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Satanic Panic: A Homage to 1980’s B-Movie Horror

Satanic Panic: A Homage to 1980's B-Movie Horror by [Daniel P Coughlin]

As an homage to 80s B-movie horror, Satanic Panic has so much that the genre offers; sex, death, depravity, and a trio of neer-do-well stars that we follow into the breach.

In the first chapter, a flash-forward scene of terror unfolds which sets the tone for the rest of the book. Even within the next few chapters which introduce our characters, best friends Lance and Brock, then our leading-lady Brianna alongside her skater boyfriend Grady, those first few pages loom over all of their frat-house fueled follies.

For most of the story, sexual panic reigns supreme. Some horror stories are balanced between terror and sex, and this book certainly leans hard into the flesh. Each chapter poses a mental tug of war within the budding love triangle all peppered in-between with the killer’s point of view. These three friends are being stalked, yet the reader is the only audience to how much danger they are heading toward. The most important thing on the minds of Bianna, Brock, and Lance is what is in each other’s pants.

There is an aspect of the Giallo film genre here, in that we don’t see the stalker or who they are, and they fit the black-gloved killer mold to perfection.

Red herrings are used to good effect here. While we spend most of the book with three characters, we realize there has actually been a large cast, and characters, like a professor who is only mentioned for a page or two, are so unique and well portrayed they come back to us as people we met. So, very strong characterization all around.

While some of what goes through the mind of Brianna is incongruent; she is a strong-willed woman but only seems to focus on her looks while alone and thinks of nothing other than the men around her; it doesn’t weigh the pace down as the voice of each chapter is split between the three main characters, the killer, and sometimes the goofy boyfriend Grady who is kept in the dark when it comes to the sexcapades going on around him.

The college theme could be what lowers the stakes here in that there is nothing the characters are striving for beyond the bedroom and the next keg party. Had there been something more on the horizon for any of the teens here, it may have had more impact. And more panic, although the central theme is about trust. The actual Satanic Panic that hit our evening news shows was more of a question of who could a community trust than it was about Satan worship. Even within the pages of this homage to that era, the author makes clear it is more about who is doing evil things than why they are doing evil things.

We do get helpful insight as to how each person thinks but the real mystique lies in how our characters see one another. The dialogue and relations may seem outlandish at a glance, but getting to know each person they all fit and their dysfunction comes across as natural.

If you look for the sexiest story when perusing horror flicks in the bygone era, and want the horror version of a bodice-ripper then Satanic Panic fits the bill with four blazing inverted stars.

Pages: 271 | ASIN: B07RVKDCNF

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Not Entirely Wicked

Christopher Fried
Christopher Fried Author Interview

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo follows a college sophomore whose life gets turned upside down by a whirlwind of events he did not see coming. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Since I had graduated from college in 2007, I had noticed what I view as questionable trends in university life. It seemed like there was an increasingly censorious nature on college campuses. This is abetted by social and news media outlets wanting to push scandal stories without getting the facts and background on the situations, as well as campus administration, faculty and student governance moved by mob mentality, weak wills, or even spite. However, I didn’t want to write an overly somber story, so I tried to include the humorous tone of 1980s popular cinema, such as Steven Spielberg and John Hughes films, and 20th century English comedic authors like Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh. I wrote and revised the novel in 2014, but set it aside until 2020 when I hired a new editor go over it and had it published myself.

The characters in your book were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

It’s important for characters to have a life outside the pages of a story, especially in a novel. This means that though the story focuses on life in 2011-2012, it’s important to show that the characters have lived before the timeframe, and will live after the last page. I tried interweave minor details of the characters’ pasts that might point to the reason why they’re reacting in the current situation. Also, even though a number of characters act or think in ways that are suspect, or destructive, from my point-of-view, I tried to draw them as foolish, or capable of doing bad, but not entirely wicked. They may have zeal, and that is usually a good quality, but it’s for the wrong thing, or it’s taken too far. Conversely, for the more positive characters, even if they make the better choice in the end, it’s rather dull if they don’t stumble or express doubt along the way. I think even heroic characters should express cowardice at times, otherwise it can be hard for us to relate to them as readers.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

