Beauty and Hope Delivered by Disaster and Monsters


A Book Review of The Threat Below, by Jason Latshaw

Find it on Amazon HERE.

Mountaintop. Humanity’s last stand, after near obliteration from the Threat Below, by which Jason Latshaw’s epic book is titled. The humbled hundred or so inhabitants of Mountaintop, called the Kith, rely on legend mixed with history of the Apriori, their ancestors who once ruled the earth. The Kith are walled into their home in the sky by fear and the persistent Cloudline that obscures vision of Down Below. Their world is meager and desperate, their society stratified and rigid. In the first few pages, a hard line is drawn between main character Icelyn, the prissy, intelligent Cognate daughter of the Kith’s leader, and Adorane, her Veritas best friend and possible brave, brawny love interest. Segregation and prejudice are accepted here as the way for a fragile existence to survive.

Not thrive. Imagine the peak of a mountain at the top of the world, after civilization has fled a deadly, mysterious plague and the planet has probably been flooded by rising oceans. The air is thin. Scrubby trees are more like bushes. Acorn cakes are a staple. Later in the book, Icelyn finds a comb Down Below and she marvels at it. Has she never brushed her hair? You’ll be amazed when you find out what ultrabears and ultralions are. Yes, Mountaintop is the kind of place that, should humanity survive, what’s the point? It’s clear this place is only half of the story. Almost immediately, Icelyn and Adorane wander beyond a rotting, three-hundred-year-old barrier between the apparent safety of Mountaintop and the rumored certain death of Down Below, and there is no doubt about where our heroine and her beau will end up.

But Latshaw keeps his readers guessing right along with the sheltered, pampered Icelyn. The mystery is compelling, even darn right frightening, and each revelation along the way is worth it, not rushed or predictable. In fact, every time I thought I’d figured it out—what the Threatbelows are, or how humanity met its fate, or even who Icelyn herself is—I was surprised by Latshaw’s imagination. He speaks through his vivid characters, some that I adored and others I’d like to choke, and the action happens in their choices, dialogue, and thoughts. Whether the cowardly Kith leader is squirming, the devoted and fearless Eveshone is rescuing Icelyn again, or the constantly shifting morals of Torrain are playing out, this world is revealed by those living in it.

My favorite part, however, is that Latshaw isn’t afraid to delve deeper than his own story. Though fantastical and unique, his world bears enough resemblance to ours to stoke fear and tickle conscience. Gun violence in Mountaintop mirrors the debate over our right to bear arms, especially when these fictitious leaders are using guns to proliferate fear and violence as a means to control the population. One of them has found an ancient text and quotes Jenny Holzer, “Fear is the most elegant weapon. Your hands are never messy. Threatening bodily harm is crude. Work instead on minds & beliefs, play insecurities like a piano.” Latshaw is good at turning a phrase to grab attention, and we find essential truths in gentle statements as well: “So much of life is lived looking away from each other, afraid to face a person as they really are, deflecting feelings and ignoring vital moments.” Or, not so gentle: “They live in a world of magic, but take it all as a matter of course. They didn’t realize it, but they were Gods.” This last is spoken of the extinct Apriori, when Icelyn sees their cellphones and flat screens in a memory. Gods who invented their own demise? Nervous laugher from the crowd…

The Threat Below would be equally enjoyed by both genders, with a strong, admirable heroine (feminine and regal, with very little whining) and plenty of action and violence (gruesome, though not gratuitous). Latshaw’s writing is top-notch, and teens ready to move onto more adult literature should be able to handle the language and the length of this book. Adults will love it just as much, because there are many layers of understanding in The Threat Below, sort of like a Disney movie that is fun for kids but only truly understood by their parents. Not that this book is an easy fairytale read, and don’t be looking for a sweet ending tied up in a pretty package. The journey is worth it, though, and you’ll love every step. Latshaw delivers beauty and hope in a way you’d never expect.

This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.

Screenshot 2016-05-13 15.12.10

A Book Review of King of Fools, by BL Pride

eBook King of Fools

(Buy it on Amazon HERE. Visit the author’s website.)

