Keep the lights on when you read this book! Sour Lake Or, The Beast will transport you back in time to East Texas, 1911. Chapter one is called Pray, and that is your only warning of what is to lie ahead. A brutal and gruesome death of the young school teacher Lenard Dalchau leads you into the world of this small Texas county of Ochiltree. Prejudice and racism run high and the locals want this death solved and forgotten quick. Reeves Duncan, the sheriff however isn’t one to just jump to conclusions and hang the wrong man. Agreeing with the sheriff that this is no ordinary murder case is “Doc” Walter McDivitt that has seen enough brutality for a lifetime. These two take the lead in discovering the truth. Together they discover a truth that no one wants to hear, and no one would believe if they did.
Bruce McCandless III is a talented author that is a cross between Steven King and the voice actor Robert Clotworthy. The historical descriptions and language are offensive to modern society but are accurate for 1911. It is so clear you feel like you are really back in Texas in the early 1900’s and living with this society. I’m not typically a person that enjoys horror novels because my imagination will just keep me up all night with every bump in the dark. McCandless however has written a story so engaging I couldn’t put it down. There are so many surprises in the pages it is hard to reveal much for fear of giving away the next piece of the plot. I can say I fell in love with the character of Sheriff Duncan. A man that lost his wife, became an alcoholic and overcame it. A mild mannered man that wants to be fair and not rock the boat. He does have a conscience and uses that to guide him as the story progresses, that inner instinct and unwillingness to follow a mob mentality. Sheriff Duncan believes in facts, and even when those facts point to things that should not be real he doesn’t discredit it. When all is said and done, he just wants to walk away. But how can you walk away from the nightmares he endured?
This is a novel you just can’t put down, it will draw in readers that like historical fiction, horror, a little sci-fi and a lot of action and gore. All the main characters are given rich back stories so you feel you really know who they are and how they ended up in Ochiltree County. The story line is unique and completely original probably because of when it takes places. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that needs an escape from modern drama, this book will take you away and make you think, as well as surprise you from one chapter to the next.
Pages: 228 | ASIN: B06XR9T91W
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Miss Sally is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Primarily because I was living in Texas when I wrote it and my three daughters, though not yet in their teens, faced the hazards of adolescence, the coming of age which always is difficult and which Sally Halm, the protagonist of his novel, confronted in exaggerated form. I spent my boyhood in a small predominantly Protestant rural community and felt it important to portray what rural life was like for a contemporary audience.
The 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. Why did you choose this as the time period for your story?
My parents were severely affected by the “Great Depression”: they lost everything and had to start life anew in very changed circumstances. Texas was one of the states most affected by migration and the social changes that the Great Depression triggered. Mere survival became the primary preoccupation of millions of people. These are basic ingredients for the making of a novel.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. How did you set about capturing the thoughts and emotions of a young girl in the 1930’s?
I had a clear impression of Sally, who she was and what she was like, before I began and in the process of writing became Sally, at least to the extent of feeling what she felt, seeing the world as she experienced it, incorporating my own background of growing up in a socially restricted rural community where failed crops and tent revivals were a reality.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’ve just completed a novella about how an incapacitating illness affects a marriage. It’s being considered by several editors. Also in the hands of editors is a recently compiled book of published short stories about Mexico. This fall I’m issuing as an ebook a nonfiction account of government repression of a teachers’ movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, which includes firsthand reporting. It’s to be called Kill the Teachers! And I’m beginning work on a freewheeling journalistic appraisal of the confused political and economic shenanigans involving the United States and Mexico.
This is the story of a young girl’s painful initiation into womanhood: the discovery of sex without hope of love, and grief without the release of tears. The setting is rural Texas in the 1930s, a rough and tumble environment in which the thirteen-year-old Sally Halm questions but tries to appease her authoritarian mother’s religiosity, appeasement that leads to misguided attempts to seek a salvation that her environment ruptures
Sally’s father has distanced himself not only from his wife but Sally and her two older brothers and two older sisters. The mother’s ally is the son who hopes to become an evangelical minister; the rebel is Sally’s oldest sister, who Sally and the middle sister Hill’ry discover in a lovemaking tryst with a neighbor boy. Hill’ry is the family’s child protégé who is given privileges that Sally is denied and who Sally both envies and admires, attributes which tumble her into misadventures than Hill’ry sidesteps.
As Sally struggles to reconcile the concepts of “sin” and “salvation” that seem to dominate her life she ricochets between hope and rejection. Inspired by the testimony of a woman evangelist who recounted rising from degradation to achieve happiness and prosperity thanks to accepting Jesus as her personal savior Sally tries to emulate her but realizes “everything I do I do backwards, I can’t even sin without people laughing at me.”
Sent to live with relatives in another part of central Texas, Sally becomes infatuated with an older cousin whom she helps to milk and to breed a mare. Though supportive he’s a man who seems to hate himself, a hard drinker who has no use for religion and prefers the company of prostitutes than that of “churchy people.” Again Sally does things backwards and alienates him as she’s alienated others. Her decision to run away from family, from the she’s leading and has led, thrusts her into even greater entanglements, entanglements that make her realize how difficult it is to have one’s immortal soul saved, even when that’s all that one has left.
