Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Cover - "Piercing the Darkness"

Once again many thanks to Genevieve with LaVO Design for the cover recreation of Piercing the Darkness, book two in the Deepest Darkness series.  Things have moved along so fast with this one!

I'll keep you updated on the print status within the next few weeks.  What a whirlwind it's been these last couple of months.

And now for the new cover - ta-da!!!

Have You Cried "Cold Tears"?

Tonight we'll travel to the Midwest - Missouri as a matter of fact.  It's dark.  The trees and hills embrace the ebony sky.  The damp and fog cling.  Somewhere in the midst of this backwoods country is a missing baby girl.  Is she dead or kidnapped?  No one knows.  No one seems to care - except a stranger to this community.  Join me in reviewing A R Simmons' novel Cold Tears.

Book Blurb: 
A woman as deep in despair as a person can be. Is it unbearable grief or unbearable guilt?

A child is missing, a baby taken away in the middle of the night. It’s a life-shattering tragedy, but no one seems to care. Is it because the grieving mother is a “lowlife druggie,” as the chief investigator maintains? Or is there another reason the case is given short shrift by the “good people” of James Mill? 

Richard Carter, an ex-Marine suffering PTSD who has been spared prosecution for felony homicide only by a governor’s pardon, consents to help the grieving mother, Molly. In doing so, he ignores the pleading of his wife, Jill, who begs him to disengage from the situation which she sees as a threat to his wounded psyche.

Will the truth, if and when he finds it, save or destroy the woman who sees Richard as her “godsend?”  What he is doing may be futile as well as unwise. It may, in fact, plunge him into clinical depression and wreck his marriage. He has given his word to Molly, but Jill is his life.

What will the truth do to them all? And what are “cold tears”?

My Review: 
After traumatic events force them to leave home and hearth, Richard and Jill Carter have moved to a small Missouri town where Jill can continue working her way toward a coveted doctorate at a nearby university.  While Jill pursues her passion, Richard feels trapped in a nothing job, in a nothing town with no friends and where the residents see him as nothing more than an interloping outsider.  Richard can't focus enough to keep a job - any job - and spends his days pining away for a dream life that can never be:  a job with the FBI.  After a self-defense killing of a wanted criminal, the resultant arrest and then governor's pardon, his pursuit of a criminology degree is moot.  No one in law enforcement will ever hire him.  His dream is dead.

Until their neighbor Molly passes out in their front yard one night.  The next morning she comes over to thank Richard for helping her back home in her drunken state and begins to share with him the reason behind her actions.  Three months before her eight-month-old daughter was taken from her home in the wee morning hours.  The problem now is that the local law enforcement believe she's responsible.  Her blood alcohol level was off the charts that night, not counting the almost lethal dosage of Valium in her system.  With no tiny body yet discovered and little else to go on, they cannot hold the young mother indefinitely nor charge her with the crime they believe her guilty of - murdering her own child.

With nothing more than his gut instinct, Richard believes Molly's story and agrees to help find out what happened to little Mancie that night - much to Jill's chagrin.  Jill's been fighting an uphill battle to help her husband find hope and healing again, not to mention income to keep them financially afloat.  Now Molly's quest threatens the very thread of his sanity, leaving Jill feeling even more vulnerable and helpless in the face of uncertainty.  What if Molly really did kill her baby?  What about the sudden death of the babysitter?  Molly's boss?  And what if Richard is next?

The beginning of Cold Tears wrapped me up in the heart of the story, the kidnapping, and Jill's and Richard's emotional struggles.  But after awhile, it felt like the story wasn't moving forward and that the conversations between Jill and Richard were just constant rehashing of the same argument - so much so that I almost felt as if I was on a hamster wheel just running and spinning without getting anywhere.  

Don't get me wrong - there were some really good elements of a mystery here and if the story would have stayed on track in that regard, it would have kept my heart pounding.  At almost four hundred pages, however, I felt it was just wrung out until it was overlong and lost much steam because of it.

Jill and Richard obviously had a lot of trauma going on in their lives.  I'd liked to have gotten a bit more of the back-story to what had happened prior to their moving to Missouri.  Without that, it just seemed like they argued about and conversely avoided arguing about the same things over and over without any growth or resolution.  I get these kind of arguments DO happen in real life, but this is a novel.  Jill flipped back and forth in her support/lack-of-support of Richard's investigation until I felt as if I was watching a very looong tennis match.  It made her come across as petty and a bit unhinged at times and then almost like she was trying to be a parent to a child by the end.  Even though Richard seemed a bit child-like at times, I could understand his suffering and depressed state after having the rug pulled out from underneath him.  His whole life's work has collapsed.  Molly's need to find out what happened to her daughter fuels a faint spark of life he hasn't felt in many months.  The whole way Jill treated him, however, took her from a rather sympathetic character to a bit of a pathetic individual.

Elements of the mystery surrounding what had happened to Molly's child were initially cohesive and then became a rather disjointed mish-mash that again didn't really move the story forward until all of a sudden "poof" here's the resolution.  So many characters popped in and out without getting any real time or having any real connection to the story they seemed almost unnecessary or an afterthought to get back to the main story arc after weaving away for awhile.  This is where point-of-view rather ebbed and flowed too much between heads, whereas again at the beginning POV was clear and concise.

However, showing was good.  We followed along with the characters most of the time as the action was happening (except for the occasional moments where things like "but he didn't notice the car passing slowly by" and such that pulled me from the story - ugh!).  I appreciated this element of showing instead of telling more than I can say, especially when reading a mystery.

The elements of a good mystery are here.  With some tightening of the storyline to improve pacing, a bit more of Richard's back-story blended in, and additional editing of missing or misused words, I think Cold Tears has promise.  I'll give it three and a-half stars.

Purchase at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Author Bio: 
AR Simmons was born on Chicago’s north side, but grew up and lives in the eastern Missouri. He attended a one-room school through the eighth grade, and walked a mile to get there. His family worked a subsistence farm on Ozark land cleared from the native forest by his grandfather.

He was a carpenter’s helper and factory worker until drafted into the US Army at nineteen. A tour of duty took him to the Far East where he saw a world far different from his own. His military experience acquainted him with his country. The racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup of his squad changed forever his concept of “American.”

The GI Bill financed his entire college career. After declaring and rejecting majors in Business (lacked interest) and Art (fairly talented, but color blind), he settled on History, in which he obtained BA and MA degrees. Passing up a doctoral program (he was 27, married, and had no job), he took a public school teaching position “until something better came along.” He discovered, to his amazement, that the calling suited him.

