Book Review: “VWars: Blood and Fire”

 

By Stacey Longo

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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.

Interview with Author David Price

by Jason Harris

 

Author David Price at the 2013 New England Author Expo. Photo by Jason Harris.

Author David Price at the 2013 New England Author Expo. Photo by Jason Harris.

 

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!

You can follow David on Twitter here and find out about David on his website here and on his Amazon page here.

Movie Review: ‘The House Across the Street’

By Stacey Longo

Jessica Sonneborn in The House Across the Street.

Jessica Sonneborn in The House Across the Street.

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.

Pictures from Queen City Kamikaze 2015

By Jason Harris

 

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Authors Dale T. Phillips, Vlad V., Ursula Wong, and Stacey Longo at the Books & Boos' tables.

Authors Dale T. Phillips, Vlad V., Ursula Wong, and Stacey Longo at the Books & Boos‘ tables.

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Convention attendees playing video games on the big screen.

 

From left to right: Emily Drouin,  an illustrator, comic book artist, caricaturist, and painter and Jeremy Drouin, writer.

From left to right: Emily Drouin, an illustrator, comic book artist, caricaturist, and painter and Jeremy Drouin, writer.

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Jason Voorhees from Jason X.

Jason Voorhees from Jason X.

Authors David Daniels, Dale T. Phillips, Stacey Longo, and Vlad V., the authors in the collection, Insanity Tales, published by Books and Boos Press.

The Writing, Editing, and Collaborating on a Book Panel: authors David Daniel, Dale T. Phillips, Stacey Longo, and Vlad V., the authors in the collection, Insanity Tales, published by Books and Boos Press. Photo by Jason Rivers.

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The Two Jasons. Jason Voorhees and Jason Rivers.

The Two Jasons. Jason Voorhees and Jason Rivers.

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You can find out about Queen City Kamikaze here.

Authors of ‘Insanity Tales’ to Appear at Queen City Kamikaze in New Hampshire 

 

By Jason Harris

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Authors David Daniels, Stacey Longo, Dale T. PhillipsVlad 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.

Book Review: ‘The Great Grammar Book’

 

By Stacey Longo

The Great Grammar Book

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.

The ROCK Comic Expo Has Been Postponed

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.

Red Cross to Honor Westport Employees at January 30 Event

 

The Red Cross will honor three Town of Westport employees at its 16th annual American Red Cross Community Heroes Breakfast set for January 30 in Stamford.

David Ellis, Joseph Bairaktaris, Jr. and former co-worker Ian Chasnow will receive the Life Saving Hero Award. The men are responsible for saving the life of co-worker for quick thinking that saved a co-worker who suffered a heart attack at work. “Doc” Kashka who suffered a heart attack at work.

Joseph Bairaktaris, Jr., and David Ellis were working at the Ned Dimes Marina on Compo Beach when Kashka suffered a heart attack at the nearby basketball courts. Together with former co-worker Ian Chasnow, the men administered CPR to Kashka until emergency personnel arrived with an AED and took over care.

In a citation honoring the men for their actions in saving their colleague, Westport First Selectman James Marpe cited the group’s swift and professional actions displaying “extraordinary composure.”

“Joseph, David and Ian are true heroes for stepping forward to save a life,” said American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region CEO Mario Bruno. “They represent the Red Cross ideal of knowing how to save a life with CPR and First Aid training and taking action to do so.”

The breakfast will be held at the Stamford Marriott Hotel and Spa, 243 Tresser Boulevard. Breakfast is served at 7:30 a.m. Registration begins at 7:00 a.m. Tickets for the event are $40. Wells Fargo is Statewide Leadership Sponsor. Emcee will be Tom Appleby, News Director and Anchor with NEWS12 Connecticut. Tickets are $40 each and must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets online, visit http://www.redcross.org/ct/heroes.

The other honorees at this year’s breakfast are:

  • Workplace Hero Award: General Electric, for its commitment to supporting American Red Cross disaster relief work and programs as well as its outstanding philanthropic and volunteer commitment to communities across Connecticut and the nation.
  • Community Resilience Award: The City of Norwalk, for its multiple programs to better support its citizens and strengthen its infrastructure in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
  • Military Hero Award: Alfred Meadows, of Huntington, a U.S. Army veteran, Purple Heart Medal recipient and founder of “Operation Gift Cards,” which has presented more than 17,000 thank you kits valued at more than $800,000 to wounded troops and additional military support groups.
  • Spirit of the Red Cross Award: The Echo Hose Hook & Ladder Company 1, in Shelton, for their extraordinary work at a major fire in Shelton, in which they successfully evacuated 28 residents from the building, directly rescuing five of those residents. In the days after the fire, the fire company became a central point of coordination to support the recovery needs for the building residents.
  • Water Safety Award: Brenda Moratoya, of Stamford, for her role in saving a drowning swimmer off Cummings Beach in Stamford last summer.

More information about the heroes is available at the Connecticut Red Cross Blog.

The American Red Cross Community Heroes Breakfast is set for Friday, January 30, at the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa, 243 Tresser Boulevard, Stamford. Statewide Leadership Sponsor is Wells Fargo. News12 Connecticut News Director and Anchor Tom Appleby will serve as Emcee. Registration is at 7:00 a.m. and breakfast is served at 7:30 a.m. Tickets are $40 each and must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets online, visit www.redcross.org/ct/heroes. For more information about the event or to reserve tickets contact Melissa Fazzio at (860) 678-2724 or email her at Melissa.Fazzio@redcross.org.

