Darrell Henshaw is the keeper of many secrets–most of which are not entirely his own. When he decides to make a change and accept a job in a new school, he fully expects to leave all of his ghosts behind–literally. Entering this new school and beginning the season as the coach of Wilshire, Maryland’s high school football team, should be an exciting time for Darrell, but his past and present are now blurring together. He finds himself in the throes of researching the decades old story of a suicide that took place at the school. In addition, Darrell finds himself dredging up memories that might better be left alone.
Randy Overbeck’s Blood on the Chesapeake follows main character, Darrell Henshaw, on an epic journey of historic proportions as he tackles racial injustice and attempts to correctly label a suicide as a murder. With pertinent mentions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, Overbeck has crafted a murder mystery for the ages that encourages readers to investigate their own feelings regarding social injustices.
Overbeck could not have taken a more perfect route than the diary he opted to have Darrell find and peruse. Kelly’s diary is not only the most telling sign that Hank was murdered, it is also an amazing glimpse into life in the 60s and a sure sign that desegregation was, in many areas of the US, as violently protested as it ever was decades prior. The readings of the diary by Darrell and Erin, his love interest, make the book. I could almost smell the mildewed pages, and I felt the characters’ frustration as they battled through the diary’s pages to piece together the mystery that is Kelly and Hank’s fates.
Overbeck’s pace is spot on and makes for a thoroughly engaging and quick read. With no excessive filler material, the author moves seamlessly from one tragic event and clue to the next. Overbeck makes readers yearn for closure.
One of the most amazing aspects of Overbeck’s work is the way in which he conveys the characters’ feelings toward racism. Blood on the Chesapeake is not a book to be enjoyed; it is a book to appreciate for the reminders it provides readers. With mentions of lynchings and the KKK leading up to the setting of this book, and Overbeck gives readers a clear look at the way racism and bigotry continued to leak far beyond the bounds of the deep South even after desegregation began to make its way across the US.
Though the book is clearly focused on events from the 60s via Kelly’s diary, the plot is timely considering the state of today’s world. Readers will find themselves quickly caught up in Darrell’s descriptions of his ghostly encounters and eagerly awaiting each and every clue.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B07N3BZBPR
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Son of the Serpent by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a fantasy novel of vengeance and revenge told from the dual perspective of Dracul, the Son of the serpent, and Lillith, his mother.
Dracul arises in a cave and discovers that he’s encased in a demonic body. He’s filled with agony and confusion as he pieces together his memories to determine how he arrived there. In a painful and shocking epiphany, he realizes that he is the son of Lilith, and that Lilith had tried to kill him. He vows to find out what happened and avenge himself. On this bloodthirsty journey, he faces death, destruction, and betrayal. People, encounters, and events further cement his determination for revenge. The author breathes new life into a host of fantastical characters, often from Biblical settings. Their lives and stories are familiar, yet enshrouded in darkness.
What I found most striking about the book was the depth of its darkness and morbidity. Vivid, gory scenes of slaughter left me uncomfortable, but totally engrossed. Lilith’s sections were almost unbearable. Scenes of Lilith’s cruelty towards others was always accompanied by a fascinating glimpse into her psyche. There’s a lot going on in her and just a surface glimpse was enough to leave me mesmerized. It’s been a while since I encountered such a well-portrayed and dislikable antagonist.
Dracul was just as well-written. His struggle to be good in the face of his own destiny was oddly inspiring. To fight where he came from, to whom he belongs, and the core of his being- his pain and loneliness were palpable. The ending was unexpected, but upon consideration, entirely perfect. Maybe it’s not inherent to him, but it’s clear that Dracul is a good creature.
The Biblical settings and references provided a whole new perspective on the worn-out stories. From angels to Cain and Abel, the otherworldly features heavily in this book- and not always in a favorable light. The Biblical events portrayed from a first-person and real-time perspective were super imaginative. I think it would be difficult to assign a genre to this book. Although it is set primarily in a fantasy world, the dashes of horror, romance, and the occult would make it an interesting read for nearly anyone. The world created by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is totally immersive. I was glad for the escape from reality and I would definitely visit again.
Pages: 303 | ASIN: B07HS4C3B7
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Bound Darkly is an exciting paranormal fantasy novel. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the story?