Luke is one of those guys who is dangerous to fall in love with. I always do, invariably. But, I’ve known too many Luke’s too often in my life and he’s the kind of guy that breaks hearts as easily as snuffing out cigarettes. He’s a little lost and a little wounded, made even more alluring by a pretty face, careless hair, and a cool demeanor. He’s cool enough in the beginning as to be the kind of dick you might want to slap in a bar after you’ve just found him with another woman. But that’s okay with me, because since King of Fools is written in Luke’s point of view, I get to be the dick. That’s one of the things I love most about this book—being able to step into the shoes of my favorite kind of guy to love and hate. And the plot thickens from there…

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Luke has experienced an accident that brought him too close to death to ever be the same. Mentally, possibly physically, definitely spiritually. You see, something followed him back from the beyond. Something cold, vaguely needy and slightly terrifying, and from the beginning I’m not sure whether I should be turned on or repulsed by that something. Luke isn’t sure either. In fact, he’s trying very hard to ignore it and pretend that he wasn’t in an accident at all. Luke’s accident is only touched on delicately at first. The author does give us the juicy details later in the book, and they are worth waiting for. Having been in a death defying accident myself, and perhaps crossed over to the beyond for a brief moment like Luke, I love the way that BL Pride handles this life (or death) experience. She nailed it. But we aren’t fully initiated until close to the end.

As soon as Luke arrives in the Farthest Islands, however— a place legendary for the sheer number of hauntings reported and ghostly creatures observed there—I knew that the something that is “always with him” is going to make some kind of move. The thing that followed him back from the beyond and this haunted place have to be related. But this is the beauty of BL Pride’s imagination and the journey she weaves the reader through. Her tales are unique, her stories so finely layered, that I can never tell what the heck she’s up to. And the journey is possibly more beautiful than the desire to know. I don’t like to rush through her books—even though I always finish them in a few days, since I can’t put them down—because her language is so expressive, her emotional landscape so lush, that I enjoy every word. Imagine seductive mixed with haunted, with a side of beautiful horror and you’ve got what BL Pride is best at.

You will find some answers by the end of King of Fools, but at the same time glimpse the iceberg lurking beneath the surface with all its crystalline, relentless power. You will feel satisfied, but left wanting more and sort of scared by what might come next. Kind of like Luke, poor thing. There is something undeniably attractive about seeing the girl who stole his soul twist it too, like rubbernecking at a car crash on the highway, but the aloof cool guy weighs heavy on my heart by the end of this book. I feel his frustration, I know his desire, and I admit I would call myself Queen of Fools in his place, because I probably would’ve done much the same. Oh, Luke. I can’t wait to see what he does next, or more to the point, how he reacts when the next thing—the next ungodly heavenly, ugly gorgeous thing—is thrown at him.

King of Fools Mock up A

Check out BL Pride’s website to learn more about their work and follow their blog. Subscribe to receive a free short story and stay up to date with new releases and special offers. 

novaprofileIt’s quite hard to write something unambiguous about B. L. Pride. She was born in Maribor, Slovenia, went to a particular high school, chose a university that seemed more or less interesting, and now she does completely different things. She’s a teacher and a frelancer. She’s got two different men and four children. She’s full of opposites but has one great passion – books. Confusing? She’s actually an avatar of two best friends and a symbol of their lives’ project.

When the author Barbara Pristovnik finished her first novel that was originally written in Slovene, she never dreamed of sharing her lunacy with the rest of the planet, but the other half of the team Lea Dežman put her foot down and decided to translate it into English. Two absolute beginners were swirled into the overwhelming world of self-publishing and took their Sunday coffee dates to a completely different level. Addiction is the result and at the same time it is merely the beginning. Slovene became secondary, and The Farthest Island series began emerging in English, and a new world was created.

Read BL Pride’s guest post Writing: A Universal Language of Passion.

Support From Rave Reviews Book Club

I recently found an eclectic, highly supportive, rather large group of authors and readers, who are very active in social media, called Rave Reviews Book Club. When I advertised my blog tour for Catchpenny: Wicked Lover on Twitter, one of the group members reached out to me to offer a promo post on her blog, Right the Writer. Check it out HERE.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 8.29.19 AM

The thing that I like about this group is that it’s organized and professional; rules and guidelines are specific and clearly stated. For example, review “swapping” is not allowed. Reviewing at least four books a year by a fellow RRBC member is required, and there are so many members that you are sure to find something up your alley. Honest reviews are encouraged, with the understanding that one should simply not review a book that won’t receive a generally positive review. No foul language or slamming is allowed, and after reading some of the hateful reviews on Goodreads…whew! Thank goodness for a safe haven.

