Writer Wednesday: Hellscapes Review

Mornin’ kids… I’m on a roll!

So y’all know I like to read. A lot. And then I like to talk about what I read so other people can read it too. Today’s post is all about something I read. My good friend, Stephen Zimmer, published a collection of short horror stories last year entitled Hellscapes. (By the way, he totally doesn’t know I’m doing this, so his reaction will be big fun!) When it went on sale earlier this year, I snapped up my copy, and over the last few months I’ve been reading the stories one at a time.

One at a time is good for this collection. Trust me. More than one will give you nightmares.




First, let’s talk about the book:

Hellscapes by Stephen Zimmer

Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Cover Artist: Matt Perry

Journey into realms of darkness and explore the regions where angels fear to tread! Welcome to the Hellscapes, featuring tales of the infernal in settings where the horror never ends and the inhabitants experience the ultimate nightmare.

In “Blood Dreams” follow the tale of a woman who knew great political authority and influence in life, as she discovers the reward awaiting her in the next world.

“The Grove” welcomes a new arrival, a wealthy man who is looking forward to a weekend of indulging in lust and libation, as he has for many years in this secluded convocation for the elite. Something is different this time, though, and he soon finds that his visit will be taking a very different turn.

In “The Smallest Fish”, the story is told of a ruthless business mogul who finds himself in an abandoned, ruined version of the city he knew well, in life. This city won’t be remaining vacant for long.

“Drowning in Tears” tells the story of a young man’s unhealthy obsession for a suicidal girlfriend that leads him on a path of severe transformation.

The final tale of Volume 1, “Lords of War”, follows the story of a man who wielded military power on a worldwide scale as a Secretary of Defense, who now learns the deeper nature of war and what kinds of monstrosities it breeds.

Hellscapes, Volume 1 is the first release in an exciting new themed horror collection from Stephen Zimmer.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo |iBookstore

And now…my thoughts.

In a word: TWISTED. This book is dark, kids. It’s creepy, it’s scary, and it’s deeply poignant. Psychological and situational horror combine to bring you a brand new set of nightmares. Just as the title promises, each story is a glimpse into the personal Hell of its main character. There’s chaos and destruction, debauchery, and even a little bit of a sad love story. Human emotions are powerful things, as is evidenced in every story in this collection.

If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would have to be The Grove. I knew what was happening long before the main character did, but that just made the anticipation even sweeter. A close second would have to be Drowning in Tears. It’s a horrifically beautiful display of obsession. To be honest, there isn’t a bad story in the bunch. They’re all good, all frightening, and all perfectly executed.

The reason I said reading them one at a time is wise is because they truly are frightening.  More than one is almost guaranteed to induce nightmares in even the strongest of minds.

Overall, an excellent display of literary terror.


Kickin’ it “Olde School” – New Book Review!

So today is a day for really big, really fun announcements. But first, a pretty picture:


My buddy, cohort, unofficial consort, and all around partner in crime, Selah Janel, has finally lost complete control of her book and the good people at Seventh Star Press have released it into the wild! It’s not every day I get my hands on a book that I want to shove in everyone’s hands and make them buy it, but this one I do. Everyone needs a copy of it. Everyone needs to read it.

Guys, I seriously love this book.

And I’m not saying that to be nice. I do. I want to live in Kingdom City in the worst way. This is definitely my kind of world. Now, before I get too off track carrying on about it’s ultra-awesomeness, let me give you the rest of the story:

Olde School by Selah Janel

Olde School

The Kingdom City Chronicles, Book 1

Selah Janel

Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.

Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.

Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians.

Buy it here:

Kindle | Nook
Paperback Coming Soon!

But there’s more. I’m going to give you a fun review of it as well, because I can and I want to. Keep reading, kids. It’s worth it.


As a member of the “Acknowledgements” family at the beginning of this book, I had the rare luxury of reading it in all of its incarnations over the last few years. I’ve watched it grow and change from a silly idea in a hobbyist writer’s imagination to the epic folk-fantasy adventure before me as I write this.

The simple response to the “give your review” statement would be this:

I love it.

And I’m not just saying that as an insider. I stay that with all the respect and admiration that this book deserves. It’s a non-stop wild ride through classic folk and fairy tales, modernized to include every generation and genre under the sun. It’s fantastical, it’s out there, it’s knee-slapping hilarious, it’s pushing the limits and stretching the boundaries, and it’s even oddly poignant at certain moments.

From my first glance into Trip-Trap’s all the way up to the very last word, I was entranced. Paddlelump is a doll, and if I were Flora, I’d have a soft spot for him too. Ippick is my new personal hero, as cranky and crotchety as he is. And then there’s Clyde, the newfound love of my life. But I won’t spoil that surprise.

The characters have such great chemistry, and even poor, little Nobody and her pitiful need for acceptance.

Between the witty conversation and the intricate and winding European-style fairy-tale plot lines, I couldn’t put it down. There’s so much going on in Kingdom City, and every page is a brand new adventure. Every time I pick it up and start rereading, I catch onto a subtle, new joke and I laugh a little bit harder.

Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone that happens to see the pretty cover and stop to look.

My only complaint is this: she hasn’t written the next book in the series yet, and I have to wait.

Decoupage, Book Reviews, and Rabid Fans

As you can see, I’m a bit late with this week’s blog post, but the pause is well warranted. I started out writing an angry response to a bad situation, but once it was on paper I realized all I was doing was making things worse. So I sat on what I’d written for a few days. Then I began rewriting. It still wasn’t ready Wednesday morning, because I still hadn’t gotten my point across. I actually considered deleting it completely, but I’m pretty well known for sticking my foot in my mouth on a regular basis. So here I am, weighing in on a subject that’s roughly akin to a dead horse.

It really is a wonder I have toes left at all.

So, it all started when a small-time blogger made the mistake of voicing an opinion before sharing a creative project. From what I’ve seen, it was a logical, well thought out opinion, too. Unfortunately, what should have been a one-and-done blog post has turned into a week long soap opera.

Yes, I’m perpetuating the drama. But the whole situation sort of pissed me off. It came on the heels of one of my own blog posts two weeks ago, in which I talked about people offering intentionally hurtful reviews on books. The topic is a bit of a sticky one for me because I don’t particularly like to see people being mean to each other.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

STEP ONE: A Blogger has an opinion.

Miss Articulate ImageLet me start by saying this: Miss Articulate, the blogger, is an English Lit major. She isn’t some stupid little girl out to hurt feelings. I read the whole post, and I’ve read a large selection of the articles on both sides of this bizarre electric fence. I agree with points on both sides, but there’s one point that hasn’t been made.

So, a reader didn’t like a book. She could have really trashed it. She could have been hateful and hurtful and just plain spiteful, but she wasn’t. She said she didn’t enjoy the book, and then she told the world why she didn’t enjoy it. As an author, I would rather see a negative review with legitimate feedback than watch someone senselessly rip a book apart. Figuratively. We’ll get to the literally part in a minute.

It’s a bad review.




They happen every day to all sorts of authors. As for the cutting up of the book – it didn’t have anything to do with the opinion of the contents. The book was cheap, and it was earmarked for this project prior to reading. Many crafters wouldn’t give it a second thought, but the fact that she did read it before cutting it up speaks volumes to her integrity as an intellectual.

Regardless, it was her book. She bought it. Good on her for doing what she wanted with it. There are hundreds of thousands of other copies of that same book in the world, most of them in far better shape than the one she took apart. If people are really that up in arms about that particular title not being available to someone of lesser means in a thrift shop, then I’ll gladly donate both of my copies to a local Goodwill. Yes, I have two: the paperback I read, and the hardback first edition for my collection.

Step Two: Anne Rice Responds on Facebook.Pandora Cover by Anne Rice

Okay, so I can see the point of contention. It’s all in the way the request for discussion was worded in that Facebook post. Yes, the chick cut the book up, but not as a result of reading it. As an author, I understand the defensive tone, but I just can’t condone that sort of approach. The comment was more than a little unfair.

No, I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. No, I don’t like receiving bad reviews either, but I’m logical enough to know it’s going to happen. And I’m okay with that. I do, in fact, read reviews of my work, because I hope to learn from them if they aren’t good. But that’s just how I roll.

Mrs. Rice is well within her rights to post a link to a review in her netspace. Regardless of her intent when posting the link or the comment prefacing it, she, like every other human in this country, is also allowed to say anything she wants in response to the content of the original post, regardless of how it’s going to sound. The sad part of text is that vocal inflection doesn’t transfer. She may very well have been chuckling as it was written, meaning cute humor instead of malicious intent, but we won’t know that because words on a page don’t have sound.

(Aside: Intentionally vicious behavior does nobody any good. Just sayin’.)

I understand there have been previous social media / reviewer  incidents involving Mrs. Rice. Those, quite honestly, have no bearing on this incident because they’re in the past. At this point I don’t care if she set someone on fire five years ago. As I already stated, it’s her right as a human to speak her mind on this or any subject. It just so happens she has a wide net of fans willing to come to her defense, whether it’s needed or not and in a less than civil manner.

STEP THREE: The Fans Respond.

There isn’t a link for this, obviously, because they responses are contained in the hundreds of comments on the original post. While not all of them are nasty, seething messages of hate and harassment, a good many of them are. It both saddens and disgusts me to see humanity so out of control that people think it’s appropriate to belittle others with comments like “You f***ing hag. I hope you get herpes.” and “You bitch! >:(“.

It’s obvious to me that the vast majority of the hurtful comments came as kneejerk reactions to a poorly worded comment from the author which, in retrospect, probably started the whole thing. It’s painfully obvious as well that many of those who left the comments did not actually read the post first.

Remember what I said a few weeks back about insensitivity and hatefulness not being helpful? Yep, this is the same sentiment on the other side of the coin.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what position you find yourself in at the table. If you don’t know how to be nice, then at least have the decency to not speak, please.


