4.25 STARS)

Writing: ★★★★ Story: ★★★★ Characters: ★★★★ Appearance: ★★★★ ★

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:

or fans of The Haunting of Hill House comes a dark tale of a mansion haunted by a legacy of tragedy and a family trapped by lies.

Margot and Myron Spielman move to a new town, looking for a fresh start and an escape from the long shadow of their past. But soon after they buy Rawlingswood, a foreclosed mansion rumored to be haunted, they realize they’re in for more of the same…or worse.

After a renovation fraught with injuries and setbacks, the Spielmans move in to the century-old house, and their problems quickly escalate. The home’s beautiful facade begins to crumble around them when their teenage son uncovers disturbing details of Rawlingswood’s history—a history of murder, betrayal, and financial ruin. The Spielmans’ own shameful secrets and lies become harder to hide as someone or something inside the house watches their every move.

As tensions build between the family members, the home’s dark history threatens to repeat itself. Margot and Myron must confront their own ghosts and Rawlingswood’s buried past before the house becomes their undoing.

MY 2 CENTS / THE CRITICAL POINTS:

No One’s Home has been compared to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which I’ve read… It’s scary. This book, although good, does not compare. It just didn’t live up to the hype.

WRITING (★★★★): Pulley is a great writer. Her descriptive text is beautiful and she does a great job of pulling you into a scene. However, this book covers the story of five different families, at five different periods in time; the Rawlings family 1922-1931, the Bell family 1936-1972, the Klussman Family 1972-1990, the Martin Family, and the Spielman family – present day. Although the writing is good and the stories are interesting, going back and forth between the different time periods only pulled me out of the story. Each time the story shifted, I had to take a moment to think back, figure out who these characters were and what their story was. That was a huge distraction for me. Although I can see this story working really well as a movie, shifting from one period to the next with lighting changes, appropriate set dressing, and costumes for each time period, it just didn’t work for me as a novel. I see the film done in a similar manor as American Horror Story, which actors playing multiple roles within the time period – almost a reincarnation of spirit sort of thing.


STORY (★★★★): The story is well thought out although maybe could have been structured a little better. I think this could have worked really well as a series of short stories… a collection of stories that take place over the years all centered around this one house in Shaker Heights.


CHARACTERS (★★★★): I wasn’t really sure who the main character was. The back of the book reads as if Margot and Myron Spielman are the main focus, but then their son, Hunter pulls more of the focus when reading. Then, you have to consider all of the other families you’re learning about. The Spielman family isn’t given any more “screen time” or “ink” than any of the other families. So, what family did Pulley really want this story to be about? I think we could have learned so much about the history of the story and been drawn in more to each of the stories if this were a collection of short stories.


APPEARANCE (★★★★★): The cover is beautiful. It even has the feel of the cover from The Haunting of Hill House although this one is set in blues were as The Haunting of Hill House is more oranges and Yellows. Whoever designed the cover, I give them credit. The creepy old house with the single light in the attic really does draw you in. I noticed this one on the shelf the instant I walked past and even before reading the back, I knew I was going to read the book. That to me, is the sign of a really good cover.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

D.M. Pulley lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, her two children, and a dog named Hobo. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a Professional Engineer rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. Pulley’s structural survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, The Dead Key, the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Since then, Pulley has sold over a half a million books worldwide, and her work has been translated into eight different languages.

Pulley’s historical mysteries shine a light into the darker side of life in the Midwest during the twentieth century, when cities like Detroit and Cleveland struggled to survive. Her latest novel, No One’s Home, unravels the disturbing history of an old mansion haunted by family secrets, financial ruin, and murder. The abandoned buildings, haunted houses, and buried past of the Rust Belt continue to inspire her work. Learn more at www.dmpulley.com.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Also by D. M. Pulley

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Unclaimed Victim

What if the last victim of Cleveland’s infamous Torso Killer got away?

In 1938, a serial killer terrorizes Cleveland, Ohio, leaving a trail of bodies along the rails and riverbeds. Ethel, a street-hardened woman who’s lost everything, takes refuge inside a city mission only to find that its righteous facade conceals the darkest of secrets. As she wanders the twisting corridors, it becomes clear she may never leave the mission alive.

Sixty years later, the police discover the body of Alfred Wiley, dismembered in a disturbingly familiar way. His daughter, Kris, finds herself pulled into Cleveland’s haunting past as things he never told her begin to surface. Stolen books about the unsolved Torso Murders, missing archives, serial killer chat rooms, and an abandoned city mission are all somehow connected to his disappearance. The more she learns of her father’s obsession with the Torso Killer, the further she stumbles into a madman’s sights.

