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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Novus Monstrum The Midnight Zone Book 1 Edited by Douglas Gwilym & Ken MacGregor + giveaway

These monsters are never-before-seen.
These monsters bite, and don’t let go.
These monsters aren’t your grandparents’ boogeymen, but they are not tame, and they want to climb right down into your nightmares and make you their own.

Novus Monstrum The Midnight Zone Book 1
Edited by Douglas Gwilym & Ken MacGregor
Genre: Weird Creature Horror Anthology

“Mysterious, merciless, mirthful. New favorites await you in this superb anthology.”
-Johnny Compton (author of Spite House, Esquire best horror book of 2023 and Stoker longlister)
This may look like just a book, but NOVUS MONSTRUM could infect your brain, shake your sense of what’s real, change you forever. This is twenty-two all-original new monster tales from the greats: Jonathan Maberry, Joe R. Lansdale, Gabino Iglesias, Gemma Files, Gaby Triana, Ramsey Campbell, Jeffrey Thomas, Gwendolyn Kiste, and Lucy A. Snyder, plus thirteen stories from new names (see below) destined to become some of your favorite authors.

These monsters are never-before-seen. These monsters bite, and don’t let go. These monsters aren’t your grandparents’ boogeymen, but they are not tame, and they want to climb right down into your nightmares and make you their own.

Welcome to the new anthology series The Midnight Zone.

Ken MacGregor, editor of the Shirley-Jackson-Award-nominated anthology Stitched Lips and the uproarious Burnt Fur, teamed up with Bram-Stoker-Award-nominated short story author Douglas Gwilym, editor of Appetites and Harmony & Dissonance, to take you to strange and dark new places. They’ll ask you to go deeper and weirder than The Twilight Zone, to a place (like the real-world midnight zone, a mile beneath the ocean’s surface) where no sunlight penetrates. Join us as we explore the inhospitable, surprising, uncomfortable, bizarre, and otherworldly.

Go on. Dive in. Lose yourself to The Midnight Zone.

Also Featuring:
Amanda M. Blake
Joshua Bartolome
Matt Brandenburg
R.A. Busby
Marco Cultrera
E.C. Dorgan
Douglas Ford
Sarah Hans
Jamie Lackey
Donna J.W. Munro
Frank Oreto
Tim Pieraccini
Pris Sears

A Grace of Finer Form - Post-apocalyptic survival tale. The monsters are mutants: amalgams of living creatures, one so enormous it rivals the Titans of myth.

Brother Bone - A giant, living skeleton that feeds on the skeletons of its victims (by ripping away the flesh and meat) and using the bone fragments to expand itself, in return granting its family effective immortality.

First Day Jitters at Slappy’s - The monsters are living theme-park mascot characters. It’s far more disturbing than it sounds. This one is bonkers.

God Damn You to Hell, John Glenn - The monster is a massive, mutated, extremely hungry…sea monkey.

I Clean the Monster that Killed My Husband Every Morning - A vicious anti-pollution tale, the monsters are creatures that come up from below the earth and violently destroy any machine that creates pollutants, and whomever happens to be using them at the time.

Lizard War - Translucent giant lizards swarming across the alien landscape. The “astronauts” are all women, and the main character, Eliza, who was the cook before everything changed but is now in charge, loses her lover Joan in a climactic scene. She floats out into space, “her blood hanging in drops around her like falling rose petals, her hair fanned out like a peacock’s tail….”

Mother Ship - Machine/organic spaceship and her godspawn child.

The Path of Skulls - Sexless, cube-headed simulacra and deep arcane mystery.

Song of the Devil Trumpet - Quite lovely trees that trick you into eating their fruit so they can take over your body and repurpose you.

Wonce was a Woman - The monsters are human female/office machine hybrids. A woman goes looking for a mythical monster woman who is foretold as a sort of savior–and ultimately finds it is herself.

With an introduction by the amazing Jamie Flanagan, screenwriter for Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, Creepshow, and Fall of the House of Usher, and original cover art by the astonishing Trevor Henderson, internet cult phenomenon, creator of Siren Head, and weaver of monsters!

I Clean the Monster that Killed My Husband Every Morning

“Everybody knows where they were [that day]. If you don’t, it’s because you died…. The monsters came from underground, digging their way out fast as lightning. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions….Of course, the first thing on everybody’s mind was an alien invasion. Alien soldiers waiting under the surface deep enough that humanity never spotted them, buried by some extraterrestrial civilization eons ago, biding their time until humanity was deemed worthy of conquest…. The trouble with that theory was that they targeted only machines. Yes, billions died, but just because they were inside them, around them, holding them or on the path to them.”

“Shoulders… tight and broad, they are the widest part of its body. If you look at them from a foot away, the black skin appears thick, and impossibly smooth, like leather stretched on a kettledrum… the densest muscles ever to hang on the skeleton of a living creature. The smoothness is also an illusion. Even the gentlest drag of my fingertips reveals that the skin is made of tiny fibers parallel to each other, curving around the body.”
“It’s the subtle stickiness, like a layer of molasses a few atoms deep, that makes lifting your fingers off take an extra moment.”

“Bullet holes are the only marks on the monster’s body left from the attack, but they don’t go deep, a quarter of an inch at most. The experts on the radio have explained that the blood flowing inside the monster turns to acid in contact with metal, dissolving [a bullet] before it can do harm.”