As mentioned above, campus culture, especially around topic of excessive judgment, thought conformity, and free speech. The notion that the university as it was intended to be is in a state of decline. T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland took the reader through a succession of images showing civilization in disrepair. I wanted to take the reader through a similarly nightmarish journey of contemporary academia from the eyes of the protagonist Troy Thomas (hence the subtitle) that sadly is all too real. However, on the positive note, I wanted to show the value of individuality and loyalty. I also highlight the importance of art (books, films, paintings, etc.) as a unifying factor. That’s why I include references to highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow materials.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Currently, I’m not working on a book, though I do have an idea that has been circulating in my mind. Though it’s not as firm so as to start sketching characters and an outlined plot. I don’t like getting involved in something then quitting mid-way due to lack of interest or other reasons. Outside of work, my time has been taken up by writing poetry and non-fiction articles, something I was involved in before I went into fiction. Also, as a supporter of 1980s culture and lover of science fiction, I’ve been serving as an advisor to an upcoming documentary on 1980s science fiction films, In Search of Tomorrow. Once it finishes and is released, I encourage all 1980s and sci-fi fans to check it out. It’s a bit of positivity in a sea of negativity.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

It’s Fall 2011, and Troy Thomas and his best bud Ian Mueller, a top college lacrosse recruit, are enjoying life as sophomores at Central Ohio University. Living each day without serious care, they spend their free time hanging out with friends and attending parties. However, one evening Ian makes a serious social faux pas at a gathering that offends a few and embarrasses much more. Soon after, the campus is in an uproar. A whole slew of shenanigans ensue as Troy tries to make sense of not only his friend’s actions, but that of the reactions and behavior of the college community, which causes ripples throughout the state. During this chaos, Troy tries to discover who he is in a community gripped by social unrest and finds out whether friendship will crumble amid such division.

Darkly satiric, but touched with a nostalgia for 80s and early 90s pop culture, a tragic situation turns into a resounding comedic affirmation of individuality. Though inspired by twentieth century wits such as Kingsley Amis, Anthony Powell, and Evelyn Waugh, it’s a twenty first century piece of modern Americana: a timeless story conceived in a timely era.

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria by [Christopher Fried]

President Sam Castle dreams of making his third year in charge at Central Ohio University the best yet. But right off the bat, he’s hit by a flurry of events that threaten to sink his boat before it sails on its third voyage. His trials begin with his risky decision to take on a new faculty member laden with controversies. As he tries to defend his decision before the College Board of trustees, he feels relations fraying with his wife, who is away in Tokyo. He’s soon faced with another dicey situation that looks to mar his tenure. Ian, a free-spirited sophomore, dons a Halloween costume that lands him in hot water with the school’s black community and its outside allies. It seems Castle has to make an example out of the boy or risk ruining the school’s reputation. This is not the third year he envisaged. It’s left to be seen if Castle will come out of this in one piece and with the college still standing.

Christopher Fried’s Whole Lot of Hullabaloo is true to its name. It’s a journey into campus life marked by the raucous you’d expect in a relationship between pompous academics, politicking admins, exuberant youth, and the sometimes meddlesome outside world.

The emotional rollercoaster Fried takes readers on keeps things interesting. One moment you’re feeling sorry for someone, the next, you’re shaking your fists at another character’s action in righteous indignation. There’s also a nice dose of silliness that will make you chuckle from time to time.

I liked how Fried wraps his thoughts in an amusing tale. His serious themes shine through alright. But instead of weighing you down, they give you critical things to mull over.

The book touches on issues like some people using societal checks and balances to exert injustice and weaponizing public uproar for their selfish interests. Maybe this would be a lot harder if the public wasn’t so inclined to lynch reported culprits of social injustices without first doing its due diligence. But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Fried also addresses our tendency to lean into extremes. On the one hand, we can be so lax about social issues like racism that they go unchecked. On the other hand, we can blow them out of proportion and try to trace every societal ill to them somehow. Fried’s issue is with the latter.

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo is a quick and easy read that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

Pages: 198 | ASIN: B08LBT4FB3

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Perseverance: How It All Began

Perseverance: How It All Began by [Rebecca Branch]

Perseverance: How it All Began, is the first novel in a romance series following Cadence who is a nurse at a local hospital. The story follows her journey, as her friend Trystan (whom she has admired from afar), moves closer to her, throwing her emotions into turmoil.

Perseverance: How it all Began has an easy to follow structure. It is organized into chapters that are narrated by the two main characters, although most chapters are told from Cadence’s viewpoint. The story is simple to follow, but there are several very compelling twists and turns. Although the action is mostly centered around the budding romance of the two main characters, there are some moments of tension that really bring this novel to life.

Cadence is a well-developed character that comes across as authentic and believable. A nurse at a local hospital, the story focuses on her anguish in trying to choose between two men. Readers follow her emotional turmoil, fears, and dreams. Her character develops and deepens over the course of the novel, as she finds herself falling in love with Blake whilst still pining for Trystan, a friend who she’d fallen in love with but never admitted her feelings to him or anyone else.

