Pale Face and the Raven by Stacey Dighton is a terrifying murder mystery meets a horror story. It starts with a string of rape cases and murders taking place in the town of Westhampton. Luke Raven, a detective inspector and long-time alcoholic is assigned to the case. Unable to cope with his alcoholism and an inability to form long-lasting connections with other people, he is dragged down by the weight of his own past and present. On the other hand, there is a struggling author, Tony Richards. His life isn’t turning out as he had planned, and his flailing desperation leads him down a dark path. His own sordid past and tattered familial relationships are slowly unraveled throughout the story. It is a race against time and personal struggles as these men and the people in their lives are dragged into the horrific events taking place.
Throughout the novel, I was surprised to find myself sympathetic to the murderer’s motives. Not supportive of them, of course, but Stacey Dighton managed to build his character in a manner such that his motives and actions were entirely believable.
It would seem that the alcoholic detective and struggling author are overdone cliches. But that did not make the story any less compelling. They were well-fleshed out and so human that they managed to escape the common murder mystery tropes. Similarly, all of the other characters were plagued with their own flaws. Addiction, cowardice, dependency, all these traits were laid out realistically.
The interlinking of all the characters added depth and complexity to the narrative, but was myopic at times. It was as if the five to six main characters were the only people who lived in
Westhampton and the other people clearly lacked dimension. Although this aspect did intensify the plot, it turned it into a bit of a guessing game. Sort of like Big Little Lies. However, it was without a doubt a thrilling read, kind of like a Jack Reacher novel but with more interesting characters. Perfect reading for a long weekend.
Pages: 373 | ASIN: B07ZBPFBWK
Back in the 1980’s when the LGBTQ community was severely marginalized. Back when AIDS was called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). Dustin Thomas struggled with his identity. Unbeknownst to him the place his parents likened with Sodom would be the beginning of his journey to understand his true self. At the age of 20, he gained the courage to walk through those doors. This would lay the foundation for the relationship he would later have with Gauge Paulson. How will they survive with only their restored 1949 Indian Motorcycle and hope? How will they navigate the complexity of their relationship? Will their Fort Lauderdale past follow them down the California Coast?
This book tells a very important story in the history of the LGBTQ community. There is a lot that people do not know about the struggle before members of the community could openly fight for their liberation. If for nothing else, read this book to truly understand the struggle. It provides an accurate albeit bleak picture of what life was like for the LGBTQ community in the 1980’s as well as the lengths they had to go to simply exist in the society.
This is a well written book and a moving tale. The style of writing is fitting for a story of this intensity and magnitude. It is emotive and gut wrenching. You find yourself rooting for young Dustin to overcome all the hurdles on his path.
The grammar is spotless with a flair that is just right, never feeling inappropriate for the tragic undertone of the story. The author has an uncanny ability to create a full dimensional mental picture with both his creative use of language and unique tone, giving an artistic feel to his writing.
This is a very informative book. There is a story to enjoy sure, but at the core of it is a lesson for human kind. At the end of it all you wonder why human beings cannot coexist in peace without judgement and creation of restrictive societal codes. What would really happen if everyone was accepted just as they were? This book is thought provoking in this way. You will also learn that love truly is powerful; against ignorance and debilitating superiority complexes.
Craig Moody has broken into the genre with a powerfully poignant book. This book tells a story that many need to hear.
Pages: 252 | ASIN: B06XD51X19
A self declared angel of balance seeks to help a group of like minded people grow and hone their abilities. Preston Blake has hunted some of the most notorious serial killers. He will get them together by choice or intimidation. They will make each other better. If anyone falls out of line a Dreadnaught kind of fate will befall them. Preston, despite his demeanor as an alpha seems to have one weakness. Young, pure and entranced Grace Bennet. They are brought together by a force neither of them understands. Will Grace fall into Preston’s arms? Will the group serve its purpose? Is Detective Gabe Bastien a threat to the group or a potential?
