GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ I Smell Sheep: September 2020

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

National Celebrations in October

Honestly, you can't get any better for bat month and Halloween than our logo...
There are a lot of great things to octopuses but Oct 12th has the one we all need...
Bat Appreciation Month 
Black Speculative Fiction Month 
Safety Month 
International Starman Month
National Book Month 

October 1 
Chinese Moon Festival 
International Coffee Day 
International Day for the Elderly 
National Homemade Cookies Day 
World Vegetarian Day
National Black Dog Day 
National Book It! Day 
Willy Wonka Day

October 2 
National Custodial Worker Day 
Name Your Car Day 
World Smile Day
Guardian Angels Day 

October 3 
International Frugal Fun Day 
National Boyfriends Day 
Techies Day 
Virus Appreciation Day 
World Card Making Day

October 4 
National Golf Day 
National Frappe Day 
Oktoberfest in Germany ends 

October 5 
Do Something Nice Day 
World Teacher's Day
 Clive Barker’s Birthday

October 6
6-12 Mystery Series Week
Come and Take it Day 
Mad Hatter Day 
Physician Assistant Day

October 7 
Bald and Free Day 
National Kale Day
Edgar Allen Poe’s Deathiversary
 Random Acts of Poetry Day

October 8 
8-12 International Cephalopod Awareness Days 
American Touch Tag Day 
Yom Kippur
World Octopus Day
Astronomy Day (Twice a year, Spring and Fall) 

October 9 
Curious Events Day 
Fire Prevention Day 
Leif Erikson Day 
Moldy Cheese Day 
World Egg Day
Guillermo del Toro’s Birthday 

October 10 
International Newspaper Carrier Day 
National Angel Food Cake Day
National Costume Swap Day 

October 11 
It's My Party Day
Octopus Myths and Legends Day (“For all the fantastical cephalopods of movies, literature and legend. Release the Kraken!”) 

October 12 
Columbus Day
Cookbook Launch Day 
Indigenous People Day
Old Farmer's Day 
Moment of Frustration Day 
National Gumbo Day
International Moment of Frustration Scream Day 

October 13 
International Skeptics Day 
Sukkot, at sundown
National Face Your Fears Day 

October 14 
Be Bald and Free Day 
Emergency Nurses Day 
National Dessert Day
National Fossil Day
National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day 
Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day
Spider-Man Day (Also Aug 1) 

October 15 
White Cane Safety Day
Grouch Day 

October 16 
Bosses Day 
Dictionary Day 

October 17 
National Pasta Day 
Sweetest Day
Wear Something Gaudy Day 

October 18 
Photo credit: su-lin on / CC BY-NC-ND
National Meatloaf Appreciation Day 
No Beard Day 

October 19 
Evaluate Your Life Day
Michael Myers’ Birthday 

October 20 
Brandied Fruit Day 
International Chefs Day
Bela Lugosi’s Birthday
National Day on Writing 

October 21 
Babbling Day 
Count Your Buttons Day 
International Nacho Day 
National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day
Reptile Awareness Day 

October 22 
National Nut Day 

October 23 
National Mole Day 
Tv Talk Show Host Day 

October 24 
Make a Difference Day
Neighbors helping neighbors 
National Bologna Day 
United Nations Day 

October 25 
25-31 International Magic Week
International Artist Day 
Mother-In-Law Day
Punk for a Day Day 
World Pasta Day
Chucky, The Notorious Killer Doll Day 
Sourest Day 
St. Crispin’s Day 

October 26 
National Mincemeat Day
Howl at The Moon Night 
National Pumpkin Day 

October 27 
Black Cat Day 
National Tell a Story Day 
Navy Day
Visit a Cemetery Day 

October 28 
Plush Animal Lover's Day 

October 29
Hermit Day 
National Frankenstein Day 

October 30 
Frankenstein Friday
National Candy Corn Day 
Mischief Night
Create A Great Funeral Day (Don’t fear the Reaper) 
Haunted Refrigerator Night 
Visit A Cemetery Day 

October 31 
10/31-11/1 (last week of the month): Give Wildlife a Brake! Week (Including Bigfoot!) 
Carve a Pumpkin Day 
Increase Your Psychic Powers Day
National Magic Day (Memorializes the death of Harry  Houdini)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Interview: Dark Fantasy author Allan Batchelder + giveaway

Could you tell us a little about the Immortal Treachery series, and about the Characters?
I grew up reading whatever my dad had just finished. Sometimes, that meant Tolkien; sometimes that meant Conan the Barbarian or John Carter of Mars. Later on, of course, I developed my own tastes and interests. My protagonist is inspired by Odysseus, Achilles, Conan, Beowulf and even a few Shakespearean characters. Thus, Tarmun Vykers is a larger-than-life character who’s as much bad guy as good. In some ways, he may even share characteristics with Marvel’s Deadpool. The world he lives in is veiled, which is to say that very little is what it seems and there’s more that’s unknown than known about it, for reasons that get revealed over the course of the series. Like Odysseus, Vykers has to face-off with gods on occasion, and this struggle is central to the series.

