Monday, July 27, 2015

Guest Post by Graham J. Wood - Zein: The Homecoming.

Even in my early life, I was captivated by different worlds and events you could not explain. 
When I decided to write my Zein trilogy starting with Zein: The Prophecy, and recently Zein: The Homecoming about an alien race that lives in the skies above us, I just let my imagination run riot. It is hard to explain how liberating this is. Almost no boundaries. The constraints I imposed on myself were mainly to bring an element of reality to the extraordinary new world that was flowing from my fingers on the keyboard. It is therefore little surprise that some of the main characters are ‘normal’ people who you would not expect to be the driving force against the evil facing us.
My job negotiating contracts across the world brings me in contact with numerous cultures and behaviours and provides a richness, I hope, to the character development. It also means that the love I have of watching peoples characteristics, the hidden (they think) nervousness, the passion and determination helps me develop the interplay between my characters, not only female to male but to how all individuals relate to each other. My anti-hero, Tyson who is always fighting his internal battles with the fate of his friends usually resting in his hands is a case in hand.
All I can promise you is when you read my stories the pace is unrelenting, the characters come to live in front of your eyes and the battle between good and evil is never an easy one. 

Follow the exploits of a small band of humans and persecuted aliens, the latter very much like us but who have a strange array of magics, who fight back against incredible odds. Enjoy…
Graham Wood was born and raised in Manchester, England and today lives in Timperley, Altrincham, England. He works freelance, coordinating large global outsourcing contracts. 

Zein: The Homecoming 
By Graham J. Wood

The second novel in epic sci-fi trilogy in which a lost planet’s hope and the lives of many rests on the actions of the brave few who faced and beat adversity on Earth, not knowing a secretive evil sect undermines all.

After the climactic Battle of the Southern Palace in Book 1 of the Zein series, the humans have begun to accept the Zeinonian race into their lives and a calm has fallen over the world. Kabel, the alien prince, is made Lord Chancellor and his people begin to apply their advanced technology and knowledge on advancing Earth’s farming, medicine and mining, the latter required to build up major stocks of the powerful raw material, zinithium. Leaving the integration of the two different cultures to others, Kabel leads a joint Human and Zeinonian Expeditionary Force to search for his people’s home planet, Zein. His companions include his half-brother, Tyson, who is increasingly struggling to contain the magics conflicting with his human DNA. Reaching Zein, they find the survivors are attempting to wipe out an indigent but ferocious animal race, the Pod. Kabel and the Expeditionary Force find themselves caught in the combat as the Pod fight back, leading to Tyson’s capture by the animals. Zylar, Kabel’s uncle, is back and building his zombie army on a nearby planet where Tyson’s mother and Kabel’s sister are imprisoned. Kabel and Tyson will use all of their strength to try to defeat the Pod and do battle with Zylar again.

Back on Earth, the Cabal, led by a shadowy figure called the Speaker, have already begun plotting to turn the humans against the Zeinonians once again. Driven by greed and a hatred for the aliens, the group infiltrates the United Nations and stages a vote for martial law to quell riots on Earth, placing the Zeinonians under curfew and jeopardizing the short-lived peace in the process.

Zein: The Homecoming is the second chapter in author Graham Wood’s fast-paced sci-fi trilogy charting an epic battle between good and evil, continuing its exploration of the themes of friendship, optimism and adversity that will resonate with audiences young and old alike. Wood was inspired to fulfill a dream held since he was 15 of being a novelist and write the Zein trilogy after his daughter, Becky, underwent open-heart surgery at only 14. It was at her bedside as she recovered that he began formulating the story in order to take his mind off her suffering. Book 1 sales have raised $3,000 for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House after they were instrumental in helping Wood’s family. Further donations will be forthcoming.

Twitter:  ZeintheBook

Monday, July 20, 2015

Guest Post - Jason Sizemore The Horror of Running a Small Press

All across the world, there exists a small segment of the population who enjoy the metaphorical self-flagellation known as running a small press.

I am one of those individuals, and I wrote a book about it.

For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher is the mostly true story of how Apex Publications came to be, why it exists, and the odd personal spectacles I’ve endured that makes its continued existence a never-ending miracle. I’m told it is quite humorous. Yet, I fail to see the humor of stumbling into a large orgy overseen by a sweet little grandmother offering visitors a bite of honey baked ham.

Because many of the tales in For Exposure are so outlandish, I was afraid people wouldn’t believe them and asked numerous others to provide ‘rebuttals’ to my accounts.

