Book Review ~ ‘Journeys Into Darkness’ Edited by Trevor Denyer.

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Journeys Into Darkness ed. by Trevor Denyer
Genres: Anthology, Short Stories, Horror, Dark Fantasy, Sci-fi, Slip-Stream.

Journeys Into Darkness

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SYNOPSIS

Remember the magazine? Remember the quality. Now the first Midnight Street Anthology is here. Journeys Into Darkness is a collection of stories from some of the best in the business. There are favourites from the magazine, fantastic reprints AND new stories.

Dedicated to the Late, Great JOEL LANE, the book features one of his outstanding and provocative stories, never before published in the UK, and appearing only once in the USA.

Also included is Trevor Denyer’s exclusive and revealing Midnight Street interview with Joel. Also: Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Stephen Gallagher, Simon Clark, Nina Allan, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Paul Finch, Allen Ashley, Gary Couzens, Ralph Robert Moore, Maynard Sims, Elliot Smith.

Edited by Trevor Denyer. Cover illustration by Nicole Day

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Book Review ~ ‘Journeys Into Darkness’ Edited by Trevor Denyer ~ 5 Stars!

If you are looking for an unnerving, spooky and chill inducing set of stories just in time for Halloween, then The ‘Journeys Into Darkness’ anthology is a definite must for you. Dedicated to the late Joel Lane, this anthology is the first to be released from the Midnight Street Imprint, and contains an incredible collection of horror, dark fantasy, sci-fi and slip-stream stories by a group of very talented authors.

Every story in this book adds another thrilling dimension to the collection. No two stories are the same, yet every one manages to bring out the tingles on your skin as you chance a quick look behind you, and a moment of decision of whether or not to turn your light out when you go to sleep. I feel these are the signs of a really well-written dark story, and this collection is full of them.

Ramsey Campbell’s ‘Again’ started the collection off to a thrilling start, with the sights he witnesses inside a mysterious bungalow will leave even those with nerves of steel feeling unnerved, whilst ‘Traffic’ by Elliott Smith plays with a dark sci-fi element that seems eerily realistic of a car filled future. Gary Couzens adds an element of dark humour to his story ‘After the Party’, with some brilliantly portrayed characters and a dark tale of a suspicious death. ‘Dead Man’s Handle’ by Stephen Gallagher was another brilliantly told piece, which brings the added horror of the deadly antics of humans, as opposed to fantastical creatures.

I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Straub’s Experimental piece ‘Lapland, or Film Noir’ and was intrigued at how well this worked within the collection. ‘The Return of the Pikart Posse’ by Rosanne Rabinowitz was a beautiful addition to the collection and I adored the beautiful prose that was woven within Evelyn’s story. Simon Clark’s ‘Amen’ made me shiver and showed an incredible talent of creating a story and well-developed character in such a short word count. The emotion behind ‘I Hear His Footsteps Drawing Near’ by Maynard Sims was just breathtaking and I really felt for the characters left behind after their father and husband’s death.

As with any anthology there are a few stories that really stood out to me as a reader, possibly due to the way that the story drew me in. In particular Nina Allan’s two part story ‘En Saga’ was so profound with the switch in generation and the ghostly similarities between the mother and daughter’s misfortunes. ‘Creeping Blue’ by Allan Ashley added a eerie psychological tone to his story and I loved the way that we were given an insight into the character’s mind and the reasons behind his fear of infection. I loved the character development in ‘No Such Thing As Sin’ by Paul Finch, and I really connected with both Dominic and Simone, and really felt Simone’s pain and fear as well as Dominic’s worry for her sanity. And finally ‘Ralph Robert Moore’s ‘When They Come For You, They’ll Look Normal’ was an incredible, heart-pounding read. The way that he paced this story, making the threat become more and more fearful throughout was brilliantly done, and I loved the ways that the threat began to turn the family members against each other.

This was an action-packed, thrilling anthology which I recommend to those who love anthologies, and are looking for a collection with a little something different.

5 Stars!

*Review Copy kindly provided by the editor in exchange for an honest review*

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~ Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~

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‘A New Life’ by Sorcha O’Dowd ~ A J.A.Mes Press ‘Rebirth’ Anthology Submission.