Having played Dungeons and Dragons since its inception, I had to include my own semi-bumbling group of ne’er-do-wells, each of whom naturally has a larger role to play in events than he suspects. This group, led by a former gigolo named Long Pete, is my homage to both Gary Gygax and Glen Cook. One of the group’s most popular characters is the imbecile, Spirk Nessno, whose greatest talent is being so impossibly boring that he’s virtually invisible to most people. Can’t say more, don’t wanna spoil it!

I’ve tried to include some strong female characters in the series, because, let’s face it, my three sisters, my wife and my late mother would kill me if I didn’t. And, really, women are so much more fascinating and complex than men, aren’t they? Some of the women in my story are the Virgin Queen (yes that was one nickname for Elizabeth I), Aoife, a healer of sorts, and Arune, a ghost. Oh, and there’s also Mardine, the giantess!

Could you tell us a little about the creative process? What inspired the Immortal Treachery series?
I feel as though there’s been something of a sea-change in fantasy since Glen Cook’s Black Company series. His works, along with those of Steven Erikson, Tad Williams, Joe Abercrombie, and George R. R. Martin are less about elves and dwarves prancing about in fields of wildflowers than about recognizable people, driven to their limits in dire but not necessarily fantastic situations. I also adore the moral ambiguity of these authors’ characters, an ambiguity, I think, that is more reflective of the world we live in than some earlier authors’ works.

For those that have read “Immortal Treachery”: What would be a typical “Saturday night” for “Vykers” in “our” world?
He’d probably go out looking for a fight, find it, and destroy half the city. Afterwards, he’d spend time contemplating how to overthrow the mayor and usurp his office. He might also spend a few hours in the “red light district.”

This was a planned series consisting of five novels. Was there a specific reason why only five? Say instead of six?
Yep. I was thinking of the structure of a Shakespeare play when I started. It’s really as simple as that. And I look at Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen (ten books!) and think, How on earth did he do that?

Could you tell us a little about the road to publishing your book?
First, I self-published on Amazon. I was then offered a contract by a small, east coast start-up, but they were unable to meet their own goals and deadlines (to say nothing of my expectations), so they released me from the contract after a lot of arguing back-and-forth, and I’m back at Amazon. I would love to be picked up by Tor or Dell, but if it’s a choice between spending my few hours of free time writing or self-promoting, I usually choose writing.

After “Immortal Treachery” is complete, would you be willing to talk “Movie deal”? If so what would be your top concern with Hollywood using your story?
Ha! You’re too kind. I don’t see that happening (although I have written three screenplays). I guess my main concern would be that Vykers not be too pretty. He’s charismatic, but not pretty. He’s like Daniel Craig’s version of Bond compared to Pierce Brosnan’s, if that makes any sense.

Other than the Immortal Treachery series, could you tell us about any other projects you are working on that readers can look forward to?
I had an idea I was really excited about, and then I discovered Cherie Priest had already done it! My next series, I think, will be a trilogy, from the orcs’ perspective (only they’re not orcs, per se). As much as I enjoyed my years of playing World of Warcraft, this won’t be WoW. I’m going for full grimdark, here.

Your history shows that writing has always been a part of your career, from stand-up comedy to being a playwright, and even teaching. At what point in your life did you know writing was something you wanted to do professionally?
I was pretty lucky in my parents. They took my siblings and me to every play, opera and ballet in town. I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the operas and ballets, but the exposure to all that art really made me want to participate and believe that I could. Also, my parents didn’t censor what I was allowed to watch in the theater, movies, TV, etc., or read in books.

About your work in theater, which do you enjoy the most, working on stage or behind the scenes? Doing what?
I started out like so many kids in America, doing musical theater, which I really enjoyed. But, as you’ve probably figured out, Shakespeare was and is my real love. I’d rather perform in Shakespeare than just about any other kind of acting work. Nowadays, though, I’m mostly confined to commercials and what we call “Industrials.” That can be a lot of fun, too, depending on the subject and how much humor is involved. At the same time, I’m a big horror fan, and I would love to do a horror film before I meet my own untimely demise.

While creating, what are some of the things that help inspire you?
Margaritas. Not a good answer? Well, of course I read quite a bit. And life in general is inspiring. I’ve really enjoyed the way that Steven Erikson incorporates his archeology background into his work. One of my characters is an actor, and in book two, he and I have great fun making fun of the theater-side of my own life.