“Sounds of machine gun bursts made me look outside the window and I saw the monster, my monster, for the first time, all seven feet of deadly force. It had just killed Mr. Donovan and was charging our house.”

“The monster stopped in front of me, its dark skin smeared in grime, with drops of thick liquid falling off and blotching my living room carpet. Its head turned, and I saw its eyes, two deep holes ending in yellow sparks…. [T]he monster began smashing through the floor with its blades, opening a direct path to the furnace in the basement.”

“I arrived at the front door just in time to see the monster plunging into the trunk of George’s car, which had only made it halfway through the driveway. The blades [of the monster’s hands] cut my husband in half, on their way to the front engine. The car exploded, engulfing the monster in flames. I didn’t move an inch, until all that could burn had burned, leaving the monster standing still in the wreckage…. I found the monster’s eyes just before the sparks faded to black.”

“In the first hour of the attack, waves of monsters, all the same shape as mine, but some as tall as a three-story building, targeted all the power plants burning fossil fuel, with no distinction between oil, carbon or natural gas.”
About the Editors
Douglas Gwilym has been known to compose a weird-fiction rock opera or two. His short story “Year Six” is on Ellen Datlow’s recommended reading list for Best Horror 14. He edited Triangulation for four years and now co-edits The Midnight Zone—forthcoming edition, Novus Monstrum, a collection of never-before-seen monsters, featuring original stories by greats, and new voices, in strange, dark fiction. He reads classics of the proto-Weird on YouTube and has been guest staff at Alpha Young Writers workshop. His short fiction appears in LampLight, Lucent Dreaming, Novel Noctule, Shelter of Daylight, Tales from the Moonlit Path, Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, and Tales to Terrify.

 Ken MacGregor has written three story collections, an award winning young adult novella (Devil’s Bane), and has co-authored a novel (Headcase). He is a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and an active member of the Horror Writers Association. He’s also written TV and radio commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, a one-act play, a scattering of poems, and a zombie movie. Ken has curated three original anthologies, one of which (Stitched Lips) was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award. His third anthology, Novus Monstrum, was co-edited with Douglas Gwilym. It is the first installment in the Midnight Zone series for Dragon’s Roost Press.

Ken is also a part-time literary assassin: he will write you into an original short story and kill you for money. Ken drives the bookmobile and lives with his kids, a fierce-but-cuddly tiger cat, and the ashes of his wife.

He can be found at

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

YA Horror: The Devil's Pawn by Marilyn Levinson

If you enjoy a creepy paranormal horror, this one's for you! Read on for more details about The Devil's Pawn by Marilyn Levinson!

The Devil's Pawn
by Marilyn Levinson
January 22, 2024
Genre: YA Horror
After fifteen-year-old Simon Porte's family is killed in an automobile crash, his father's brother, whom he's never met, brings Simon to live with him and his wife in upstate New York. Simon doesn't trust Uncle Raymond, and for good reason. Raymond is dying and using his diabolical powers to take over Simon's body. Simon must develop his own supernatural defenses to survive. With his dotty great-aunt, his young sister, and a pair of odd twins, he wages war against the evil Raymond and his cronies.

About the Author
A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for young readers. Her books have received many accolades.

Her books for young readers include NO BOYS ALLOWED, RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK, which was awarded a "Children's Choice," GETTING BACK TO NORMAL & AND DON'T BRING JEREMY.

Marilyn loves traveling, reading, knitting, doing Sudoku, and visiting with her grandchildren, Olivia and Jack, on FaceTime. She is co-founder and past president of the now defunct Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Q&A with author S. E. Lindberg (Lovers in Hell A Heroes in Hell Anthology) + giveaway

Q&A with author S. E. Lindberg (part of the Lovers in Hell Anthology)

What is something unique/quirky about you?
Strange muses have inspired me for decades. By training and trade, I am a chemist and the intersection of science, art, and spirituality fascinates me (alchemy essentially). Alchemy largely originated in Egypt, so its Underworld of Duat serves a rich muse. For Perseid Press, I’ve contributed six alchemy-inspired tales to date (four for the Heroes in Hell series and two for Heroika) that all integrate Egyptian myths.
Who is your hero and why?
I have many personal heroes and role models, but my mind goes to sharing the heroes of this featured story: “Lovers Sans Phalli”. There are two! I have adopted the duo of Howard Carter (renowned archaeologist and looter of King Tutankhamun’s tomb) and Ernst Haeckel (discredited evolutionist and original ‘ecologist’) as tour guides for several Heroes in Hell stories. Why use them as protagonists? Both are deceased explorers who sought to unveil mysteries that resonate with my alchemical inspirations.

Their motives contrast: Carter adores material, artificial wealth as much as Haeckel is fascinated with nature’s riches. They roam the Egyptian world of the dead, Duat. Introduced in Pirates in Hell, the conflicted duo has four connected, yet stand alone, adventures (so far 😊): “Curse of the Pharaohs” in Pirates in Hell
“Lovers Sans Phalli” in Lovers in Hell
“Fool’s Gold? in Mystics in Hell
“Bait and Switch” in Liars in Hell

What inspired you to write “Lovers Sans Phalli”?

Given the anthology theme of ‘lovers’ and given my heroes are damned to Duat, I researched relevant myths for inspiration and locked onto that of Osiris’s murder. Osiris was the Egyptian god of fertility and afterlife who was dismembered by his brother Set. Osiris’ wife Isis collected his body parts, including his sacred phallus, to enable the conception and birth of their son Horus.