Right from the get go, this book is disturbing to say the least. There is something dark and scary about the tone and feel of it. As soon as you begin to read it, you feel scared and vulnerable. Your skin crawls and you get an urge to either be very quiet or scream your lungs out. As you should when you are among serial killers. This is how vivid and in depth Wesley Boydd Thompson goes with this book. He leaves nothing to the imagination for the reader. He lets you go through every moment of it. You never forget Bethany’s screams and quick breaths no matter how far through the book you get. Perhaps it is the unabashed relay of frightening detail. Perhaps it is the blatant display of evil. Perhaps it is the chilling introduction to darkness.
The character development is really quite brilliant. Not in a way that makes you like them but in a way that puts you right inside their minds. It is like getting a front seat into the mind of a demented human being. The salaciously dark thought processes that occur even when they are not actively practicing their craft. For a minute there, you will think of it as a craft. You will be terrified by Preston’s evil confidence and charmed by Grace’s naïve innocence. You will be interested by Russel’s dark eagerness. The characters are multi-dimensional.
The book does have some grammar and spelling mistakes though. In some cases they can be distracting from the story however in some cases the reader will be way too engrossed and sufficiently freaked out to notice. I felt like some information was left out. Questions remain unanswered and some backstories are missing. Whether to be impressed by the cliff-hanger or exasperated will be a personal choice. The story feels unfinished and left me with more anxiety than satisfaction.
Serial Killer Support Group is a unique story with seemingly apt portrayal of serial killers. It is interesting and gripping. It is anticipatory and may leave you unable to close your eyes for a night but then most good stories will. Maybe refrain from reading if you are about to walk outside by yourself?
Pages: 37 | ISBN: 169945065X
Revenge I Will Have follows Navy SEAL Jake as he’s tasked with a new mission, but finds his psychotic ex-girlfriend embroiled in the mission’s objective. What was your inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
At the conclusion of my first book, “Sleeping with a Wall Street Banker,” I found myself thinking about both Jake and Jessica. Where would Jake go? How would he react? What would Jessica do as a criminal on the run but also burning with hatred for those she feel betrayed her. Jake reacted by retreating to where he felt safe, a refuge. Jessica, consumed by hate, by seeking out a partner for revenge. Both characters were catalysts for the plot, similar to putting two combustible agents together, you eventually get a reaction. In this case Jessica caused the reaction that set the plot in motion because of her blind hatred
Jake is an interesting and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?
No one wants to read about a wimp or a sad self-absorbed character who is moping around, crying in their beer. Jake had misfortune fall upon him and he pulled himself up, like people do every day because they don’t have a choice. People are intrigued by characters with strong personalities, their strengths, flaws and idiosyncrasies. The reader can relate to them because they have flaws and quirks as well. I’m surrounded by strong personalities, most notably my husband who also has more than his share of lovable and funny idiosyncrasies
Jessica and her emotional issues were consistently intriguing. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character and relationship with Jake?
Jessica allowed her emotional issues to overwhelm her to the point she was no longer in control. She thought she was pulling the strings but in the end, she was the one who was being used. Her hate blinded her to see through the obvious
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m actually formulating a sequel to Revenge. Without giving away the plot, the Bat’s terrorist network, funded by a foreign government, is planning retribution against Jake by staging what could be a cataclysmic attack on the US while also targeting members of Jake’s family for death, specifically his invalid mother and his brother who is a Roman Catholic priest. There are geopolitical twists and turns and new plot angles that will have the reader on edge. The Bat’s friends find they bought off more than they could chew by going after Jake’s family.
Mired in grief over the recent murder of his girlfriend, Alice, at the hands of his psychotic ex-lover, Jessica, former Navy SEAL turned Wall Street banker Jake Logan is suddenly called back into action. While his team’s primary target is internationally known terrorist financier Asyd Omar Batdadi, a.k.a. “the Bat,” the mission soon becomes personal for Jake when he learns that Jessica—a dangerous woman with dissociative identity disorder—is wrapped up in the plot. In fact, Jake’s connection to Jessica is the very reason he has been reactivated as a SEAL.