Separated by decades but trapped in the same killer’s web, Ethel and Kris must unravel the truth behind the city’s most notorious unsolved murders . . . or die trying.


The Dead Key

2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Grand Prize and Mystery & Thriller Fiction Winner

It’s 1998, and for years the old First Bank of Cleveland has sat abandoned, perfectly preserved, its secrets only speculated on by the outside world.

Twenty years before, amid strange staff disappearances and allegations of fraud, panicked investors sold Cleveland’s largest bank in the middle of the night, locking out customers and employees, and thwarting a looming federal investigation. In the confusion that followed, the keys to the vault’s safe-deposit boxes were lost.

In the years since, Cleveland’s wealthy businessmen kept the truth buried in the abandoned high-rise. The ransacked offices and forgotten safe-deposit boxes remain locked in time, until young engineer Iris Latch stumbles upon them during a renovation survey. What begins as a welcome break from her cubicle becomes an obsession as Iris unravels the bank’s sordid past. With each haunting revelation, Iris follows the looming shadow of the past deeper into the vault—and soon realizes that the key to the mystery comes at an astonishing price.


The Buried Book

When Althea Leary abandons her nine-year-old son, Jasper, he’s left on his uncle’s farm with nothing but a change of clothes and a Bible.

It’s 1952, and Jasper isn’t allowed to ask questions or make a fuss. He’s lucky to even have a home and must keep his mouth shut and his ears open to stay in his uncle’s good graces. No one knows where his mother went or whether she’s coming back. Desperate to see her again, he must take matters into his own hands. From the farm, he embarks on a treacherous search that will take him to the squalid hideaways of Detroit and back again, through tawdry taverns, peep shows, and gambling houses.

As he’s drawn deeper into an adult world of corruption, scandal, and murder, Jasper uncovers the shocking past still chasing his mother—and now it’s chasing him too.


IT Chapter Two (2019) ~ Movie Review

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SHOW RATING OVERVIEW ★★★.★★★ (3.75)
Writing/Story: ★★★★★ | Cinematography:  ★★★ | CGI: ★★ Character(s)/Acting: ★★★★★

IMDB STORY LINE:

Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

MY 2 CENTS:

I have to say, seeing as Stephen King is my favorite author, this film is probably my most anticipated films of the year. I loved the book, thought the mini-series back in 1990 did an amazing job bringing the book to life, and really enjoyed the 2017 version of IT Chapter One. With the whole cast from the 2017 version coming back for Chapter Two plus the addition of Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, and so many other awesome actors I can’t deny I was very excited going into the theatre.

There is a lot to love about this film… there are also a few things I didn’t really care for. Now, I’ve heard complaints about the movie’s length, at 2 hours and 49 minutes it is a very long movie, but you have to consider the length of the book… Like most Stephen King novels, it’s not short!

Writing/Story: ★★★★★

As I said before, this movie is based on the novel IT by Stephen King. When IT was originally adapted to live action, it was a mini-series on television. I remember eating it up. I had just finished reading the book and couldn’t wait to see it. With it being a mini-series, they were able to really get a lot of the details from the book into the show… something you can’t really do when it’s a movie on the big screen, you just don’t have the time to fit it all in.

Splitting the movie into two parts, Chapter One and Chapter Two, did allow for more detail, but I felt as an audience member that chopping it up so much really made certain aspects of the films uneven. Plus, when you really look at what the movie is about, an evil clown comes to town every 27 years and kills kids… it’s a little surprising how long the movie is. Both movies pretty much have the same plot – Pennywise is back, killing kids, and the members of the Loser Club have to fight and kill him.

I think one of the reasons I really liked the original mini-series and even why I liked the 2017 movie a little more than this one is because you really get to feel what they are going through from a kids perspective. Think about it, evil creepy clown running around town in the sews killing kids… as a kid, that is some seriously scary stuff. However, with these characters, they approach Pennywise in much the same way they did as children, they have all the same fears they did 27 years before. However, that isn’t really realistic, as we get older, we change, people evolve, what we are afraid of changes and we approach our fears in a different way.

Cinematography ★★★

I think there are some really great shots in in this movie. However, I also think that the way it was filmed gave away a little too much too quickly. Sure, as the audience, we already know who Pennywise is and what he looks like, but I just think with a scary movie there is something to say for keeping the monster hidden that amps up the suspense. It seemed that Pennywise got a lot of screen time in this film, which took the scare level down significantly for me.

