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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Book Review: Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath

by Lisa Mangum,‎ Jody Lynn Nye,‎ Kevin J. Anderson,‎ Kary English,‎ Jessica Guernsey,‎ Kristin Luna,‎ Terry Madden  (Author),‎ Chris Mandeville,‎ Lauren A. Lang,‎ Joy Dawn Johnson
March 15, 2018
334 pages
Publisher: WordFire Press
Fear is instinctive. Primal. It lurks, ready to spring. Will you conquer it or be consumed?

Monument, Colorado. WordFire Press is proud to announce the release of UNDERCURRENTS: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. This is the fourth volume produced by the alumni of the Superstars Writing Seminar. All proceeds benefit the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund.

In Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath, twenty-three talented authors, including The New York Times bestsellers Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Jody Lynn Nye, have stood on the shores of their psyches and looked out over the ocean of possibility and wondered “What lies beneath?”

The sea creatures and sea monsters that answered their calls range from a giant kraken that rules the deepest ocean to the smallest puffer fish that creates intricate works of underwater art. Creatures of classic mythology—mermaids, sirens, and sea serpents—swim alongside more unusual beasts—underwater cats and singing whirlpools. These stories dive deep into the fears many of us face, including loss, abandonment, death, and physical, mental, or emotional danger. When the fears we keep buried beneath the surface rise up and threaten to consume, we must make a choice: conquer or be conquered.

A collection of 23 short stories ranging from contemporary fiction to horror to sci-fi to fantasy that feature a variety of sea monsters and sea creatures. Each story focuses on a different element of fear and a character who either conquers that fear or is consumed by it.

This is a solid anthology of short stories about sea monsters. The sea causes fear in some and wonder in others. Sometimes people dive headfirst into the unknown and other avoid it. All these types of people are explored in the 23 tales. Many of the stories have a cautionary message like a fable. Stories you would hear in a pub by the docks. Told by a crusty one-eyed sailor with a pint or two in him. Some of the stories have a more modern setting.
I enjoyed a majority of the stories. Most fall in the 3 1/2 sheep range. But there are a few that scored 4 to 4 1/2. There is something for everyone and each story is unique. The editor did a good job of providing variety in subject and mood.

This a charity anthology and proceeds go to the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund. Below is a link to information about the cause.

3.75 "Sea" Sheep


Superstars Writing Seminars, founded in 2010, is unique among writing seminars. The curriculum focuses on teaching writers the business of being successful in the publishing industry. The instructors are chosen from the top of the industry and include International Bestselling Authors, Top Editors, Indie Publishing Platform Managers, and many more. The primary goal at Superstars is to teach you how to have a successful writing career by sharing how those at the top of the industry manage their careers.

Excerpt Spotlight: Dangerously Fierce (The Broken Riders Book 3) by Deborah Blake

February 26, 2018
217 pages
The Riders: Three legendary brothers who kept the Baba Yagas safe. The Riders’ immortality was stripped away, along with their mission. But they are still much more than Human, and their story is far from over… 

His brothers may have found new paths to follow, but Alexei Knight isn’t even looking. If he can’t have the life he was meant to lead, there is no second choice. So he is bent on drinking and brawling his way across the country until he winds up on Cape Cod in a bar called The Hook and Anchor, where he finds challenges he was never expecting, a feisty red-haired bartender, and maybe a lot more than that…

Bethany McKenna left behind an almost-completed law degree to return home and care for her cranky disabled father and run his bar for him. If that wasn’t enough, she also agreed to foster a very pregnant Great Dane. She has enough to deal with without adding in a giant bearded brawler, no matter how appealing he is. Yet somehow he ends up living in the guesthouse, taking care of her father, and sneaking his way into her heart…

Alexei and Bethany both think the lives they wanted have come to an end, but after dealing with a mysterious sea monster, pirates, dragons, and some adorable puppies, they might just discover that love is the greatest adventure of all…

Alexei Knight swallowed the last of his beer, hid a grin in his beard, and aimed his pool cue at an innocent looking nine ball. The ball caromed across the felt to tap in three of its fellows before swishing into the corner pocket with an almost smug-sounding sigh. Across the table, his opponent let out a curse.

“Too bad,” Alexei said, plucking the twenty dollar bill off the edge of the table. “Want to go again?” His slight Russian accent, stronger after an afternoon of drinking at a slow but steady rate, made the first word sound like “Vant.” But his hands were still rock steady. When you were six feet, eight inches tall and weighed two hundred and seventy pounds, it took a lot of alcohol to made an impression, even if you didn’t have the metabolism of a formerly immortal Rider.

While the man he’d beaten conferred with his companion, Alexei let his gaze swing idly around the room. He’d been in so many bars over the last year they were all starting to look alike. This one, The Hook and Anchor, was someplace in Cape Cod, although he wasn’t sure exactly where. He’d started out in California, methodically drinking and fighting his way across the country, hitting every state other than Alaska or Hawaii. (The thought of flying made him shudder, and there was no way he was leaving his beloved Harley behind.)