I joined RRBC when I was in the midst of publishing my first two books, three months apart. So, I’ve been too busy to interact as much as I’d have liked. One thing they do that I’m really interested in is their “Pay it Forward” week, when one author is spotlighted and other members drop all their own marketing efforts for the whole week to support that author. Now that I am nearing the end (for now) of my own marketing campaign and so ready to just write, I’m definitiely going to get involved in that.

In this group, there seems to be something for everyone. I highly recommend checking it out: Rave Reviews Book Club. And thanks again for featuring me and Catchpenny on your beautiful blog, Right the Writer, Ani!

Wicked Blog Tour: Climb Onboard!

Welcome fellow awesome bloggers and thank you for stopping by! Wicked Lover is almost here! Get ready for the tour, July 1-12, 2015.


First of all, a caveat: this is a virtual tour for my new book, but I’m calling for all bloggers, whatever your blogging fancy. Everyone reads–or should.

Now onto the goods…

I’m counting down the days until the launch of my second novel, Catchpenny, on July 1, 2015. Here’s why you want to be involved in the book blog tour I’m organizing:

1. This is a fun, quick read.

I’m celebrating the release of Catchpenny, Part One: Wicked Lover. In it’s entirety, the novel is a four-part serial directed towards new adults and young adults. The story hovers between contemporary romance and coming of age. Translation: it’s definitely got some heat, but it’s not fluffy cheese. Leave that for the soufflés. Part one is only 77 pages, filled with offbeat romance and action. Take a look at the synopsis…

Have you ever wondered about that girl at the edge of the crowd? The one who has dark, bushy hair that hides her eyes while she’s reading, but tight shirts that don’t even try to hide the size of her breasts? You’ve heard the rumors, you know the rude nicknames, and you wonder what she really does when she’s not in school. She never comes to parties and she lives in a neighborhood where nice girls never venture. Everyone tries to ignore her…but there is something about her that’s impossible to ignore. Especially for the star quarterback, apparently. Because he just asked her to the Homecoming dance, after dumping the head cheerleader. 
Catchpenny tells the story from the eyes of “that girl,” and Wicked Lover is just the beginning of this coming of age serial novel. The small town minds of Shirley County have underestimated Meg Shannon for too long. She’s even more fun than she is trouble…but maybe she has finally met her match.


2. I’m providing great content for your blog.

My brand is artist turned author–all my imagery is gorgeous, unique, and original. If you sign up for this tour, I will provide you with the best eye candy to draw people to your blog. Check out some banners that I created for my last virtual book tours…





See Joss Radillo‘s post on Chapter 5 Books that was a mini art show of my character’s (my) paintings and drawings HERE….


I take the time to write thoughtful answers to your interview questions (should you provide them). Read a sample interview with Meglena Ivanova HERE.

And I have other merchandise to sell besides books. The title, “Wicked Lover,” was actually inspired by a song of the same name written by Her Last Boyfriend, the brainchild of my better half. You can link to a free listen on Spotify, and to the song on iTunes. In fact, have a listen now: spotify:track:5QSzzjhxaboo8cJEEPCnM9


I also have cover art T-shirts and tanks, printed on demand by Print Aura, that I think will be hard to resist. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a wicked lover?


Of course I will provide bloggers with books excerpts, a Rafflecopter drawing, and interview material. Here’s the Rafflecopter package I provided for The Tramp’s tour…


3. I’m very into social media and blogging.

I will always blog about your blog if I’m on it! Really, take a look…


And also…


And then I’ll tweet that and your original post to my 12.5K Twitter followers and post it on Facebook (and I promote my FB author page heavily during my tours), Tumblr and Pinterest. I’ll also log your link into HootSuite and schedule regular tweets and posts for several months to come.