Brains are for thinking and should be used long before tongues begin to wag.

The blogger, the book, and the book’s author are all irrelevant. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans that it just happened to be an Anne Rice book or that Mrs. Rice feels the need to exercise her right to free speech and share things that interest her. It also doesn’t matter that one person happened to have a less than glowing opinion of this book. It also doesn’t matter that one book was turned into something else by way of a penknife and white glue.

It could have been any blogger, any book, and any author.

Everyone at the bully-bar needs to take a step back and take a deep breath. At this point everyone is jumping to conclusions on all sides, and the mudslinging isn’t doing anyone any good. Anybody remember the last Presidential election? Remember how tired we all were of listening to the candidates beat each other up for months on end? Yeah, same concept.

It’s fine to disagree with an opinion. But honestly, fellow humans… There are better ways of handling things than calling each other out as Nazis and wishing for herpes. If there’s any truth to Karma, if you want someone to have an STD, then you yourself will likely wind up with three.

As for personal opinions – I own all of Anne Rice’s books up through Blackwood Farm. Not just the Vampire Chronicles… ALL OF THEM. I’ve read all but the last two. No, I didn’t enjoy all of them. It just so happens that I didn’t particularly enjoy Pandora for many of the same reasons pointed out in the original post. I love the beginning of the book and the stories of Philosophers and the travels to Alexandria, but that’s where my appreciation stops. There isn’t anything to connect me personally to that character. But that’s my opinion. However, there are other books and characters I adored. Some of them I’ve read multiple times. I’ve been through three copies of Cry to Heaven because I read them until they fall apart.

I’m also a crafter who enjoys cutting things up and making new things. If I ever get a wild hair to cut up a book and make something nifty with it, then I’ll do it without regret. Why? Because it’s my book.

In closing, I’d like to share my favorite comment from the whole mess:

“I like turtles!”

What I Read: The WTF Edition

I read a lot of books.  Always have.  That probably has something to do with why I write.  But sometimes I get into a slump and the things I normally read just don’t satisfy me.  When I get like that, very little does.

At ConCarolinas earlier this month, I found myself on a panel with some creative voices.  We were discussing the horror genre as a whole, and part of the panel topic was the “how far is too far” aspect of horror.  A book was suggested – actually, I think James actually suggested that we DON’T read it, but I’m hard-headed – so I went and bought it.  The beauty of owning a Nook is that I can buy stuff cheap.

This one… it wasn’t really cheap as far as eBooks go.  It cost me $7.99.   And the horror doesn’t stop there.

So what the hell is this book already???


The Bighead by Edward Lee


There’s plenty of information on it if you follow that link.  I’ll not spoil too much here.

So I cracked open those digital pages and started reading.  Alright, I thought to myself, this is going to be interesting. It can’t possibly be as bad as they said it is.   Oh, boy… I was so very wrong.

The story revolves around several sets of characters in varying degrees of detail.  One thing is obvious, though.  Ed Lee really enjoys blood and guts.  It’s rare for me to find a book that makes me put it down and walk away, but more than once I had to.  From brain-eating to necrophilia to forced brownplay to vomit retrieval, this book is a big, fat, shuddering EEW. Morally, socially, and psychologically offensive, there is something in this book guaranteed to upset everyone.  When I have to skip passages and whole pages?  Yeah…it’s bad.

The characters are interesting.  I spent all 227 digital pages genuinely concerned for Jerrica, Charity, Annie, and Tom.  I wanted to know more about them.  I wanted to know why things happened the way they did…where the dreams came from…if they were going to make it.

And then…..I got to the last twenty pages of the book.  And sadly, as many good books are wont to do, the climax lost me.  It felt like the author got to a certain point and went “well shit, I have to end this book and I don’t know how.”  So he pulled something out of his butt.   I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the big surprise, but to me that big surprise was a bit of a let-down.  I understand why he did what he did and why it happened in so many different stages, but still…


Don’t get me wrong…it works, and it works well.  The deep-rooted psychological issues of the main characters unfold like the layers of an onion, and as each gains more and more screen time, we start to realize just how screwed up these people really are.  Yes, I expected the connection between The Bighead and the other characters.  I even understood the problems with the Abbey.  What lost me, though, was the nice, neat little package created by the one great revelation.

That having been said, I love the way the book ends.  I won’t say its anticlimactic because it really isn’t.  It’s big.  And it’s not a happy ending.  So now the big question… DID YOU LIKE IT OR NOT???

Yes and no, if that makes sense.  It’s a fabulous book – well written (a few grammatical borks, but I’ll point the finger at the editor for letting those slip), interesting and perfectly executed despite the contrived ending.  I would recommend it in a heartbeat to any horror aficionado who thinks s/he can’t be freaked out, grossed out, or otherwise offended.  But honestly, I didn’t enjoy the read as much as I would have liked to.  I can get behind senseless violence and doing things for no reason other than because you can, but wow.  This was a rough ride.

If you’re feeling really brave, go ahead and buy the book.  But take a barf bag with you.

And don’t say I didn’t warn you.