But eventually he’d run out of land, ending up here in this nautical themed bar, whose sign bore an anchor crossed with a pirate’s hook. It wasn’t too bad; clearly aimed more at the locals than the tourists, and slightly threadbare at the edges, which was just the way he liked them.

The floors were wooden planks, worn down by time and use, and the walls were hung with battered fishing gear—old harpoons, frayed netting, empty lobster traps, and the like. The lighting was dim and the music a low throb of jazz that would have seemed better suited to a more upscale establishment. But as long as the beer kept coming, he was happy to hang around for another few hours and use his considerable skills to separate his fellow drinkers from their money at the pool table. It wasn’t as though he had any other place to be. Ever.

The two men came around the table, glowering, their ruddy faces alike enough to mark them as brothers. The one Alexei had just beaten clenched callused hands. “You’re cheating,” he said in a low voice. “You suckered us.”

Alexei shrugged. “No. And yes,” he said. “But nobody forced you to play. If you don’t have the stomach for the game, run along and let somebody else have a chance.”

The second brother growled and waved his pool cue threateningly in Alexei’s direction, and a couple of other men who had been leaning against the wall and watching started to drift in their direction. “Give us back our money,” the man demanded. “Or you’ll be sorry.”

Alexei grinned, large even teeth gleaming whitely in his brown beard. This was more like it. He’d been getting bored with pool anyway. “Not going to happen,” he said, and as the others started closing in, he lifted his own stick in both hands, getting ready to break it over his knee to make it into a better weapon. But for some reason, the stick didn’t move.

He blinked, looking down. A small, surprisingly strong hand hung on to the middle of the cue, pulling it downward and him along with it until his eyes were looking into the steely-eyed glare of a petite red-headed woman.

“NOT IN MY BAR,” she said with the hint of a Scottish accent. “And not with my pool cue. Those things aren’t cheap, you know.” She plucked the stick out of his grasp and leaned it against the wall before turning her glare on the other men. “Tommy and Jonah, I think I’ve made my feelings clear on the subject of fighting in this bar. You’ve had enough. Go home.”

“But he stole our money!” Tommy whined. Or maybe it was Jonah.

The woman snorted. “Nobody forced you to play pool, Tommy Carson. And nobody forced you to bet on it, and keep betting on it after it became clear that you were seriously outmatched. Go home and sleep it off, and take your brother with you. Get, now.” She shooed them out the door, and everyone else scuttled off to sit at tables and try and look as though they hadn’t been about to pile four-deep onto a perfect stranger.

She turned to Alexei, tilting her head up so she could look into his eyes. “You,” she said. “Bar. Sit. Now.” She pointed at an unoccupied stool towards the end, away from anyone else. When Alexei didn’t move right away, a little bemused by the small dynamo who had just ordered around a room full of men twice her size, she narrowed her eyes, crossed her arms over her chest, and added, “Unless you’d rather go after the Carson brothers than have another beer.”

“Make it a vodka,” Alexei said, trying to hide the laughter in his voice. “Since you’ve insisted on spoiling all my fun.”

“Fine,” she said, stalking off toward the bar. “You can pay for it out of your winnings.”

She went to the other side and waited for him to sit before and pouring him a drink.

“I’ve been watching you,” she said. “I’m Bethany McKenna. This is my place, or near enough.”

“Alexei Knight,” he said, holding out a massive hand. Alexei couldn’t figure out how he missed noticing her. He must be worse off than he thought. There was something special about her. And considering the women he normally hung out with, that was really saying something. “You’ve been watching me?”

“I don’t much appreciate you hustling my customers. I realize those two boys are none too sharp, but still, I figure you took about eighty-five dollars off them, and that’s enough.” She pushed a stray stand of red hair back into the clip that held the rest off her slender neck.

Alexei shrugged. “How am I supposed to get the money to pay for my beer, then?” he asked in a reasonable tone.

She pointed at an well-dressed man currently being rude to the lone waitress. “Feel free to entertain yourself with the tourists,” she says. “Just don’t hustle them. I don’t need this bar getting any worse a reputation than it already has. Play an honest game. Anyone still dumb enough to bet you after the first one, well, I’ll consider it a cheap education.”

Alexei thought he might like this woman. He’d tell her so, but he had a feeling she’d just smash a bottle over his head. “Okay,” he said instead. “Fair enough. You get a lot of tourists in here?”

The woman grinned. “At the end of March? Nope. Hardly any.” She gave him an assessing glance. “You’re not from around here, but you don’t seem like the tourist type. What brings you to the Cape?”

He shrugged again. “I started out on the West Coast, and I’ve been drinking my way across the country. Near as I can tell, I’ve about run out of road.”

Bethany took this in without any notable reaction. “Yup, I’d say that’s probably true, although technically you’ve still got about half the Cape to go before you hit Provincetown.” She shifted a couple of inches to the left so she could wash dirty glasses and still continue their conversation, her eyes constantly roaming over the bar to see if anyone needed her attention. “So what are you going to do now?”

“Not sure,” Alexei said. “Turn around and do it all over again, maybe. Or get on a boat and go drink my way across Europe. Haven’t done that in a while.”

She put a clean glass upside down on a drying rack. “A boat? Not a plane?”