After reading For Exposure, one would think that I’d shared all of the bizarre experiences I’ve had as a publisher. Sadly, this isn’t so. There are other tales. Many, many other tales. One such tale I will share exclusively with I apologize upfront if this incident crosses the line of good taste. I also apologize that I do not have a witness who can write a rebuttal to confirm or expose the veracity of what I’m about to describe. Rest assured, good readers, I tell you only the truth.

Being the owner and managing editor of Apex Publications means I travel to many different events and conventions. I live in Lexington, KY, so when The Scarefest horror show landed in town on a permanent basis, I was quite pleased. For once, I wouldn’t have to drive hours and hours to get to an event nor would I have the expense of room and board. I bought space in the vendor hall and offered a fine Apex selection of horror and dark fantasy books.

At the time, Apex had a new senior editor named Janet Harriett. She drove from northern Ohio to help me run our table. As it turns out, we were placed next to an elderly gentleman who sold imported DVDs of all spices and varieties. I had noticed some…interesting items on the shelf adjacent to our two spaces…namely hardcore manga films. Nothing you won’t see at any media vendor hall, so while I noted them, I wasn’t concerned. What I hadn’t counted on was the elderly gentleman having a 45 minute conversation with a large, sweaty guy in a ripped white t-shirt and dirty red sweatpants about the most extreme manga porn scenes they’d ever seen. My poor, green senior editor heard things nobody should have to hear.

Fortunately for me, I hadn’t heard any of it. I was off taking a late lunch. After gorging myself on greasy fries and a burger at the food court, I took a shortcut back to the Scarefest vendor hall. This meant crossing through another event space.

In my haste, I failed to notice that the other event was the annual gun and knife show held here in Lexington. Masses of men and women armed to the teeth walked up and down the rows of tables displaying weapons for sale. I found it all quite disconcerting.

As I crossed the crowded hall I bumped into a large man with General Burnside facial hair. Across the shoulder of his camo jacket he carried a scoped rifle. A holster held a sidearm. He glared me down.I mumbled an apology and made to move on. His big meaty hand gripped my arm and stopped me.  “You best watch where you’re going, peckerwood.”

Peckerwood. That’s the word he used. I can’t recall having heard it since high school.  I’m not a coward (mostly) nor am I stupid (mostly). This beast of a man armed with a rifle and pistol was threatening me. This time, my flight instinct had turned me yellow. “You’re right,” I said. “Sorry.”
Someone associated with the gun and knife show appeared. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Lloyd, this boy bothering you?”
“Bothering him?” I said. I’m not armed and a good four inches shorter than the man holding me in place.
The gun show volunteer nodded. “Something’s got Lloyd all bothered.”
Lloyd let go of my arm. “It’s fine, Charley. I’m done wit’em.” With that, the beast lumbered away. But Charley wasn’t done with me.
“How did you get in here? You don’t have a badge,” he said.
I stupidly looked down at my Scarefest badge.
“That one doesn’t grant you entrance to our show. I’m going have to escort you out of the building.”
Despite my objections, two armed men walked me to the far back of the convention center, shoved me out a door that had no handle on the outside. I imagined this was what it felt like, to some degree, of being marched to your death by the Mafia. Fortunately, the two men did not follow me out. I was left to walk all the way back around the convention center and back to my table in the Scarefest vendor hall.

On my arrival, Janet looked two shades of green. I asked her what was wrong. She looked at me, pointed out how pale I was, and asked me what was wrong.

So we shared our experiences.

The greatest dangers you’ll face when running a small press doesn’t always come from authors, editors, distributors, and crooked vendors. You never know the oddities you’ll encounter when you leave your writer’s cave and venture out into the big scary world.

Despite the occasional problem, I love running Apex Publications. I could share many happy adventures from my publishing years, but why not check out For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher and have them in a nicely formatted, fancy book edition?

Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (a real school with its own vampire legend) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2005, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, who can usually be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions seeking friends and free food. Visit him online at

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Walls Around Us.

Title/Author:  The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma.

Genre: YA, Mystery.

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers.

Source: Purchased.

Synopsis:  On the outside, there's Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there's Amber, locked up for so long she can't imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls' darkest mysteries…
What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

Midnyte Musings: Sometimes a book comes along that makes you so grateful that you found it.  So happy to be a reader.  So appreciative of the written word.  The Walls Around Us is one of those books for me.  It is a gem.  A YA that is part contemporary, part mystery, part supernatural and all combined beautifully.  
The story and the writing is haunting and lovely and the characters are compelling.  The story is a puzzle and I loved figuring it out.  Although I saw a main plot point coming, I wasn't sure how I was going to get there and what the final outcome of it would be.  This book was so intriguing I read it in a matter of days.  There is nothing rushed in this book and every phrase is purposeful and important.  Sometimes I had to re-read passages and paragraphs because I knew there was hidden meaning to be found and I didn't want to miss it.  It was like looking into a cloudy pool of water waiting for it to clear.