He began writing shortly after he started teaching (supplemental essays on the history of technology and on foreign policy). His fiction writing career began with short sci-fi stories. Then he turned to the mystery/suspense genre which he now writes exclusively. In 2003, he began serializing novels on-line.

Today, he and his wife (life partner, collaborator, illustrator, and muse) still live on the farm his grandfather settled. His roots (four generations deep) are in the Ozarks where the Richard Carter series is set. Using the culture, language, and mores of this “Bible Belt” region, he writes culturally immersive stories of obsession set amidst the small-town and rural life that he knows.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Print Now Available!!!

Drum roll please!

Finally, after several years in digital format, Running into the Darkness is available in print format.  For those who don't yet possess an eReader, or if you're like me and prefer both (one for digital library and one for my real-world library) you can satisfy that craving for a walk in the dark.

Pick up your copy today!

Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Free Book Alert!

Hey readers - I've got a freebie alert for you!

Today, April 25th, you can pick up a free Kindle copy of author Ever N. Hayes' debut novel 2020:  Emergency Exit.  It's all part of his Happy Birthday celebration.

Of course, he's not revealing how many candles on his cake, so we'll all be left to guess that little nugget of info.  Still it's a great opportunity for all of us to save a few Benjamin's.

So get your copy today before the candles burn down to the frosting.

Download from Amazon

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thumbs Up For "The London Project"

The novel I have to review for you today is fascinating, a bit creepy, and eerily all too real in it's futuristic endeavors.  Mark Maxwell's "The London Project" takes the not-too-distant future possibilities and transports us there in the here and now.  Cars today have the ability to warn you of an impending fender bender.  A robot arm can respond to nerve/brain impulses from a human.  Tech experts say in the next thirty years the possibility of transferring human consciousness into the digital universe is a definite reality. 

But what if we took these seemingly sci-fi elements just a teensy bit further? We'd have "The London Project" - join me in exploring tomorrow, today.

Book Blurb:
Portal has transformed the lives of London's residents. The tech giant's centralised network is ubiquitous, its free services utilised by Londoners for everything from communications to entertainment, transport to health care. As a consequence Portal harvests the minutiae of its users' daily lives. 

On the eve of the network’s expansion throughout the UK, Detective Sergeant Louisa Bennett investigates the death of a young girl. Her body covered in lacerations, the victim’s autopsy reveals an unidentifiable cellular structure permeating her brain. The case is further complicated when no trace of the girl can be found on Portal. It’s as if she simply doesn’t exist. 

There’s something about the young victim that draws Louisa in and holds her tight. An innocence surrounds the girl, even in death. But with the autopsy recording an open verdict, Louisa fears it won’t be long before the case is shunted from her homicide unit. 

Following an attack on Portal’s network, private data is leaked on all its users. In the ensuing chaos, three high-ranking members of a criminal syndicate are assassinated. It becomes clear to Louisa that the perpetrators have used Portal’s systems to coordinate the killings. When she uncovers a connection between her case and the Portal breach, Louisa becomes a target herself. 

To save her own life Louisa must uncover the truth behind the girl’s death—a truth that leads her deep into the heart of The London Project.

My Review:
I'll say from the get-go - I really, really liked "The London Project", and I'm no technology expert (as regular readers well know).  Mark Maxwell has created a very realistic sci-fi world that is still grounded in elements of the reality we live in at present.  

Today people are connected every moment of every day through their smart phones, smart TV's, etc., etc., etc.  Facebook, Twitter, texting - you name it - wherever you go there's a profile and that's how you connect with friends and loved ones.  In the novel, this is all done through devices called 'terminals'.  Cash rarely changes hands in today's society.  From debit cards, to online banking and bank transfers through your phone, we're living in a virtually cashless realm already.  In the novel, all you have to do is click a button on your terminal and funds are immediately transferred from your bank account to the merchant.  Don't have time to run to the grocery store?  No problem - your terminal automatically orders and has groceries delivered when you need them based upon what you've purchased in the past and what you've utilized from your fridge and pantry for the week (hello - hear of the drone program Amazon has been implementing?).  Schools don't have physical textbooks (ever hear of ebooks and etextbooks) and all schoolwork is completed and handed in through your terminal.  And your terminal knows you - the biometric imprint will shut the terminal down if someone other than the owner picks it up.

Unless the unhackable becomes hackable.  

Louisa Bennett is a Detective Sergeant with the equivalent of the London police department (or MET, as it is known in the novel).  During a routine stakeout, the team loses the culprit they've been watching when his facial recognition profile falls off of London's digital grid.  That's impossible.  Sense strips blanket most of the metropolitan area and should track him with a 99% accuracy rate.  The only way they could've lost him is if he was using a forged profile, a highly illegal and expensive alternative for a lowly street urchin.  On a hunch, Louisa decides to turn off her terminal and instead utilize her God-given sight to locate their target.  Almost immediately she spies the man she's after and the hunt is back on.

But her boss doesn't want to hear about the possibility of a forged profile.  That will complicate his sorry existence and ruin his case closure rate.  Louisa is firm on what she saw and refuses to adjust her report.

Mere hours later, her life is further complicated by the dead body of a runaway reported nearly two years before.  The girl isn't even on the grid.  Her body is riddled with lacerations that appear to be some method of torture - and she has a bloodied hole near the base of her skull as if an animal took a bite out of her neck.  The puzzle pieces of the case are missing or scattered.  But somehow her two recent cases have a connection.

And Louisa needs to put the pieces together before her teenaged daughter becomes the next victim.

Like I said, this was a great thriller with very realistic sci-fi elements.  I was a teensy bit lost in the beginning as I tried to picture what all the techie stuff was about.  But very quickly that became a side issue as the action ramped up and never let go.  Mark Maxwell did a good job of building in the description of the futuristic elements within the storyline as it progressed instead of falling into the realm of info-dumping and description overload.  At times there actually was quite a lot of description but again, it never felt like overload because of the manner in which it was woven into the elements of action as they were happening.  Great use of showing instead of telling.

The characters were well-rounded, with plausible back-stories and problems within their everyday lives just like your average Joe - in this case Jane.  They had challenges, disappointments, and solid motivations for why they made the choices they did, at least for the main characters within the novel.  Louisa was a strong, nearing middle-aged woman with two kids attempting to juggle her life, stretch a paycheck, and deal with an ex-husband and his perky new wife.  She used her wits and yet questioned herself like most women do at times.  She took a lickin' and kept on tickin' when things got interesting on the job.  When a man expressed his interest, Louisa wasn't sure what to do about it or if she even had the time or energy to do something about it.  I could really relate to her on so many levels.