Additionally, during a tour I like to participate in blog challenges in order to direct as many new viewers to my site as possible. Last time I did the A to Z Challenge and doubled my followers in the month of April. Check it out HERE


Excited yet? I am!

So, what’s the give and the take?

I am looking for review posts, interview posts, guest posts, promo posts, and anything under the sun that fits YOUR blog. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t restrict my virtual tours to simply book bloggers. Though I love those folks (and I’m one of them), I’m happy with any kind of audience.

For example, on the tour for my last book release, I wrote a guest post for Conscious Companion. It’s a fabulous blog about animal care and has a large, eclectic, very interesting following. I wrote a piece about how my pets always make it into my books, especially my dearly departed Bichon Frise Henri. It’s a good read HERE, but it’s a tear-jerker…


I will do most of the work, with a digital press kit of great imagery, excerpts, author info, merchandise links, and give-aways. What I ask for in return is that you gratuitously dip into that press kit and provide obvious links to my blog, and to where viewers can buy my book on Amazon. The nature of your own blog and the type of post you plan to do will be up to you. Bloggers who decide to do a review of the book will receive a free ebook (format of his or her choosing, like .mobi, .epub, or .pdf) and/or a free print copy of Catchpenny: Wicked Lover.

Let’s sign you up!

Spots open from July 1-12. Email me at with your desired date, your blog URL, and the nature of your intended post.

Thanks so much for reading this far!

Hungry Zombies, Murdering Cultists and Hey, A Little Romance


A Book Review of Class Three, by Duncan P Bradshaw (Buy it here on Amazon.)

A synopsis, Rafflecopter drawing, and author info follow my review.

This whimsical doomsday tale heaps on gratuitous gore and offbeat comedy in equal measure. A zombie apocalypse junkie expecting gnawed fingers, ripped out spleens, weeping limb stubs, and exploding rotten undead heads won’t be disappointed. Such scenes weren’t really disturbing, but instead campy and tongue-in-cheek. I experienced my first belly laugh in the beginning of the second chapter, when author Duncan Bradshaw described an aging bartender with a beer gut, “creating a fabric overhang almost lending an air of mystery, to which his equally stained grey trousers removed. A mop of grey and black hair sat atop his Costa del Sol-tanned head, awkwardly positioned as if it had been put there as a joke.” The guy is cleaning glasses with a filthy bar towel and offering worldly advice to Jim (one of the main characters) who had just been dumped by a girlfriend. I don’t know why I found the scene so funny—maybe because the first chapter was rather sad. The zombies have already been introduced and good people have been murdered by the time you read the bar scene, but Bradshaw takes time for a laugh in the midst of carnage.

The whole novel reads like that—grisly death, then light-hearted laughter, then disgusting spilled offal, then witty pop-culture joke. There is another bar scene towards the end that is hilarious. Drunk people are just funny fighting zombies. There’s more to the story than a clever dichotomy, though. One of the things I liked most was reading the chapters that were from the zombie point of view. I think that was a first for me. And by the end of the book, I realized that Bradshaw had only just peeled back the layers of a more complicated plot in store.

Cultist religious zealots cause nearly as much damage as the multiplying zombies, and a pair of sociopathic serial killers are laying plans for something even more gruesome than the massacre they carried out in Class Three’s climax. Oddly, a love story is woven through the story, and the conclusion comes full circle to reintroduce one of the more interesting characters from the beginning pages. I’m intrigued; I’d read the sequel.

–Sarah Wathen


Hungover, dumped and late for work.

On an ordinary day, one of these would be a bad morning, but today Jim Taylor also has to contend with the zombie apocalypse.

Follow Jim through twenty four hours of Day One, as he and his zombie obsessed brother deal with the undead, a doomsday cult and maniacs in their quest to get to their parents, win his girlfriend back and for them to instigate ‘The Plan’.

Worlds will collide and fall apart in a Class Three outbreak.

Author BioDuncanBradshaw

I live in the simply marvelous county of Wiltshire in England with my wife Debbie and our two cats, Rafa and Pepe.

We wile away the wee hours learning arcane incantations and medieval wind instruments, surviving solely on what our two furry faced fellows bring us. Winter is a bleak time indeed, when the common vole, the staple of our diet slumbers deep within the earth.