The dialogue throughout the novel felt grounded and the characters motivations throughout the story were believable, both of these things combine to make a novel that is easy to be engrossed with. Cadence’s long-time friend Trystan is also a main character in the novel. We gain less of an insight into his thoughts, but he’s still an intriguing character without feeling completely original. He has a manly job, is intensely handsome, self-confident, and their relationship starts with him showing Cadence little, if any, romantic attention. However, once another man is in the picture his interest soon increases! These two characters are supported by numerous smaller characters, such as Cadence’s boyfriend, and their respective friends and colleagues. These characters add welcomed depth and interest to the story.

This novel is firmly focused on the romance between Cadence and Trystan and the descriptive writing focuses on the main characters and their physical descriptions, rather than building out the setting and world.

Perseverance: How it All Began is an impassioned romance novel that will appeal to readers looking for an easy to follow but stirring story that focuses on the relationships between people.

Pages: 432 | ASIN: B07BF4MM46

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Delightful and Endlessly Funny

Linda Sheehan Author Interview

Decanted follows a vivacious young woman as she learns making wine and the perils of love. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My daughter, the delightful and endlessly funny Samantha Sheehan, who created and produces Poe Wines Pinot Noir, Ultraviolet Cabernet, and a 95 point organic vermouth under the MOMMENPOP label is my total inspiration for Decanted. Like the novel’s heroine Samantha Goodyear, my daughter quit her job at a big five accounting firm to go to France to learn everything she could about making wine. Like the main character in Decanted, she then moved to Napa and took a bookkeeping job at a winery before launching her own wine brand that’s sold across the US and in many countries around the world.

Samantha is a compelling character that was fun to follow. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

I wanted to draw my main character as a young woman who, though she’s a total product of modern times, has a tremendous love and respect for those who came before her. Samantha also has a tremendous work ethic, and never veers from her quest to achieve her dreams.

Wine making and wine culture were intriguing parts of this novel. Why was this an important aspect for you to include in the story?

Many people would like to understand more about wine culture and the winemaking process but don’t know where to begin. My goal in writing the book was to seamlessly give readers a fun wine education and illustrate what separates a great wine that reflects what nature intended from a tricked up brand with ingredients and flavors added by the big corporate wineries to sell the most bottles possible.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book is my novel Fore Play, a comedy set at a Los Angeles country club that will be available this coming summer.

Author Links: Facebook | Website

Decanted eimage.jpg

From author Linda Sheehan, who’s part of a Napa wine dynasty, comes a story of grapes, wine, first crushes, and juicy redemption. Dreading the desk job that awaits her after high school, eighteen- year-old Vivian Goodyear takes off for pre- World War ll Paris, where she supports herself as an artist’s model.

Flash forward to modern day Manhattan where, inspired by Vivian’s courage, her grand-niece Samantha leaves her pressure cooker career to work the grape harvest in France. There, between picking grapes in the vineyard and crushing them in the cellar, she gets lessons in the art of making wine and in the art of making love. But when her world is turned upside down, a link from Aunt Vivian’s past could right it in a tale of being on top, sinking to the bottom, and coming up for glorious air.

Changing the Rules

Changing the Rules (The Sterling Woods Series Book 2) by [Charlene Johnson]

Stephanie Xavier hasn’t wanted for anything her entire life. She is privileged, spoiled, and has everything at her disposal. Her family’s wealth is well-known, and she has never had to hold a job or support herself. As perfect as her life seems, Stephanie is in need of much more. She has spent the better part of teens and young adulthood moving through meaningless short-lived relationships and has never known true love. The friendships she has made can hardly be called true. In fact, the only two women who still manage to spend time with her are as emotionally bankrupt as she is. When she makes up her mind to change her life, will the ones she wants to take with her be ready and willing?

Changing the Rules, the second book in the Sterling Wood series, by Charlene Johnson, chronicles the tempestuous life of Stephanie Xavier and her quest for a meaningful and loving relationship. After spending years bouncing from one man to the next in an effort to compete in a game based on sexual conquests, Stephanie realizes she wants love and not physical attention. Her problem is the man she wants, Craig, has been burned and is sure he can never love again–especially someone like Stephanie. He has heard the stories about her sex club and he knows she is the last person to commit. Their relationship seems doomed from the beginning. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Stephanie–as privileged as she is, she is a truly sad character.

Romance fans will revel in Johnson’s work. From cover to cover, the main characters are embroiled in one gratuitous sex scene after another. Buried within the explicit scenes is a storyline that doesn’t seem to get enough attention. The prologue set me up with some high expectations for the plot, but this was less a thriller and more of a romance. This is a plot-driven romantic suspense novel, with intense sex scenes, but I really wanted to see much more develop between Stephanie and several of the other characters.