Their efforts to capture or kill Batdadi and his associates soon take Jake and his fellow SEALs to various locations in Europe and the United States, but the wily terrorist manages to elude them at every turn. In the midst of their hunt, they learn that, with Jessica’s help, Batdadi is plotting a bold terrorist strike on American soil. For Batdadi, it is an act of revenge for America’s interference in the lives of his Middle Eastern brethren, a chance to put himself in the “terrorist hall of fame” alongside names like Osama Bin Laden. For Jessica, it is the ultimate form of payback against the journalists whom she holds responsible for ruining her life and her future with Jake.
Battling a ticking clock, international criminal masterminds, and his own grief, Jake strives to transform his troubled relationship with Jessica from a liability into an asset, his only hope of saving thousands of innocent lives—not to mention his soul.
Without Fear of Infamy is an anthology of poetry published by Scurfpea Publishing. What was the collaboration process like on this anthology?
It’s a very competitive submission process and I am very thankful that a few of my poems were chosen for this new anthology. Collaboration has been a great learning experience for me as a writer and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
My favorite poem was Be Every Color of the Sun. What inspired this piece?
IT came from a rare feeling of positive self-esteem I was experiencing at the time. I think this makes it stand out because a lot of us struggle daily to find those moments in our lives.
Besides your own, what is your favorite poem from the collection?
One of my favorites is Tempering Grief by Brit Graham. I really love her vivid descriptors and her overall style of writing. This one stood out to me as one I could personally relate to having experienced heartbreak in the same manner before in my own life.
Each year since 2010, Scurfpea Publishing has produced an anthology of poems. It’s a juried competition with a different editor each year and no entry fee; consequently, each anthology has a distinct flavor all its own. This anthology includes poems by: Charles Luden, Katie Alexander, Steve Boint, Lin Brummels, Raymond Byrnes, Jennifer Carr, Craig Challender, Susan Spaeth Cherry, Kevin Cole, Jason Freeman, Jerome Freeman, Brit Graham, Monica Gulbrandson, Roberta Haar, Carol Hamilton, Constance Hoffman, Brenda K. Johnson, Leone Kayl, Ivanna Kusijanovic, Jennifer LeBlanc, Charles Luden, Mary Ann Marko, Elissa Mittman, Marsha Mittman, Rosemary Dunn Moeller, Marcella Prokop, Larry Person, Marcella Remund, Lisa Rinaldo, Bruce Roseland, Barbara Schmitz, Dan Snethen, Gloria Sofia, Brad Soule, Jennifer Soule, Linda Duede Starbuck, Douglas Starr, G.M.H. Thompson, Norma C. Wilson, June Tuff Witte, and Susan Zueger.
Runaway follows Rose as she is taken from one home to the next and struggles to find a place without pain. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
This story actually came from a dream that interrupted my sleep night after night until I finally got up and wrote the outline. I tried to describe Rose the way she looked in my vivid technicolor dream.
Rose’s character is interesting and deeply developed. What were some ideals that drove her character development?
Although I was loved and wanted as a child, I grew up alone with older parents who were often mistaken as my grandparents. I had to entertain, and sometimes care for myself. Perhaps some of my own characteristics come through in finding the hideaway in the attic, pretending to be someone else through my own fantasies, and particularly escaping into my music. My own piano playing comes naturally; I play by ear as well as by note. Playing before a crowd, or on a small Sunday night service also comes from personal experience. How the book describes Rose getting lost in her music, playing with her eyes closed, or banging out her frustration on the keys comes from personal experience.
This novel sheds light on the condition of runaways and abused children. What do you hope readers take away from this story?
My husband and I were foster parents to young preteens. We saw the plight of these young children and what they had to endure (especially if they had to return to their families). We had to deal with and abide with CPS *(aka, the system) and their rules. It may not be the perfect answer, but with so many abused runaways/throwaways in our nation, it may be their only hope and salvation to be placed with a good foster family, and eventually adopted. More good families are needed in the system to meet this need.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am presently doing research on an immigrant child from Venezuela seeking to find refuge in the United States. His Venezuelan mother has been promised safe transport for herself and her twelve-year-old son if she can only come up with the money. She knows if she can get her son to his American father, he will be cared for properly and safe from the cartel. Even though Mateo’s father was only in Venezuela on a short work project, she believes he will welcome the son he knows nothing about. Little does she know the man she hired is only doing this for profit and benefits.