For aspiring writers seeking sage counsel on the industry, what pieces of advice do you generally have for them?
I’d say a thick skin is essential. You will find a great deal of support out there, but also a great deal of criticism. Some of it may be unwarranted, but much of it may be useful and well-intended. Use whatever’s of value to you and discard the rest. Countless people dream of writing a book, play or movie. YOU are doing it. YOU are creating.

Professionally speaking, what do you see for yourself ten years down the road?
Well, if I’m not working for the Chippendales, I’ll consider myself an abject failure. But I suppose I could find happiness writing full-time and doing a little stage-work on the side.

Steel, Blood & Fire (Immortal Treachery Book 1) 
by Allan Batchelder
December 15, 2018
550 pages
Genre: Dark Fantasy 

His awestruck opponents call him The Reaper, an iron-willed man with no memory of his past, a ruthless champion who has risen to the level of death incarnate.

But The Reaper has collected a legion of enemies as he cut a bloody swath through the greatest of heroes and villains. And these dogs have finally had their day, exacting a revenge both cruel and creative.

Wandering lost, horribly disfigured and unable to fight, Vykers stumbles across the bones of a half-buried skeleton that can transform his ruined body in an inconceivable way. But first he must make a devil’s pact with…

A secretive, ghostly sorceress with ambitions of her own. If Vykers wants to wield a sword again, he must surrender to Arune that which he holds most dear. But can he trust this ethereal enchantress to hold up her end of their dangerous bargain?

Vykers has few good choices, and he must make them quickly, for an impossibly talented and savage wizard has arisen to threaten all of humanity…

Once an autistic boy hardly able to speak, The End has evolved into a supernatural terror bent on extinguishing all life. A fearsome and unequaled tactician, The End is the only person who doesn’t fear “The Reaper.”

To have any hope of defeating this bloodthirsty mage, Vykers must gather the strangest, most dangerous cohort of killers ever assembled. Then he must seek out the only weapon that can defeat this terrible adversary…

Behold the greatest clash of men, monsters, and Fey that the kingdom has ever known. Vykers, at the head of his outnumbered contingent, launches a desperate attack against The End, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

But The End is a creature worthy of his name. He has forged a secret weapon, a wicked and terrible instrument that will break through Vykers’ defenses and exact a devastating toll.

Only one thing is certain, this extraordinary battle will end in a way that no one could have predicted! 

~ ONE ~
Vykers, In the Stocks
The beatings and abuse continued without pause, without end, due in no small part to the efforts of the two A’Shea on either side of him, who had surely foresworn their sacred trust in prolonging his misery. He had hoped for – even expected – death, by the end of his first day. But the Duke, the people of the Reaches and his healers would not be satisfied until the last victim had exacted his just measure of vengeance.  An all-too familiar speech interrupted his reverie.
“You may strike him once,” one of the guards told the next in line, “however you like. If your blow’s the one kills him, though, you’ll be whipped on this same post. Do you understand?” 
Of course. They all understood; they were artists of understanding by now. And so he’d been punched, slapped, scratched, kicked, stabbed with needles in non-vital areas, spat upon, burned and had various things thrown on him, from rotten blood, to urine, feces, vomit and offal. He was a masterpiece of the people’s understanding. And still, death would not come, nor the lines of peasants abate. He could endure the physical torture – what choice did he have? – but the constant insults and taunting were harder to ignore. He’d been a proud man. Once. Worse than the beatings and the verbal abuse, however, were the flies. There must, he concluded, have been one for each person he’d killed over the years. Perhaps these flies were even the shades of those unhappy dead, come back to join in the festivities. They made him itch something fierce. The only accidental mercy he enjoyed was that he’d been hung up facing west, and for the brief few minutes that sunset was in his eyes, he could see nothing. 
But perhaps blindness had put him here in the first place.


One morning, he was awakened – shocking enough that he’d been asleep – with a crash of salt water, the cold of it practically stopping his heart, and the salt burning his countless wounds like hellfire. Miraculously, he found himself alone. Or nearly so.
“You look like shit, Vykers. Smell like it, too.” It was Captain Brandt again, backed by a number of silent soldiers. “’Course, most of it probably is shit, but you get my meaning.”
The best the Reaper could manage was to grunt in reply.
“I guess we all thought you’d be dead by now.”
Vykers was silent this time. No need to respond to such an obvious truth.
“There’s no good news, there, though. His Lordship says you’re to live…after a fashion.”
Brandt was setting him up. Vykers wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
“We’re taking your feet and hands, Reaper, and then we’re dumping you in the woods.”
Vykers looked up, inquiringly.