For “Lovers Sans Phalli”, a dozen cursed pharaohs (all named Ramses) team with the infamous, tomb-raiding Howard Carter and discredited evolutionist Ernst Haeckel to repair the penis-less Osiris (who has no sovereignty presently in a realm ruled by Satan). It’s fun to have Carter and Haeckel deal with getting calibrated to being ‘dead’ (with ‘bodies’ that may not be whole in the ‘living’ sense) as they seek out the sacred penis. Of course, serious themes are buried under wild predicaments and satire. The reflective Haeckel considers ‘Are genitalia need for love?’ while Howard Carter, ever the opportunist, wonders: ‘How much is a god’s penis worth on the black-market?’

What is your advice to new authors?
Experiment with non-writing roles that bring a high return on investment to better your craft.

An issue (feature?) with writing today is that authors cannot exclusively write; they are compelled to be marketers, reviewers, editors, reviewers, etc. Every role has an opportunity cost (all that energy could be spent elsewhere). So, the question is: what efforts (beyond writing) can one perform that provide as many benefits as possible? Most include participating in larger communities.

A decade ago, I began interviewing authors to learn from them and to share their experiences/perspectives; that led to publishing opportunities and networking. Also, reviewing books helped me learn about new markets, while connecting with editors and publishers when I shared those reviews. I’m not keen enough to create content via podcasts, but that is obviously another way to simultaneously network while bettering one’s craft. Attending & volunteering at conventions is another way. I’ve attended World Fantasy Convention and GenCon Writer’s Symposium (GCWS), eventually participating on panels and have been on the organizing committee for three years now (chairing in 2023; next one is early August 2024, in Indianapolis). Not only are these great ways to meet/listen to panels with authors you can learn from, but volunteering at conventions allows for direct access to all sorts of folks in the industry (publishers, illustrators, editors). Writing/Reading groups (either in-person local clubs or online ones like Goodreads) offer community & opportunities too.

Only fools fall in love, and hell is filled with fools.

Lovers in Hell: A Heroes in Hell Anthology
by Janet Morris
Genre: Dark Fantasy Anthology
Only fools fall in love, and hell is filled with fools. Our damned lovers include: Christopher Marlowe and Will Shakespeare, Napoleon and Wellington, Orpheus and Eurydice, Hatshepsut and Senenmut, Abelard and Heloise, Helen and Penelope, Saint Teresa and Satan's Reaper, Madge Kendall and the Elephant Man, and more . . . -- all of whom pay a hellish price for indulging their affections.

Shakespeare said "To be wise and love exceeds man's might," and in Lovers in Hell, the damned in hell exceed all bounds as they search for their true loves, punish the perfidious, and avoid getting caught up in Satan's snares. In ten stories of misery and madness, hell's most loveless seek to slake the thirst that can never be quenched, and find true love amid the lies of ages.

Never Doubt I Love – Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Love Interrupted – Nancy Asire
Lovers Sans Phalli – S. E. Lindberg
Fume of Sighs – Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Calamity – Michael E. Dellert
Love Triangle – Michael H. Hanson
A Hand of Four Queens – A. L. Butcher
Devil’s Trull – Andrew P. Weston
Withering Blights – Joe Bonadonna
Wrath of Love – Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Excerpt from Hell Gate – Andrew P. Weston

**On Sale for Only $2.99 until the end of the month!**

“Lovers Sans Phalli” by S.E. Lindberg Excerpt
“May your spirit live, may you spend millions of years, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, your eyes beholding happiness.”

–Tutankhamun’s Wishing Cup Inscription and Howard Carter’s Epitaph
Parallel dams of fleshy refuse emerged on either side of Ammit. This sordid canal within the Lake of Fire guided them in a closed circuit. Regularly spaced obelisks, tilted at awkward angles, rose from the dikes. Mummies, suspended from these, wailed as they burned in harmony with their wind-snapped threads of cloth, flittering like ruined pennants from vanquished standards. Legs spread, their crotches and lower abdomens gaped, empty.

“They have lost their genitals,” Howard Carter gasped in horror.

“Indeed, they are not whole,” agreed Haeckel.

The tomb-raider’s eyebrows raised with excitement: “Ah ha, but I recognize that one!”

“Mister Carter, how do you know the identity of that mummy? Its screams are incoherent. There is no discerning mark on its body; it is burnt beyond recognition.”

“Ah, the cartouche beneath his crispy legs labels it. It must be Khafre. Ooh! Look at that one over there. That must be Snefru.”

Haeckel asked, “What is a cartouche?”

Howard pointed. “The enclosed inscription of hieroglyphs. They are signatures of royal Egyptians.”

Ramses III muttered in horror: “The next reads: ‘Menes.’”

Young XI, participating with reluctant enthusiasm, said, “And Narmer hangs just beyond.”

“A splendid game, this is!” Howard Carter identified a few more with glee: Amenhotep and Khufu.

Haeckel raised his heart to his compatriot in a friendly salute. “Prost! Gut gemacht.”

The defaced pharaohs could not play any longer. ‘Spotting-the-burning-pharaoh’ made the Rameses’ hearts grow too heavy for games. The displayed victims wailed continuously. Did they call out for help? Mercy? Or to mitigate pain?

Senenmut grew strangely excited. He began to recognize the landscape. There was hope, after all. He tried to inform Hatshepsut but she batted him away. “Shh. I am listening.”

“Djoser!” Carter flexed his arms victoriously. “I am winning!”