Although this was told in three different pov's, it was not confusing at all and I needed all three of the main characters, Violet, Amber and Orianna, to tell the story so it made sense.  The way their paths intertwine reminds me a of a drawing starting in different places.   It isn't till the end of the story (when the drawing is finished) that you get to see the whole picture.  I loved getting to know them and their motivation.  I was intrigued and looking into their psyches and souls was thrilling.  There is so much meaning in each chapter and even seemingly unrelated occurrences come into play later.

I loved that the supernatural elements of this story were not in your face, but more a subtle and gentle push that makes you question what is reality and what is not.  The emotion and events in this story are deep, dark and troubling yet if you are squeamish or don't usually like dark fiction, The Walls Around Us is handled in such a way that the darkness is beautiful.

SPOILER: The only issue I had is that I wished there were just a few more hints to Violet's personality.  But maybe that is the author's intention of a big reveal.  

This is a book that made me say "Wow!" Beautifully written, mysterious.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Guest Post by Stephen Childs - Setting in nineteenth century Western Australia.

Setting a novel based in Western Australia during the late nineteenth century was an easy decision for me. Spending time investigating my own family history had fostered an intrigue for all things Victorian. 

The difficulties of life in those days, combined with simple technologies and lower expectations from life, provide a fabulous background within which to progress a character.

The pioneering spirit of those who had put everything on the line to start afresh in the new land of Australia is legendary. However, as the century progressed, English societal expectations began to creep into Australian life. Doing things the ‘proper’ way began to influence decisions and hold up many a bold venture. 

It is into this confused culture that I sent the character, Abigail. 

As a refined young English girl, she appears to be the perfect subject for a tale of struggle between brash pioneering spirit and Victorian etiquette. But I intended for Abigail to go further. 

To achieve this, I endowed her with a knowledge of the era’s emerging technology and an enquiring scientific mind. This allows her to progress from the expected, and provides her room to grow. 

After that, all that was needed was motivation for her to utilise her knowledge. 

A murder, a missing witness, and deep feelings of injustice provide the perfect opportunity.

Her journey not only takes her across a vast land, but also takes her beyond herself, revealing qualities of strength she didn’t know she possessed.

With her father stabbed to death, her brother caught with the bloody murder weapon, and her stepmother suspiciously missing, 18-year-old Abigail Sergeant is forced into a dangerous cross country adventure to uncover the truth and bring the real killer to justice. 

Traveling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth-century, Abigail and her naive younger brother hope that reuniting with their father — and his new wife — will offer them security. What awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life. Discovering her father murdered and her brother seemingly caught red handed, Abigail’s life is thrown into turmoil. The police are convinced of Bertrand’s guilt, but Abigail is determined to prove his innocence, no matter whatever it takes. The only thing that the now insensible Bertrand will say about the murder is that their stepmother, Frances, knows what really happened. Frances, however, has fled south to Albany, a port from which she plans to board a ship bound for New Zealand. With time running out, Abigail persuades the police to let her follow Frances, but only if she is chaperoned by the reluctant Constable Ridley Dunning. Embarking on a heroic train journey across Western Australia, Abigail faces deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, forcing her to draw on a resolve she didn’t know she possessed. But will that be enough to save her brother from injustice?

Dueling with the hardships and social inequalities of the Victorian era, Abigail Sergeant is a strong and independent young protagonist who surprises her acquaintances with her determination and unusual abilities. Forward-thinking, her views often juxtapose awkwardly with the Victorian ideal of womanhood; her brilliance with machinery and her passion for technology and science, prove that mental and physical strength need not preclude finesse, and that family and love can become powerful, inspirational tools.

Author Stephen Childs captures the landscape of his adopted Western Australian homeland in skillful and vivid detail. The region’s culture and its epic terrain has always held a certain fascination for Childs, and soon after moving there he began researching the story of how the Swan River colony originated as a commercial enterprise, and what early settlers had to endure to survive. The history and extraordinary stories  sparked the premise behind his assured debut novel, On Track for Murder. A beguiling blend of romance, mystery and a desperate race against time, On Track for Murder will entertain fans of Agatha Christie and P. D. James with its plot twists and turns, leaving them guessing — and gasping — until the very last page.

