One of the best things about being friends with authors is that you get to glimpse tiny little pieces of them through their writing that, often times, they don't reveal in public. Such is the case with my friend and Indie Author, Peggy Christie. If you met Peggy out in real life, you would come to the conclusion that she's a brilliant, kind-hearted, creative, and super-fun person. All of that is true. But... she's also got an overwhelmingly creepy side!
I offer as evidence, her latest short story collection, Dark Doorways. This is a superb romp through the underlying imagination that can make you think, "yes, maybe that's how it works", while simultaneously thinking, "wow... I hope that's not how it works."
This collection brilliantly mixes short story, poetry, and flash fiction together in a wound that sometimes coagulates, and sometimes continues to bleed; depending on how much you want to think about it. The book begins with a literal telling of what might happen if you found yourself "Knocking On Death's Door". I almost burned dinner on the grill one night because I was too distracted. That's twice that's happened - I think I need to stop reading books while I tend the dinner.
"HR" was a piece that I read while sitting at the hospital laboratory, waiting for blood work for an upcoming surgery. The story made me think a little bit deeper into the abbreviations one encounters while doing every-day things... in every-day places. It was a little unnerving. Thanks, Peggy!
"Bending Space" was a weird tale that tugged at the remnants of old ghost stories told around Girl Scout campfires in days past. I thought I knew where it was going... really, I did. I thought I understood the stakes, what the character would find in the end. And then, WHAM! Peggy hit me in the end with that thing I hated in Girl Scouts... an eerie lingering. Stop with the goose bumps and the little hairs standing up on the back of my neck, already, will you PLEASE!
Yes, this is a great book. No I'm not saying that just because we're friends. This is a GREAT book. Just... maybe... don't read it if you're at a hospital lab, waiting to have your blood drawn.
Thank you, Christie, for pulling back the fourth wall of your brain for us.
Watch my interview with Peggy Christie on Indie Reads TV, where we talk about this book and her writing career.
Visit Peggy Christie's website HERE.
I discovered this magical story while visiting The Book Cottage in Jackson, Michigan. Tucked unassumingly in the Local Author section, it draws you in with it's curious watercolor cover, so different from all the other books on the shelf. A sleeping dragon with a scar on his wing makes the reader wonder... Inside, the story is filled with colorful characters with names that come straight from the world of pure imagination. So vibrant are Nancy's descriptions of the friends of this story, whether human or not, we feel we know them, and have been in their world before; we've had similar conversations... perhaps in our sleep, or while daydreaming in math class.
This story of three children who are destined to save dreaming and discover their own power is one that every child (and adult) should read. The simultaneous simplicity and complexity of character, story, and legacy captures the imagination and supports childhood in a spectacular way. There were even a few points at which the tension on the page forced me to ignore my Reality and immerse myself, lending full energy to the battle.
Precious to me is the ending... there is no more powerful magic than when an adult believes.
This story makes the perfect before-bedtime read for younger children, and a delightful compliment to a second, third, or fourth grader's reading list. The vocabulary and turn of phrase insists children pay attention, but doesn't lose them in too much challenge.
I hope that Nancy chooses to write more about this world. There is so much more we can discover with the characters and their way of life. Please, treat your children, grandchildren, and yourself to this enchanting adventure. And while you're at it, visit The Book Cottage in Jackson, and venture even further into the magic that awaits inside books.
I was given the rare invitation to read an advance copy of Joan H. Young's new book, Accidentally Yours. It's an honor when a colleague and friend trusts you to read their work before it is released "into the wilds". I was humbled by her request, and delighted by the read.
This collection of short stories, essays, and poetry is like a Literary Advent Calendar; each time I turned the page, I was given a little gift of story, perspective, and art. It was impossible to take it slowly. This work was so well-crafted that I opened the pages at every opportunity... while eating breakfast, while waiting at doctors appointments, and in the evening while unwinding with the dogs nearby. Each turn of the page enticed me to read more... pleasantly to the detriment of my "real" work.
Remarkable in this writing are the flash fiction pieces sprinkled throughout. The art of writing a complete story in just a few short lines is a difficult skill to master. Joan does it here with an acumen and comfort that reveals the true nature of her outstanding writing gifts.
The inclusion of excerpts from her previously published works, North Country Cache: Adventures on a National Scenic Trail (and it's sister volume to be released soon), the contributions she's made to periodicals, and her Dead Mule Swamp and The Dubois Files series', was a lovely tickle to the brain, insisting that readers explore those books, as well. The pull to go in every direction that Joan leads is akin to white water rafting... an adrenaline rush that keeps you paddling harder, with the expectation that you'll become refreshingly drenched in story.