“Shut up, fools,” Hatshepsut commanded. “Can you not hear a boy screaming for his mother?”

“Yes, Ma’am . . . or . . . sir . . . I did hear a boy’s cries,” Carter confirmed to Hatshepsut.

All quieted until Ammit’s torso rocked suddenly. Her riders staggered and squatted to maintain balance as she steered her bulk through the canal. The chimera burped.

The abject ostrich feather previously anchored to her teeth shot free, floated in the air, and landed on Hatshepsut. What did it mean to hold the feather of Maat again? She placed it into her ebony hair, above her right ear.

“A boy! Over there,” shouted Young XI.

Hatshepsut’s heart beat faster with hope and anxiety. “Where?”

“On the right. Up ahead. Beside a chariot with wheels upended.”

The ghostly, scab-encrusted boy sat cross-legged atop the ruined vehicle, his right thigh bone splintered. The dangling ankle smoldered. A large hole in his left breast revealed his empty ribcage, his missing heart. Bony hands clutched an alabaster chalice filled with the blood-red offering of the Lake. Blistered skin pebbled his brow. His skull gazed with vacant eye sockets toward them while his mouth opened. The shattered boy rasped, “Make a wish.”

“What did he say?” Hatshepsut asked of any who might know. “Is that my Thutmose?”

Despite the missing cartouche, Carter identified the burnt remains silently. The victim’s height marked him a teenager. The floral cup carved from white rock could only belong to a single pharaoh. Oh, dear Tutankhamun. Your Lotus Chalice would sell very well. Carter salivated. No need to educate the others. Time was of the essence. “No matter his identity, we can save the boy. We must. We move swiftly on this creature’s back, but we can retrieve him. Hold my heart for a moment.” He tossed the organ to Ramses IV. “I’m the tallest with the longest reach. I think I can grab him as we pass. As I lean over the side, someone please counterbalance me.”

Ramses III held Carter’s left hand, allowing the tomb-raider to lean far starboard as Ammit’s advance brought him closer.

The injured boy outstretched his hands to meet his savior, extending his reach by holding out the alabaster cup.

Carter seized the chalice. The boy pulled oppositely. King Tut whispered with charred lips, “You! I recognize you. You shall not have my cup, thief! Instead, I shall have you.”

Tutankhamun released the Lotus Chalice to seize Carter’s forearms.

Ammit did not slow. Carter pulled King Tut from the grotesque levee. The youth pulled furiously at Carter while towed along. Ethereal water splashed violently against the boy’s face, filling his open mouth to pour from his opened chest. To all bearing witness, it appeared that Carter was trying to reel in the boy. In truth, he could not let go.

Tutankhamun’s skin finally peeled off. His skinned hands failed in their grip, leaving the boy bobbing in dark waves. The chalice dropped and sank.

“No!” Carter wept real tears and retrieved a handkerchief from his vest pocket to mop the mucus streaming from his nose. “I tried to save— I tried”— he sniveled, glaring at his empty hands— “the . . . the ca . . . cu . . .”

“Tutankhamun!” Hatshepsut finally recognized the adolescent pharaoh.

Carter squinted helplessly toward where the chalice had sunk.

About the Author:
S. E. Lindberg resides near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist, employing his skills as a scientist and artist to understand the manufacturing of products analogous to medieval paints. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword and Sorcery genre, spurred him to write Dyscrasia Fiction: graphic adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors.

Choice of print or ebook of Lovers in Hell,
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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Excerpt: Aestrangel the Fallen (The Aestrangel Trinity Part 1) by Maria DeVivo

Aestrangel the Fallen (The Aestrangel Trinity Part 1)
by Maria DeVivo
September 2023
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
Publisher: 4 Horsemen Publications
ISBN: 1644509261
Number of pages: 240
Word Count: 63K
Hell hath no fury like an angel scorned!

Aestra, favorite teenaged angel of The Lord, has been sent to Earth to ensure that high school senior, Jake Parker, pursues the correct path. He is teetering between two options that may seem innocuous, but only one will lead him to positively impact the lives of millions of humans.

But what happens when the heart chooses love over responsibility? For Aestra, one fateful night will set into motion a chain of events unforeseen by even her infallible Creator.


From Chapter One: Learning the Ways
They tell me I should be dreaming by now, that the images and scenarios should be well-embedded into my brand-new subconsciousness, but for me, all there has been is color. No. That’s not right. When I close my brand-new eyes, all that consumes me are the shifting shades of grays and blacks, and I’m not sure if this is something I should be worried about or not. I’ve been in this human simulation environment for quite some time now, and I’m guessing that part of my “humanness” hasn’t kicked in yet. But I’ve heard the others talking and describing their dreams, and I’m getting anxious for my first one. Revalia, the closest thing I have to what humans call a “best friend,” has told me the fabulous tales of her dreams. She says sometimes she doesn’t even want to wake up. She says the images and sounds and smells are so overpowering, so overwhelming, that when she wakes up, she desperately longs to go back to that dreamy, lazy place between the conscious and unconscious mind. I wish I knew what she was talking about.

I know my lack of dreams worries Camael. He has told me many times the human experience is multi-pronged and multi-faceted, and in order for me to complete my calling, I must be immersed in the most basic of human functions. There’s no other way for me to complete my mission because there’s no other way for me to be a “believable” Guardian to the human I am assigned. And if I don’t complete my mission successfully, I will never move up the ranks and become a Guardian Angel. Camael is in a higher order of angels than I am—the Dominions. He’s my mentor, and it’s his job to prepare me for the journey that I’m about to embark upon.