After I finished writing Enchanted Darkly, the question of Hueil’s backstory wouldn’t leave me alone. Why was he exiled by King Melwas and how was he going to step back into a life and a world he’d been forced away from after so many years? I knew his exile and Jennifer had changed him on a fundamental level and I wanted to explore that dilemma. Sinnie’s character and the close connection to Jennifer was a secret that I also wanted to explain. Why did Jennifer, a light court halfling, make such an impression on Hueil? And how was Hueil’s courtship of Sinnie, a seelie, going to play out? All these characters were so well defined for me that Bound Darkly was one of the easiest books for me to write. For the most part, all I had to do was stand back and let the characters tell me what happened next.
What was one of the hardest parts in Bound Darkly for you to write?
The hardest parts of Bound Darkly to write were the scenes where Hueil’s self-destructive nature gets in the way of his and Sinnie’s budding romance. His doubts and inability to trust all things seelie were reoccurring obstacles for him. There were times I, like Sinnie, just wanted to slap him when his stubborn nature kicked in. But next to Crank, whose story is told in the fifth book, Hueil is my favorite Darkly Series character. His story arc is the longest in the series. He goes from being the villain in Enchanted to redeemed hero in Bound. And then in Kept Darkly, he rises to become the Unseelie king.
How did you create Sinnie and Hueil’s characters in a way that contrasted yet still supported the characters development?
Since Hueil’s character was fully formed by the time I started Bound, it was Sinnie’s character that I spent the most effort in creating. She needed to be as unusual a seelie as Hueil’s unseelie character. She also needed to be a challenge to win, on both a social and personal level. I wanted her strong enough to stand up to Hueil and a proven warrior in her own right. Someone whose skills he could learn to respect. They needed to meet as equals. I knew that a damsel in distress would never appeal to Hueil. I also wanted Sinnie’s backstory to contrast sharply with the struggles of Hueil’s unseelie life. In the end, Hueil has to learn to trust while Sinnie has to find a way to see beyond the crimes of his past, past her right and wrong thinking to a place of understanding and acceptance.
This is book two in the Darkly series. What can readers expect in book three?
Book three, Kept Darkly, is where I explore Sel’s story. From the first two books, readers know that Sel is the Seelie Queen’s captain and Sinnie’s father. But what they will discover is that the captain has secrets and suppressed longings that have been pushed aside in the name of duty to queen and the Seelie Court. I will also take the reader into one of the many god realms in book three, delve deeper into the conflicts of the fey courts, and reveal the final fate of the fabled Absent King.
Sinnie has lived a secure, uniquely privileged life in the Seelie Court of Tir na n-Og. For as long as she can remember, her doting father, Sel, son of Selgi, has been the Captain of the Queen’s Guard. She cannot imagine the dark warrior prophesied for her future by the meddling goddess Blodeuwedd. Nevertheless, Sinnie’s fate is forever sealed the day the goddess whispers the riddle into her child’s ear. He would be a warrior born of the dark, raised by the despised, and tempered by the unlikely – and he would be Sinnie’s only chance at true love.
After spending nearly a thousand years exiled in the world of men, Hueil, son of Caw, has returned to the Dark Court of the unseelie to find much has changed in his homeland. The restoration of his name and his new duties at court should have brought him satisfaction, but the many years of banishment and Jennifer Mackell have changed him. Unable to name the yearning that now plagues him, Hueil travels back to Jen’s cottage to seek answers. What he finds is Sinnie, a seelie warrior who is both fire and flame, and a woman who might very well be the death of him – if he is lucky.
“I am Theodore Callington. I have a family. And a home. I belong somewhere.” These longing words are spoken by Teddy, who has lived a tortured life. An orphan taken in by a murderous uncle, regularly beaten to a pulp. An escaped cowboy, loved by an adopted family but trampled in the rodeo. And an unwilling vampire, slowly feeling his way to redemption. What will happen when Teddy attempts to reclaim his humanity from the devilish vampire who made him what he is? Follow Teddy’s twisted and terrifying journey in L. Nightingale’s A Bite of the Past: Undying Love.
A Bite of the Past is an exploration of what it means to be human, and conversely, sub-human. It is a heartbreaking story of cruelty, rejection, and longing for the love and stability of a family. Teddy’s journey is also one of hopefulness, reconnection, and the ascendancy of good over evil.
As our devastatingly handsome and sometimes repugnant main character, Teddy is truly a tortured soul—one dealing with the excruciating pain of his past but also searching for the truth and love that lies between the horror. Through sheer will-power, Teddy salvages the memories that have been suppressed by his malevolent teacher—the ruthless László. Under his tutelage, Teddy is truly a gruesome creature who carries out deeds that are sometimes hard to read.