So maybe I did figure out where it was all heading, but I enjoyed the moments of questions, the heart-pumping action, and the creepy almost deja vu moments along the journey, feeling all the while that this could really be happening.  The visuals within the story were stunning (but I'd never wear a dress to work again if I had to ride a virtually invisible elevator).

The only issue I found with "The London Project" was the need for a bit more editing.  There were multiple times where it was 'he' instead of 'she' or vice versa.  When Louisa was talking to her ex-husband, John, a dialogue tag had the name of a different character who was not present in the scene.  There were also quite a few missing words or duplicate words the farther into the story I read.  Even so, the plot and pace kept me engaged to where these were mere nuisances.

A caution - there's not a ton of rough language in the novel, but there are a few brief uses of the f-word.  A couple of times it didn't feel right for the character or scene and seemed a tad gratuitous, while other times it worked (as in that great 80's movie Die Hard).  If a bit of rough language is something you can get past, then you'll thoroughly enjoy Mark Maxwell's novel.

Also we here in the U.S. have different vernacular and spelling for some words than across the pond (and quotations used are the singular ' instead of the double ") and is just something you'll need to accept if you should choose to purchase and read "The London Project" - and I recommend you do if you like a good thriller.  

This one gets thumbs up and four stars.

Purchase at Amazon or Amazon UK

Author Bio:
Mark was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in Dublin. He worked as a software developer for over 10 years. The London Project is his first novel.  Visit his website at

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review Week - Anthony Caplan's "Savior"

The week has gotten away from me and here it is - Saturday.  My intent was to post this review yesterday, however outside obligations (and the arrival of my print copy of Running) served to conspire against me until suddenly it was nearly two o'clock in the morning.  My apologies to you, oh patient readers, and to Anthony Caplan, today's featured author.

So after the well deserved self-flagellation, let's journey now to Central America, the beaches, the surfing, the danger - until we transplant north into the vast reaches of the tundra in Canada.  It's a long trip so let's get started.

Book Blurb:
Savior is a thriller with dystopian and/or science fiction elements. Al and Ricky, father and son, are on a surfing getaway in Guatemala, the perfect place to bond and reconnect after the death of Mary, the woman who held their lives together. But when they run afoul of the Santos Muertos, a criminal gang intent on global domination, Al is kidnapped by the Santos Muertos and carried off to their compound beneath the Canadian oil tar belt in northern Alberta, where Ricky must find him and rescue him.

The book artfully draws together Ricky's quest to find his father and in the process save the world from destruction, and Al's story of resisting torture and brainwashing at the hands of a criminal death cult. At a deeper level, Savior is a portrait of the deep bonds that allow a father and son to find faith through sacrifice and love for each other.

My Review:
The opening of Savior immediately sets a tone of incredible stakes and overwhelming odds.  Al has been imprisoned, tortured, barely clinging to his sanity - and for what?  A tablet?  A code?  A calculation?  He pretends to know nothing.  He tells them nothing.

All to do what any loving father would do - protect his 15-year-old son.

Ricky seems listless, directionless, unfocused until placed on a surfboard.  It's then he becomes the competitor, a conqueror of the waves as they threaten to overturn and crush him. Father and son rarely see eye-to-eye as the disconnect between them over the years grows.

Until they need to find a way back to one another after Mary's death - wife and devoted mother who held her family together.  Now the glue is gone and the pieces threaten to shatter.

Al's confinement forces him to think back over the course of his life with Mary and their desperate attempt to have a child.  When the miracle occurs and Ricky blesses their lives, Al cannot wait for the day when his son is old enough to hold a football.  He dreams of the day when Ricky becomes the next Roger Staubach.  But after all of the Little League teams leading up to high school, Ricky drops the bomb on his father and proclaims he doesn't like football and isn't trying out for the next season.  Al explodes all over his son - and the resultant picture is a despicable, ugly one.  When Mary dies, the angry father realizes he has one shot left to be the father Ricky needs.  Thus a surfing trip to old Guatemala haunts in memory of Mary.

At the surf shop of Coconut Juan (I love that name!), Ricky spies an ancient tablet and is intrigued by the symbols and markings.  After repeated negotiations, CJ reluctantly passes ownership of the relic to Ricky.  Their lives change almost overnight as the Santos Muertos, a group bent on worldwide domination, seeks out the necessary key among the runes of the tablet - now in Ricky's backpack.  After Al is captured, Ricky seeks only to be reunited with his father before he becomes an orphan adrift in an ever changing world.

The first half of Savior is told from Al's perspective while imprisoned.  After the initial powerful opening, we then meander through the musings of Al's life with Mary, the birth of his son, and recount the events in Guatemala leading up to his capture.  We get some of the tension and angst between father and son as Al attempts to surf as a way to connect with Ricky.  There were a few hints toward the coming of the Santos Muertos, but I found it strange that a parent would be so lackadaisical about a real threat in a Central American country and not whisk his child out of harm's way.  Instead Al is bound and determined to stick to his predetermined schedule and subsequently takes Ricky even closer to potential harm by trekking up into the mountains.  This is where Al is captured, leaving Ricky behind to track down dad.

Thus we spend the majority of the remainder of the novel in Ricky's perspective as he worms his way home and then northward.  This is where the story lost any semblance of steam or connection to reality for me.  Ricky wanders, and wanders, and wanders.  There is neither a sense of urgency nor emotion as he encounters scary folk, is captured by the supposed "good guys", and takes up residence in a commune where he spends a month or more just hanging out eating pot brownies, and losing his virginity to an older woman.  There is no reaction to what is done to him.  No questioning.  No turn-on.  All concern for his dad is lost in the fog.  Even his girlfriend, who used her car to get them that far north to the commune, ends up shacking with an older dude - and we still get little to no reaction from Ricky.  Each subsequent stop and camaraderie connection along the way feels simply like a means to an end.  There is no study of the tablet the bad guys are after (it pretty much gets lost in the shuffle until - voila!), yet in the end he just miraculously "knows" - I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilers. 

The novel never felt like the thriller it is specified to be except at the very beginning.  Very little action, no sense of urgency, and almost no sense of motivation by anyone (bad guys included) coupled to make this feel more like a rambling Pilgrim's Progress meets stoned surfer dude.  Characters were overall wooden and lacked emotional depth for the most part.  I got to the point where I just wanted to finish the story and move along.