Brandt shrugged. “His Lordship thinks there may come a day when someone will have need of your…talents. If you’re still alive, that is.”
Finally, Vykers spoke. “That’s bad strategy.”
“No shit. And I told him so. But he’s convinced you’ll be tractable.” The captain reached over and unlocked the mechanism holding Vykers in place.
Slowly, the prisoner stood up.
“Enjoy it, Vykers. You won’t be so tall in a few moments’ time.”
The odd sensation in his gut was fear, he realized. The first he’d felt in ages. He simply couldn’t – or didn’t want to – imagine life without hands or feet. His Lordship had finally accomplished what thousands of angry peasants could not: he had made Vykers feel something.


The actual taking of his hands and feet was more psychologically painful than physically so. The terror as the axe swooped down and parted his flesh was unlike anything he’d ever known. The pain was less significant, for a while. This time, the healers took no special care to sustain him, beyond cauterizing and wrapping his wounds. Watching them gather his hands and feet into a bucket and carry them off, Vykers felt unspeakable loss.

He spent the entire journey into the wilds in a semi-conscious fog, in the back of an old wagon that must once have been used to transport pickled herring. The smell and the rough jostling made him violently ill and, along with the weakness, fever and pain he was already feeling, he again found himself wishing, yearning, for death. This was immeasurably harder to endure than those days of beatings and insults in the public square. He almost laughed at the thought of it. Almost.

He must have lost consciousness, because the next thing he knew, he was crashing to the ground in a dark forest. The shadow of a fat man stood between him and the last of the day’s light. 

“See you in hell, Vykers.”

“Oh, you’ll be there, too?”

A moment of angry silence, and then Vykers felt a boot to his face. He might’ve lost a tooth. Another one. There was a bit of rustling, and then he felt hot liquid pouring onto his head. 


The fat man laughed. 

Vykers shut him out and went back to sleep.

Aoife, On Her Mission

She had, she felt, spent most of her life second-guessing herself. Standing out of the rain under an old cedar by the side of the road, her mind circled back, inevitably, to the same conclusion: she should have killed him when she had the chance. And the same old retort tried to rescue her: how can a ten year old girl be expected to murder her little brother?

There was no way to answer these thoughts; she had tried for years. She was damned when he became.

She gasped. Sometimes, when she was wrapped up in these thoughts, she forgot to breathe. Or was that self-sabotage? Anyway, she sighed, shouldered her pack and set off again, hoping to make the next village by nightfall. A fire would be heavenly. And something to eat, something hot. She wouldn’t be picky.

Of course, she felt guilt as she noticed the telltale scars of war on the landscape. But it had been a while. Maybe things were on the mend locally, and folks had begun to forget. Until he returned.

Gods, it was driving her mad. She needed to visit an herbalist. More than fire or food, she hoped the nearest settlement had an herbalist, even a hedge witch would do. She had to quell these nagging recriminations or she would lose her mind.

“Blessings, Sister. Walk with you?”

She turned.  A withered old man in tattered clothing hobbled towards her. 
“Best to have comp’ny along these roads, nowaday.”

“Certainly, friend, certainly, and welcome.”

Welcome, indeed. Anything, anyone to wrench her mind from its present self-abuse.

“Spreading the word, then, are you?” the old man asked.

“That’s been done, I think.” She responded. “I’m more for ministering to the sick.”

He laughed. “Plenty of work for you in town, then. No shortage.”

“And you? What brings you onto the road at this hour?”

“Was told there was a Mender approaching, and I came out searching, to be your escort-like.”

“But wouldn’t they send the –“

“I am the Captain of the Guard.”

That stopped her in her tracks. 

The old man shrugged, apologetically. “Times ain’t what they ought to be.”

Everything, everything made her feel guilty.

“What’s the population of your town, sir? Captain?”

“Thousand, give or take.”

“And how many men amongst you?”

“Of shaving and sword-bearing age? Maybe sixty.”

She reeled. “But sixty?” 

“Oh, there be a couple hundred boys, surely. But we’re letting ‘em be boys, for the nonce. All the rest –“

“Yes, I know, Captain,” she said, a little more sharply than she’d intended, “the wars have been evil, inexcusably, unforgivably evil.”

“That they have” was all he said before falling silent.

Up ahead, she saw the silhouettes of cottages in the gloom.

Vykers, In the Forest

Vykers woke up with dirt in his eyes. It took him a moment, but he dimly remembered crawling into an old log at some point. He was more thirsty than he’d ever been in his life, even more than in his various campaigns across numerous deserts, even more than during his recent days-long torture in the square of that nameless village. Thirst was a demon inside him. He felt that if he didn’t get water in the next few minutes, he’d be dead within the hour. 