A reviewer cautioned, “You’ll love Miss Sally, but she’ll break your heart.”
Posted in Interviews
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Miss Sally by Robert Joe Stout is a portrait of a young girl growing up in Texas in the 1930’s. Through trial and error 13-year-old Sally Halm finds out about sex, relationships, and what it means to engage in this behavior without love. She painfully learns what it’s like to be a woman in rural Texas during the great depression and how the church expects women to behave. After patterns of abuse, devastating discoveries, and misguided adventures she learns what it means to be saved and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
My initial reaction when I began reading this book was one of excitement. I love history, and the 1930’s are one of my favorite eras because of how much was going on across the country. The Great Depression left a tremendous impact on the families affected. After getting a few pages in, however, it was difficult for me to place myself in the characters shoes.
This story gets better as it progresses and when I was further in I was unable to put it down. The writing style while not my favorite was engaging as the characters started to come to life. I especially enjoyed how Mr. Stout wrote Sally’s relationship with her mother. The relationship felt realistic to me because of my own experiences as a 13-year-old and how my mom and I got along.
Sally is a simple minded girl, she is not beautiful, and her family treats her this way. While her sisters, Judy and Hill’ry are thought to be beautiful. As a result of the treatment, she receives Sally has a low self-esteem and her sisters, lovers, and her imagination can quickly persuade her into things she doesn’t want to do. Through all of this, I noted that Sally still seeks the approval of her family and loves them very much.
Sally eventually becomes more curious and finds herself in trouble. After being landing in a church revival, one woman’s story sticks out to her in a way so profound she doesn’t feel she has done wrong enough to be saved by the Lord. She paints her own picture of this woman and believes she has to be like her to be truly saved. This event along with her sister’s encouragement lead to Sally’s dark fate. After what seems like years of abuse and bad decisions Miss Sally goes with her mother to be saved but is once again given the short end of the stick.
Sex and coming of age are two major themes in this story, and Mr. Stout’s rural writing style helps with the setting. Had this story been written any differently the plot wouldn’t have made sense. It was compelling and painted a strong picture of life for a young girl at that time.
Pages: 291 | ASIN: B071HL6YMJ
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When live-action-role-playing adventure goes horribly wrong it’s up to our battered group to save the day! Dale, his girlfriend Jane, sister Katie and friend Gavin are off on a LARPing adventure. Dale isn’t used to this style of play and is finding himself wishing it was bit more interesting. One must be careful what they wish for in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. After a few days enacting their scenes the group is presented with a special module by Mr. Stephens, their coordinator. He leads them to a barrow where they will go to combat with other friends in an orcs-versus-adventurers play. They’ve even got a game master to keep them in line. All seems to be great, until the group steps foot in the creepy crypt for the first time. It’s dark, foreign and crawling with things that go bump in the night. Will they survive? Where are they, exactly? Finally, who is the one pulling the strings behind this adventure? Be careful what you wish for.
The story begins with a shock as a young man meets his end inside the barrow. This poor fellow will play an important role in the tale to come so it’s a good idea to remember him. The story isn’t too long with short chapters that serve to change up the perspective now and then. We get a good glimpse at what is going on from the viewpoints of all involved. There is a lot of blood and gore in this story, so if that’s not for you it would be wise to steer clear. Those who like a fantasy-adventure tale with a bit of horror will find this tale is right up their alley. The story appears to take place in the United Kingdom, although definitive places are never mentioned. Based on the terminology the characters use and the way they speak it is assumed that is where our tale unfolds.
While the story is relatively entertaining with shadows of J.R.R. Tolkien and some black humour dabbled about, the overall execution could use some polishing. There are grammatical errors and strange capitalization on words that pop up here and there which detract from the overall story. There are some key elements that aren’t explained very well that can leave readers with more questions than answers after completing the journey. Questions like, why are the Fates, who have origins in Greek mythology, in some barrow in what appears to be rural England? How did they get there? How long have they been there? From what we read, it seems like they have been there for a while, trying to steal something from a spirit who was created by the gods. With a name like O’Fleistus it’s assumed this spirit would be of English origins, but it’s not really explained. We get a bit of an explanation, but it could have been fleshed out much more instead of being revealed in fleeting conversation.
A little bit of blood and horror can dress up any LARPing event. What began as fun and games quickly turns into mayhem in The Barrow of the Damned by Jonathan J. Drake. This book has some very good potential if it had been fleshed out a bit more. There is opportunity to expand and explain more of the black-humoured story found on these pages. Aside from these minor drawbacks, it’s a fun and quick read. This tale is quite gruesome for the faint of heart. If that’s your cup of tea, you can’t go wrong venturing into this Barrow of the Damned.
Pages: 263 | ASIN: B00B79MVZA
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The Fool’s Truth follows Cordelia as she’s running from a dangerous marriage and finds herself wrapped up in a perilous mystery. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
A great question and what’s most interesting is, the opening scene in which a young mother comforts her crying daughter while calmly stepping around a dead body, came to me long before I started writing The Fool’s Truth. I had this image of a woman escaping into her mind, blocking out the tragic scene before her and acting as if nothing had happened. I jotted down that first passage years before the idea for the book started to germinate. I knew it was the beginning of a good story, it just took a while for the right characters to develop for the telling.