Yes, I’m an angel—we all are: Camael, Revalia, the others, and me. But, my rank right now is that of angel—the lowest rung on the ladder. My goal is to move up to Guardian, and hopefully beyond. It’s the natural progression for my kind, and I’m excited to serve the Creator (or God, as the humans refer to Him) and all of His glorious wonders.

There is no time—not the way humans divide time up at least. I’ve always existed, yet there are others and elders who were here in Ilarium before I was created, and since I’ve been given the ability to communicate in human language, it seems hard for me to put into words all the thoughts and feelings that I had before. Before, there was just love and peace and a willingness to serve and please, but now there is an actual lexicon, a vocabulary of tens of thousands of words, that I’m still trying to figure out how to effectively communicate and verbalize what’s in my heart. Never having had a heart before, it takes some getting used to.
We angels who are preparing for our callings have been thrust into a human-like world in order to become accustomed to the actual life of a human. The Powers That Be have replicated the physical world and have created buildings and structures for us, given us languages, infused us with feelings, and given us body shapes all in preparation for our descent to Earth.

While angels are neither male nor female, I have the body of a woman now, and I will be assigned female attributes from here forward. I rather do like the contour of the female form, I always have, and perhaps my partiality towards women is what prompted the Creator to put me in a woman’s body. My wings are more defined too; they are heavy on my shoulders with the feathered tips almost irritating the backs of my arms and legs. As the human notion of time becomes more ingrained into our routine, the weight of my wings becomes more and more cumbersome. Camael has said that the awareness of our wings was important so when we lose them on our descent, the shock wouldn’t be so bad. I don’t know; I’m still trying to understand all my teachings. Like how we’re going to be given a set of human memories specific to us and our assignment, yet have all the knowledge of our angelic lives. The thought of blending the two perplexes me.

This leads me to right now. This time. This place. The unfamiliarity of it all. Camael says this is a school, and the human I am assigned to help goes to one. I know this. I’ve seen them, the humans. I’ve watched them from up high, but actually being in a school—the four white walls and chairs called desks filed in rows with children sitting at them—is quite an adjustment. I sit in the front of a single aisle. We’re in alphabetical order, and I’m Aestra, so that means I’m first in the row. Revalia is a few desks behind me. I turn my head to try to catch her attention, but she’s staring out the window, deep in what Camael calls a “daydream.” I look at her a few seconds longer hoping my gaze can break her trance, but she’s too far gone, mesmerized in her human thoughts. The one disadvantage to being in this human shape is we angels can no longer feel the thoughts and emotions of others without speaking them. If I had been free from this woman body, I would have been able to read Revalia’s mind, but then again, if we weren’t in these human forms, Revalia wouldn’t be having such thoughts as hypnotizing daydreams…

About the Author:
Amazon-Link Tree
Maria is the Author of the Amazon bestselling and award-winning series The Coal Elf Chronicles, the YA psychological horror series The Altered Experience, and the NA Urban Fantasy series The Aestrangel Trinity. When not writing about dark fantasy and horror, she teaches Language Arts and Journalism to middle school students in Florida. A lover of all things dark and demented, she takes pleasure in warping the comfort factor in her readers’ minds. Just when you think you’ve reached a safe space in her stories, she snaps you back into her twisted reality.

What happens when the heart chooses love over responsibility? For angel, Aestra, one fateful night will set into motion a chain of events unforeseen by even her infallible Creator. Check out a new dark urban fantasy from author Maria DeVivo: Aestrangel the Fallen.
#aestrangel, #angelsanddemons #fallenangel #darkfantasy #urbanfantasy #mariadevivoscares


Book Review: Surviving in the Shadow of Death (Life After Death Day Book 2) by Donna Augustine

Surviving in the Shadow of Death (Life After Death Day Book 2

by Donna Augustine
February 22, 2024
Genre: New adult, urban fantasy
Ninety percent of the world died in the span of a few seconds. No warning. No explanation. Few survivors. Now we’re all trying to get by as society collapses around us.

Survival is a battle and it’s getting worse every day. Food is scarce and the shelves are all bare. Finding medication for my little brother is impossible, and my desperation is growing as my options narrow.

When the world is falling to pieces, and all the people you know are vying to become the baddest villains around, maybe finding the meanest monster on the block is exactly what’s needed. A dangerous man I would’ve run from a month ago might be my only salvation.


One day life was normal; the next, I was a twenty-year-old, living on my dad and stepmother’s couch, dreaming of the day I would be back out on my own. Then, in the blink of an eye, ninety percent of the world had dropped dead. So now I am in charge of not only keeping myself alive but my little brother as well. My brother is only 5 years old and is a type one diabetic in need of insulin to stay alive. At this point, I would do anything to keep him alive, even aligning with those I wouldn’t have before Death Day.

Piper has a strength of character that continues to develop as the story unfolds. Every step she takes is to take care of someone else and she is selfless when it comes to protecting those she loves. Duncan has a similar disposition, except he knows he’s strong and that most can’t hurt him no matter how hard they try. At first, he feels like he is stuck with Piper and her little rag-tag team of misfits, but he is a man of honor who honors his debts, and this is no different.

Augustine has a way of weaving stories that makes me stop everything and read her books when they come out. I have never been disappointed in her stories and this one is no exception.

5 Sheep


About the Author:

Donna Augustine is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Wilds, Karma and Ollie Wit.

