Fireflies of the Dead takes readers on a horrifying journey of blood seeking killers and revenge loving victims. What was the inspiration for this collection of short stories?
I’ve always been a fan of exploitation horror films, which I think really shows in the stories in this collection. I’ve been fascinated with rape revenge films such as Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave for as long as I can remember. The boldness and grit of those films are what really drew me into them. I am a horror fan and as a horror fan I wrote stories that I myself would enjoy reading.
What was your favorite short story in the collection and why?
That is tough for me to answer because each story I like for different reasons. If I had to narrow it down, I would think my favorite is Watching Over Loved. I think it’s the darkest story in the collection. It contains no gore at all but packs a punch.
The stories are preceded by poems that help set the tone of the next story. What made you go with this format for your collection?
My previous books besides Burning Down Paradise were horror poetry collections dealing with extreme horror. As a reader, I’ve always loved reading short story collections. Especially when it’s a collection written by an author I’ve never heard or read before. I thought the poems would both serve as a way to set up the tone of each story as well as serve as stopping points for the reader.
I didn’t notice that any of the stories were connected, but they stood on their own well. Was there any overarching theme you tried to use in the collection?
Yes, some of the stories do share a common theme which might be hard to see through the violence and gore for some readers. In a lot of my work, I focus on themes of loss, loneliness and trying to find one’s place in the world.
Are you currently working on any full-length books? If so, when will the next book be published?
I’m working on a new draft a Novella I do not yet have a title for. It kind of serves as a sequel to my book Burning Down Paradise but yet is a stand alone story as well. I don’t want to give away much right now but I will say it takes place in a prison.
An alien from a distant world falls to earth with an insatiable craving for human flesh and something even more frightening, a desire to mate! Witness the tragic tale of a lonely man with an unhealthy affection toward the fire.
Seven short stories and poems that will take you on a blood-soaked thrill ride filled with mayhem and horrific images.
Fireflies of the Dead will chill your blood.
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My Journey From Warrior to Gypsy, by Tom Yeager, is a poetry collection centered around four main topics that relate to the author’s life: love and romance, riding and jumping horses, travel, and facing adversity. The 41 poems are split among these sections, and in between many of them are half-page, full-color photographs to illustrate the work, each bearing a quote from one of the poems. In general, the collection is written in a modern style with elements of free-form, with occasional uses of a rhyme scheme as well. The dedication hints at a fascinating journey of personal growth, from outcast, to horse-lover, to one who is seeking greater connection with other people. However, the poetry straddles a line between theme and personal remembrance.
I thought Horses and Friends resembled an anecdote containing bewildering detail about the menu, but not much for a reader to empathize with. Reflections On India could easily be a travel itinerary followed by an abrupt quote. However, one of poems I truly enjoyed in the collection is Giving Thanks at Gull Lake. It was one of the poems that resonated with me as it had a selfless purpose which I could relate to. The later Gull Lake and Gibran, on the other hand, begins with an inviting description to set the scene, but becomes a list of food and drink, ending with a quote.
I believe the aim of poetry is to express emotions and ideas over factual information and when the author frees himself from these literal shackles he creates some pleasant poetry. Fearless Daughter and Letting Go cover similar ground, but the best part that they have in common is a greater use of figurative language. The imagery that comes into play in Natural Knowing adds emotional depth and interest, inviting more than a cursory reading.
Ultimately, this is a collection full of touching personal poetry.
Pages: 112 | ASIN: B071VTNR2Y
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Stygian, by Sean Michael, is a thematic arrangement of 52 poems based on the author’s life, interspersed with occasional quotes. The anthology is completed by an additional three poems in memory of three late friends. Stygian is organised in chronological order, from the author’s tragic childhood to the events that likely contributed to his incarceration, as mentioned in the author’s biography; in this way, the collection presents itself as a poetic autobiography. It’s a frank and dark work, which doesn’t hold back from the usage of swear words or in the stark descriptions of abuse, neglect and self-harm, so readers should use their discretion.
There’s a lot that could be said about this author, but after a read through, what stood out the most was the wide variety of poetic styles he used. The contents range from poems that read almost like a rap, written with short staccato lines and a regular rhyme scheme, to others that feel classical, with long and flowing verses. Partly, this seems to be a stylistic choice, and a clever one, too. Poems from his youth embody the language of a child, such as the word “doggie”, while the adult mind raids the full English lexicon to produce descriptions containing such gems as “empyrean” and “tenebrous”. It’ll give your linguistic knowledge a workout, that’s for sure. Other poems have a more contemporary feel; one appears to be a piece of prose, while The Monster is written entirely in capital letters.