My favorite piece in this collection is titled, "The Case of the Cautious Couple". It's an amusing crime-whodunit-noir, expertly crafted with intrigue and a twisty ending I didn't see coming. Joan took the three styles and deftly infused them with a playfulness that is simultaneously intelligent and out-loud-giggle worthy. I delighted in her antics with character names, and the secret, deftly hidden in plain view, that drove the narrative. This one, I can easily imagine as a one-act stage play... oh the fun that could be had by actors and audience alike!
This is a fabulous book... one that I will keep on hand to re-read frequently!
Connect with this extraordinary new collection in E-book format HERE!
Check back in a little while for the Print link.
Watch my interivew with Joan on Indie Reads TV!
Okay, anyone who knows me, knows I’m not usually a horror reader. Although, I have to admit, since I’ve been reading more horror… and because of my friendships with Indie Horror Authors (Andy Lockwood, Andrew Charles Lark, Chelsea Gouin, Peggy Christie, and Michael Ceislack – to name a few) … I’m finding a new appreciation for the genre. Some are mere ghost stories, which are sometimes fun; others are creepy with psychological twists, which I really enjoy; and others are full of blood, guts, and gore, of which I’m not a particular fan. So, I suppose there are horror books that I enjoy… and this is certain one!
Full disclosure, Pages Promotions published The Midnight Man with Chelsea Gouin… but even if we hadn’t, I’d still be writing this review. This is a debut work from an author who I genuinely hope continues writing, whether she publishes with Pages Promotions again, or not. I truly enjoyed this book.
Chelsea did a great job drawing me into the story. She made me care about her characters and kept me turning the pages with a consistent building of tension. The spook-factor wasn’t Stephen King - must buy more light bulbs spooky - but it didn’t completely let me off the hook, either. Her characters are “regular people”, and by that I mean, each is a person that you would expect to encounter in your every-day life, if you’re theatre people. Perhaps not, if you’re an engineer. Regardless, they were easy to understand and feel comfortable with… which made the story a little bit creepier. These could have been MY friends!
I loved that Chelsea did a bit of research and built her story around an urban myth, something she tells me is a particular interest for her. She read about “The Midnight Game” online, and took the possibilities to the next level, adding a full measure of creepy along the way. Her use of just the right amount of “eeeww”, and “ICK!” added depth and punch to the story. Her use of camera directions at the beginning of each chapter allowed for full understanding of timeline and story flow. Furthermore, the way she incorporated each character’s fatal flaw into the details of the story was handled brilliantly!
If you’re looking for a novella-length book to test drive the creepy, psychologically weird, and a good measure (though not too much) of the gory stuff, this may be a good read for you. This is a book that will satiate your interest in the horror genre, without making you sleep with the lights on or check under the bed… too often.
Check out my interview with Chelsea Gouin on Indie Reads TV!
As I was interviewing Indie Author and bookseller, Dora Badger for an episode of Indie Reads TV, I was introduced (by way of her book) to her niece, Ravyn Hicks-Badger. I'm always pleased to have Indie Authors refer other authors to me, and in this case, especially so!
I must say, what a delightful story! I was so pleased to read this fun little tale of an entrepreneurial little cat. The story is imaginative and clever. I love the specific descriptions of Buddy’s clothing, and most especially his goldfish tie. The idea of a cat who has a secret identity is wonderful, and the twist at the end, nothing short of a first-rate giggle!
The illustrations, from Amanda Erb, were terrific; detailed where they needed to be, but not so overwhelming that the art detracted from the story. This book is the perrrrfect (sorry, I had to do it) collaboration between storyteller and artist. Beginning readers will love this book, and younger children will enjoy having it read to them!
Congratulations to eight-year-old Ravyn Hicks-Badger at achieving a dream and setting the bar high for children’s book authors everywhere at such a young age! This book proves that an author can truly be anyone who has a story to tell. I hope Ravyn writes more stories for us to enjoy.
I highly recommend this book. It should be in every home, school and public library!
This was an interesting project undertaken by three author friends. They decided to collaborate on an anthology, which would take two of them into a writing world they’d not explored before. Andrew wrote a podcast script in their chosen style previously, and the idea for this project came at his suggestion. They didn’t go into the process with any mandates or outlines aside from focusing on the dystopian genre, and a target of 20,000 - 25,000 words. The end result is a trilogy of stories that are very different; and yet, interestingly enough, hold a key similarity.