I am a little obsessed with the undead, and devour (sorry) with my eyes anything relating to a zombie apocalypse. It means I have to wade through a lot of drivel, but once in a while I happen across something a bit different or so genuinely mental I weep softly as I didn’t think of it first.

I suffer my day job with as good grace as I can muster, looking forward to getting home each day to continue with something creative.

Enter the Rafflecopter drawing to win a free e-copy of Class Three HERE.

Book Blog Tour Happening Now!


Author interviews, book excerpts, soundtrack samples, character artwork, book reviews, and of course…an awesome FREE giveaway (see below for tantalizing graphic)! Follow my tour, reblog and tweet my stuff and I’m sure you’ll go to heaven. Find the schedule HERE.


How To Get Writer’s Block

It’s the subject at the center of all writing subjects, the unholy nucleus of storytelling: writer’s block.  You see it come up in articles, blogs, books, conferences, and even in the occasional forward of a novel, and more often than not the question is some variation of “How to get over writer’s block?”

That’s backwards thinking.

Writer’s block is not this actual block that falls out of the sky, hits an author on the head, and leaves he or she unable to write for days or weeks at a time.  It is not a germ that passes from writer to writer like some storyteller’s Flu.  And it is not an unavoidable and malignant sentient force preying on the writing community.

What writer’s block actually is is mental constipation, and asking how to get over it, how to deal with it, how to get rid of it, etc. is the equivalent of searching the supermarket for a laxative once you’re already plugged up.  If you have writer’s block, chances are you earned it by feeding your brain the wrong foods.

So, in the effort to create a healthy mental diet, let’s first build an unhealthy one with a Writer’s Block Recipe (measurements vary from teaspoons to heaping cups):

1) Dwell on negative reviews of your past works, because nothing feeds inspiration like feelings of inadequacy.

2) Dwell on positive reviews of your past works. You’re feeling confident?  Awesome.  Now make sure you live up to yourself.  Is that sentence you’re writing right now up to the quality of the writing in your last book?  Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive?

Which brings us to . . .

3) Expectation.

  • Expect to write a certain amount each time you sit down.  Hit that word count goal every day, or else.  A day will come when you fall short, and you want to make sure you hold onto that feeling of failure the next time you sit down at the computer.
  • Expect, or attempt, to write something brilliant or important. You either will or you won’t. Throwing your ego into the equation only makes putting words down more difficult, so do exactly that.
  • Expect success.  Success, in its most widespread definition, is out of your control.  And things that are out of your control are what you want to be expending energy on when you try to connect with your story.  (Taking a break from the sarcasm for a moment, JA Konrath has written several great posts on the difference between goals and dreams. You can read his latest HERE).

4) Set no schedule for writing. God forbid you have a well-ingrained habit to fall back on the day your motivation wanes.

5) Allow yourself no days off to recharge.  Exhausted?  Feeling like a black-and-white character from an old movie in a color film?  Perfect.  Now, stay in your room and ignore the outside world until the sun goes down.

6) Make no time to read, or refuse to out of the fear that other stories and styles will somehow interfere with “your voice.”

7) Live a physically unhealthy lifestyle.  Run your body down.  It’s the vehicle that drives your brain, so bog it up with booze, junk food, and make sure to never, ever exercise. You don’t want any extra energy.

8) Spend more time on the internet. As much time as possible.

9) Read about Writer’s Block, or think about Writer’s Block.

And finally, based on my own personal and constantly changing experience, my recipe for avoiding writer’s block in three simple ingredients:

1) Think about the story and only the story every time you sit down to write—let everything else go.

2) Forgive yourself for the slow days.

3) Read.  We are all products of what we take in; it is what we take in and how we digest it, shape it, that makes us unique.  There’s no point in trying to be an individual.  You already are one, and your voice is already your own. How many authors out there ever wanted to write something without first reading something?  Going on a book fast is the same as starving yourself of exactly what inspired you to tell stories in the first place.  You are what you eat, so eat what you love.  Devour it.

Feel free to comment on, add to, disagree with any of the above ingredients, and/or make a recipe of your own.  How do YOU get writer’s block?  And, more importantly, how do you prevent it?