However, there is much to recommend; poems like Sleeping with my Shoes On, which throws away a rhyme scheme to convey a sense of childish excitement, at odds with the glimpses of a deprived childhood. My personal favourites are The Man in the Box and the subsequent Endless Tunnels of Darkness which are beautifully descriptive and flowing summaries of the author’s life (and therefore Stygian) and his emotions about his current situation.
The order of other poems feels like an emotional jump as a reader, yet this is easily explained by the author’s unsettled life – art reflecting life in every way. It is uncomfortable to read the memories described in Away From the Disarray or Something to Cry About, but this is beside the point, which is to honestly portray everything the author has been through.
With this in mind, it can only be said that this is an effective piece of work. Just as no human can be fully understood by another. The content cannot be dismissed, because it is true, although it could be argued that it was still a little raw in places – like the emotions it conveys. The author does show great competency with a range of styles, though, and I would personally love to read more from him on other topics after he has developed some of his ideas further.
Pages: 97 | ASIN: B01G5WFHUE
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“In between… life” is a collection of 30 poems capturing a range of emotional experiences in the most apt words possible, but without making it feel inaccessible. What was your goal when writing this collection?
Well, what has driven me is that I have read plenty of poetry books that are all very well done, technically close to perfection and so forth, but that fail to engage the reader, to grasp his/her attention and say, for example, “Wow, that was written to me, that relates do what I think or what I have experienced in my life” you know. This sort of connection I think it is very important, otherwise, it becomes too distant regardless of its technical quality.
Only to give you an illustrative example, there is a female reader who sent me a message through my website saying that she felt like some of the poems had been written specifically for her. For me, as a writer, this sort of spontaneous and genuine feedback is the most valuable reward I could get because it is a clear indicator that my aim has been achieved in connecting the writing with people’s real feelings, sensations and emotions. It is simply priceless.
My favourite poem is “Turning the Page” because of the evocative imagery of unrequited love. What is your favourite poem and why?
If my book was a music album, I would say that some of its working titles would be “Today” and “Especially for you”. The first one I understand that is quite straightforward and evident on its intent right from the first lines, but even so it is also powerful in its message and underlying meaning of attachment and union. With regards to “Especially for you”, it has been written in such a way to initially give the impression that it is addressing male-female love, but as the lines go on it becomes clearer that, in fact, it is talking about another type of love and I appreciate this subtle shift. So, yes, those two are among the ones I like most, even though I could talk about a couple of others as well. But it is fine this way.
I loved the idea behind this collection, of sharing poetry as widely as possible. And the imagery that accompanies each piece is spot on. What was the art direction like in this book? What made you choose each picture?
Well, since the conceiving of this book I had decided that contrary to other titles available in the market, I could try to offer a more substantial reading experience that would transcend the writing. My wish was that the readers could not only read the poems but also visualise them as much as possible and establishing an even stronger bond with their content. Therefore, I have done an extensive research for relevant and meaningful imagery that more than simply illustrating each poem, could ‘translate’ them, so to speak, and convey a subtle complementary message linked to the core idea of the respective poem. Therefore, with this proposition, the book not only becomes differentiated in comparison to many others out there but, more importantly, it offers a unique and broader reading experience. Fortunately, the feedback has been quite positive and people are enjoying the project and fully engaging with its content and design.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
For the time being, I am focusing my energies primarily to promote “In between… life” but for the near future, I may start working on a new prose book eventually for the end of the year or first quarter of 2018.
Unplugged! If there is a single word capable to accurately summarize the atmosphere of this book, that is for sure the most appropriate given that, similarly to an unplugged performance of your favourite band/singer, the selected poems in this book also convey the sensation of filling out the room and taking your senses to a different state of mind. They address topics such as love, romance, perceptions about life around us, and new discoveries. Nonetheless, they are ‘unplugged’ of unnecessary features, meaning that they make the reader feel at ease from the very first lines and engaging you just like an intimate conversation with your closest friend.
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A World of Wonder is designed to help parents and children build a sense of wonder about the world. I think it does this expertly. What was your inspiration for wanting to create such an engaging kids book?