I realize that for some years now there has also been a push in the literary world to abolish quotation marks and dialogue tags.  For literature, fine.  For genre novels, this doesn't work.  The reading process should be fluid and seamless to keep the reading racing forward.  The lack of quotation marks and dialogue tags in Savior bogged this process down.  Ordinary readers will likely not put forth the effort to wade through a book without these accepted and clarifying standards.

I would give Savior two-and-a-half stars.

Purchase at Amazon

Author Bio:

A former journalist with the Associated Press and United Press International in Mexico and Central and South America, Caplan currently works as a high school teacher in New Hampshire. The inspiration for Savior came while on a family holiday. His previous titles include Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, Birdman and French Pond Road.
and on Twitter at:
and on his blog where he posts occasional rants on the weather and the vagaries of sheep farming and raising children at:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Review of Andrew Updegrove's The Alexandria Project

Let's take a journey to Alexandria.  Not Alexandria, Egypt.  Not Alexandria, Virginia.  But a library.

A library you say?  Well yes - there once was a library known worldwide to be the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world.  But we're not going back in time to witness the conflagration that stole away those vast secrets.  We're talking the present-day Library of Congress - and the resultant threat of doom and destruction.  Join me in reviewing Andrew Updegrove's The Alexandria Project - A Tale of Treachery and Technology.

Book Blurb:
As America’s major institutions grind to a halt, crippled by unending cyber attacks, an eerie virtual calling card is invariably left behind: “Thank you for your contribution to the Alexandria Project.” 

Frank Adversego, a brilliant cyber security expert whose career and reputation are in tatters, stumbles onto the attack.  Suspected by the FBI and CIA and under pressure from the attackers, he is the only one who can trace the Alexandria Project back to its source to defeat it and clear his name.

In the wake of ongoing revelations about the NSA, Target and other cyber security breaches, Andrew Updegrove’s novel vividly portrays our frightening vulnerability to cyberattack, and encourages readers to think about just where the Internet is leading us.  The thrilling twists of this fast-paced, satirical tale of cyber sleuthing and nuclear brinksmanship will leave readers wanting more (happily, a sequel is on the way).

My Review:
The novel opens with an eerie moment where an unknown virtual entity slips in the backdoor of our largest and most secure (we thought) server warehouse.  The U.S. is under cyber attack - and we're clueless to the threat.

Through a purely happenstance moment Frank Adversego, a master cyber-sensation with the Library of Congress IT department, pulls up a file only to receive a message about contributing his file to the 'Alexandria Project'.  The file disintegrates and disappears into the ether.  There's nothing on back-up after back-up as Frank digs through the system all the way to the wall to find it is gone forever - as if it had never existed.  When that and more unintended deletions come to light, Frank is immediately suspect number uno.  But the revelations have only begun.

Frank may be the most brilliant technological mind around, but his personal life is a shambles.  Once harboring an enormous chip on his shoulder, Frank is unable to connect with the greater humanity around him.  Couple that with an inability to focus on a task to completion and events take this once promising individual - a McArthur Foundation 'Genius' Award recipient - down from dizzying heights to barely getting by.  As a boy, his own father left without warning, never to contact Frank again.  As a man, his wife left and took his only daughter with her.  The well-paying jobs have dissipated until he's destitute.  Out of desperation to remain a part of his daughter's life, Frank accepts token employment given him by his daughter's godfather.  Seeking something greater than his own pleasure, Frank sticks with the job for ten years and worms his way back into his daughter's life.

He's never needed either as much as he needs them now.

With the CIA and FBI out to make him the scapegoat, Frank goes into hiding deep in the Nevada desert until he can sort out the truth behind the REAL purpose of the attacks.  Along the way, Frank learns more than he ever bargained for.

There were several exciting moments in The Alexandria Project, but the story overall fell rather flat for me.  There wasn't anything new here and everything was rather anticipated.  Maybe I've read too many cyber-attack conspiracy stories of late, but I was able to pretty much determine from the first chapter who the actual bad individual was and where the story ultimately would go.  There was a touching reveal while Frank was hiding out in Nevada, but this too was really no surprise.

The characters had their moments, but for the most part they felt very one-dimensional.  The venture capitalist guru was rather a caricature that reminded me of the very worst televangelist times ten.  Believe me - having been in the banking and political sphere myself for over twenty years, I've experienced pretty slimy individuals and questionable actions.  However, this seemed more over-the-top and less grounded in reality to the point that instead of being mad I found myself chuckling.  I wanted to connect with the characters, but there was so little to relate to.

There was an awful lot of telling rather than showing.  I would rather have experienced the moments alongside the characters while the action was transpiring instead of having one character recite it to another character after the fact.  I wanted the immediacy to make my heart pound, my hands grip my Kindle tighter, and keep me turning screen after screen to find out what happens next.  Those moments were fleeting, mainly coming toward the beginning and at the very end.
The beginning was pretty clean of grammar and formatting errors, but as I worked my way through the story, more issues came to light.  Extra words, duplicate words, and missing words and quote marks (some backward) were the biggest issues with grammar and punctuation.  Formatting consisted of changes in font size and a few hard returns in the midst of a paragraph or dialogue.  Minor irritations, but another run-through with a set of editing eyes would be good here.

As a reader, I may not know all of the in's and out's of a particular subject, but it is the plot and pace of the story that keeps me reading.  As a writer, I trust that readers are knowledgeable enough to have a general grasp of subject matters I may employ in my stories so as not to spend time over-explaining what I am trying to convey to the audience (or as I like to call it, info-dumping). Throughout The Alexandria Project there were hyperlinks to particular words to take the reader out of the story and to an outside source to read about that particular topic - so much so that this became extremely distracting at times.  There were sections where so much detail was employed it felt like author intrusion.  I had to force myself to continue reading through these sections instead of skipping them, and it slowed the pace to a drag at times.

Overall, I think The Alexandria Project  has promise and is an interesting enough story to garner reader attention.  Be aware also that there is a very strong political bent that may turn some readers off, but if you're able to suspend your personal viewpoints in this regard it will be easy for you to overlook.  I give this one three stars.