He tried to move and was blindsided by an avalanche of pain. That’s right: they’d destroyed him, taken his hands and feet. The stumps were itching and burning and throbbing all at once. It was by sheer force of will that he clung to consciousness and sanity. Water, first. Nothing else mattered. 

Slowly, he inched his way out of the log and into the light of afternoon In the Forest. Questions were a swarm of bees in his head, but water first. Water first. What did he know about water? It flowed downhill. It was most likely to be found in the low places, in the gullies and ravines. He listened, but could hear only insects and birds. They knew where the water was, but wouldn’t tell him, the little bastards. He raised his head and looked around. This was an old, old forest in a temperate climate. There were oaks and firs, alder and birch. The undergrowth was all but impassible. There would be water.

He had a powerful urge to sleep, but felt that if did, he would never wake up. Water first.

There was no obvious slope nearby, but he began crawling in the direction that most felt downhill. After an eternity of unrelenting effort and agony, he found himself looking down into the urine-filled tracks of a hoofed animal. He sniffed the liquid and almost threw up. But he bent his lips to the tracks and drank, anyway, and indeed had a very hard time keeping it down. His disgust and anger gave him a burst of energy, though. He considered a moment: was this beast coming from or heading towards water? Coming from, he decided and wriggled off in the direction from which it came. He almost burst into tears when, after a great deal of time, he came within sight of a bog.

With frantic energy, he shuffled into the water, almost completely submerging himself. It was not particularly cold and had a deep, woody flavor, but he didn’t care. It was the most wonderful thing he had ever tasted. When he was satisfied, he crawled back onto dry land, exhausted. Again, he needed a safe place to sleep. He was ravenous, he was cold, but of all his basic needs, sleep was most demanding. Eventually, he found a dense thicket that backed up against a large boulder. He would be unreachable from behind and difficult to reach from the front. It was not perfect – nowhere near – but good enough. 

He slept like a dead man.

Long Pete & Company, In Corners

Long Pete was a gigolo. He had been a lousy farmer, an inept fisherman, a hopeless blacksmith’s apprentice and a middling soldier. In the dearth of men after the wars, he became very popular with the local womenfolk. Well, perhaps “very popular” was overdoing it. He became necessary, and that was good enough for him. That he could pleasure himself and a woman and make money at the same time was more than he had ever hoped for. Still, he couldn’t escape the feeling that he ought to be doing something, when he wasn’t doing someone. And the other men in town weren’t exactly fond of him. What he wanted – what he needed – was a higher calling, some way to earn their respect and eternal gratitude. There had once been a statue in the town square, some honorable so-and-so, but the locals had been forced to smelt it down for swords, armor and arrowheads during the war. But they couldn’t do that to the statue Long Pete hoped to have someday, if it were made of marble.

“Ho there, Pete!” Long Pete was shaken from his daydream by the voice of his too-constant companion, Janks. At his side was their friend, Short Pete, wheeling himself along in his specially made cart. Short Pete, whose real name was “Frayne,” had lost both legs in battle, but not his sense of humor. If Long Pete was somewhat vain, the existence of a Short Pete would surely temper him.

“Shall we make merry this morning?” Janks bellowed.

“I’m a bit the worse for wear after last night’s…celebrations, and I’ve work to do later.”

“Work, is it? Work! I should be so lucky!” Short Pete replied. The fact was that, while Long Pete was tall and somewhat chicken-like, and Janks resembled nothing so much as a pig, Short Pete would have been a fine specimen, indeed, if not for the lack of legs.

“Lucky? I’d trade it all in a heartbeat for a title and a piece of land. Some of these women are impossibly demanding. The great Mahnus himself couldn’t please them.”

“Well, they do say he had two peckers.” Janks offered.

“I’d rather have kept that image out of my head all day” said Short Pete. “But you couldn’t work a bit of land to save yourself.”

“I didn’t say anything about working it. I just want a buffer to keep the riffraff out.”

“But you are the riffraff!” Short Pete objected.

Long Pete choked. “With friends like you…”

“Got anything to drink about you?” Janks asked.

Long Pete sighed and pulled a flask from his vest. “Go easy on that, Janks. I won’t be able to refill it ‘til I see the widow Sorensen tomorrow night. Anyway, why don’t you go over to the inn and drink your fill there?”

“I…” Janks began.

“He’s got no credit left. Owes Arnet too much money.” Short Pete said.

“It’s true, it’s true, and a terrible thing it is when honest men can’t earn a decent wage.” Janks lamented.

“Honest men?” Long Pete sneered. “Where? And why should the indecent earn a decent wage?”

“A man’s gotta do something for money, hasn’t he? Look at you!”

“I happen to perform a valuable service!”