About the author: Born in Ealing, West London, Stephen Childs immigrated with his family to New Zealand in the 1970s. He has enjoyed a long career in the film and television industry. After a serious health scare in 2005, Childs’ view of life changed. He briefly went into politics as a parliamentary candidate in the national elections, standing against the now New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key. The drive to pursue new challenges prompted Childs to relocate to Western Australia, where he now lives in Joondalup, north of Perth, with his family and two cats. In his spare time, Childs enjoys exploring the great Australian outdoors and studying genealogy. On Track for Murder by Stephen Childs (published by Clink Street, available September 1st, RRP $12.00 paperback, RRP $7.50 ebook) is available online from retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores. 

Visit Stephen’s website:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Audio.

Title/Author: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Read by: Judith Light, Grace Gummer and Zack Appelman.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Audio.

Source: Library.

Synopsis: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father's museum; alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor's apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

Midnyte Musings:  I haven't read an Alice Hoffman book in a very long time.  I felt a lot of her plots were getting too similar, but I decided to pick up this one because I love the magic and themes of Coney Island.  Freak shows, amusement parks and summertime fun.

Although The Museum of Extraordinary Things didn't have as much supernatural elements as I thought and hoped it would have, I still found the story and characters compelling.  Eddie has turned his back on his father and his religion, basically his old life over perceptions he has about them and finds photography.   Since photography has been one of my biggest hobbies for many years, I loved the scenes that included Eddie as a learning photographer and then as a photojournalist.  Every photographer has their own philosophy of what it is to take a picture, to capture time.  I also loved hearing about the cameras themselves and the photographic process of that time period. 

Cora is the other protagonist and lives with her father above his Museum.  Cora herself is one of the attractions in the show, a living mermaid.  Her gift is her swimming abilities helped along by webs between her fingers.  Since she was small she has trained in the waters near Brooklyn and down the Hudson River.  Her father is continually trying to make money for his floundering museum by presenting more and more shocking "freaks."  Cora, already a bit frightened of her overprotective and demanding father eventually finds out things about him that horrify her.  She longs to get away. 

Eddie and Cora's paths cross eventually and they attempt to make a new chapter in both of their lives.  However, they have to overcome several obstacles and I did not take for granted that they would have an HEA. 

There are two elements which really made this book for me.  The symbolism and the history.  There is symbolism in the fires that occur in Eddie's life and each one ushers in a new phase of his life pushing him in a new direction and transforming his life.  Also, water is very symbolic.  Cora feels most alive in the water and the Hudson River not only plays an important part in both Cora and Eddie's life, but it also brings them together for the first time.  What I also loved was the hidden meanings of Eddie's stolen watch.  For such a small object it is so important in what it represents that it is almost a character in itself.  It represents the people who oppressed workers at the turn of the 20th Century and the life that Eddie longs for.  Yet at the same time, it is a symbol for the kind of people he despises.  A reminder of part of his life.  It is his treasure and his burden. 

I enjoyed reading about New York City during that time period and about the events that accompanied it.  Immigrants, businesses, social classes, and the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the impact it had on workers.

There are a lot of hidden secrets in this book that are sometimes uncovered and sometimes kept me guessing and a lot of hidden meaning that comes to the surface just like things thrown in a river or ocean sometimes do as well. 

Narration: The narration was done very well.  Because it's told in three points of view there were three narrators.  One for Eddie, one for Cora and one for an omniscient narrator that didn't have a very large part.  This helped separate the book for me and I thought the voices were perfect for their characters. 

An interesting look at a piece of New York City history seen through the eyes of compelling characters in unique situations.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Guest Post - Geoffrey Storm's debut novel.

I’m a Young Adult fantasy author with a debut novel, Progeny of Gods: Vertuém Destiny, coming July 9th

This book is very special to me, because I’ve been writing it since I was 11 years old, based off a game I used to play outside when I was even younger. 

It was inspired by all the stories that fascinated me at the time, like Star Wars, Kingdom Hearts, and The Legend of Zelda. 

At 8 years old, I saw my yard as a magical kingdom, where trees grew seven miles tall, and every day was a struggle against the Darkness to keep the kingdom safe and green. 

Then, at 11, I saw myself too old to play such make-believe anymore. But I didn’t want to give up the childhood innocence it made me feel. So I decided to begin writing my stories down. And 14 years later, here I am. 

At the forefront of a new, strange magic we call destiny, unveiling before me.