I highly recommend Changing the Rules to any romance fan. With an element of mystery to the plot, I can see romance fans being intrigued with Stephanie’s storyline, her turbulent life, and the constant conflict she faces with Craig–she is a memorable character and definitely leaves her mark on readers.

Pages: 296 | ASIN: B08R81BYRT

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Forging Ahead and Letting Go

Crystal Z. Lee
Crystal Z. Lee Author Interview

Love and Other Moods follows a young woman who has to start life over in a foreign country where she learns a lot more about life than she expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Much like Naomi, I left the U.S. in my early twenties and moved to China, a country I had never stepped foot in. The move was initiated by a job, but later was motivated by romance. Both would go up in smoke after a short while. Although the novel is very much fictional, there are some elements that are inspired by real-life events.

Naomi is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

We meet Naomi when she is in her early twenties, having just left New York and is embarking on a new chapter of her life in an entirely foreign country. But the adventure is off to a rocky start when things don’t pan out as planned.

I think personal growth happens most often when we’re thrown out of our comfort zones and into unchartered waters. That’s what happens to Naomi. At the same time she’s adapting to her new environment, issues from her past continue to confront and haunt her. She struggles with juggling the balance between forging ahead and letting go of regrets. I think that’s something most of us can relate to.

The story explores the city of Shanghai as well as the different people and relationships Naomi has. Was there anything you pulled from your own life and put into the story?

Yes. This is very much an “own voices” story. After I moved to Shanghai, my grandfather revealed that his father had once lived in Shanghai as well, during the World War Two era. I myself had lived in China for nearly a decade, and had worked on projects for the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Shanghai is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to, and I’ve traveled to over thirty countries. There are contrasts abound in every corner—east and west, old versus new, modern meets tradition. Every day I was meeting somebody interesting, from all walks of life, all corners of the globe. There was endless inspiration from the streets of Shanghai, from its inhabitants, architecture, cuisine, history, etc.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book is a children’s book, and will be published sometime in 2021. My kids are very excited about this!

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Amazon

Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world.

Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.

Amidst the backdrop of Shanghai welcoming millions of workers and visitors to the 2010 World Expo, we meet a tapestry of characters through Naomi: Joss Kong, a Shanghai socialite who leads an enviable life, but must harbor the secrets of her husband, Tay Kai Tang. Logan Hayden, a womanizing restaurateur looking for love in all the wrong places. Pan Jinsung and Ouyang Zhangjie, a silver-aged couple struggling with adapting to the ever-changing faces of their city. Dante Ouyang, who had just returned to China after spending years overseas, must choose between being filial and being in love. All their dreams and aspirations interweave within the sprawling web of Shanghai.

This multilayered novel explores a kaleidoscope of shifting relationships——familial friction, amorous entanglements, volatile friendships——in one of the most dynamic metropolises of the twenty-first century.

Inspired By My Own Past

A E Brouhard
A. E. Brouhard Author Interview

Carried Away follows the life, love, and friendships of a young woman reliving a vivid memory of her last high school year. What was the inspiration for the setup to this riveting novel?

Leila’s journey was inspired by events and people in my own past. Although made fictional, it really was a story written straight from my memory and heart. I wanted to write a story that was relatable and realistic, and I felt that I accomplished that with Carried Away. Many of the experiences in the book are reflective of actual happenings in my life, like the prom draw that my high school has held for over 100 years.

Leila is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some sources that informed her character development?

Like I said before, Leila and her journey were inspired by my own past. Leila, like myself, grew up right before the social media explosion, and I feel like it was such an incredible time to grow up. I think most 90s and early 2000s kids will be able to find something of themselves in Leila. I felt that Leila displayed emotions, insecurities, and desires that were very reflective of the times.

What are some themes that you wanted to explore in this book?

I wanted to write a story that was real. I’m a teacher, and I have many former students who are now in high school who love to read. I really wanted to write something realistic for them. I felt that Carried Away showed the fragility, and resiliency, of friendships in high school, the incredible natural high feeling that is only felt when you have your first real love, and the realization that life moves on, and can be amazing, after a breakup.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently finishing up the sequel to Carried Away, called Love Always. It picks up Leila and Leo’s story a few months after Carried Away ends (before the epilogue). It should be available in the spring of 2021. Once I’m done, I will be moving on from Leila’s story to something completely new.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Instagram

The memory of your first love never fades away. At least, that’s what 28-year-old Leila Thomas discovers as she’s sitting in her driveway and hears a familiar song come on the radio, a song that triggers the most detailed memory of her last year of high school, the joy and the pain. The whole story playing like a movie in her mind. First loves. Fractured friendships. The realization that it is okay to remember.
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