Sign up here to be notified of her new releases.

Donna Augustine was an odd child, had a brief moment of conformity in early adulthood and then decided to embrace her craziness as the years rolled by. It's her inner crazy that she credits with coming up with the ideas for her books. One part hypochondriac, a few dashes of paranoia, topped with a sliver of uptight and delivered with a relaxed flair, she kicked the proverbial box down the yellow brick road a couple years ago to embrace her true self.

She can be reached by a carrier pigeon, set free in a south by north direction, where she resides in Neverland with her two Siberian cats. Cats who, by the way, aren't as hypoallergenic as she believed they'd be.

For the conventional minded, and those of you without a pigeon on hand, she can be reached at She responds to most emails within three dusk periods.

P.S. For those of you looking for the discarded box, it was sitting beside the road for a while but has since disappeared completely.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

WIP It Real Good: Young adult Horror author Rebecca Rook + giveaway

In addition to releasing False Haven, I have recently published a young adult Americana urban fantasy novel, The Penance of Valentine Cash, and I’m currently working an upcoming project. This novel is a Wild West young adult fantasy tale that’s a cross between A Deadly Education and True Grit, titled A Strange Affinity. It comes out in March 2024! Please see the blurb below.

In the Wild West, magic is real.

When two strangers arrive in her small town along the Oregon Trail, Gloriana Rue learns that she has the magical ability, called an Affinity, to manipulate metal. Even more shocking, her late mother was a renowned magical scholar but had abandoned the world of Affinities. Desperate to know more about this secret past, Glory agrees to attend an academy for magicians to find answers.

Soon immersed in train robberies, a magical education, and adventure, Glory begins to find her footing in this dangerous new world. Until she stumbles upon a disturbing discovery: A killer is hunting magicians throughout the American West – and he’s getting closer to her new home. Glory must glean the truth hidden in her mother’s long held secrets to save her community before it’s too late.

A Strange Affinity is a young adult fantasy novel set in an alternate nineteenth century American Wild West. Fans of Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto, and Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey will love this novel about found family, adventure, and magic.

False Haven
by Rebecca Rook
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Publisher: Hellebore House
February 13, 2024
ISBN: Print: 979-8-9894253-2-7
ISBN: e-book: 979-8-9894253-3-4
Number of pages: 250
Word Count: 60,000
Cover Artist: Paper & Sage Designs
Her last chance may end her life.

Seventeen-year-old Vivienne Barston’s life has fallen apart.

With her mother recently dead, her father disappears into his grief – leaving Viv to deal with her sadness and anger alone. To cope, Viv turns to destructive behaviors like petty vandalism, and after a disturbing stint in a juvenile detention center frightens her, Viv agrees to a court mandated service opportunity designed to expunge her record. The deal: work for six weeks with a trail conservation crew in the rural woods of southern Oregon, and she’ll be free with a clean slate.

She knows it’s her last chance to fix her life.

When Viv arrives at the small town of Hard Luck, Oregon, she meets her motley crewmates, all with troubles of their own. The unusual group travels to Grafton Stake, a remote and derelict former asylum with a haunted history–and now Viv must face the ghosts of the past while fighting for her future.


Five faces looked up at her entrance: two girls and three guys. They sat around a conference table in office chairs that were sleek, professional, and out of place in the rustic lodge. An open box of cheap pastries rested at the center of the table, surrounded by water bottles, sodas, and napkins. A pile of hiker’s backpacks rested in the corner of the room. Viv cast the others a quick glance, then placed her pack next to the pile. She picked a chair at the end of the table, closest to the door.

Viv found five pairs of eyes studying her. She felt grubby after a long day on public transportation and tried not to squirm under the scrutiny.

“What’s your name?” one of the girls demanded.

“Viv.” She didn’t inquire about their names. None of them were there to make friends.

The girl who had demanded Viv’s name opened her mouth to say more but was interrupted by the arrival of a woman in her thirties with thin black hair pulled into a low ponytail, nut-brown skin, and a stocky, muscular build. The woman walked with authority and purpose, her shoulders back and her head upright, and when she came to a stop at the head of the conference table, she cast an assessing gaze over Viv.

“You must be Vivienne.” It wasn’t a question.

Viv nodded.

“Welcome.” The woman didn’t smile. “I’m Helen Whiteaker, and I run this program. You will report to me for the duration of your time here.” Helen’s dark eyes held a steel promise of order.

Viv found herself sitting up a bit straighter.

Helen swept a glance around the room. “We’re all here, so let’s start.” She then eyed the pastries in the center of the table. “I’d eat those if I were you. Our meals over the next six weeks won’t be spectacular.”

One of the boys reached for a Danish.

This seemed to satisfy Helen. “Welcome to the Conservation Corps for Teens. Let’s discuss what you’re here to work on for the next six weeks. At the direction of the Bureau of Land Management and the local county council, we’ll be providing the grunt labor for the demolition and cleanup of Grafton Stake, a local institution with several old buildings. We will also build a trail system, campsites, and recreational day sites around the area. The goal of our work is to help create a park-like setting for a future campground and visitor’s center.”
Helen paused. “Does anyone have questions?”

No one responded. The boy with the Danish ate loudly, without closing his mouth. Viv winced at the sight, then looked away. The squelching noise turned her stomach.

Helen eyed Danish Boy with a flicker of amusement in her eyes before continuing. “We have a tight schedule and will need to work fast. We work eight hours a day, every Monday through Friday, with lunches and breaks. Weekends will be spent at the campsite, or in town for short durations.”