Alexei shuddered. “Not a chance. Flying is for birds and dragons. Not for people.”

Bethany laughed. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a man who was afraid of flying.”

“Not afraid,” he said. “Just smart enough to know when something is a bad idea. I don’t have many rules. Do not trust a machine to carry you through the sky is one of them.”

Another glass joined the first. “So, what are the other rules?” she asked, sounding half curious, half dubious. He understood that. He knew he didn’t exactly give the impression of a man who followed many rules. And he didn’t, although the few he thought were worth following, he’d stuck to without exception for more years than most could count.

“An empty beer bottle is an abomination,” he said, looking pointedly at the one he’d carried over from the pool table, until she took the hint and replaced it with a full one. He took a swig and thought for a moment. “Never hurt an animal that isn’t trying to hurt you. Picking on those weaker than you is wrong.”

Bethany bit her lip, trying not to smile. It made the cleft in her strong chin stand out even more. “I’m guessing that doesn’t leave many folks for you to pick on. That’s a pretty short list. Anything else?”

Alexei took another drink and stared blankly into the mirror behind the bar, not really seeing his own reflection. “Never pick a fight you can’t win, unless you’re backed into a corner and don’t have any choice.”

She raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d have ever lost a fight,” she said, waving a wet hand to indicate his size, in case he’d somehow forgotten the way he dwarfed most other people.

“It only takes once,” he said with a growl, and tossed down the shot of vodka, slamming the shot glass back down on the bar. “It only takes once.”

About this Author:

Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga Series from Berkley (Wickedly Dangerous, Wickedly Wonderful, Wickedly Powerful), the Broken Rider Series, and the Veiled Magic series from Berkley and has published ten books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 130-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with multiple cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Winning the Internet this Week... A Golden Disco Angel -Mark (Regrets) Hamill

I present to you this golden disco angel!
Mark (regrets) Hamill
And OMG it gets better! Thanks to author D.b. Reynolds for finding this...

Guest Post: Bob Freeman -Top 10 Things An Occult Detective Should Always Carry With Them

Top 10 Things An Occult Detective Should Always Carry With Them
by Bob Freeman
10. Fire
Let's face facts, fire is your friend. You need warmth? Fire. You need to light something? Fire. Need to see in the dark? Also Fire.

09. Tobacco
Something smokable, for sure, be it via cigarettes or a pipe. There are more than a few spirits that are attracted to the smell and even some that will barter for a taste. 

08. A Flask of Whisky
I really shouldn't need to explain this one. Whisky is liquid courage and an adequate pain killer. Toss it back and get to work.

07. A Camp Knife
Never leave home without a good, utilitarian knife. This is survival 101.

06. An Enchanted Blade
Never leave home without a consecrated blade. Survival 101? Yes, if you have a tendency to wrestle with things beyond mortal kin.

05. Candles, Sage, & Incense
You need to bless a space, clear it of negative energy, or draw something out of hiding. You'd best find these in one of your deep pockets or you could be in for a world of hurt.

04. A Pantacle
Speaking of hurt, you can avoid a healthy share of it if you're packing a detective's thermonuclear device — namely a magical infused pantacle (sorry, I grew up in the Golden Dawn system). You might call this a pentacle. Regardless, it's a disc inscribed with esoteric energies.

03. A Compass
Your early warning system. If the compass gets to dancing then things are about to get interesting.

02. Salt
You need to lock it down and fast? Keep salt on hand. It's got a million and one uses. All of them aimed at keeping you six feet above ground.

01. Sidewalk Chalk
The magic circle is the best ally an occult detective has. A spot of artistic talent helps, but in a pinch, any bloke can close a circle.

by Bob Freeman
July 6, 2017
Seventh Star Press, LLC
From the arcane sorceries of “The Wickedest Man in the World” to the supernatural exploits of Occult Detective Landon Connors and the harrowing investigations of Agents Wolfe and Crowe,this collection of macabre tales of the black arts treads the dangerous landscape between this world and that populated by angels and demons, gods and devils, ghosts and spirits, and the legendary creatures of our darkest imaginings.

First Born is the beginning of the journey into the Liber Monstrorum, the Chronicles of those Occult Detectives who are the last line of defense against those preternatural forces that threaten to destroy a world that refuses to believe that such things exist…

About the author:
Bob Freeman is an author, artist, and paranormal adventurer whose previous novels include Shadows Over Somerset and Keepers of the Dead. 

A lifelong student of mythology, folklore, magic, and religion, Freeman has written numerous short stories, articles, and reviews for various online and print publications and is a respected lecturer on the occult and paranormal phenomena. 

He lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor. 

Tour Schedule and Activities 

3/12 The Coming Evil Author Interview 

3/13 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape  Author Interview 
3/14 Hunting Monsters Guest Post 
3/14 Book in the Bag  Interview 
3/15 Morgan Sylvia Top Ten List 
3/16 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post 
3/17 I Smell Sheep Top Ten List 
3/18 Jacob Floyd's Ghosts and Monsters Review and Interview 

Happy St. Patrick's Day from I Smell Sheep

I made this years ago with my mad window paint skills...