Hopefully, this will be available sometime next year.
My Love’s Journey Home trilogy (available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, or at my website, casimonson.com- 2013-2015) also deals with abandoned children. Separating to survive, some end up going through the adoption setting.
She was told she was unwanted. Unloved. Broken and scarred. “No man wants a cripple,” she was told. “You’re damaged goods.” But she never dreamed she’d be thrown away. There was only one thing she could do…”Runaway” is a fictional account that captures the plight of runaways, child abuse, and foster care in America. It’s a message of hope and faith when all else seems lost.
The Underground follows a wolf pack alpha male in an alternate Seattle who seeks the downfall of his overlord. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
The Underground was inspired by a single question I asked myself while in a half-fainted state on an uptown city bus with no air conditioning on one oppressively hot and humid afternoon: What would it take for a werewolf to survive in today’s world?
It gave me a lot to think about. Assuming humans are just as hostile to paranormals as they are in the literature, our werewolf’s primary concern would be keeping his true nature secret. Still, he can’t just wall himself away from humans—he needs a job, a place to live, and what have you. Would he have friends, knowing that everyone who crosses your path is a potential enemy? What lies would he have to tell to keep humans from finding out what he is? When the change comes, what does he do? He can’t go hunting humans in the city—that would be suicide. So…what? Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.
Parker and Kurt were both well developed and interesting characters. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I really don’t have a favorite between the two. I love all my children equally! What was most interesting about writing the two is how they developed into such different characters. Yes, Parker’s from a rural-esqe part of the southern U.S. and Kurt’s a German aristocrat but it’s not just that. For example, their speech patterns are so different, aside from Parker being a potty-mouth! There’s a formality to Kurt’s speech that’s absent from Parker’s and everyone else. It’s almost as if I don’t have to use dialogue tags or other indicators as to who’s speaking. You can tell when Kurt’s speaking just from his language.
I loved the idea of exotics and the whole world of paranormal creatures you’ve built. What were some themes you wanted to explore in your world?
While mentally building the world for The Underground, I realized that world is our own. Human bigotry against paranormals abounds. Paranormals are hunted by humans and marked for execution. That’s no different than anyone who’s persecuted because of skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or identity, or any other difference the majority perceives as dangerous and undesirable. That leads to the question of what would happen if the downtrodden decide they’re not going to take their lot anymore? History tells us the answer. Oppress a people long and hard enough, they will rise up. And the results won’t be pretty. There’s so much more to these themes, too. I’ve even written an essay about it.
Are you still working on the Sequel to the The Moreva of Astoreth? How is that coming along?
Yes, The Moreva of Astoreth’s sequel, When Gods Die, is still in the works. Since Moreva was released, I’ve been assaulted by major real-life issues that necessitated putting Gods on the back-burner. Moreva is getting a major overhaul—new cover and a deep edit—and once that’s finished, I can go back to Gods. Of course, I can’t say for certain when it’ll be finished. Deadlines and me really don’t mix. But the plan is to have Gods published by the end of summer 2020. One reason for taking so long is I have to write a novella, The Final Victim, which I’ve promised to people who sign up for my newsletter. Victim is set in The Underground’s world and bears a strong relation to it but it’s not a part of The Underground’s story. Call it a companion book.
In an alternate Seattle, communities of “exotics”—shapeshifters, witches, elves and vampires—live among the murderous human population and are ruled over by the cruel vampire Master, Kurt. The powerful alpha male of the werewolf pack, Parker Berenson, is one of the Master’s enslaved servants and he would like nothing more than to hasten the downfall of the vampire overlord who stole his love, the beautiful mage Garrett Larkin. But in a night city already on the razor’s edge—in the midst of a spate of bloody murders—Parker’s passionate encounter with a stunning interstellar assassin could upset the very delicate balance and ignite a war neither exotics nor humans can survive.