Helen paused again and looked around the conference room with her eyebrows raised. When no one said anything, she sighed. “I’m going to be blunt: none of you are here because you want to be here.”

Viv felt the impact of the words like a dash of cold water across the face. She saw the others react, too, shifting uncomfortably in their seats or staring at the floor or the ceiling.

Helen stared at the table. “For various legal and privacy reasons, I do not know the specifics of why you are here, but I will not tolerate any insubordination or disruption on my team. If you misbehave, I will ship you home without a second chance. This is a job. You will be paid a stipend at the end of the six weeks—or a prorated amount for the time you’ve spent in this program. I expect professional behavior from each of you, towards me and towards each other.

That means no sex, no drugs, no shit talking, and no fights.”

The conference room was still. Viv’s stomach roiled with anxiety. She almost admired how efficiently Helen had asserted control over the group.

“Really?” Helen cast a skeptical glance around the room. “No questions at all?”

About the Author:

Rebecca Rook is a hard of hearing person who designs tabletop games, manages a little free library dedicated to sequential art and comics, and lives in the Pacific Northwest with two wonderful dogs. A 2021-2022 Hugo House Fellow in Seattle, WA, she also attended the 2021 Tin House YA Fiction Workshop in Portland, OR. Prior to this, she completed the wonderful Yearlong Workshop for Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction at Hugo House. She writes young adult fiction in the fantasy, thriller, and horror genres.

When Vivienne Barston arrives in Hard Luck, Oregon, to fulfill her court mandated service, she travels with a motley crew to Grafton Stake, a remote and derelict former asylum with a haunting history. Now Viv must face the ghosts of the past while fighting for her future.
#falsehaven #rebeccarook #youngadulthorror #spookywoods #yahorror #femaleprotagonist #ghoststories

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Monday, February 19, 2024

Book Review: Leopard's Hunt (A Leopard Novel Book 15) by Christine Feehan

by Christine Feehan
February 20, 2024
In this pulse-pounding novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Leopard series, animal instinct unites two elite shifters whose heads are at war with their hearts.

Gorya Amurov might be known as his family's peacekeeper, but the leopard inside him wants nothing more than to claw to the surface and unleash hell. A harsh life has shaped him into a vicious fighter with a calm exterior, but Gorya knows it's only a matter of time until he loses all control. Deep down, he truly believes he'd be better off dead, and that no woman will ever accept him as a mate....

Maya Averina has spent years hunting the criminals who destroyed her life, and she always takes down her prey. She keeps to herself, stays under the radar, and never loses focus. But with her body burning up and her mind distracted by her first heat, an ambush takes her by surprise. Now she's trapped, an unmated female shifter about to be sold off to the highest bidder. Maya is ready to fight her way out—until the most dangerous, powerful man she's ever encountered arrives to set her free....  
Gorya is an elite Leopard shifter. He's taken over the criminal enterprise after killing everyone who used to run it. Now he's a better boss than his predecessor because he doesn't allow women and children to be abused the way he was as a child. Gorya hires another couple to watch him closely because he thinks he might have to be put down because his Leopard is a cold-blooded killer. 

Maya is also an elite Leopard and a killer. Her early life was very hard when people killed her family and kept her as a sex slave. When she and others escaped with the help of another, she grew up to be a killer that took out the men who made her life miserable. 

Now Gorya and Maya's leopard's have mated and their human sides feel things for each other but neither think they can truly be in a relationship because they are so broken emotionally. 

Maya meets the people that Gorya works with and his cousins and they all have to work together to bring down the bad people even though they don't trust her and she doesn't trust them much. When they find out that some of the people is Gorya's organization are still trying to traffic women and children, they have to work together to find out who, take care of them and save the women and children from a bad situation. 

Gorya is such a great character, he thought there was nothing redeemable about him and he was so wrong. When he and Maya start getting closer they bring out the best in each other and their leopards are helping them to heal. It was sad watching how broken they really are but great seeing how they tried to find a way though and make their relationship work. 

This book was a little wordy, dragged at times which slowed down the pace for me but all in all it was a great story. 

I give this book 3 out of 5 Sheep!

Mary Kirkland - Dark Thoughts Blog


About the Author:
I write every day and have done so since I was old enough to pick up a pen. (I spent a lot of time getting in trouble at school for writing instead of doing the things I was supposed to do.) Once I create my characters, I try very hard to have them react to situations as they really would. Sometimes I have preconceived ideas of what I would like them to do, but they don’t mind me, because it would be out of character for them. They take on a life of their own. Sometimes when I throw difficult situations at them in the hopes I’ll get a certain reaction and they don’t do what I want, I complain bitterly to my husband and he laughs at me. Still, it is important to me to have them be real, not perfect people, so they make mistakes we lesser mortals might make.


Book Review: Island Witch by Amanda Jayatissa

Island Witch
by Amanda Jayatissa
February 20, 2024

Publisher: Berkeley
ISBN: 9780593549261
Being the daughter of the village Capuwa, or demon-priest, Amara is used to keeping mostly to herself. Influenced by the new religious practices brought in by the British Colonizers, the villagers who once respected her father’s craft have turned on the family. Yet, they all still seem to call on him whenever supernatural disturbances arise.

Now someone—or something—is viciously seizing upon men in the jungle. But instead of enlisting Amara’s father’s help, the villages have accused him of carrying out the attacks himself.

