By Jason Harris
VWars: Blood and Fire is the second installment in the VWars series, edited and co-authored by New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, featuring such talented writers as Kevin J. Anderson, Larry Correia, Joe McKinney, James A. Moore, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, and Scott Sigler. The book is set up in a manner reminiscent of World War Z, in which the reader is treated to snippets of the escalating battle between the “Beats” (humans) and the “Bloods” (vampires). No need to worry if you haven’t read the first one (though I do recommend the first installment): the anthology is character-driven, engaging, and sucks the reader in from the first page.
Maberry leads off with “Apocalypse Tango” (broken up into seven parts and interspersed between other stories, as many of the tales in this book are), which introduces us to Luther Swann, an important figure throughout this book. This story maps out what’s going on—families are getting slaughtered, tensions are escalating, and Swann is unable to prevent what appears to be another war against the vampires.
“The Enemy Within” is a solid entry from Yvonne Navarro, who introduces us to Mooney, a vampire uncomfortable with her new status. She becomes immersed in local vamp infighting. Mooney is an intriguing character, and this story will have you hoping that Mooney gets her own novel someday.
Joe McKinney introduces us to thirteen-year-old Ernesto in “Tenochtitlan Will Rise,” showcasing yet another facet of the developing tensions. Through Ernesto, who is just trying to take care of his grandfather, we see how closely war can hit home.
“War Torn,” the piece from James A. Moore, creates an engaging voice in Johnny Lei. Lei is empathetic, and you’ll find yourself rooting for the misunderstood vampire, until he reminds you that first and foremost, he is a predator.
“Suicide Games,” also by Maberry, lets us know that there’s more to fear in this war than just vampires and humans.
Next up is “Solitude” by Kevin J. Anderson, a standalone piece about a veteran of Afghanistan who just wants to be left alone. It’s intriguing and haunting.
Maberry pops back in with “Let God Sort ’Em Out,” in which we’re treated to battle scenes, the internal struggle that our old friend Swann continues to deal with, and the introduction of a dynamic new character, Big Dog.
“Manifest Destiny” is Weston Ochse’s contribution, and showcases the cruelty and destruction of which both man and vampire are capable. Underlying in this piece is a cynical commentary on role the media plays in life-or-death situations.
Larry Correia gives us “Force Multiplier,” another standalone story, this one about the far-reaching destruction the war has wrought.
Scott Sigler is up next with “The Hippo,” a fascinating piece about a serial killer hunting amid the vampire wars. This was probably my favorite story in the book—it finally let the reader get a glimpse of reporter Yuki Nitobe, who is mentioned in several other pieces, plus, it reminds the reader that not all of the monsters in this book are vampires. Humans are capable of some pretty awful things, too.
“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” shows some behind-the-scenes negotiations between Swann and the Crimson Queen, in which we learn that neither side, really, wants this war.
Finally, Maberry concludes with “Monsters in the Dark,” a brilliant character portrait of a vampire that is intriguing, opens up new questions, and leaves the reader wanting more.
Overall, VWars: Blood & Fire showcased some fabulous writers, kept me turning the pages, and got me excited about the next collection. VWars: Blood & Fire is available in bookstores and on Amazon here.
David Price is the author of Dead in the USA. He resides in Massachusetts. His new story, “Necrophone,” appeared in the online sci-fi & fantasy magazine, Buzzy Mag, today.
JH: How did your adventure in writing come about?
DP: Well, I’ve always loved reading. I was a huge comic book fan, and later moved on to Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, Brian Lumley and many other speculative fiction writers. In my freshman year of college, I absolutely aced Composition 1. I was undeclared, and my professor suggested I become an English Major. That’s really when I first started thinking seriously about becoming a writer.
JH: What was your first published work?
DP: I had a short story based on the haunted experiences in my life published in a collection called Tales from the Grave.
JH: Do you have a specific writing style?
DP: The most frequent comment or compliment to my writing is that it’s “page-turning.” I’ve also been told that I do particularly well with dialogue. I don’t tend to bog down on details or describe a scene for very long. If you like extensive, detailed descriptions, I’m probably not for you. If you like stuff that moves along, I might be your guy.