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A New Life
by Sorcha O’Dowd

 

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My submission for #J.A.MesPress ‘Rebirth’ Anthology

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 Title: A New Life
Word Count: 983
Author: Sorcha O’Dowd
Book: Yes

The road was rocky, causing the pony to struggle over the cobbles, its jerking movements leaving Maria and the driver bouncing up and down on the trap. She held a hand to her head, making sure the hat pin was doing its job of securing her hat in place.

It was growing dark when they finally reached the main square, a lone light shone from the single lamp post that stood in the far corner by the baker’s.

The small village of Tucker’s Prior had changed little in four years. Where London had been overtaken by sights of war; news sellers on every corner holding papers aloft, with a new figure captioned, “10,000 CASUALTIES IN FIRST SURGE”, Tucker’s Prior showed no such changes. The grocer’s stood where it always had, the only difference from 1913 being the faded notice in the window; the one that was handed out at the beginning of the war which explained the rations allowance.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to drop you somewhere nearer home, Ma’am?” the driver asked her, looking cautiously around at their dark surroundings before offering his hand to help her down.

“No, thank you.” Maria replied with a soft smile as she hefted her bag from the back of the trap. “I’m near home.”

He nodded, although still unsure. “You take care of yourself Ma’am.”

Holding her bag in one hand she watched the driver give one more concerned look around before turning and urging the pony back along the cobbles. She smiled sadly as he rounded the corner, the retreating trap signalling the end of her journey.

After taking a moment to deliberate, she let her feet take her away from the path leading home. She guiltily thought of her mother, most likely in her rocking chair waiting to welcome her eldest daughter home. Maria pushed the guilt away, knowing her Mother would understand if she knew her plan.

But, would he want to see her? Would he still think her as selfish as he once did?

She could feel the heavy carpet of her bag brushing against her skirts as she walked. Reaching a stile she hoisted the offending hem and stepped over, trying to avoid covering the bottom of her skirt with the slimy mud that was quickly coating her boots.

She felt a quick smirk grow on her lips.

“Welcome back to the country,” she murmured.

But despite her bravado, her limbs felt weighted with her every step, as though her body was trying to dissuade her traitorous heart as it led her onwards. It wasn’t until she turned the corner, spotting a light at the end of the road that her confidence waned.

It was the light that should have told her she was home, that she was safe, that she wasn’t alone.

Instead it gave her a rush of memories, memories buried in desperation by a broken hearted girl.

She forced herself to walk on; trying desperately to push their last meeting from her mind, but his heated words flowed over her, cracking her heart a little more with every remembered word.

“I need to help. I refuse to stay here in this tiny village doing nothing! I have to go.”

“No Maria, you’re not going off for your country. You are going off to escape. You just needed any excuse to escape from the fact that I’m in love with you.”

She pushed the tears away that were threatening to flow, and approached the farmhouse. The house was in darkness, unsurprising as it was past midnight, and when Maria lifted her hand to knock on the door she hesitated, suddenly unsure. Memories of Sarah Darling kissing him as his platoon left for the front flashed through her mind, and she blanched.

“What was I thinking?” she thought desperately. “He wouldn’t still be waiting for me.”

Suddenly a light from her right caught her attention and she turned curiously, seeing a thin strip of dull light spilling from the barn door which had swung open.

She moved without thinking, heading straight towards it before her courage failed her.

Her heart stopped as she peered around the corner.

He was there.

Unlike the village which remained frozen in a previous life, time and the war had changed him. His once dark hair, was now speckled with grey strands, despite him being not yet thirty-five. His shirt sleeves were pushed up above his elbows, displaying the strong muscles built from long hours working on the farm, and the years fighting in the trenches.

It was Robert.

The sound of an animal bleating redirected her attention, and only then did she notice the sheep that lay before him. Its back legs jerked as she gave birth, and enraptured Maria watched Robert as, frowning with concentration, he reached low, hands entering the lamb and pulling hard. A split second and it was over, the lamb slipping from its mother’s womb and flopping onto the straw covered ground.

Not once had he lost a lamb.

“You’re back.”

His words jolted through her and she jumped back, but there was no malice in his face as he moved to standing, leaning heavily on one leg; his limp, a momentum from the trenches, now obvious.

“That was my first lamb this spring,” he said quietly. “Hopefully means the birth of better times to come.”

Her head shot up, and at the soft smile on his face the flood of tears she’d held in for years finally fell.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, as he moved closer looking down at her tenderly; his fingers still messed from the birth stopping a breath away from her cheek.