Nightingale’s prose can be disorderly at times—perhaps intentionally so, as a reflection of the muddled psyche of her main character. He is confused much of the time, piecing together fragments of memories while simultaneously trying to quell his inner demon. This confusion spills over to the reader who, at times, feels lost as the narrative doubles back.
The twists, turns, and major surprises of the book do keep the reader engaged through the final cliffhanging scene. Gruesome descriptions of fights and killings will appeal to fans of macabre action. The throwback scenes to the wild west are charming, and Teddy’s vernacular peppers the book with memorable sayings, such as “the temperature would drop like a naked gunslinger beefed on a Dodge Street.” Overall, the yearning for love will resound with all.
A tale of a wayward cowboy looking for redemption that will strike a chord with its readers.
Pages: 343 | ASIN: B07SGWRTCN
Ena and her father are coping with multiple sudden changes in life as they have known it for centuries. They are giving up Ena’s younger siblings, and they are watching as the age-old practice of the pleasure dens are done away with. Nothing is as it should be in their world. When Ena is approached by Blodeuwedd, the matchmaking goddess, to run what she describes as a simple errand, Ena takes the opportunity. Little does she realize that agreeing to help Blodeuwedd will lead her to some of the most challenging moments of her life while opening her eyes to her true self.
Tarrant Smith jumps right into the action with Resurrected Darkly. From the first pages, the reader is swept into Ena’s world and given a myriad of clues as to her origins. Ena’s willingness to appease the goddess, Blodeuwedd, and venture into a strange castle alone make her an appealing character and one worth calling a favorite. Readers following Smith’s Darkly series will be pleased to see that Ena, in previous books, is the focus of this installment. As intriguing as her character is in the previous books, Ena endears herself to readers with the unique characteristics she possesses as both a dragon and fey.
I was excited to see Crank as the male focus in this book. I tend to gravitate toward secondary characters in novels, and Crank is one who caught my eye in previous books. His gruff demeanor and bluntness add an element of humor to Smith’s books. Crank, however, takes a dark turn in Resurrected Darkly. Readers will hurt for him as he faces a struggle beyond anything he has faced before. The guilt he bears is overwhelming and has grown into a burden that is almost more than he is able to bear.
Smith includes descriptions of “the enchanted” in her work; humans who have been taken into the fey realm to serve the fey. They seem to live simple lives, almost robotic, but their roles are quite complex. Ena, who has more of an affinity for the enchanted than most, shows actual emotion over the enchanted.
I found Resurrected Darkly to be the most engaging of the books in the series. The dynamic between Ena and Crank is simply enchanting. The impact that Ena, a hardened soul herself, has on the tormented Crank is just short of miraculous. I enjoyed watching the growth that took place between the two.
Smith brings together a multitude of characters from the first four books of her Darkly series as she heals one of her most engaging characters from an unspeakable trauma. Readers who enjoyed the first four Darkly books will be more than pleased with Smith’s fifth installment–a fantastic addition to the romantic fantasy series.
Pages:282 | ASIN: B07NMKM7CH
Doves & Crows is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a mystery, supernatural, and drama as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
My biggest influence has always been Stephen King, whose books I have been reading since I could lift them up. As such, the novel was always destined to have a supernatural theme, perhaps with elements of horror (though nothing gratuitous; that’s not for me). The drama and mystery elements wrote themselves into the story; I had no idea how Alice actually died when I set out. What was peculiar was that the main antagonist, Big Jim, was so named way back in 2008, when I began the novel, only for the same name to be used by Mr King himself, some time later, when he wrote Under the Dome. I didn’t steal it. Honest.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Continuing the Stephen King theme, it was his short story The Road Virus Heads North that proved to be the catalyst for my tale – that and The Mezzotint, by M.R. James. After reading those, all I wanted was to write a story about a picture that changed by itself. So I did. I also needed the picture to reveal the plot, which proved to be a good deal more difficult than I first thought. My second novel will be (a bit) more straightforward, I hope.
How did you create Susan and Richie characters in a way that contrasted yet still supported the characters development?
Susan and Richie were two more elements that simply ‘worked themselves out’. Whatever their good points, it had little to do with me. If I did anything, it was to try to maintain the mother-son relationship and not get too distracted by everything else.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I have provisionally titled my second novel ‘Passenger‘. This one has more of a sci-fi theme and begins when an alien craft carrying a biological weapon for sale to the highest bidder comes down in the woods on the outskirts of a small Norfolk town. I hope to finish the book by the end of the year, with a release in late spring/early summer 2020.