JH: What year were you published?
DP: 2012 was the first time I saw myself in print, other than an online article or two.
JH: Have any real life instances influenced your work?
DP: Oh sure, I’ve put many of my real life experiences in my work. In my story “Necrophone,” coming out in Buzzy Mag in March, I mention cliff jumping at a quarry. That really happened. Actually quite a bit of that story is based on my relationship with my grandfather, as I wrote it shortly after he died.
JH: What books have influenced your life the most?
DP: Hmm, my life or my writing? The Stand is my favorite book, so it’s certainly influenced me. The works of Stephen King have changed the way I see the world, at times. Some of the ideas in the Dark Tower series will always influence me, I think. And then of course, there’s J.R.R. Tolkien. The fact that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are the main influence for the Dungeons & Dragons game is important. D & D is the inspiration for the series of epic fantasy books I am currently writing.
JH: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
DP: Stephen King, hands down. Even when his stories don’t quite hit the mark, he has the way of always getting me to care about his characters. I don’t think I write much like Stephen King myself, but I am always conscious of trying to get the reader to care about my characters.
JH: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
DP: Well, J.K. Rowling isn’t that new, but I consider the Harry Potter series pretty much revolutionary. I’m a big fan of John McIlveen, having recently read his collection, Jerks. Bracken MacLeod is an up and coming writer, as anyone who is paying attention to the horror and crime markets will tell you. Kealan Patrick Burke writes so beautifully, that I doubt I’ll ever equal his style.
JH: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
DP: As I said, “Necrophone” is a short story that will be published online in Buzzy Mag on March 27. It’s about a man who discovers a phone app that allows him to communicate with the dead, in this case, his recently deceased grandfather. Other than that, I’m putting some more polish on the first book of my epic Lovecraftian fantasy series: Lightbringer.
JH: What was the last book or piece of work that you had published? What was it about?
DP: Last year I had my essay “Shark Bait” published in the collection, Phobias, from Hidden Thoughts Press.
JH: Do you have a ritual before you write?
DP: Not really. I’ve used music at times, usually Tool or Puscifer. Sometimes I drink coffee, sometimes wine.
JH: Do you have any advice for other writers?
DP: If you don’t have the stomach for rejection, this might not be the business or hobby for you. I wasn’t ready for all the rejection, to be honest. I mean, I knew it was part of the business, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to handle at times. That story, “Necrophone” that I’ve mentioned already? That was rejected more than ten times. I finally sold it to Buzzy Mag, making it the best paying story I’ve sold to date. You just never know. Stick with it and try not to take it personally. Just keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting.
JH: Are you going to be signing anywhere in the near future?
DP: I will be at Super MegaFest in Marlborough, MA, April 17-19, Anthocon in Portsmouth, NH, June 5-7, Necon in Portsmouth, RI, July 16-19, Granite State ComicCon in Manchester, NH September 12-13, and possibly Necronomicon in Providence, RI, August 20-23. That’s all for now!
In The House Across the Street (2013, Eyethfilms) Amy Fielder (Jessica Sonneborn) has just moved from Kansas, and rents an apartment from Tom (Ethan Embry), a creepy landlord whose over-eagerness to rent to her should have made Amy think twice from the get-go. Amy finds herself fascinated by the house across the street, and watches the goings-on over there cautiously and voraciously. She also starts meeting some of her neighbors, none who seem too eager to give her any information about the house that fascinates her so.
The neighborhood where Amy now lives must be the friendliest in New England, because Mr. Barnes (Alex Rocco) keeps insisting she come over for lunch, and Ned (Courtney Gains, who still evokes memories of Malachai from Children of the Corn even as he approaches middle age) invites her to her home and offers to bring her food. The only people who aren’t friendly are the cops—after Amy finds a woman laying in the road, Officer Peterson (Eric Roberts) warns her not to make trouble, and Amy is subsequently pulled over by the police three more times. The only person who seems willing to help is Kyle, an officer who is also fairly new to town. But the message Amy continues to get from both cops and neighbors is the same: leave well enough alone.