Cooperative Lives is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a mystery, suspense, and romance as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Organically. I began with humble aspirations: to publish a thin collection of stories about various fictionalized neighbors. Their only shared aspect was their abode, a storied New York co-operative. These were simple tales with simple twists: a compulsive planner who locks himself out of his well-equipped apartment during a blackout; a man who exasperates his wife by, with daughter in tow, routinely ignoring Walk/Don’t Walk signals, only to watch his wife mowed down while observing the rules; an aging fund manager who commits an egregious act of negligence but is saved from ruin by the words on a long-forgotten pack of cigarettes. Other stories involved skiing accidents, medical malpractice, writer’s block – a mishmash of themes and occurrences.
The connections came slowly. What if the woman in the second story is saved by the aging money manager? What if the man in the first story was grieving the loss of his family? What if the second family knew the man? What if they both had children?
The book became more character-driven – how New Yorkers deal with the universal challenges of raising a family, making ends meet, preserving relationships, surviving medical ordeals, and growing old. The protagonists were sufficiently varied in age, background and income to address the questions from multiple perspectives.
Also, their eventual interaction enabled story arcs. What if the aging fund manager didn’t, in fact, correct his error in time, and somehow involves the man whose wife he saved? What if there’s a reason the man in the first story lost his family, and that it ties all the protagonists together?
The finished novel did indeed cross many genres, but so, alas, does life.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
9/11 and the financial crisis were such specks in time, separated by a scant six years, but they had an intense, lasting impact on the New York and New Yorkers I knew. My goal was to craft a series of short stories that captured New York in transition – from a wild, frenetic, forward-looking community where lawyers, bankers, artists, corporate managers, and theatrical executives (i.e., my neighbors) toiled their way up the ladder, traveled without fear, raised families without fear, and retired in relative comfort and privacy, to one spooked by uncertainty, laid bare by overzealous media, and devoured by the very financial system they created. A tall order – best approached one short parable at a time.
It took me seven years to pull the novel together, to narrow my admittedly subconscious, sweeping vision down to a simple whodunnit. But I was committed to publishing before my 60th birthday, the only writer’s promise I kept. Had I allowed myself another seven years, who knows where the novel would have taken me?
Your characters were all varied, unique, and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind the characters development?
I’m not sure I had ideals, at least not consciously. The characters were montages of people I knew – some alive, some dead. Their thoughts were frequently mine, but they were basic, the logical extension of where and how each scene was set. If there was a goal, it was to make the characters genuine, so persuasive I could sneak in plot liberties and still seem plausible – a magician’s sleight of hand. Heaven knows if I succeeded.
Part of making characters genuine is making them nuanced. In the “real world,” the only world I know, there are precious few saints and even fewer demons. An argument, by definition, has two sides, and everyone, including a seven-year-old child, is complicated.
I am a huge fan of American comedies from the thirties and forties, including those of Frank Capra. He quoted Konstantin Stanislavski so liberally I thought, until now, that he wrote this, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Truth. Watch any Capra film. Every role makes an impression, even the uncredited, unspoken ones … because they are so real. It was surely not an ideal but a commitment; each of my characters had to be genuine.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Cooperative Lives took me seven years to write, edit and publish. I would love to publish my next volume within five. The locus will be contemporary New York and many of characters will be over forty. There will also be water, lots of water.
A landmarked midtown Manhattan address. Carnegie Hall and Central Park at your feet. Three hundred units. Thirty-two full-time employees. Five hundred neighbors. You’ve hit the big time. Joined the elite. But what do you know about them, the neighbors? Have you ever met them? Really engaged with them? Or do you gaze down in the elevator, the same way you do on the subway and the street?
Oh sure, you’ve heard a famous writer lives on the fourteenth floor, a retired US senator on the eighteenth. You’ve witnessed so many Broadway impresarios glide through the lobby you’ve lost count. But what about your real neighbors – the couple in 7H, for instance, or the family in 8B? Did you know they once harbored the most wanted fugitive in America?
No? It was in the papers for weeks; nearly tore the co-op apart. Even that famous writer on fourteen got involved. And all because an M7 bus side-swiped a resident-shareholder while turning down Seventh Avenue.