Author Bio:
Andrew Updegrove, an attorney, has been representing entrepreneurs, technology companies and venture capitalists for more than thirty years. He also represents many of the organizations that develop, support and apply the standards upon which cybersecurity is based, and is actively involved in dealing with cybersecurity attacks as they happen. A graduate of Yale University and the Cornell University Law School, he lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  Visit his website at

Monday, April 14, 2014

Have You Ever, Ever, Ever - Interview w/ Ever N Hayes

A treat today all!  We've got a live one here at the blog, and there's no reining him in (yes, I ended that with a preposition - so sue me).  Our guest has been quite the hoot to interview, and his responses were completely relatable for this old gal.  A kindred spirit, as you will.  He's traveled the world.  He's about as anal as I am when it comes to writing.  He takes life as it comes rolling over like an ocean wave - then pops back to the surface, spits in its eye, then laughs.  Have you ever, ever, ever, in your long-legged life...welcome to the blog, author Ever N. Hayes.

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

ENH:  Living overseas as a child books were my only connection to the United States. 25 years ago there wasn't internet. My teacher read "Where the Red Fern Grows" to us in 4th grade and I was so impacted by it that I started writing short stories then and have wanted to be an author ever since.

DAB:  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

ENH:  One of the drawbacks of always wanting to write (since 4th grade) is the backlog of ideas I have. I have six books completely outlined at this point, we're talking 7 to 8,000 word outlines each, all ready to go... but starting a series made me put all of those even further on the backburner. I came up with my ideas by imagining myself in different situations in life and wondering how I'd get out of them. I was a huge fan of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" books as a child, and yet always felt restricted by the limited options they presented. I always wanted more. Accordingly, I've tried to take the options and possibilities even further.

DAB:  What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

ENH:  The catalyst for this book is all the tragedies that take place around the world. There are countries where bombs go off everyday, where people are killed en masse and where tragedies exceed most of what we've ever had to deal with in the United States. Those are daily or weekly things there. As tragic as the Boston Marathon bombing was, there are many countries in the world where that wouldn't have even registered as a huge event. That's a sad reality. I've always tried to imagine what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot... What if all those foreign wars became domestic? What if all those things happened with that regularity here? If we lost all our comforts and freedoms, what would we do? How would we survive? Things like that.

DAB:  Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

ENH:  I believe an author has to be intimately in touch with most of their characters. You have to be able to identify with what makes each character tick. I wrote a lot of this book in narration, giving the narrator (Ryan) a lot of my ideas, humor and voice... but most readers don't want a book to feel "opinionated" so I entrusted a few high-cost professionals to cut all the "excess opinion" out and hopefully leave the meat/core of the message still there. Still, I've had people for years tell me that I look a lot like Ryan Reynolds, so I gave the main character the name Ryan and envisioned him as being cast in that role as I wrote it. I guess you could say I can identify most with Ryan.

DAB:  Were there any characters you found difficult to write?

ENH:  Wooly was hard for me to write. He's a racist jerk, to put it nicely. Racism has always troubled me--forgive the understatement. Honestly, growing up in Africa I never even noticed the differences between whites and blacks until I moved back to the United States. Then I started getting teased for where I'd come from (in Africa) and getting a lot of racist remarks made about myself and my family. Even as a caucasian I was deeply torn apart by those comments and can't imagine what other minorities face every day. I don't understand why it matters what color we are, or where we're from. One of the things America prides itself on is freedom--and it's supposed to be freedom for all Americans regardless. Idealism, I know. Anyway, I wanted Wooly to be hated by the reader, but found it impossible for me to have him say the kinds of things that even were said about me. I just don't have it in me to hate like that. So I needed a little help with him and his part.

DAB:  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

ENH:  (Laughs) Uh... yeah. I've always been accused of being overly sensitive but I am a guy and therefore somewhat out of touch with "reality." I'll write something and run it past my wife and she'll help me "fix" it. All of my editor, book club, and author friends are women and always willing to help me there too. I can handle the ribbing when I write a dumb line and one of them says "a girl would NEVER say that." That's why you trust people like that to help you get it right!

DAB:  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

ENH:  Danny is my favorite character. He's the hero, the one the rest of them have to count on to get through all of this. I can't say he's everything I'm not, but I've empowered him to do many of the things I wouldn't be able to do. I've given him the composure I wish I had. He's had a rough life (already at just 20 years) and handled it with class. We all can look back at things we did early in life and shake our heads at ourself. We all had idiot moments. I like giving my audience, particularly those in that stage of life, a role model of someone who's gone through a lot and made the right choices even when they were hard. Danny makes mistakes, but we all do. It's how you bounce back or take responsibility for them that determines who you become.

DAB:  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

ENH:  I sat down and wrote the outline for this book over three weeks last June (2013). Then I finally started typing it on October 12th, using Victoria Lynn Schmidt Ph.D.'s own "Book in a Month" as my guide. It took me 70 days to write the first draft, and then 185 days to edit, redraft, copy edit, redraft, and rework 19 more times. The final version, as it stands now, is my 20th version of the story. I hope it shows when people read it. I wanted to make sure, if I was going to give this a real run, that I put my absolute best foot forward... no typos, no sloppy writing, polished, professionally copy edited, etc. I hope it translates as I believe it should.

DAB:  Tell us about a typical day in your writing world.

ENH:  A typical day in my writing world starts out pretty early. My wife will bring my 17 month old daughter in to me between 3 and 6 AM (I can't sleep in our bedroom with that monitor on, so I willingly take the couch). I'll entertain her while my wife goes to a real job. When she comes home between 5 and 6 I'll play with my other three kids until 7 or 8, then watch a couple shows and play some games with my 11 year old son. He goes to bed around 10 and I'll write for 2-3 hours, then catch a few winks before my insanely happy little ball of sunshine gets me up to play again.

DAB:  Do you write full-time or part-time?

ENH:  I'd say I write full time. I write for a national golf magazine, GolfGetaways (as E. Nolan) and a regional publication called Tee Times. I've been a national travel journalist for 7 years now, going into my 8th (parallel to my 8 years at home as a stay-at-home-dad) and that has allowed me to really practice perfecting my words and work, vocabulary and concepts. I realize, after years of college classes and career writing opportunities just how "bad" of a writer I was a decade ago. I could have never pulled a novel off like this then. But timing and opportunity are everything. Small paragraphs led to larger ones, large paragraphs to a full page, and full pages to feature pieces... and now the book. Transitions and progress. My editors at the various magazines I work for and freelance for are very diligent and critical with the submitted work, and it's taught me a ton about how to write and reach readers where they are.

DAB:  Have you ever experienced writer's block?

ENH:  I've never had writer's block. But I've had writer's "traffic jams." Where I ran into problems with this novel was when my mind drifted off to the other 6 fully-outlined scripts I have in my drawer. I want to write ALL of them at the same time. Ha! Doesn't work that way. But there are certainly times where I almost go crazy with the ideas and visions I have crawling out of that drawer and begging for their own attention. I have to button down, throw on my headphones and block out everything else and just focus on "one book at a time."