“No!” He exclaimed, a small light in his weary eyes. “It’s behind us. It’s a new beginning, a new life.”

“Together?” She dared to ask as hot tears dripped down her cheeks.

He nodded.

“Together.”

 

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Book Review ~ ‘Soul of the Universe’ Anthology!

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Soul of the Universe

An Anthology of Music-Inspired Stories.

by Michael Wombat, Michael S. Manz, Marissa Ames & Michael A. Walker.

Edited by Michael Wombat

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Plato said “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything”. In this book you will find a varied selection of haunting, thrilling, surprising tales from some of the most talented independent authors around. Although the tales differ wildly, they do have one thing in common: music. Each story was inspired by a particular song, which is explained briefly in each instance by the author.


Enjoy these tales. They will leave you with a song in your heart and a smile on your face.

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Book Review ~ ‘Soul of the Universe’

If you are looking for a great anthology on a day where you want to escape into a fictional world, well then ‘Soul of the Universe’ is perfect for you. A collection of six unique short stories by four equally talented writers, ‘Soul of the Universe’ was one of those anthologies that will always make me smile. The range of genres that these stories encompassed, and the way that they were all tied together into this collection by the powerful inspiration of music, was so clever.

Each story holds a special place in my heart, as in some cases, it is the first time that I have delved into that genre of fiction, and I can think of no better way to have entered these universe than through the talent of these four authors.

To Ride the Wind Dancing by Michael S. Manz, was a really intriguing read that introduced me to a new style of writing that I’m already hungering to read more of. At first the style surprised me, but as I continued on I adored the way that the author only spent words on the necessities which made my imagination work all the harder. It also made me feel as though I was part of the story, as I wasn’t constantly bombarded by scientific terms (which my A-Level Biology teacher will tell you would have me running in the opposite direction), and felt as though the setting of the story was my own, and not altered by too much description. I loved the two main characters, and was excited to read that this may not be the end for these two amazing individuals (and that hint of romance? Perfect. Subtle, but grin inducing!)

Having read Michael Wombat’s works in previous anthologies, I knew that the two stories he composed for this collection was worth getting excited about. ‘Blood on the Ground’ is my first forage into an almost Country and Western style of genre, and with the way that the prose just flowed so naturally, I was hooked immediately. I really admire how this author is able to bring me to feel for characters that I have only known for a few pages. My heart was stolen by Rence’s horse Red, and I loved the adventure they took, and am not ashamed to admit that I sobbed for Red at the end of the story (He was just so lovely, OK?)

Michael Wombat’s second addition was the amazing ‘Moth Girl vs. The Bats’. Wow, just wow! I sped through this story, so engrossed in it that I forgot about the outside world. I’ve heard of the growing Steampunk genre, and love the whole concept, but had yet to delve into reading it. I can safely say I am now addicted! This story was so clever, and Michael so wonderfully entwined all the components of the story, leaving me desperate for more. It was honestly a masterpiece, and Michael Wombat should be known as a Literary Genius!

The more emotional of this collection came in the form of Michael A. Walker and Marissa Ames’ stories. I had read ‘Darrion’ by Marissa Ames previously, but this didn’t stop me from re-reading this story again. I just adore everything about it. The meaning behind the story, the heartbreak, the fear, the fantasy element woven throughout subtly, yet meaningful is just stunning. To see the review I wrote for Darrion previously, see here.

Michael A. Walker’s talent with words had me sobbing through his stories. In the shortest of stories, he is able to have me so connected to his characters that I feel bereft to leave them as I finish the story. Michael’s devotion to his characters just seeps through the page with how he presents them and tells their stories. In ‘Stella’ we see an old woman who cannot remember who the man dying in the room by her is, despite them having been married for over sixty years. Her story managed to be heart-warming, even as my heart ached for the couple who had so many years together and were finally being pulled apart by age and illness. The flashback to Stella’s life growing up, and her courtship and marriage to Walter, the dedication they showed throughout their life was so beautiful, and made the realisation that Stella was suffering from Alzheimer’s all the more heartbreaking. Fans of ‘The Notebook’ by Nicholas Sparks would love this story with the same intensity that I did.