As she tries to clear her father’s name, Amara finds herself haunted by dreams that eerily predict the dark forces on her island. And she can’t shake the feeling that it’s all connected to the night she was recovering from a strange illness, and woke up, scared and confused, to hear her mother’s frantic cries: No one can find out what happened.


Amara is the daughter of the village Capuwa, a demon-priest, and a mother who was once part of rich, influential family of the island, until she got pregnant and ran away with Amara’s father. When something starts seizing men in the jungle and harming them, the villages accuse her father of causing the attacks.

A tense, spooky tale of a young woman's inner rage against how she is treated and even lied to, where her inner demon hidden beneath her skin is let loose by one living in the dark jungle. This is a story of all women chained to their lives by men, parents and more, where sometimes the villain becomes the savior.

I gave Island Witch 5 sheep.



Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:

Amanda Jayatissa loves to read disturbing books with shocking plot twists, so it seemed logical to her that she should attempt to write disturbing books with shocking plot twists.
She is one of the first Sri Lankan women to secure an international book contract.
Her first traditionally published novel, MY SWEET GIRL, won Best Debut Novel at the International Thriller Writers Awards in 2022.
Her second novel, YOU'RE INVITED, was selected as a Book of The Month pick in July 2022 and was featured on The Today Show.
She grew up in Sri Lanka and has lived in the California bay area and British countryside, before relocating back to her sunny island, where she lives with her husband and two Tasmanian-devil-reincarnate huskies.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Excerpt: Awakening (The Regonia Chronicles, #1) by Elexis Bell + giveaway

Awakening (The Regonia Chronicles, #1)
by Elexis Bell
February 20th 2024
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
Tortured by memories implanted by his captors, Krona knows only one thing. He must find Tenna, his partner, his Queen. She can’t be dead. But when Ricardo, one of his human guards, tells him she’s alive on another space station, the truth might be just as painful as their lies.

With her memories missing and her planet supposedly destroyed, Tenna struggles to acclimate to life among humans. Olivia, a spaceship pilot and hacker, does her best to help. When a guard shows up with an alien Tenna knows she’s seen before, it’s obvious things aren’t what they seem.

When they learn that family ties bind enemy and ally, Krona and Tenna can only hope the honor they see in their human friends is strong enough to overcome blood. Can they work together to save themselves, their minds, and their tribe? Or will they lose everything?

I sit on the bench in Francis’ quarters, peering out the window at the black expanse of space. I pull my leg up underneath me as she plops onto her bed. My eyes focus on her reflection for an instant, drawn to the flash of her red hair, but I return my gaze to the stars.

After working some magic on her Link to loop camera and recorder feeds from her room, she says, “Okay. We’re good. Now, what’s wrong?”
I turn to face her, stomach in knots.

“Something isn’t right,” I say.

And everything pours out.

The details that just don’t line up. All my questions about the prisoner, Krona. The oddity of his behavior.

“He doesn’t act like a Drennar. Hell, he said they’re his ancestors, that they’re dead.” Sighing, I run a weary hand over my face. “I don’t know if it’s a trick, if he’s toying with us, or what, but he doesn’t act like them. He’s… emotional. When he sings, I feel it. We all do, that’s why Garcia cracked. It was too much for him.”

Francis stares at me, uncertain, but she says, “He’s probably just trying to trick us.”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. If it was just the story about them dying off, maybe, but it isn’t. He’s different. He’s not one of them.”
Realizing the words that just crossed my lips, I rush to add, “Or… he might not be. I don’t know.”

“I think you might be reading into it a little too much,” Francis says, but her tone does little to back her words.

She’s perceptive. She must have questions.
“Then, explain the emotion? Explain the woman he’s clearly mourning, or the doubt in his words. The translator can’t be adding too much to that. Hell, it doesn’t have to add anything to it. Even in his language, I feel it. He’s mad and upset, and I don’t know why. But Drennar don’t feel. If they do, they don’t express it. You’ve seen the footage of them just as well as I have.”

Francis’ brows reach for each other, carving lines in her face, and a deep breath puffs out her chest for an instant. She purses her lips as my words sink in.

So, I forge ahead.

“All the times the Drennar came for us, did they ever sing? Even once?” I shake my head, answering my question for her. “If he’s one of them, why the weird renovations to his cell? Why a stone cell? He’s strong enough to get out. He showed Garcia that pretty clearly today.”

Recalling his words earlier and Garcia’s multiple dislocations, I ask, “What’s really keeping him in there? Because it sure as hell isn’t us.”

Giving in just a bit, Francis leans forward, propping her arms on her thighs. “Suppose you’re right, and he is something else. What are we supposed to do about it? What does that change? He’s a prisoner. We’re Guards. It’s simple. And why would they lie to us? If he’s not a Drennar, why would they say he is?”
“I don’t know,” I say. My stomach turns, and I look out the window again. “I don’t know what to do.”

But I do.

Defeated, I take a deep breath. “I need some answers. Something doesn’t add up.”

Shaking her head, Francis says, “I don’t like the sound of that.”

And if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t either. My gut tells me something’s wrong here, and it’s never steered me wrong.

But it has steered me straight into trouble, many times.

About the Author:
I'm a nerd with a lot of hobbies and enough sarcasm and swear words to make a sailor blush, though, you'll never hear a word of it if I'm not comfortable around you. I've been an introvert since birth. When I'm writing, though, words come easily.

At the end of the day, I just want to write stories that make people feel something.