My co-author and I are long-time educators currently working to bring high-quality, science curricula to primary schools across the country. In primary grades, science instruction often takes a back seat to other subjects and it is our goal to change that by creating resources that integrate science with reading (in this case poetry), writing and mathematics. Young children are natural-born scientists – always inquisitive of the world around them – so we are working to create materials that parents and teachers can use to foster and promote that innate interest. We also want to help parents and teachers inspire children to appreciate, and care for, our world as well as to provide opportunities to engage children in thinking and talking about science.
The art in this book is spectacular. What decisions went into the art direction for this book?
That is an interesting question because we had to think about so many things at the same time! We wanted to include all different types of science; we wanted to include some of those classic poems that many of us grew up with as well as some new ones; and we wanted to include topics that allowed for interesting extension activities that kids would want to come back to over and over again. So we had to weave all of those elements together at same time. We couldn’t just pick the best pictures or just use classic children’s poetry; everything had to work toward the larger goal of building that sense of wonder about the world and be really engaging to kids.
The combined variety of photos and poems are ideal for promoting conversation between parents and children. What poem and photo is your favorite and why?
Thank you – that was certainly our goal! My favorite combination is probably the poem about the eagle – the king of the daytime sky – along with that magnificent image of the eagle fishing – talons extended – above a partially frozen lake. That image is inspiring all by itself, but then the extension activity includes a link to a webcam of an eagle’s nest high in the tree tops above a field, with a stream in the distance. The webcam is always on and you can go back to it often throughout the year to see just about anything – from eggs, to hatchlings, to juvenile eagles just beginning to fly, to Mom and Dad eagle keeping warm through the winter – it’s always fascinating to watch. (It can also a bit graphic at times, so parents need to be careful with very young children.)
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Our science teaching units all use children’s literature as a foundation for the unit and we are in the process of releasing those books now on Amazon and iBooks – both as eBooks and as paperbacks. Several of the books, like When I Grow Up, include spectacular photography similar to this book, while others are fun storybooks. My favorite storybook is When We Were Young, which is a sweet story about Dr. Dolittle’s Pushme-Pullyou and includes really beautiful watercolor illustrations by an illustrator from London. That was a really fun project to work on!
A World of Wonder is a book designed to help children develop a wonder for, and an appreciation of, the world in which we all live. The book combines spectacular images with a variety of poetry and verse…from time-honored and classic to new and sometimes humorous.
This is not the type of book typically read in one session. We encourage readers to come and go as children ask questions about the world. Children can certainly experience the book on their own, but we also encourage parents and teachers to engage with children – ask questions to tease out their understanding of the world and provide guidance where and when it seems appropriate. We also encourage you to follow children’s leads to encourage their interests in our magnificent world.
The authors, both educators and researchers with many years of experience, ensure that each facet of the experience is scientifically and pedagogically appropriate for young children.
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An epic tale spun from erratic thoughts placed into text and delivered to the world. That is the sense that readers will get from Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan. Our protagonist, Kate, is searching for something. She is on a journey through years and lifetimes as she seeks out this piece that is required to complete her. We see this world through her eyes, her thoughts and her experiences. The tale is epic not only in page count, but in content as well. We know that Kate has lost something, that she is searching for this thing, but we don’t know exactly what it is. We are left with speculation and can only turn the next page to find out if she has achieved her goal. With songs, poetry and influences of dreams long past, this tale is one that is begging to be heard.
The way this book is written, with its dream-like prose and fractured sentences, allows this epic fantasy novel to be told in a stream of consciousness style of writing. The thoughts are thrown at the reader: fast and unforgiving. At first glance, the reader may think that our protagonist, Kate, has simply gone mad and the first chapters are from her point of view. However, the entire book reads that way and, if you are not paying close attention, you may get lost. Readers are quickly taken from scene to scene and thought to thought with barely a lull. Perfect for readers who like to be fully engaged in a story.
The words are very beautiful. The poetry both original and borrowed lends a mystical air to the story. If you view the entire book as a sort of waking-dream, it begins to make sense. This writing style is wonderful for conveying emotions and we can get a better sense of how Kate is feeling as she continues her search. The blending of a warped reality with a warped sense of fantasy lends well to the thought of this being a dream-like state that Kate has found herself in.
A whirlwind of a read is what you’ll find between the covers of Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest by Ruth Finnegan. The mystical sense of the book is intriguing. This is a book recommended to be finished in one sitting as you may find it hard to pull away. The dream-like madness that seems to grip the pages make for an exciting read, but this can also be overwhelming. This may be a book suited to seasoned readers who are looking for a dreamlike story of epic proportions.