Richard Carter’s grandparents enjoy a holiday in the country every year, but this time they return with more than just memories. Take that necklace, for example, the one his grandmother found in the high grass and now wants to bury. The old woman dies soon afterwards, but not before she has given it to him. Bad things begin to happen. One school bully ends up in the hospital, Richard’s estranged father, in the ground, and as the necklace works its dark magic, Richie’s mother, Susan, decides they must run, to the very house her parents loved so much.But what became of the family who lived there, and who is that girl in the upstairs window? Now, after the big man in the hat comes to call and the body count starts to rise, Susan Carter will wonder if she and Richie have made the worst, and last, decision of their lives.
Seeing is believing… most of the time. In the case of Sinnie, to see her one would never believe that she is a fairy. For all intents and purposes, Sinnie is strong-willed, highly-trained, woman of confidence and skills. Descending from the Captain of the Queen’s Guard himself, Sinnie has everything she could possibly want and knows where she is headed in life–but something is missing. Much to her family and friends’ chagrin, that something is an unseelie, one of the darkest members of the fairy world. Sinnie’s heart knows what it wants and, unfortunately, her heart wants Hueil.
Bound Darkly, the second in the Darkly series by Tarrant Smith, primarily follows Sinnie, a strong woman and fairy–one of the seelie clan. Sinnie, though a fairy, is battling many of the same feelings as any mortal when it comes to love. She knows what she wants, but is leery of pursuing it for fear of the reactions of others. Like many a mortal woman, Sinnie is attracted to the rebel–the bad boy–and Hueil is, without a doubt, one of the worst. Their story more than makes the book a worthwhile read. The chemistry between the two and the true feelings of love experienced by Hueil are raw and relatable.
Hueil is a well-developed character and appealing in all the wrong ways. Readers will love to hate him and likely grow to understand very quickly Sinnie’s attraction to him as the bad boy. Smith goes to great lengths to make Hueil as colorful as possible and details everything from his exploits to his determination to have Sinnie and to do the job with which he has been tasked.
Jen, another fairy but not Smith’s main focus in this installment, possesses a unique ability that I found to be quite captivating. The emotional shielding Jen is able to demonstrate is an amazing facet of her personality and life as a fairy. Though it is draining and taxing, watching her put it into play is fascinating.
In my opinion, Bound Darkly easily fits into two genres. It is clearly a beautifully crafted work of fantasy with the fairy realm as its primary focus. Warriors and fairies alike have the most unique and stunning powers. Their abilities keep the pace of the book moving and the amount of action in the book is perfect when compared with some books that seem to be overfilled with such scenes. In addition, Smith gives her characters a fair amount of romantic encounters and is especially explicit in detailing their escapades.
Smith has succeeded in offering readers a sequel to Book 1 that is easy to follow for those new to the series. I highly recommend Smith’s second book in the Darkly series to any reader who seeks books with a combination of fantasy and romance.
Pages: 338 | ASIN: B0041OSG66
The Astral Surge follows two siblings as they are exposed to two different forces of nature. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this novel?
The inspiration comes from a deep reflection on life in general. Consequences and repercussions, both positive and negative, happen for all of our actions in life, maybe not as cinematically as how they unfold in the novel. But, I feel that’s one of the most exciting components of story-telling. As long as we keep our characters as real and as human as possible, we can confidently throttle up their life situations to even some surrealistic levels. Readers would still connect to the bizarre events because they’re already ‘connected’ to the characters at a subliminal psychological realm that mirrors their own.
Catherine and Ron are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some themes you wanted to explore with their characters?
The driving factor was the adage ‘You’re free to make your choices. But, you aren’t free from the consequences of your choices.’ Choices could be positive or negative. So, the logical drop-down to this main thought is one of the siblings – Catherine – making all positive life-choices and the other – Ron – choosing to go with the wrong decisions. The intricately weaved after-effects of their respective choices add flesh and blood to the entire story.
In this book, you explore how positive and dark energy can affect someone’s life. What were some ideas that were important for you to focus on in this book?
The idea springs from the premise that all of us are infinitesimal extensions of the Cosmic Energy… just like how every life-organism of the Earth is. But, by virtue of being endowed with the sixth sense, we humans can consciously connect to this Energy and, in turn, let it intervene and make corrections where required. It is this premise that opened the door for a ‘paranormal fiction’. Logically tying the life events of Ron Osborne, Catherine Osborne, and Peter Fox, the story culminates in Andrea Osborne (Catherine’s and Ron’s mom) becoming active after her death to stop Ron on his diabolic mission and facilitate the needed catharsis.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am yet to start working on the next story but yes… the plot that’s hovering over my mind seems quite a potential that could constructively engage my readers. I’m waiting to be led. Thank you.