Apparently, this isn’t in Amy’s nature, because after snooping around town hall and getting sideswiped by a car for her efforts, she decides to check out the house across the street for herself. Now on crutches, she hobbles from room to room until she finds Daisy (Sara Murphy), the daughter of the woman who was lying in the road earlier. Daisy is drugged and weak, but Amy manages to get her out of the house and hides her away in her own place across the street.
The movie moves rapidly at this point, as Amy starts to piece together the clues and figures out what’s been going on at the house across the street and who is involved. It turns out that Amy can trust nobody, and her world and new friendships start falling apart as we head to our violent and bittersweet conclusion.
The House Across the Street boasts a dynamic, talented cast that doesn’t disappoint. Roberts is completely at home in his role of small-town officer walking that thin line between keeping citizens in line and protecting the people in his town. Alex Rocco is brilliant (as always) as the forgetful, bumbling Mr. Barnes, and stole every scene in which he appeared. Courtney Gains, Ethan Embry, and Josh Hammond were also notable in the film. The movie was entertaining, though it did drag in places, and the scriptwriters missed a golden opportunity to add the twist of unreliable narration when Amy ran out of antipsychotic medication. Some of the methods in which Amy figured out the truth seemed contrived, yet others were pretty clever. Overall, The House Across the Street was slow, suspenseful, and disturbing—all good things.
Check out the movie’s website here.
You can find out about Queen City Kamikaze here.
Authors David Daniels, Stacey Longo, Dale T. Phillips, Vlad V., and Ursula Wong will be appearing at the Books & Boos’ tables at Queen City Kamikaze. They will be signing copies of Insanity Tales, a collection short stories and one novella with a foreword by award-winning author Jonathan Maberry (Rot & Ruin).
This will be the first time all five authors will be available to sign this collection so come to Queen City Kamikaze and enter a world of madness as you find out about these nine tales of twisted psyches, peculiar people, and demons of the mind and spirit.
The authors will also participate in a panel, Writing, Editing, and Collaborating on a Book, at the convention.
Queen City Kamikaze happens on March 7 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1 Crusader Way in Manchester, New Hampshire.
I am a copy editor for a Fortune 100 company by day, a copy editor by night for a small press, and a writer. As such, I am extremely rigid and unforgiving when I am asked to review and analyze a book about grammar and syntax. I am happy to say The Great Grammar Book (Second Edition) by Marsha Sramek exceeded my expectations.
The book uses familiar and easily understood language to go over the fine details of the English language, patiently walking the reader through each step, starting with parts of speech and ending with a comprehensive chapter on successful writing techniques. The example sentences used to demonstrate the nuances of the lesson being taught were full of interesting trivia, making this not only an informative review but also an interesting read.
My favorite things in this book were the pointers regarding commonly misused words. (Chapter Two, for example, patiently explained that “alright” does not exist in standard English—a pet peeve of mine when it crops up.) There were numerous examples highlighting common errors, all of which made me start mentally composing a list of people who would benefit from this book. Suffice to say, most of my holiday shopping is now done.
The only proofing error I found was in Chapter Five, “Using Apostrophes Correctly.” Chicago Manual of Style, 6.114 notes that the using the left single quotation mark “should always be construed as an error.” Basically, the tail of the apostrophe should always point to the omitted text, which didn’t happen in the section on omitted numbers (Spirit of ’76 was displayed as ‘76, for example). This is, of course, a minor error, but one I’m sure the author is chastising herself over as I type this.
The Great Grammar Book is fabulous for writers, editors just starting out (I found it to be overly simple for my editing level, but it never hurts to review the basics) and anyone who misuses the English language on a daily basis. I’ve brought it in to work with me to use as a reference when I’m tired and second-guessing myself. This book should be mandatory for every writer’s library.
The Great Grammar Book is available on Amazon here.
According to the organizer of the ROCK Comic Expo, the convention has been postponed until further notice. There were “many unforeseen circumstances” that caused the convention to be postponed. The organizer wants to provide only the best entertainment, the official statement said. Refunds will be given for tickets purchased. The organizer apologizes for any inconvenience.
The organizers’ original statement is located on the convention’s Facebook page here.