Pages: 286 | ASIN: B0158VRF26
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A World of Wonder by Brent A. Ford and Lucy McCullough Hazlehurst is an educational combination of photographs and poetry, designed to be enjoyed by parents and children together. Giving the latter an interest in the world and to act as a starting point for appreciating its wonders. It consists of 41 high-quality, color images of nature and natural phenomena across the globe, each paired with a relevant, short poem – some newly written for the book, and some classics. The interactive copy has links to further information related to each photo.
The first thing that struck me was the quality of the photos, which are expertly-framed, beautiful shots of a range of animals, scenery, and weather across the globe, as well as views from beyond the upper atmosphere. As an adult, I still wonder at many of them, so it must be magical for a child. They evoke multiple emotions – some are dramatic, some cute, some calm – but all are of a suitable nature for young children, as should be expected.
The accompanying poems are apt for the stated age range of 3-8, and grade level K-2; they’re short, accessible and fun to read aloud. Some are humorous, while many are more instructive about the habits of animals or natural processes. They match well with the photos, and explore different aspects of life on Earth.
The combined variety of photos and poems are ideal for promoting conversation of all kinds between parents and children; it’s easy to tell that the authors have experience in education. Not just parents, but teachers could certainly get a lot of use out of this book, too.
It’s not particularly long, and because it’s designed to be picked up and put down, it seems perfect for different attention spans and available periods of time. It could be used at bedtime, or for car journeys.
The amazing choice of photographs enables you to revisit this book many times, so parents can ask different questions to highlight different points and to introduce more complex ideas as their child grows. This flexibility of use would is a huge draw for parents. It would be ideal for guessing games – trying to remember the photo from the poem, or even the poem from the photo. Budding artists could get some great inspiration from it, and it could be a very useful starting point for crafting projects or for guided research about animal habits and habitat.
I appreciate the authors’ aims and the work that they have put into the book in order to achieve them. A World of Wonder truly delivers on the wonder that it promises.
Pages: 88 | ASIN: B072LJWBSZ
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Father Michael Kieh suffered the loss of his family in Liberia as a child. Taken in at a Catholic center for children, he went on to become a priest. Father Michael was stationed at the airport in London, listening to confessions of passing travelers. He became involved with a crime that happened years before involving some of the most powerful people in London, and found himself drawn into a very dangerous situation. Through love, loss, and love again, Father Michael navigates the difficult terrain in which he finds himself, trying to heal his past through his actions in the present and his hopes for the future.
This book ended up being one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in some time. I don’t read a lot of thrillers because I often find myself disappointed with how un-thrilling they turned out to be, but that was not a problem I had with A Burning In The Darkness. I was drawn in from the very first page, finding myself looking for stolen moments to sneak in a few more.
One quirk of the book is that it appears to have been written by a non-native English speaker, which left behind some stilted English. The first time I encountered it in the book I worried it was a bad sign, but on the contrary, I found that the mistakes in English made it quite charming, like listening to someone with an accent telling a story. Though there were some grammatical mistakes in it, on the flip side, much of the language was beautiful and parts of the writing were almost poetic. I found myself, more than once, reflecting on a beautiful turn of phrase.
I felt all of the characters in the book were well developed, and Father Michael was both sympathetic and borderline heroic. I had some strong feelings about nearly every character that appears in the story, and that’s not always an easy task to accomplish. A.P. McGrath did a wonderful job breathing life into each person in the novel, giving them their own personalities and making them deeply likable, or deeply detestable, driving the story forward with strong character development.
If I have one complaint about the story itself, it’s that everyone was perhaps a little too charmed by Father Michael. It seemed that everyone he met fell under his spell right away, and that seems rather too neat for me. I felt as though it was too easy for him to convince the right people to trust him and to help him.
All in all, I found this to be an addictive book. So much so that I was sad to say goodbye to the characters at the end and wish there was a sequel. This is my first exposure to A.P. McGrath’s work, but I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the next novel!
Pages: 253 | ASIN: B06ZYXJ1KL
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The Reaper opens with the revelation that the King of Akala is missing, and the new Queen, Leah, is now in power. She meets with President Inaeus Janu of Shaweh to offer a peace treaty that brings their long war to an end. Janu suspects the Queen is a figurehead and focuses on the mysterious Lialthas who seems to have an undue influence over the Queen.