Two siblings, Catherine Osborne and Ron Osborne, are actively exposed to nature. One to its positive energy and the other to its dark side. Both of them are rewarded for their dispositions in an ethereally terrifying sequence of events that culminates into an astral intervention and ultimate catharsis.
Articulate and full of spiritualism, Heart of a Warrior Angel by Lali A. Love is a journey not only in the world but within oneself. Our protagonist, Lilac, reflects on her life’s path as she reaches her twilight years. She recalls her journey through life as she crosses literal and metaphorical oceans to become the person she is in the moment. We learn her life story, her heartache, and her triumphs. We celebrate and grieve with her as this book lays bare the raw emotions that entangle themselves with the journey of life.
Heart of a Warrior Angel drips with dramatic tension, and excellent descriptions of the living situation Lilac regales us with is moving and heart rendering. It is a metaphysical thriller, with a touch of supernatural fantasy, following one woman’s journey through the hell on earth she was forced to live as she comes to terms with her ascension onto a spiritual plane deserving of her essence.
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Time Framed follows two family members battling across generations to avoid the consequences of a family curse. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
In 2002 I published the novel Mean Spirits which introduced the Pennfield family curse. The story follows the curse from the Mayflower through several generations and then ends with the downfall of Prof. Christopher Pennfield, once a highly respected professor of Philosophy, but now shamed for causing the suicide of his research assistant, a student with whom he was having an affair (and was the contemporary agent of the curse). The Epilogue of the book, takes place in 2052 when another descendant of the Pennfield family, Jimmy Mashimoto-Pennfield, an industrialist-genius, is contemplating how he, himself, can avoid the curse. He figures that if he can change the past a bit, he can throw off the timing of the curse so that he avoids it in the 2050s. So, in effect, Time Framed begins where Mean Spirits left off (but don’t worry, you don’t have to read Mean Spirits before Time Framed; the back story is thoroughly covered!)
Your characters are compelling and well developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while creating them?
Certainly, one of the main themes is about greed and privilege. On the surface, The Pennfields are a well-respected American family; however, their accomplishments have a dark underbelly of deception, cheating and cruelty. Some of the characters in the book, specifically Christopher, Jimmy Mashimoto-Pennfield and Izan Bonne-Saari, a world renowned financier who uses his control of world financial markets to reshape the world’s governmental order into a caste system heavily favoring the wealthy elite, represent humankind’s proclivity to ego-centrism and narcissism. In fact, Jimmy Mashimoto-Pennfield creates a holographic clone of himself, aptly named Narc, so he can have someone of equal intelligence to converse with. Despite these characters self-centered and greedy natures, Christopher Pennfield realizes he has done wrong is looking to redeem himself which, I think makes him an interesting character. Some of the other characters in the book, Shippy Pennfield, Ed Swann (ghost hunter), Julian Weisman (theoretical physicist) and Dr. Brenda Altieri (nun turned psychiatrist), Derek Fane and Robyn Viega represent the better aspects of humanity.
I thought you handled the use of time travel deftly in this book. Time travel usually comes with its own paradoxes. How did you avoid these in your book?
Yes, indeed, any story about time travel has to deal with what’s called the “grandfather paradox” — suppose you went back in time and killed your grandfather; then you would never exist in the future to be able to go back in time to commit that very act. The only resolution to that paradox is for the universe to split into two parallel universes, one where you exist in the present and the other where you do not. So, in effect, Time Framed becomes the story of two separate universes, one where a certain event happened and one where it didn’t and then how they finally resolve into one universe again. Interestingly, there is no physical time travel in Time Framed. It all centers around the Pennfields using their pre-existing psychic sensitivities to communicate psychically across time and influence the other time period, convincing someone in the past or future to perform an act which appears trivial to them in their time frame but one which causes a major disruption of history.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
It’s not nearly as daunting as writing a book about two parallel universes across space and time, but currently my daughter and I are working on a screenplay that explores the relationship between fame and true talent.
Two periods of time clash with an alternative universe in Time Framed, a story that pits family members against each other across generations as they attempt to evade the dire consequences of a menacing family curse. Dating back to the Mayflower, the curse had its origin as family patriarch, Charles Pennfield, threatened a poor servant girl, causing her to leap to her death off the Cape Cod coast. Now, her unsettled spirit ebbs and flows, surfacing every sixty to eighty years to exact justice as she inhabits a living agent and forces them to crush the greatest ambitions of whatever unlucky Pennfield crosses her path.