“For yourself, maybe. I doubt all them widows’d miss you if you went off to war again.”

Long Pete was indignant. “For your information, mate…”

“Ladies! Ladies!” Short Pete interjected, “This is boredom talking. What we need is some sort of cause, or purpose. We can’t sit here drinking and whoring forever.”

“They’re not whores!” 

“You know what I mean, Long. We don’t have any goals. You want that title and piece of land, you’ll have to earn it.”

There was a long silence and then Janks said “I might have an idea…”

As Flies to Wanton Boys (Immortal Treachery Book 2) 

Corpse Cold (Immortal Treachery Book 3) 

The Abject God (Immortal Treachery Book 4) 

The End of All Things (Immortal Treachery Book 5) 

About the Author:
Allan is a professional actor, educator and former stand-up comedian. In addition to Steel, Blood & Fire, he's also written plays, screenplays, online articles, dialogue for computer games, greeting card sentiments and more. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in acting from the National Theatre Conservatory and a Master's in Teaching from Seattle Pacific University. He is a huge fan of Shakespeare, Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook, George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams, and R. Scott Bakker. Allan lives in Seattle with his wife and son, where he enjoys walks on the beach, reading in the garden and puttering around on his computer. Oh, and naps. He LOVES naps.

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Book Review: The Nesting by C. J. Cooke

The Nesting
by C. J. Cooke
September 29, 2020 
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 9780593197660
Architect Tom Faraday is determined to finish the high-concept, environmentally friendly home he’s building in Norway—in the same place where he lost his wife, Aurelia, to suicide. It was their dream house, and he wants to honor her with it.

Lexi Ellis takes a job as his nanny and immediately falls in love with his two young daughters, especially Gaia. But something feels off in the isolated house nestled in the forest along the fjord. Lexi sees mysterious muddy footprints inside the home. Aurelia’s diary appears in Lexi’s room one day. And Gaia keeps telling her about seeing the terrifying Sad Lady. . .

Soon Lexi suspects that Aurelia didn’t kill herself and that they are all in danger from something far more sinister lurking around them.

Lexis Ellis’s live-in boyfriend breaks up with her and she has to move out. She overhears a woman on a train mention a job in Norway, with free food and accommodations, as a nanny to two English children. The two women ask Lexi to watch their stuff while they do something. Lexi snaps photos of the woman’s laptop, planning to pretend to be Sophia Hallerton, and do the interview. She gets the job and goes to Norway. She hopes to write a novel which she always dreamed of setting in Norway. But soon finds herself busy with the children, plus she finds a mystery with muddy elk footprints, and the older child, Gia, telling her about the “Sad Lady.”

A haunted mix of gothic suspense and the atmospheric paranormal, the story will draw you in and leave you feeling uneasy even long after the book is done.

I gave The Nesting 4 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
C J Cooke (Carolyn Jess-Cooke) lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. C J Cooke's works have been published in 23 languages and have won many awards. She holds a Ph.D. in Literature from the Queen's University of Belfast and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. Two of her books are currently optioned for film. Visit

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Interview: Fantasy author Aimee Shaye + giveaway

What inspired you to write this book?
So, The Broken Daughter was actually a project for one of my master classes at Southern New Hampshire University. I’m currently enrolled in their English Literature & Creative Writing Master’s Program. I was inspired to write it when I saw a few covers with crowns on them while pursuing covers in the royal fantasy genre. The idea instantly came to me and I sketched what I wanted my covers to look like and the story flowed from there. It really helped me to have a visual to keep me motivated! I was also inspired by several shows and movies such as Resurrection: Erturgul (A Turkish historical drama) and Koi Laute Aaya (a Hindi drama). Turkey and India inspired the world and cultures of my characters while Koi Laute Aaaya inspired the palace of many secrets (this is a theme that returns in The Dead Daughter).
The Dead Daughter is the sequel to The Broken Daughter

What can we expect from you in the future?
You can expect more books like The Broken Daughter and The Dead Daughter in the sense that future books will be plot heavy with lots of character development. In fact, The Cursed Daughter, the closing novel to this trilogy, is currently in the planning stage. The cover reveal will be October 17. You can also expect fantasy without the romance subplot. There will be romance but it will be in the background and hinted at whenever there is romance. You can also expect novels with vampires, werewolves, demi-gods, and shifters in the future!

Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I do, actually. After The Cursed Daughter is released, there will be a sequel titled The Mad Queen which will be about Queen Ismana. I think it’s important for the readers to see who Queen Ismana really was because they never got to meet her. Whatever they know about her is all through the eyes of Aymeri, Drystan, Kumud, Madam Bheva, and eventually self-declared Empress Dimia.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in (Name of book)?
All of the characters in The Broken Daughter are the same characters that appear in The Dead Daughter.
Aymeri: Aymeri is the main character of The Broken Daughter and she is the twenty-three year old princess of Treoles who has to learn how to run her kingdom after she finds her mother dead. She is headstrong and sensitive and not your typical princess. She shows her emotions and doesn’t just steel herself and act like everything is okay. She doesn’t need a prince to save her and she’s very compassionate. She is a sentinel being (a guardian) and is in charge of keeping dark magick out of the hands of anyone who might misuse it.

Drystan: Drystan is the protagonist of The Broken Daughter who knows more about Queen Ismana then her own daughter, Aymeri. Like Aymeri, he too had to run a kingdom, Brein, after he finds his father dead. He is compassionate and wants to help Aymeri but knows that she wants to figure things out on her own. Eventually he becomes her confidant. He is also a merchant king because Empress Dimia closed all trade to his kingdom and his people are suffering. As a result, he’s taken to mercantilism and sells goods that are made within his kingdom or artifacts from his castle that have no importance but monetary significance.

Jorlyn: Jorlyn is Drystan’s sister and is the head assassin of their kingdom. She steeled herself from hurt when her mother and father passed away and refused to run the kingdom even though she was better suited for it. I cannot say much about Jorlyn because of spoilers!

Empress Dimia: Dimia is the antagonist rules the kingdom of Aixeris and proclaims herself the Empress of Dramolux as she starts to overtake the other kingdoms. She wants to claim Treoles for her own and get her hands on the dark magick that is being guarded by the kingdom.

How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I came up with the concept I wanted to write the next Game of Thrones—or so I thought! Originally, The Cursed Kingdom series was supposed to be three sisters fighting each other for their right to the throne but then it sort of took a life of its own and actually became a series of keeping the magick at bay and getting the continent of Dramolux back to the way it originally was: crawling with creatures and magick. The characters were my imagination but inspired by Turkish and Indian culture. Resurrection: Ertugrul (A Turkish historical drama) inspired the world-building and Koi Laute Aaya (A Hindi drama) inspired the plot of the palace with hidden rooms.

Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I usually use the website I don’t take the exact name that they deliver, instead, I put names together to create new ones. Fantasy Name Generators allows you to choose from different creatures, fictional worlds, and countries/cultures all over the world! It’s really a saving grace!

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
What didn’t I enjoy? Before writing The Broken Daughter, I had never planned a novel before. I usually just sat down and wrote and fixed it in editing. However, being enrolled in a Master’s English program at SNHU, there was a class where we had to sit down and really plan a novel. The Broken Daughter was that novel! I enjoyed the whole process from plotting, writing, editing. There was nothing I didn’t like. That being said, I had the most fun developing my characters. We had to use two different character guides to flush our characters out and the best part was that we had to write the answers to the question from the characters’ perspectives. It was so much fun to get inside my characters’ heads and let them do the talking instead of me! I also enjoyed watching my characters come to life. It had been a while since I wrote—I took two years off from publishing and have since taken my earlier works down to work on them—so to be back in that positive mind space was amazing!

Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Aymeri is moved by her people. She is selfless and in tune with her emotions. She wants what is best for everyone and will stop at nothing to please others. However, she is fierce and tells it like it is. You will see her butt heads with Drystan often when he is first introduced and when you read that scene, you’ll understand why!

Drystan is also moved by his people. He will do anything to make sure they survive and are taken care of. In fact, he sells artifacts from his own castle to make money to ensure that everyone has enough food and materials to take care of themselves.

Jorlyn is independent and her heartache is what makes her tick. She wants to protect people.
Kumud…I’m still unsure of. She’s been through a really tough time and she’s really trying to make it work out. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll understand this once you read The Dead Daughter.

How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Oooh, I love this question! My first novel was titled Destroyed but it is currently not in print as it’s getting a total makeover! Original readers won’t even recognize it anymore! I came up with this title because the main character, Jaden, goes through so much heartache and it’s always one thing after another, that he is literally destroyed by it. He keeps his feelings inside, is very stoic, and really tries to hate everyone but his friends all know better. He’s not an acerbic jerk, but he is very hard-hearted.

Who designed your book covers?
My husband, Matthew of Sentinel Designs, designs my book covers. We met when we were in college and he was a graphic design major. I had a huge crush on him and didn’t know how else to spend time with him (I was so awkward then) so I asked if he would design my covers while building his portfolio and well, the rest is history! You can check him out on

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Absolutely…not! I love everything about it! There isn’t a thing I would change. I worked so hard on planning and getting everything correct in the planning and re-planning stages that I don’t think it could be any better. Many readers have told me there’s not a book like it that they can compare it to and that in their eyes, it’s a good thing!

Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I did! I learned that I need to just let the words come and edit later. I’m so used to editing as I write and it in the end it ends up getting the better of me. This time, I waited until the end and I couldn’t be happier with the way it all came out. I also learned that my writing has really developed and come a long way. I finally found the balance between dialogue and description and found my niche in third-person limited!

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Many people won’t know who she is but her name is Jennifer Winget. She is a Hindi drama/soap opera actress and has done some Bollywood films. She was truly the inspiration for Aymeri’s character.

Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes! Please, please, please reach out to me! I love hearing from my readers and I love interacting with them! Feel free to message me or email me anytime! Let’s be friends!

How did you come up with name of this book?
I wanted Aymeri to be authentic and to grieve for her dead mother the way an everyday person would and when I thought about what it would feel like to lose one of my parents, one word came to mind: broken. So there you have it: The Broken Daughter.

I can’t reveal why I came up with the title The Dead Daughter. I’ll let you all interpret that as you will! I don’t want to give away The Broken Daughter if you haven’t read it yet!

What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite part of The Broken Daughter is when Aymeri meets Drystan for the first time because this is the first time the reader sees her stick up for herself and truly say what is on her mind.
My favorite part of The Dead Daughter is the battle in chapter 15! This is when the characters really shine.

The Broken Daughter (The Cursed Kingdom Book 1)
by Aimee Shaye
May 24, 2020
400 pages
Genre: New Adult Fantasy
Long ago, magick filled the land of Dramolux. But one sorceress delved too deep into dark sorcery and tainted the creatures inhabiting the land. In an effort to save all creatures, a noble sentinel locked the dark powers away. For generations, the dark ones were controlled, passed down to those who ruled the sentinel kingdom. All is peaceful until the newest sentinel queen is murdered and all the magick is released back into the world. It is now up to her daughter, Princess Aymeri--who has no knowledge of what she truly is--to recapture it. But another dark sorceress is on the rise. She wants to lay claim to the magick and wield it herself, in an effort to take all of Dramolux under her control. The odds are against Aymeri and the magick the sorceress wants is evil. Aymeri must prepare to battle or die fighting for the survival of her people. 
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Excerpt – The Broken Daughter – My Favorite Scene from the novel 
Sighing, she straightened her clothes, adorned yet again in the colors of mourning, then found herself parchment and a fountain pen—the ink clearly fresh; she’d have to thank Ser Parzival for that—and folded her hands as she had seen her parents do countless of times as they waited. 

It wasn’t too long before Ser Parzival knocked on the door, then introduced her to Prince Drystan of Bréîn. She could not fathom why it was so urgent for him to meet her today. 

After dismissing Ser Parzival, she held out a hand toward the seat opposite her and waited for Prince Drystan to get comfortable before leaning forward. “Ser Parzival informed me that it was crucial we meet today, though I cannot fathom what you could possibly need me for that is more urgent than laying my dead mother to rest.” 

Prince Drystan briefly bowed his head before looking directly at Aymeri. “I am profusely sorry about the beloved Queen’s untimely death, Princess Aymeri.” 

“And yet, how sorry can you truly be if you have called for this appointment on the day when you knew my mother was to be laid to rest.” Easy Princess, he is an asset. Aymeri rolled her eyes at the voice in her head, who clearly did not know what she was talking about. What asset could a narcissistic prince, of some unheard-of country, be? 

“The matter is such, Princess, that I must put my people before all else.” 

Aymeri tried to size him up. His answer seemed genuine and his tone posed no threat. Nor did his body language. He was sitting squarely in his seat, his eyes making constant contact with hers. Her gut gave her no warning, no inkling that he was up to no good. But still there begged a question: “What do your people have to do with me, Prince Drystan? We owe you nothing.”

The Dead Daughter (The Cursed Kingdom Book 2)
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About the Author
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“I am many things but normal is not one of them,” says Aimee Shaye when asked to describe herself. She is a novelist whose genres include Fantasy and all its subgenres. When asked what drives her, Aimee says, “The world around me. The people I know. The love and support of my family." Aimee is a family-driven person and enjoys meeting and getting to know her readers. She is full of life and down-to-earth. She has a personality that fills the room. More than that, Aimee is someone people easily open up to. Her passion for life, reading, and writing are evident in her novels and she leaves no stone unturned in showcasing real emotions even in a fantasy world.

Readers from all of the world enjoy reading her novels which are suitable for all ages, despite her characters being in their late teens and early twenties

Signed Copy of BOTH The Broken Daughter + The Dead Daughter and a Princess Survival Pack with 2 costume grade tiaras, Princess-style garter & Princess Themed Wine Glass 
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