Andrew’s tale, “Pollen”, is presented as a collection of journal entries, letters, and “official documents” that tell of a strange illness that has overtaken all of humanity, and eventually leads to its extinction. The concept is an ambitious one, and I give the author tremendous credit for the concept. However, I was disappointed that the pieces seemed to be disconnected from one another. Although the accounts were all dated, I lost the flow of continuity and a real sense of chronology. The collection of narratives felt more like stumbling upon a haphazard folder of newspaper clippings without the advantage of a reporter to glue in the transitions. The weight of the individual entries was lost on me because I didn’t feel there was a “cork board” narrative to pin them all together. I would have enjoyed the story more if I’d had a greater sense of rolling tension and a more connected ending; a skill Andrew demonstrates strongly with his dystopian podcasts in his “Dark Waters” series.
Donald’s story, “The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth” was a distinctively different account of life after devastation. Mired in the fallout from the atrocities of society past, a matriarchal community seeks answers to their future in a language nearly lost, and the dangers of men. I was wholly engaged from the first page. What Donald does with language… the use of words, their weight, and the importance of understanding… is brilliant. The reader learns about the characters and customs of this community not so much through the description of actions and settings, but through their choice of words, how those words are presented… and their lack of words. In fact, emotion runs high, and we identify with the characters on a more visceral level simply because the dialogue is sparse, and in some cases, stilted. I was disappointed at the end of the story; not because it was poorly written, but because I wanted to spend more time in that world. I am pleased to learn from a conversation with Donald, that he will indeed be writing more about this world, and spending time with these characters. I look forward to the next installment.
Wendy’s piece, “Silo Six”, told of a far future post apocalyptic world where technology has stunted individualism, creativity, and true connectivity of community. The characters show us a world that has lost itself in the mundane repetition of hundreds of years of a focus on survival, rather than quality of life. The story line is easy to follow, the settings are easy to visualize, but I felt the story lacked depth. The scene descriptions lacked imagination. I felt like I was reading a scientific report, rather than the direct experience of the main character’s lives. Their days read like an itinerary, their emotional connections felt forced, and the dialogue felt far too scripted and unnatural. My experience reading this story was that it was far too much tell and not enough show and almost no feel. I was left dangling, as if I’d experienced a documentary rather than a creatively emotional story.
All that being said, what I found quite fascinating about these three novellas is that without the three authors consulting each other on the formula they would use or the plot devices they invoked as they wrote their stories, they made the connection anyway, perhaps subliminally. Each story’s underlying focus was on a book of some sort. In Andrew’s piece, the focus was a notebook, pieced together by “the last survivor” and left behind after his death. In Donald’s story, a book was the coveted talisman the characters sought to bring them enlightenment, even though most had no idea what a book looked like, or even how to read. Wendy’s main character was lost in the library. She cherished the stories told in “ancient” books as a way to romanticize her life, a life that was so bland that she needed to discover creativity in the old pages.
I’ve said before that I am an ardent fan of novels that focus on books, libraries, and language. This one concept was the singularity that glued the trilogy together for me. Books are the connective tissue that binds this anthology, and the incentive that kept me turning the pages. I felt that although each story was a segment on its own, this “mistake of creativity” is the strongest reason I have for recommending the collection. As pieces, they invoked very different, emotional and intellectual responses. As a whole project, I felt as though I may have been led through the same forest by three very distinct manifestations of creativity. And so, my curiosity is piqued to ask, might this trio of authors add tendons to the tissue, and perhaps create another anthology, taking the concept toward another stage of life?
I suppose I’ll have to wait and see what this trio creates next.
Watch an interview with each of these authors as they discuss their writing careers on the Indie Reads TV program.
Andrew Charles Lark
Wendy Sura Thomson
I had the pleasure of interviewing Peggy Losey for an episode of Indie Reads TV after we met at a book festival at Leon & LuLu’s in Clawson, Michigan. What a delightful Indie Author discovery! Not only is the author warm and engaging, her book is a gift to children the world over.
Written for those youngsters who are of a questioning age, and in transition from innocent childhood to empathetic preteen, this book fills a gap in our American holiday traditions. The story is written in a rhyming style that is vivid and engaging, with a message that will implore the tiny hairs on your arm to stand at attention with the energy of kindness.
The illustrations, skillfully rendered by Jeanne K. McCormick, are unique. They were drawn, as I learned in my interview with Peggy, from actual photographs of the original crew of Elves as they walked through their neighborhood, meeting people, sharing their purpose, and their Secret Hats. The art is beautiful… a wonderful bridge between imagination and truth. It fits well with the poetry’s meter and the energy of the message.
Spoiler Alert: Be aware, this is a read not for the very young. This book is intended to easily chaperone young, kind hearts as they embark on the journey of becoming trustees of holiday generosity. It is best shared with youngsters who are around eight, nine, or ten years old. But parents… each child is different, and only you can know whether it’s time to pass this story along to the young readers in your life. Ah, but when the time is right, you and your youngster will not be disappointed.