DAB:  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

ENH:  I ALWAYS write to music. I don't think I can concentrate when it's quiet. I sleep with a fan on at night because without it I believe my thoughts would be so loud they'd keep me awake. Music propels me, and my interests are quite varied there: Marley, Metallica, MercyMe, Matchbox 20... pretty much anything with an M but Mars and Miley. And I always have a little Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift thrown in there (that's what you get with three daughters).

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

ENH:  My outlines are alive and spread all over my workspace. I feel like they're a necessary evil. I simply don't have a good enough memory without having them there to track all the "potentially brilliant" ideas I have. I'm not saying they always work, and I'll often ignore them if I get on a roll... but sometimes I'll find a note on those outlines that will have a dramatic impact on the story... and since I'm known for going to a grocery store for milk and coming back with a full cart but no milk... I think I need the outlines.

DAB:  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

ENH:  This is a two-part answer. I LOVE negative feedback before it's published. I'll submit my work to a billion critiques if people will be honest... not malicious or effusive in praise... just honest. I want to know what works and what doesn't. You don't have to tell me I'm great. I don't think I am. I'd be a fool to pretend I can reach everyone to the same extent. I'd obviously love to be loved uniformly, but that's just not a reality. But I do really appreciate having people who will help me improve my work. I DO want to be the very best author I can be. I'm sensitive and a perfectionist, so I'll always keep working on the craft.

On the flip side... negative criticism after my book is published is considerably harder to take. I've invested seven full months of my life into this book. It is me, in a few hundred pages. Just as anyone else would hate to be told they've failed at work, or anything else, I always wish people would consider the feelings and realities of the person who wrote the book. With that said, I've read many books that people have written that are full of mistakes, and show no evidence of proofreading or care for professionalism. Those writers kill the rest of us who give all we've got to making our products the best they can be. I hate getting reviews/feedback on-line from people who didn't read the whole book. I think it's unfair for someone to say the whole book is bad because they didn't like the beginning. There are a lot of great things in life that would be worthless if you only took into account the first part. I just want people to be fair.

DAB:  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

ENH:  I just finished the Divergent series. And the Hunger Games series before that. I'm a huge fan of the first two Hunger Games books and like Suzanne's style of writing. There are a lot of comparable qualities between her style and mine. Otherwise my all time favorite books would be: 1. A Time to Kill 2. Clear & Present Danger 3. Wilderness Champion 4. Where the Red Fern Grows and 5. The Horse Whisperer. I do love to read, but ADHD makes it hard for me to even write at times, and sitting still to read (and not move my fingers at a maddening pace) is even more challenging. I need something with a fast pace, and my wife would tell you that I write that way too. Frenetic. Otherwise I'd give up on it. It has to keep my interest (which is no small task).

DAB:  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

ENH:  Self promotion is hard for me. I don't like asking friends to promote me either. I just feel like enough people have enough on their plate to worry about someone else's stuff. I'm fortunate that I have several friends in the industry who have offered up newspaper ads, email blasts, etc. They always tell me to ask and they'll help, but that doesn't make it less hard for me. On the other hand, all of these people know I'd do anything in the world that I could for them if they ever asked... so maybe once or twice a lifetime it's okay for me to ask for something as well. Honestly, it's people like you who open doors to the "unknown" and "not yet popular" among us, who give new authors the chance to be heard. I'm certain you don't get the credit you deserve in that regard either, but people like me are extremely grateful!

DAB:  Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

ENH:  I'd tell everyone it's hard. It's not easy. Not any step along the way. If you're not personal friends with an agent, editor or publisher, it's going to be a long road, and when you get to the end you're going to feel overwhelmed. You have to believe in yourself and be extremely driven from the beginning to make it to the end of even one book, much less several. I submitted my work to 80 agents before I elected to go the eBook route. I got 20 replies and all of them were essentially the same response: I like the idea, the book sounds good, but I'm looking for YA (young adult) and this is more of a blend of Young Adult and General Adult Fiction. I get it... there's no sure thing or formula. I love crossover genre books, but clearly they're not for everyone.

I'm a long way from "making it" but I write because I LOVE to write. I think you have to. In the end, whether or not it makes any $, it feels good to know you accomplished something a whole heck of a lot of people never thought you could.

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

ENH:  I'm halfway through Book 2 in this "20-20" series. Book one involved so much movement and so much setting up. This book is really letting me dive into the characters and provide the audience with some real tangible connections. It's already more intense than the first book and I've been able to take a lot of the feedback from all the professionals who reviewed and edited "Emergency Exit" and weave it into Book 2. It's cool to give yourself goosebumps when you're typing out certain paragraphs. That's been a regular experience the past few weeks on Book 2 (tentatively titled - "Redemption Island")

DAB:  Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

ENH:  Emergency Exit is a semi-apocalyptic tale of a domestic war, where several nations have banded together to take on America. Catching the United States off guard with a multi-stage chemical attack, they achieve almost complete success, and send in an army to finish the task. But most of the American survivors have no military training. There is no real way to fight back. The few survivors got lucky and now they have to figure a way out. This isn't a war story. Even with all the devastation it's more about survival.

The book follows a small group of people in Minnesota that discovers they somehow survived the massacre and now must deal with the reality of all those that didn't and what is still coming their way. We get to make the "incredible journey" across the country with them, with the final goal being reaching safety in Hawaii. The reader gets to see both sides... why the antagonists are in pursuit as they are, and what they think happened... and what the protagonists are doing and struggling with as they just try to survive. It's supposed to be an epic, and a little bit surreal... but it's also supposed to make you stop and think... "What if?" There's a love story wrapped in there, and some surprise visitors along the way. Feedback says it's an entertaining and thought provoking read, and that's what I was aiming for.

Keep aiming Ever - keep aiming!  I hope, dear readers, that this interview was as entertaining for you as it has been for me.  But this isn't the last we'll see here of Ever N. Hayes.  Coming this summer, I'll have the pleasure of reading and reviewing 2020: Emergency Exit.  Stay tuned until then for my review!