Thank you, Sarah, for inviting me over and huge congratulations on your launch of The Tramp. My own first full-length release, The Safe, can be gandered at HERE, and anyone interested in reading more of my stories or getting in contact with me can visit me at

–Daniel Barnett, guest author

TheSafe_coverGreat big thank you to Daniel for being my guest! Read my full review of The Safe HERE.

This beautifully horrific novel is set in an asylum for the criminally insane, the dirty secret of small-town New England where “the dark was greedier…than the city, more over bearing, fattening itself on every unguarded inch of mud and bark and stone.” You’ll find plenty more quotes from The Safe in my review, because Daniel Barnett weaves poetry through the darkness at every turn. Eloquent language is the only brightness at Harbrook Hill and the contrast makes the asylum seem even more bleak and tragic, suspense lurking in every chapter. The building is an ancient, stinking, live thing, an anteroom described as the passageway between the skin and the meat. Even the air around Harbrook Hill is menacing: “The morning wind had claws.” Continue reading...

Humanist Horror, Graceful Gore

A Book Review of The Safe, by Daniel Barnett

(Buy it here on Amazon. Find it on Goodreads.)


This beautifully horrific novel is set in an asylum for the criminally insane, the dirty secret of small-town New England where “the dark was greedier…than the city, more over bearing, fattening itself on every unguarded inch of mud and bark and stone.” You’ll find plenty more quotes from The Safe in my review, because Daniel Barnett weaves poetry through the darkness at every turn. Eloquent language is the only brightness at Harbrook Hill and the contrast makes the asylum seem even more bleak and tragic, suspense lurking in every chapter. The building is an ancient, stinking, live thing, an anteroom described as the passageway between the skin and the meat. Even the air around Harbrook Hill is menacing: “The morning wind had claws.”

We’re introduced to this forbidding place as its new resident, Walter Hosler, arrives. He’s a huge, black, silent bear of a man. People shrink from his presence and the memory of his crime–a crime that everyone knows well, because the murder happened right there in their small town. One person asks Walter what he did with his wife’s head. That night, half of Harbrook Hill burns to the ground, at least one patient succumbing to the fire, and somehow Walter is involved. Shortly after, he beats the crap out of a guard and winds up with his own teeth jutting out of his lip for the offense. Yet, he stays silent.

It’s hard to feel sorry for such a man to rot out the rest of his days in a psychotic prison…until you get to know him. And like him. Barnett accomplishes this through flashbacks from Walter’s memory; summer sunshine and carnival cheer flash into view, a welcome reprieve from the oppressive, threatening atmosphere of the first couple chapters. Walter recalls an adolescent “date” at a county fair with his late wife, Alva: “Boys had on sweat for shirts; girls wore two-piece swimsuits under their clothes, as if expecting a lake to well up from the ground and demand a fast strip. Young children darted and kicked soccer balls and played tireless games of tag, while everyone else went about slow and dazed, moving to the tune of the cicada’s drone in a dance called the summer shuffle.” What follows is one of the most realistic, tender love scenes I’ve read in years—a complete surprise in the middle of a horror story!

But don’t forget, this is a horror story and not at all for the faint of heart. Barnett’s gore is as shocking as his romance, but not for novelty or brevity. There’s plenty of it and it can be gruesome indeed. We do find out what happened to Walter’s poor wife, why he’s called Safe-Man, and why he’s being haunted. The man/monster that is haunting him—tormenting him with “suicides” in every cell surrounding Walter’s—is a unique creation of nightmare, phobia and creature-legend. Barnett describes the thing just enough to form a concrete image, yet leaves enough to the imagination to raise hackles in the dark. The thing is terrifying and unstoppable; you know he will get to Walter before the book is through and you know it will be violent.

However, this author’s violence can be sensual as well. He describes a car crash as, “like climax, an eruption. The shudder of metal, ripples in steel, mimics the body before orgasm.” Pain becomes divine, when, “sparks erupted in the dark, dozens of them, stars going nova across the nightscape. His body was a cathedral of pain, and the pain was wonderful, terrible.” And, no surprise to me by the time I reached the last few pages, this story has a wonderful ending, full of peace and hope. You may not believe that while you’re in the depths of it—deep, dark depths—but trust me, every bit of this book is worth the read.