In the meantime, refugees from Akala reach the city-state of Shaweh seeking asylum. The group includes the missing King Darius, his half-sister Moriene with the child Hannah in tow, General Victor Ikharson, and Sefas, once called Meddiah when he was an Empty One. They are shadowed by the black-clad Zacharias who used his magic to help them escape from Lialthas. When the Akalan’s gestures of peace turn out to be empty promises, President Janu and the Akalan refugees are whisked to a secure location as war resumes.
This is the second book in the Fallen Conviction series, and it wasn’t hard to catch up when the asylum-seekers told their story to Janu. This gave me the chance to get up to speed on the plot if you haven’t read the first book.
The interplay between Darius’ group of refugees and the leadership of Shaweh are the primary drivers of the plot. Character-driven stories are a big draw for me, and the author has a knack for showing the complex, often antagonistic relationships between all of these strong-willed characters. My favorite characters in this book were Moriene and Sefas, who were once under Lialthas’ control. Both escaped his grasp and recovered from being “Empty,” yet both still seem to be fighting the battles of the past.
I also enjoyed the high-tension setting. Being locked in a bunker with people you don’t like but are forced to trust is hard enough, but if that trust is tested, things are going to get violent. The situation erodes when Zacharias reveals that there’s something even worse that Lialthas out there, and they may not be able to stop it.
The first thing that struck me about The Reaper was the unusual formatting. At first, I thought it was a typesetting error, but it became clear that the line numbering was meant to give it a scriptural feel. Some of these passages have archaic sentence structure with rhyming words at the end of sentences, but it’s not always consistent and that can be frustrating for those expecting poetic meter. However, the nod to scripture isn’t surprising because gods and religion play a major part in this story.
Don’t assume that because this is written in poetic language that it won’t be exciting. This is a place where magic and technology that we would recognize today are both present, where battles are fought with WMD strikes as well as mind-bending magical attacks. War is gruesome, and the author doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to violence and mayhem. In this world, magic is fueled by blood, fear, and suffering, so whoever wields this power must harm others in order to succeed.
If you’re looking for a novel that offers both a unique style and a reading experience that challenges and defies “the usual” in fantasy, give this book a try.
Pages: 340 | ASIN: B06XRS3SFD
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In this delightfully imaginative tale, two children, Chris and Kate, find a log of driftwood on the beach. They decide to build a boat and sail across the ocean. Whether by magic or imagination, the two friends and their little dog Holly build their ship, name it the Pearl of the Seas, and begin their journey. Like any fairy tale, there are obstacles to overcome, dangers to face, and kind strangers to help them along their way. They rely on friendship, faith, and kindness to see them home to a happy ending.
Intended as a prequel to Black Inked Pearl, a romance novel, this story is dedicated to young teens. I believe it would also appeal to middle-grade youth as well. There’s a real sense of youth-centered discovery and the freedom to let creative fancies bloom into epic adventures. And I don’t use ‘epic’ lightly; the author weaves in themes, events, and allusions borrowed from the Bible, the original Greek epics, tales of Aladdin and Orpheus, and classic narrative poetry. Indeed, poetry is the heart of the tale, and to me, it read less like a novel and more like a prose poem:
“All things stayed silent. Harkening. The gulls sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach, great seals lay basking and kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm.”
Poems in traditional form are often combined with the prose. Finnegan creates a language that can take some time to get used to the unusual sentence structure and sing-song pattern of the words. In some passages, the child-like way of chaining words together lends an air of playfulness. Since readers (especially young readers) may be inspired to learn more about the poetry and prose of the book, the author includes a section of notes at the end. She offers more information about key phrases and events, poetic references, and the inspiration for some of the key events in the story. I found this to be a big help in deciphering some of the words and concepts of the book.
The characters are charming. Kate and Chris have their own problems in the real world. Kate is perplexed by math and the nuns who teach her; Chris has lost his mother and is being raised by a foster father. Holly, the dog, finds every opportunity for danger and gives both children a chance to play hero and rescue her. Once they’re sailing the sea of dreams, they meet Yahwiel with his riddles, as well as the benevolent King and Queen who live on an Eden-like island. These characters all have an air of the divine, and the lessons they teach are steeped in the Christian faith.
If you’re looking for a unique book for a young reader or a short chapter book to read to very young children, Pearl of the Seas is a unique story that goes beyond mere entertainment. It’s an excellent introduction to poetry, classic literature, and imagination.
Pages: 138 | ISBN: 1625902557
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