Author Bio:
Ever N. Hayes has been a professional journalist since 2007. Currently living too far in the Upper Midwest with his too beautiful wife and too many kids (4), he loves to read, write and golf (typically not all at once). He came up with the "2020 Series" (including his debut novel - "Emergency Exit") after being frustrated by all the illogical holes in the Red Dawn movies (both versions) and after reading the Hunger Games and Divergent series. "This (Emergency Exit) is a story every American can connect with... a plausible unfolding of the fears and thoughts we have in our head."  Connect with him at:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chapter One - A Sneak Peek of "Rising from the Darkness"

As promised, now delivered.  I'm proud to present to you a sneak peek of the first chapter of the third and final book in the Deepest Darkness series "Rising from the Darkness."


Chapter 1 – The End Draws Near

The constant echo of drill and hammer gradually abated as construction in the tunnels neared completion.  For the first time in over a year, the hundreds of workers crammed into the elaborate underground chambers thinned out as transports home began.
Pablo Hernandez looked forward to a solid night’s sleep without the accompanying chatter of noise from twenty-four hour rotations.  There was then the chance to dream of Maria’s outstretched arms waiting back in Peru, to imagine the softness of her skin against his.  Once he arrived home, Pablo looked forward to seeing her dark eyes widen in surprise at the fatness of his wallet.
After they paid up, that is.
Everything had been sent back to Maria at the end of each month, a fraction of the promised payout.  But the big windfall was coming.  As one of the lucky few to have stayed until the very end, he’d receive the remainder of his salary plus a bonus.  The amount would be enough to care for his family long into the foreseeable future, at least according to Peruvian standards.  Now all he had to do was collect his money and return home – without getting caught by the United States government.
Maybe he was a poor, uneducated man, but Pablo knew well enough the company had transported hundreds of Peruvians to work on these tunnels at a pittance – and they were all in America without a visa.  Well technically under America, Chicago from what he’d picked up in conversation.  However, immigration officials wouldn’t care about technicalities if they were captured.
It had pained him to see the sleek train disappear from the station time and time again, knowing those passengers were that much closer to safety.  But his chance loomed.  The line of the last remnants pressed forward as the train eased into the station.  The doors opened and slowly the human chain entered two-by-two like animals into Arca de Noe. 
A chill swept over Pablo as he paused near one of the guards, the hard stare surveying his name badge before scratching one Pablo Hernandez off the clipboard list as if erasing him from existence.  Everything about this company was eerily meticulous.  If they could have understood one another, Pablo would have told the guard that no one wanted to be left behind in the dreary underground.  But everyone had a job to do – and he’d finally finished his.
The tunnels were forgotten as Pablo entered the train, greeted by muted purples and yellows amid the royal luxury.  Plush seating wrapped him in comfort as he sat down into the assigned chair near the front of the second car.  The ache he’d carried in his joints for months eased as he sank into the warm cushion.  Through the excited chatter, Maria called from his dreams as Pablo lay against the headrest and drifted to sleep before they even left the station.
Grogginess clouded his mind as Pablo was jarred awake.  It felt like he’d only been asleep five minutes before the guards roused and commanded them to exit the train.  Pablo shuffled along with the others, concern growing as to why they were getting off already.  Was there a problem with the train?  Had they even left the station?
Low murmurs rose as they stepped from the railcar.  A faint sour stench filtered through the air.  Maybe bat guano.  Several men were separated from the pack and returned to the train while the remainder of the herd pressed forward.  The stark white surroundings suggested a much older area than what they’d finished building, so this wasn’t the same station they’d just left.  It certainly wasn’t where they’d originally embarked on their journey from South America either.
As they rounded a corner and entered a large room, a more pleasant aroma replaced the first.  Long tables were lined with platters of steak, chicken, roasted potatoes and surrounded by any number of other delicious treats.  Saliva filled his mouth in anticipation of this home-going feast.  Murmurs of suspicion were replaced with whoops and hollers of excitement as plates filled to overflowing. 
Pablo ate until sated.  Then he ate some more.  Pablo tossed a half-eaten corn cob onto his plate then stared as a tall redhead strut into the room.  Long legs appeared to go on forever in the tight black jumpsuit and ended at rounded hips all topped off by an ample bosom – the first woman he’d seen in months.  His manhood ached.
Ah, Maria, I hope you are ready for a wild homecoming ride.
The woman appeared to be in charge as the surrounding guards straightened and then congregated around her.  When she leaned in to whisper to one of the tallest, Pablo imagined Maria’s lips pressed to his ear.  He couldn’t get home to his wife fast enough.
All eyes were on the redhead as she finished her conversation and strode from the makeshift cafeteria, pulling the steel doors shut behind her.  The clang resonated in the air like the bell before a fighting match.  With effort, Pablo drew his gaze away.
Just in time.
The guards raised their weapons.  The chatter of automatic gunfire peppered the room.  Row after row of workers were mowed down before they even knew what hit them.  Pablo saw the coming onslaught and ducked a split second ahead of the others.  Searing burn razed his flesh as bullets penetrated his shoulder before he slid beneath the table.  Other bodies littered the area beside him, blood streaming in rivers across the drab, white floor.  Pablo closed his eyes to the horror and bit his tongue to quell the pain – and his screams.
As suddenly as it had started, the carnage ended.  Booted footsteps clomped among the slaughter.  Doors opened then clanged shut.  Pablo waited in the unnatural calm to ensure the guards had left before slowly opening his tear-filled eyes.
Growing up, he’d witnessed firsthand the aftermath of rogue militia forces.  Pablo wanted to curl up in fear like the young boy he once was as he stared at bodies nearly cut in half by bullets, faces shattered beyond recognition, bloodied matter mingled with bits of bone. 
He was swimming in all of it.
Pablo stumbled to his feet.  The food he’d just eaten joined the carnage, pain shooting along his arm with each wretch.  With an empty stomach once again and blood dripping from his fingers, Pablo crossed himself with only one thought and prayer.
Mon Dios, let me see my Maria again.
Lieutenant Hassan Zafir led the small contingent through the Sa’dabad Palace labyrinth.  The luxury and history of the great Iranian palace complex never ceased to send a twinge of excitement through his mind.  Who would have believed the son of a poor family would find his way into the palace halls as a presidential military attaché?
Excitement tempered as Zafir remembered today’s purpose.  This would likely be his final march through the corridors and past the rooms of the Special Castle with the leader.  As one his unit turned the corner into the office, snapped their shoes together, then raised arms in salute.
“President Mohuzari,” Zafir began, “the car is waiting if you are ready, sir.”
Sayyed Ali Mohuzari lifted dark, angry eyes to meet Zafir’s gaze and rose from the blue settee with the grace of a military bearing.  The president’s Persian ancestry was dwarfed by his height as he towered above every man in the escort unit.  Mohuzari would have made an impressive leader in the IRGC.  As it was, he’d made an imposing president of the Iranian people.  But time in that office was short lived.
Mohuzari rested a hand upon Zafir’s shoulder as he lowered his arm.  “Lieutenant Zafir, you have been a trusted ally in the fight against Western ideals invading our ways and those of our neighbors.  I hope my successor finds it in his heart to keep you close at hand as well.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The guards surrounded Mohuzari as they escorted him down the hallway with Zafir leading directly in front.  Staff lined the corridor as they came to the portico.  Zafir stiffened, his eyes darting from face to face to detect any malevolent purposes.  Mohuzari’s voice carried urgently behind him.
“The Supreme Leader will not stand for a softening of our stance against Israel’s occupation.  Behazzadad must understand the only thing he will accomplish by pursuing such ends will be to bring down an assassin’s bullet on his head.”
The remainder of Zafir’s regiment lined the outdoor steps leading from the palace to the waiting motorcade.  As the group exited the safety of the doorway, his men saluted, their movements sharp and crisp in the morning air.  Behind him, Zafir felt Mohuzari’s tight smile of satisfaction.  Compliments would flow later, but for now Zafir kept his eyes and ears trained toward any unusual movement or sound.
Wind blew through the towering plane trees.  Murmurs rose in the distance from crowds gathered near Zaferaniyeh Gate.  Uniform swords clinked in unison as they descended.  The unmistakable spit of a gun resounded.
Zafir jerked around and tackled Mohuzari amid cries of alarm.  Blood and brain matter clouded his vision in an instant. Concrete steps battered his face, breaking his nose and sending a rush of blood down the front of his uniform and involuntary tears into his eyes.  But Zafir no longer needed to see to know the truth.
 Iranian President, Sayyed Ali Mohuzari, was dead.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The Terminals" Blog Tour Review

