The Midnight Man by Chelsea Gouin
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!
The Adventures of Buddy The Cat: Buddy’s Mouse Chasing Company by Ravyn Hicks-Badger
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!
Postcards From The Future by Andrew Charles Lark, Donald Levin, and Wendy Sura Thomson
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
The Secret Hat by Peggy Losey
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!
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