Originally, I thought the story would be Rebekah’s because her witch-like hermit character came together in my mind first. I loved defining her complicated choice (or need?) to live a secluded life. But as the narrative began to form, it became clear that Cordelia had to be the book’s protagonist. As a desperate mother on the run, her storyline would tie together the other characters, each with their own dark secrets.
Cordelia is an intriguing character. Was her back story something you always had or did it develop as you were writing?
I’ve always wanted to write a character named Cordelia, but had to wait patiently for the right story. When I began pulling together the plot and characters for The Fool’s Truth, I felt Cordelia was a good fit for the protagonist’s name. Although I always start with a rough story outline and ideas about who the characters are, writing is such a fluid craft and it’s essential the characters remain adaptable. So Cordelia’s story had to evolve as the story developed. I’ve never personally known someone who has been in such a desperate situation, so I had to delve deep into my imagination.
What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?
Strangely enough, my passion for writing fiction sprang from the eye opening exercise of composing my own obituary. I was a hospice volunteer for many years, and the obituary assignment was part of the volunteer training program. And from that experience a buried desire to write a book surfaced. I tentatively ventured onto this new path by establishing a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the heritage of some fascinating hospice patients who were soon to leave the world. It has been the most meaningful experience of my life thus far, and it both inspired and encouraged me to fulfill a newly perceived longing to create and shape unique fictional characters with their own remarkable stories to tell.
Cordelia ends up stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit living off the grid who takes an obsessive interest in her daughter. How did this plot twist develop and why choose Maine as the backdrop?
So many threads had to be woven together to form the plotlines of the novel, however that development was pivotal to the story and came early in the drafting of the book. Because Rebekah emerged early as a significant character, her secluded farm became the ideal spot to strand the desperate Cordelia. I’ll stop there so as not to give away the motivations of either of these two central characters.
As for why Maine? It’s a beautiful and diverse state, both in its land and seascapes, but also in the people who call Maine home. It is also a state of many unique small communities and I thought it would be fun to create the fictional town of Murphy, Maine. But this question has caused me to pause and recall that the story was actually coming together on a road trip my husband and I were making through the state on our way to Prince Edward Island. I now have to think that trip may have influenced my decision to set the story in Maine, especially since it conveniently borders Canada, which is where Cordelia had hoped to find refuge.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that book be published?
There are two books I can tell you about today. First is The Lighterman’s Curse, which is currently out on submission with my agent. The story follows overly trusting Cassandra Mitchell’s quest to save her beloved family home in the fictional Cap Cod coastal town of Whale Rock. The Bluffs is a stately Victorian and legacy from her great-grandparents whose shocking demise still haunts the town, and perhaps the house itself. While Cassie deals with the emotional and financial fallout of divorce from her dream-weaving husband, a young nomadic couple wander onto the property and into life, offering welcome companionship and the answer to her problems. Until they vanish, leaving behind no clues and rising evidence they were not who they said they were.
Finding herself in the middle of a battle for control of the investigation between the local police chief and the information-keeping FBI agent who suddenly shows up to investigate the missing couple, Cassie tries to unravel the mystery herself. But she becomes distracted by the eerie sounds and scents of The Bluffs, which have now reemerged with a heightened sense of warning. And she accidentally uncovers some long hidden details about the century old curse cast upon her great-grandparents. The Lighterman’s Curse blends mystery, romance and a touch of paranormal to tell two interwoven tales of the Mitchell family legacy, one taking place in present day time and the other beginning in the late nineteenth century.
Also in the works is a novel I’m collaborating on with my husband. It returns me to my Midwestern roots and begins with a stunning deathbed confession that leads to the convergence of a disparate trio: an apathetic middle-aged New Yorker, a Midwestern thirty-something journalist and a young woman eager to escape her mundane existence in rural Pennsylvania where recently discovered skeletal remains have rocked a community.
On the run and desperate to flee the country with her toddler daughter, Cord Richmond can only turn to one person for help – lifelong friend and once lover, Ramon Alvarez. Their reunion reawakens long suppressed feelings, but once again their timing is off, as they must hastily chart a course for her escape.
A reckless detour in those carefully laid plans leaves Cord stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit weaver living off the grid. With no means of communicating with the outside world, the need to craft a new plan intensifies when the peculiar woman takes an obsessive interest in her daughter.
Complicating matters further are the local sheriff and a nosy reporter, both with ambitions for uncovering the truth, each with his own private reason for taking refuge in the remote rural village of Murphy, Maine. She contemplates a risky strategy to flee her confinement, but is she desperate enough to enter the depraved world of a recently paroled convict with a long history of brutality?
Cord’s folly is the catalyst for dark secrets unraveling, placing her and her daughter in grave danger. She deeply regrets having lied to the one person who might be searching for her. Meanwhile, Ramon seeks to resolve the unsettling truths Cord has concealed from him. If only he could find her.
Posted in Interviews
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