I hope that this story will inspire you to encourage a strong holiday spirit to linger in your circles, no matter the age or station of those who earn their Secret Hats!
Written by friend, and fellow Indie Author, R.L. Herron, this is an interesting collection of short stories. The back matter of the book classifies them as fantasy, but they don’t subscribe to the fantasy genre you might think of… no elves, dragons, or casting of spells. No, this collection is the other type of fantasy, (with some science fiction mixed in). They are what my grandfather used to call “fantastical and not to be believed, but highly entertaining”. So strange, odd, and unusual that you’re not really sure, exactly, where they fit. This is not to diminish their weight or creative strength. They are simply unlike anything I’ve encountered before and they’re hard to quantify. These shorts have just enough detail to dig the story ideas into your brain and let them rattle around a bit; but not enough specifics to make them anywhere near predictable.
Each of the stories are little capsules into an interesting world that perhaps you may not have considered before. The title piece is an odd tale about an unusual arcade game. Suffice to say, a quarter will get you more than you bargained for, with an ending that will surprise you. The subject of time travel, one of my favorite topics, is handled well here… with a paradox that even the most wise won’t see coming. A quiet conversation between three generations at a funeral produces some comforting results; and if you’ve ever eavesdropped on a conversation in the middle of it’s run, you’ll understand the disconnect when the end finally comes. You may look at old cars differently in the future.
Yup, unpredictable is certainly a recurring theme in this collection. These stories are fun to read, filled with clever imagination and thought provoking moments at nearly every turn of the page. Many left me wishing they were novellas, because I still have many questions!
This collection was a quick read, and a welcome distraction amongst my “adulating” tasks of daily life. Full disclosure: I almost burned the chicken cooking on the bbq grill one night because of “Zebulon!”
Check out my interview with Indie Author R.L. Herron on Indie Reads TV!
This is a delightfully entertaining book for children of all ages! It's a fantastic story about a little groundhog who learns a valuable lesson about self-reliance and confidence. I loved the metaphor of digging to help little ones understand their power to overcome sadness.
The illustrations are super-cute and are a beautiful compliment to the story. The colors are vibrant and they dance across the page with energy and light. The author uses language young readers can clearly understand, without being condescending. I bought this book as a gift for my niece, Grace (although if her parents read this - keep it a surprise, please!), and I believe it will help her, and her older sister, Allison, to connect with their internal digger and giggle through the discovery.
If you have little ones in your life, I highly recommend this book. And if you know an adult who is struggling with digging their way out of sadness - I recommend this book even more!
Learn more about Katie Spina at her website.
Check out my interview with Katie Spina on Indie Reads TV!
Describe this book in just two words.
Hmmm.... Unexpectedly Creepy! Yup, that about covers it.
This is a tantalizing story that takes the reader into different head spaces and different emotionalities simultaneously. Andy takes full advantage of some seductive storytelling techniques to hook you into turning page after page. First, he demands that you question sanity... that of the characters', and your own, too. Then, he drops you into what should be a safe place, only to ramp up the uncomfortableness of it all. You'll learn that sometimes, safety is simply a foil to reality. Then, he engages you with an old standard, 'Children are often more insightful than the adults'... Yet, how is it that the reader can't understand what they reveal? That should be an easy one, but Andy doesn't make anything easy; and you're thrilled for it. Finally, in an environment where so much time has presented it's secrets, how is it that no one has ever listened long enough to find the alternative solution... or act on it?
This is a story that will keep you on your toes. You won't want to close your eyes, even to rest them in between chapters... don't you dare... you might miss something essential. The layers of characters that live in this book are a wonder to behold. Just when you think you understand the impetus for one's quirks and the motivation for their action... or silence... a new door opens, shoving you headlong into another Empty Hallway you weren't prepared to walk. It's a bit unsettling.... and oh, so rewarding.
Andy Lockwood traverses the edge of spooky just close enough to make you wonder if he'll pull you back to safety in time. When he doesn't, it's a delightful shock to the system. This book is a fascinating study into what might happen if, instead of ending things the way our English teachers taught us, we simply allow the characters to do what they will and take notes to share around the campfire. The comfort in this reading was not found in the delivery of expectations, but in a plot progression I could never have imagined. How nice to discover unsettling creepiness wrapped tightly inside characters I thought I knew.
This is a book I highly recommend!
Learn more about Andy Lockwood at his website.
Check out my two-part interview with Andy Lockwood and his editor wife, Bailey on our Indie Reads TV Program!
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