Once again, I'm pleased to host a spot on the Tribute Books blog tour of Michael F. Stewart's forthcoming release The Terminals.  Previously I've read and reviewed the first two books in his Assured Destruction YA series and enjoyed them very much.  But today is different.  We walk down a dark and lonely lane into the underworld.  Join me as we journey.  No seriously - with this novel, I'd rather have company to face it together instead of alone.

Book Summary:
Sometimes the dead don’t want to talk.  You need Terminals to make them.

Terminals solve crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.

Lt. Col. Christine Kurzow, fresh from a failed suicide attempt after she cost 11 of her soldiers their lives, is recruited into the covert unit of Terminals as a handler. It's an easy sell. If she's really determined to die, it’s a chance to give her death meaning.

But her first case—convincing a monk to chase Hillar the Killer into the afterlife to find the location of a missing bus and the children it carried—has her wondering how to make a dead psychopath talk.

Christine must follow the clues sent back by the shotgun-toting monk, who tracks Hillar through the seven deeps of hell, so she can find eleven kids before it’s too late.

Maybe this time killing a man will give Christine a reason to live.

My Review:
The Terminals is touted as a thriller, but it's by far more horror than thriller.  I don't like horror.  Don't do horror if I can help it.  I'm not a good judge of the genre.  It's disturbing on more levels than I can count (in Spanish, that is).  It's emotionally and even physically exhausting to read.  My imagination is too vivid.  Horror keeps me up at night, so I avoid it at all costs.

But lovers of the horror genre will absolutely flock to The Terminals.  In fact, I have a good friend who needs to read this ASAP (Brian, are you reading?  Are you reading, Brian?).

Christine is a colonel in the Army who, on more than one occasion, attempted suicide after she let her feminine side detract her while on a mission.  Eleven soldiers under her command died as a result of her inability to take out a suicide bomber - a child.  She doesn't suffer from PTSD, depression, or even survivors' guilt.  Just guilt, plain and simple, for reacting as a woman instead of a soldier in a combat situation.

Now she has a chance to restore balance by assisting in the rescue of eleven children kidnapped by a psychopath and his sidekick - one child for every one of her men.  All she has to do in this covert government project is agree to convince terminally ill patients to die a little sooner under her watch and to communicate back to Attila, the resident psychic, from whatever hell in which they find themselves.

When we first see Christine after she's stateside, she awakes in the terminals unit to three old farts, who are waiting for their turn to die, playing cards on her stomach as if its a table.  Cracked me up!  I thought it was also setting a tone with a little lighthearted humor.  Boy was I wrong!

Christine succeeds in convincing Charlie, a Gnostic monk who has inoperable cancer, to be a terminal in the program to track Hillar the Killer after he is shot dead in a police raid before they determine where he stashed the eleven kids.  They only have a few days in which to find the children left in the "care" of his sick accomplice.

And this is where the horror starts and never lets up.

Over and over again, we experience the traumatic and horrifying ways in which Charlie is "cleansed" as he passes through each level of his hell as he races after Hillar.  From having his flesh stripped away and his spine bent backward until it snaps, barbs sinking into his body and again ripping bits and pieces of him until he's nothing but bone or wolves eating his flesh and tearing him apart, to eating and eating and eating the putrid larvae of bat-type creatures before they can hatch and suck the marrow from his bones...  Ugh!  Please stop you say?  Glad to.

The hardest thing for me was reading the ways in which the children were tortured.  I'm a mother, for crying out loud!  I don't want to imagine what some psycho could possibly do to my little boy (who isn't so little anymore, but still).  I can't even bring myself to describe what happens to them.  If you are like me and have trouble with picturing children in such hands, you're going to have problems here too.

However, Michael Stewart knows how to write.  His manuscripts are structurally clean, have good point-of-view usage, and definitely show instead of tell (and show, and show, and show...).  Even though difficult for this reader, the descriptions are vivid and emotionally gripping.  You'll feel Christine's pain, Charlie's anguish, and be angered at the manner in which life is treated here.

So again, if you're like me and don't read horror, this Bud ain't for you.  But if you are a lover of the horror genre and enjoy the nausea of being creeped out, run out and grab a copy of The Terminals as soon as it is released.

But you can't say I didn't warn you!

Author Bio:

Michael F. Stewart is the author of the Assured Destruction series, which sprawls across 3 books, 2 websites, 1 blog, 7 Twitter accounts, tumblr, Facebook, and 6 graphic origin stories. He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. He has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s award winning Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights published by Rubicon Publishing as well as early readers with Pearson are all forthcoming in 2014 and 2015.

For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS—a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next. This series has already been optioned for film and television.

Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he runs free writing workshops for teens and adults.  Visit his website at

Format: ebook
Pages: 229
Release: 2014

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