Lastly, but by no means least, Michael A. Walker presented another absolutely beautiful, poignant, heart-breaking piece called ‘Light On’. Laura was an absolute inspiration. The devotion she showed for her husband who had been named ‘Missing in Action’ for a year after fighting in Afghanistan. This story shows the harsh reality of the pain that those who are left behind feel when their loved ones are named casualties of war. ‘Light On’ just set alight every emotion in me, and I wished more than anything for a happy ending that I knew in my heart could never be. The fantasy elements interwoven in the final scenes was perfectly done, and had my heart beating hard and tears growing in my eyes. This story holds a very special place in my heart, and I know that this will be one that I will re-read again and again.

This collection was absolutely breathtaking, and has introduced me to some new genres I wasn’t overly familiar with, and showed the extraordinary range of writing styles that all bring their own meaning to a story. I’ve also discovered some new songs and artists and reminds me of the power of music as inspiration.

5 Stars!

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~ Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Amazon AU ~ Amazon CAN ~

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Book Blitz ~ ‘Fifty First Times: A New Adult Anthology’

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Fifty First Times: A New Adult Anthology
Published by: Avon Impulse
Publication date: February 25th 2014
Genres: New Adult
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SYNOPSIS

You always remember your first time…


Whether it’s the couple who decides not to go through with it, the two boys who finally aren’t ashamed, the newlyweds whose wedding night could very well be their last night together, the deaf pair who have no choice but to take body language to a new level–or, of course, the two young lovers fumbling and laughing, getting everything wrong. These are the memories that will never fade.
Join nineteen fantastic authors as they pull back the curtain and give you a peek inside that one intense moment in their characters’ lives when everything changes and nothing will ever be the same again.
Featuring stories from some of the hottest names in New Adult, Young Adult, and Romance including New York Times Bestselling authors J.Lynn/Jennifer Armentrout, Molly McAdams, Sophie Jordan, and Carrie Ryan.
NOTE: These stories are works of fiction. If you want to know about our first times, you’ll have to buy us a pet monkey first.
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Enter below for the chance to win the brilliant Grand Prize Set.

Prizes (US only) – all to 1 winner:

$25 gift card for either Amazon, Apple, or B&N (winners choice)
e-copy of Fifty First Times gifted through Amazon Kindle*below books will be paperback unless only hard cover is available, also note some books including the featured title are for readers 17-18+
Entire Tempest trilogy by Julie Cross
Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Be with Me by J. Lynn
Gone Gone Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
Stealing Harper by Molly McAdams
Catching Liam by Sophia Bleu/Genn Albin
Need You Tonight by Roni Loren
A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers
Foreplay by Sophie Jordan

~ A Rafflecopter Giveaway ~

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My Story

The first time we met was when we stood at the altar.

Now I know what you’re thinking, but really it wasn’t like that. I was the Best Man, she was the Maid of Honour. I know, cliché as anything. It’s something we are teased about even now, five years later.

“Should have been you two getting married that day.” Their friends said, “Probably would have lasted longer than the ones who actually tied the knot.”

Sadly, it was true. The happy bride and groom captured within photos and distant memories of that day were no more. Divorced, and arguing over custody of their two children.

Maybe our story won’t seem so special to others. Maybe the promise of a passion-filled love at first sight, where lustful looks are exchanged in the lead up to the most exhilarating sex of their lives, is what draws people in more, but that wasn’t us.

We met at the altar where our best friends were being tied together for what should have been the rest of their lives. She was wearing purple, something she till moaned about when she looked at the photos, and I was uncomfortable in a too-tight shirt and a cravat tied smartly around my neck.

It’s true when people say those suits make you feel like a penguin.

I don’t actually remember the ceremony. I just remember watching her as she fussed over the flowers that the bride had flung her way, and how she’d focused hard on keeping upright as she wobbled in the highest and thinnest pair of heels he’d ever seen.

(As soon as the photos were finished, she’d kicked them off and replaced them with a pair of flip flops she’d hidden away in her handbag. I remember it well because she’d leant onto my shoulder as she reached to pull the offending heels off her feet.)

I remember everything about that day, the day I met my future wife, standing at the altar smiling shyly , not lustfully, when she caught me looking. No promise of mind-blowing sex in celebration of our friends marriage. Just a shy smile from a beautiful woman.

That was the day I’ll always remember as the day I met my wife.

 

Author’s Note: I took the prompt for this story a little differently, as I’m really not a very exciting person, and this lovely guy in my head just wanted the story of how he first met his wife told.