Progeny of Gods: Vertuém Destiny is the story of a boy finding his own way through the world, navigating through the conflicting teachings of his parents, in search of truth. But his world is very different from our own, spotted with tree-cities, where airships are made of bark instead of steel, and there’s a aura of lore and wonder everywhere you look. It is the perfect blend of the fantastic and futuristic, seen through the eyes of an young boy, born with immense pressure on his young shoulders. With its visual storytelling and intricate fantasy plotting, Progeny of Gods: Vertuém Destiny will captivate young adult and adult readers looking for an epic adventure.

To keep up to date, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel! I also post reviews of all the YA books I read, and am an avid member of the “BookTube” community, posting weekly book-related challenges, tips on writing, and guides to navigating the confusing realm of publishing, traditional or not.

Thanks for taking the time and I hope you join me on this little journey of mine!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Guest Post by Lucy Branch - My Writing Process!

I'm pretty time poor so like many women I have to multi-task.  I’d never get as much writing done as I do – if I didn’t  visualise out my story as clearly as possible before I sat down to write it. During my day, there’s quite a lot of jobs that take up minimal brain power but use up precious time like travelling, hanging out laundry even brushing my teeth.  I always play with a scene in that time – thinking along the plot.  Often, I don't have a pen on me when I do this thinking and so I have to run over it several times in my mind so I don't forget a juicy detail.

I seldom get to write until the evening - It's my only spare time. After work has finished and my kids are in bed around 7:30pm, I go down to make myself a cup of tea. I never let myself sit down between making tea and getting upstairs to my little study in the loft. If I do – I never get up again and no writing gets done.  When I get to my desk, I start to write out what’s been playing out in my head that day by hand.  Usually, it's become so familiar it writes out quickly. I then use voice activated software to put the bulk of it onto the computer before editing. I’m very undisciplined - for me, editing is always a slow and torturous process and I usually leave it until I have nearly a full book to work on.  I love the buzz I get from writing and I need the evidence of a nearly finished book to push me to face that last hurdle. I look forward to writing all day. I love being in that other world - it's addictive and as close to childhood make-believe as adult life can be.

An enchanting patineur finds herself drawn into a conspiracy of magical realism, unchecked greed and heated passion in this stunning debut about Italy and alchemy. 

Abigail Argent stands out. Some people notice that she always wears gloves and shudder when they know why. Those who know her best observe in wonder her remarkable ability in the coloring of metal. On the brink of finishing her chemistry degree, Abigail chances upon a book that reveals a link between her own art and that of her favorite childhood fairytale: the changing of lead into gold. Delighted with her find, and reveling in the news that she has been offered a high profile restoration job in Venice, Abigail is finally on the cusp of adventure, free to explore the world and all its riches. But Abigail’s specialist talents do not go unnoticed. A dangerous and powerful organization are watching her closely, convinced that she alone holds the key to an ancient alchemist’s secret.
Through her work in Venice, Abigail’s skills attract the attention of a notable sculptor who entices her to work for him in Florence. Drawn like a magnet to this iconic city of culture, Abigail continues to uncover more about the history of alchemy and develop her artistry while making new friends. Vibrant model Therese and handsome new lover David breathe new life into Abigail’s once sheltered heart. As the weeks pass, Therese, David and Abigail’s new circle of friends will become inextricably linked to her own destiny, drawn directly into the path of the sinister forces who are stealthily closing in, threatening Abigail’s life. To save herself, Abigail is forced to call upon everything she knows - but what she discovers about herself is much darker than she could ever have expected.
A Rarer Gift Than Gold is an accomplished first novel, rooted in an authenticity derived from author Lucy Branch’s professional insight. An acclaimed specialist in sculptural and architectural restoration, working on high-profile projects including Nelson’s Column, Cleopatras Needle, Eros, St Paul's Cathedral, The British Library and Selfridges, Branch brings the mythology of alchemy vividly to life. Abigail’s story is played out against a carefully observed background of Italian culture and architecture, drawing romance and mystery into her passage through the streets of Florence. Branch was inspired by an incident in which she and a close friend were ominously warned off the materials they were studying by a stranger during a research trip to Italy to explore the works of Galileo. A Rarer Gift Than Gold will captivate fans of Kate Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy and is set to fascinate, enlighten and leave readers guessing until the very last page.

About the author: Lucy Branch is a director of her family’s firm Antiques Bronze Ltd, one of the UK’s leading conservation and restoration companies. She has a degree in History of Art with Material Studies and a Masters from The Royal College of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Branch is an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation. Lucy lives with her husband and their three children in North London. The first in the The Gold Gift trilogy, A Rarer Gift Than Gold by Lucy Branch (published by Clink Street Publishing RRP $9.99 paperback, RRP $2.99 ebook) is available to buy online from March 20th from retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores. For more information, please visit 

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