The Sex Appeal of ‘Style Icons’

By Stacey Longo

Style Icons

Style Icons, Volume I: Golden Boys (2014, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform) is the first in a series of coffee table books from Fashion Industry Broadcast, written by Paul G. Roberts. In this volume, the series examines the sex appeal of some major Hollywood actors of the 20th century.

The selection of actors offered is diverse and clearly carefully chosen. From the brooding handsomeness of Brando to the swashbuckling sexiness of Flynn, the book showcases a variety of talented, beautiful actors. It examines why these men were so appealing: on page 10, the author says, “It would be convenient to compare the greatest sex symbols to Greek gods … but a keener truth seems to be that we fancy our love gods deeply flawed.” I’d agree that this is true for most of the men in this book.

The book contains glossy photos, a biography on each actor, and links to videos (more on those later). The book opens with Marlon Brando, a personal favorite of mine. There’s a brief biography, and many smoldering photos to remind the reader of why he was so appealing. I particularly enjoyed a whimsical shot of Brando on the set of Apocalypse Now, where he looks relaxed and happy.

Next up is James Dean. The glossy photos capture his handsome face and bad-boy charm. Interesting note about the bio included here: I used to think Dean was bisexual. After reading this, now I think he was gay. This, of course, is irrelevant, because the main point is, he was a good actor and easy on the eyes.

Errol Flynn is featured next, and the pictures here emphasize his debonair reputation. Many actors today still emulate Flynn—indeed, in one photo, he reminded me of Cary Elwes; in another, Kevin Kline.

The chapter on Clark Gable was what I’d expected—several shots from Gone with the Wind, certainly his most famous role, along with candids of him with Carole Lombard and Marilyn Monroe.

The Cary Grant chapter was much like the others—a brief bio and several photos. The treasure in this chapter was a shot of him with Marilyn Monroe. She is posing, and he has a bewildered look on his face. It was a nice glimpse of Cary Grant, the man, not just Cary Grant, the actor.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Rock Hudson. The photos emphasized how attractive he was, and the bio emphasized the tremendous impact he had on bringing AIDS to the spotlight. As I still remember the shock of seeing his gaunt face on the cover of People back in 1985, it was good to see him young and sexy again.

The Steve McQueen chapter offered no surprises, and served as a reminder of how cool he really was. He was followed by Paul Newman. It’s impossible not to love Paul Newman: besides being a genuinely nice guy—those eyes!

The chapter on Elvis Presley was sad. Though many of these icons died young, it’s tragic to look back on Elvis’s life, see how much he had going for him, and knowing that his life ended so soon. Yes, he was handsome, and the photos will remind you of that, but he was unhappy, too.

Finally, we have Rudolph Valentino to close out the book. His sex appeal was legendary, though photographs don’t always capture that essence of sexuality about him. Luckily, there are links that the reader can visit to see the man in action.

I did have some small issues with the book—it definitely needs another text edit, and it ends abruptly and without photo credits. (In all fairness, I have a review copy, so it’s possible that further edits were made after this version.) The video links throughout the volume will certainly enhance the e-book version of Style Icons, Volume I: Golden Boys, but in the print version, the location of the “play” icon in the center of each image was frustrating. However, this extra element of video links embedded throughout the book did make me want to purchase the e-book version.

Overall, Style Icons, Volume I: Golden Boys was an enjoyable read, and a respectful and intriguing look back at some of the screen’s most alluring leading men. You can buy it on Amazon by clicking here.

Author Marcia Clark Talks about ‘The Competition’

By Stacey Longo

John Valeri and author Marcia Clark on Skype.

John Valeri and author Marcia Clark on Skype. Photo by Stacey Longo.

Former L.A. District Attorney Marcia Clark made an appearance via Skype at the Bentley Memorial Library in Bolton on January 8 to discuss The Competition, the fourth book in Clark’s Rachel Knight crime fiction series.

The event was moderated by John Valeri, who pens the Hartford Books Examiner column. Valeri kept the mood light as technical and other difficulties kicked off the event—first, Clark was caught in L.A. traffic, and then the Skype connection wasn’t working. Clark and Valeri started the discussion on speakerphone until the Skype issue was resolved.

Sixteen enthusiastic readers braved the cold weather to ask Clark about her book. The Competition revolves around Rachel Knight investigating a school shooting reminiscent of Columbine. Clark explained how she researched Columbine prior to starting to write the novel, learning more about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s psyches and situations. The Newtown school shootings in Connecticut happened right as Clark turned in her draft of The Competition to her publisher. She and her publisher decided to move ahead with the book’s publishing schedule, as the theme seemed even more relevant and important after the events in Newtown.

The audience agreed that The Competition was at times difficult to read due to the subject matter, but well written and suspenseful. Clark shared some insight into her life these days—besides maintaining a hectic publishing schedule, she also writes appeals briefs and occasionally appears on television. While the audience was respectful of Clark’s request that her most famous trial not be brought up, Clark herself did refer to it when asked why she worked as a prosecutor and not a defense lawyer for much of her career.

“Keep in mind that what you saw in the Simpson trial was not the norm,” Clark said, though she did admit that there is a lot more freedom when working as a defense lawyer. “You only have to convince one person [of reasonable doubt], not twelve [of guilt].” Clark started her career as a defense attorney, but “I wanted to represent the victims,” she explained regarding her move to the prosecutor’s table.

Clark was articulate and endearing as she answered questions. She and Valeri played off of each other well, and attendees praised the event. As one person in the audience posted on Facebook later in the evening: “Great time tonight listening to John Valeri interview the brilliant Ms. Marcia Clark!”