You’re busy? Oh, I’m sorry. Just thought you should know something about the co-op’s history. And buy more insurance, lots more; I’ve got a friend named Stanley.
White Harvest finds Lilly imprisoned with a man that reveals long held secrets of the occult, religious texts and secret societies. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thought-provoking novel?
The story came to me in a dream, including all the weird details. What followed was years of religious research. I didn’t think the dream was religious at first but five minutes reading revelation alerted me to it’s religious nature. Originally this book was one large book but it became too big for one book and when the March 15 terror attack happened in my home town, I decided to cover it in my book and that lead to splitting the book in two.
Lilly is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas you pursued while creating her character?
Lilly is basically me, her reactions are mine. I have never been a religious teacher, I added that to give her a reason to know religion so well and her rather shady background isn’t mine either, but her personality is pretty much me … I think?
The relationship between Lilly and Ox is unique and odd. What were some themes you wanted to explore with their relationship?
I literally dreamed Ox up. I’m not sure if his personality matches that of anybody I know? I’m not sure what to say other than that he appeared in a lucid dream of mine that keep expanding.
This is book one in the Behind the Veil series. Where will the next book in the series pick up?
It picks up almost immediately this book ends as it was one book. It starts with a creation story and covers religious history in-depth. New Charters are introduced. My friend, who is reading it, says the info introduced is so new to her that she is constantly having to take a break to absorb it but is enjoying the journey.
After being imprisoned in a secret, deep underground military base, Lilly takes comfort in the arms of a long-term captive there who’s like no man she’s ever met before. He helps her survive in a sinister world where power reigns supreme. When discussions turn to the social agenda playing out in the world above and the political spin associated with it, he proves himself to be more brain than brawn. After revealing secrets hidden in religious texts, the occult, and secret societies, the veil is lifted from Lilly’s eyes.
Working towards a set goal for thousands of years, the global elite and the men behind the curtain, have been following mystery school teachings. Using arcane knowledge encoded into readily available texts, their leading societies, the Freemason’s, the CIA, and the Catholic Church’s dark agenda has long been to get humanity to believe many falsehoods at a certain point in time. These untruths are currently being championed. Having, for the most part, achieved their goals, the global elite are ready to execute their agenda. With the clock ticking, Lilly hopes to escape in time to make a difference.
Like Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” this book includes research, knowledge, and facts, but it’s also controversial and confronting.
Heart Land by Kimberly Stuart is a contemporary fiction story about Grace Kleren, a struggling design assistant in New York who aspires to be a fashion designer. But instead of receiving the promotion she expects, she ends up being fired. With no job and no way to pay her bills, she is forced to return to Silver Creek, Iowa, the town she left ten years ago. However, she’s determined to find a way to earn enough money to move back to New York and prove herself as a fashion designer. But after reconnecting with her first love, Tucker, will Grace’s dream change?
Heart Land is a story that was a joy to read. I won’t ruin the ending for you, or how Grace and Tuckers relationship ends, but I’ll say that it was one of my favorite endings for a book this year. Especially after the ladies of the sewing circle had come together to help her with her new business, which brought much-needed money into the area. I’m glad that Grace didn’t turn her back on them. All of this was delivered eloquently with a bit of humor, which I enjoyed.
Although I liked the main characters, I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary secondary characters in the beginning of the book, since most of them were not mentioned again later in the story. And Grace was not shown in the best light when she is first introduced and she ducks out early on the photo shoot the day before she expected to get a promotion. Although that was not the reason she got fired, it could have easily gone that way, and she thoughtlessly risked the very thing that she supposedly wanted the most (can you tell I’m invested in the characters).
When Grace first returned to Silver Creek, I didn’t like how she often acted like a sulky teenager rather than a women in her late twenties just because things in New York had not gone the way she’d imagined and she wasn’t happy to be returning to Iowa. Ultimately she recognized this fault in herself and did not continue the same behavior for too long. I enjoyed her character transition, although it took her a while to realize what was really important.
This is an exceptional story that explores the power of love and connection to people and places.
Pages: 321 | ASIN: B078MDDLFB