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI):  ★★

Fun fact about the young actors who played the Losers Club members in IT Chapter One: They grew tremendously in the 2 years following filming that they actually had to be digitally ‘de-aged’ in some scenes because they looked significantly older than before. For me, every time I noticed it – which was often throughout the film – it pulled me out of the moment. I get that there really wasn’t another way to do it, since the flashback scenes with the kids had to look like they were from the same time period as the 2017 film, but for me the technique just wasn’t executed that well.

Character(s)/Acting: ★★★★★

Let’s talk about Character(s) and acting… First off, there isn’t a whole lot of character building in this movie. I understand that we, as the audience, already know the characters from when they were children in the first movie, however this is 27 years later… people tend to change, a lot, in 27 years. The movie gives us only one scene for each of the main characters to show us what they are like now. It just feels really rushed as the movie pushes the characters together, trying to get them back to Derry. Then, once they are there the pace slows down considerably and it almost feels to slow with not enough action.

In terms of acting… WOW! Everyone is really strong. Both the adults playing the Loser Club as well as their child actor counterparts.

I think one of my favorite scenes is when they all first come together, at the restaurant. They haven’t seen each other is 27 years and yet there is an instant connection. You can see and feel the comradery as if they have remained close friends all their lives. They do a really good job of making it seem like these adults are the grown versions of the kids we saw jut two years ago in the 2017 movie. Mannerisms and speech patterns are all very similar and it helps to be able to connect each of the children actors to their adult counterparts.

Best actor award has to go to Bill Skarsgard who plays Pennywise. Pennywise is just a wonderful role for an actor. Tim Curry was amazing as Pennywise in the 1990 mini-series and Bill Skarsgard has done a wonderful job in both the 2017 and 2019 files. He is creepy – Defiantly the thing that nightmares are made of.  

MY FAVORITE QUOTES:

“See, the thing about being a loser, you don’t have anything to lose. So, be true. Be brave. Stand. Believe. And don’t ever forget, we’re losers, and we always will be.” ~ Losers Club (IT Chapter Two)

“Here’s Johnny” ~ Henry Bowers

  • The reason I like this one so much is because it’s a throwback to another Stephen King book, The Shining when Jack Torrance has gone crazy and is chopping down the bathroom door with an axe to kill his wife.

TO SUM IT UP:

Although I enjoyed this film, maybe not as much as the 2017 movie, I have to say it just doesn’t fully live up to the 1990’s mini-series. However, I do tend to lean toward originals more so then remakes and books rather than movies.

Have you seen IT Chapter Two yet? Did you see IT Chapter One, or better yet did you see the Original IT Mini Series? And, even more importantly, have you read the book? Let me know your answers, in the comments below. Tell me what you thought of the book, the mini-series, or the movies! I’d love to know. As always, I do recommend seeing this film for yourself and forming your own opinion.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

Open the video and watch it on YouTube so you can subscribe to my channel and never miss a video!

IT Chapter Two (2019) Trailer:

IT Chapter One (2017) Trailer:

IT mini-series (1990) Trailer:


My 2 Cents… Velvet Buzzsaw

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Title: Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhall, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, and John Malkovich

SHOW RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★
Story: ★★
Acting: ★★★★
Costumes: ★★★
Overall: ★★ (2.75)

 

Storyline:
After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.

My 2 Cents:
Being a horror movie lover, I was excited to see what this was all about. I felt like the concept… an art-world satire/horror where art comes to life and kills…was intriguing, but the end result was underwhelming to say the least. The first 2/3 of the film was fine, a bit slow, but fine. The last 1/3 of the film seemed to forget the actual plot or purpose. Instead of one dead man’s art coming to life and killing… all the art starting to kill people, even the tattoo on one of the character’s shoulder. That, was just one of many moments where the film script lost focus completely.

ACTORS: The cast lineup was impressive with Jake Gyllenhall, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, and John Malkovich and their performances did not disappoint, despite the poorly written script and minimal character development. With that said… this felt more like a role that James Franco would play, rather than Jake Gyllenhall. 

STORY: Honestly, I felt that Velvet Buzzsaw was a mess. I enjoy a good b-movie horror, but this didn’t even live up to that.

WRITING: The writing, in my opinion, was all over the place.

EDITING: The editing was choppy and the felt forced.

Do I recommend this one? No.
Would I see it again? No. I feel like that was two hours of my life that I will never get back.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review below… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

https://youtu.be/vQUoWaZSACA

You can watch the official trailers and video clips here:

https://youtu.be/XdAR-lK43YU