I hope you enjoyed.

 

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Julie Cross (creator)
J. Lynn
Molly McAdams
Sophie Jordan
Roni Loren
Tracy Wolff
Lauren Layne
Andrew Shaffer
Cole Gibson
Myra McEntire
Carrie Ryan
Mark Perini
Gennifer Albin
Lisa Desrochers
Hannah Moskowitz
Lyla Payne
Alessandra Thomas
Melissa Landers
Melissa West
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Book Blitz organised by Xpresso Book Tours.
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Teething Troubles at Christmas ~ A Short Story for ‘A Merry Minion Christmas: Assorted Tales from the Realm of the Dark Fairy Queen.’

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Teething Troubles at Christmas.

Genre: Romantic Comedy         Author: Sorcha O’Dowd         eBook Yes

ONCE UPON A TIME

Scarlett was exhausted. She’d been summoned from one house to another all night, dutifully fulfilling her job of exchanging small milky teeth for a shiny fifty pence piece that barely fit in the pocket of her overall. Honestly, whoever thought that being the Tooth Fairy was a romantic notion was, quite frankly, stupid. It was the least romantic job in the world and the fact that she barely reached thirty centimetres in height and therefore had very little space on her person to put a fifty pence piece was to be honest, more troublesome than you’d think. But in the grand scheme of things that was actually the least of her worries, for the teeth themselves were more often than not a complete burden.

Couldn’t the children at least clean the tooth before they put it eagerly under their pillow? It wasn’t the nicest of sights or the most enjoyable of jobs having to pick up the milky tooth, large enough that she had to hold it with both newly manicured hands, when it was covered in ripped flesh and drying blood.

And she supposed no one thought of her welfare when it came to this job. She saw the other young fairies give her envious glances when she flew from the Fairy Queen’s palace in the evenings ready for a night of work. So many times she’d been tempted to yell at them that it was hardly the most glamorous of jobs, and that having to carry such a large number of fifty pence pieces in the oversized pockets of her tiny work coat meant she had agonising back problems when she finally returned home before sunrise and collapsed into bed.

It was also a real killer on her social life. Whilst everyone else in the Kingdom was out partying at night, she was stuck collecting blood covered teeth. Lovely!

“God I’m tired.” She yawned as she finally returned to her room, her eyes drooping and her lips pouting as sleep called to her. She fought the sensation briefly and focused on unbuttoning her coat, giving a relieved sigh as she stretched her back and felt it realign itself with a satisfying crack.

As she clambered onto her bed, and looked out at the sunrise peeking through her bedroom window, she sighed wearily catching sight of the celebrations going on below in the Palace courtyard.

Whilst she’d been out having to fly around the entire planet in the space of twelve hours, everyone here at the castle was celebrating Christmas.

She watched as the fairies danced down below her, the sounds of joyful music filtering through her open window and she felt jealousy rise up within her.

Funny really. You expect the Christmas Fairy and his little minion elves to be working hard on this day, but people tend to forget that the Tooth Fairy is an all-night-every-night job. There’s no Christmas for her, just like there’s no Easter.

Feeling annoyed at herself for her dull thoughts, Scarlett shook her head and reached up to firmly close her open window, feeling a little more cheerful as she shut the sounds of her fellow fairies out of her bedroom and her mind.

Now, where was that book she had been looking forward to reading before bed?

*

Throughout the Fairy realm there was a saying used all too often; ‘Don’t Ever Wake A Sleeping Dragon’. For some reason unbeknown to Scarlett the saying ‘Don’t Ever Wake A Sleeping Tooth Fairy’ hadn’t ever caught on. (She couldn’t fathom why. She’d almost scared a poor servant to death when he’d woken her too soon, and sent him off screaming into the day.)

As this proverb had never been spread throughout the Kingdom, you would think that a fairy would be slightly more alarmed when facing Scarlett’s wrath, screaming and raging at him merely forty-five minutes after she had fallen asleep.

But no.

This fairy was Kyle, and Kyle never looked outwardly alarmed, for that would mean that his annoying (and Scarlett would never admit it, but rather handsome) smirk would have to cease. So instead he merely grinned lazily as Scarlett hovered before him, her face red with fury.

“I had a LONG NIGHT. I was TIRED! TIRED, Kyle! Now, I know that is not something that you would understand seeing as you’ve never done a hard night’s work in your life. But SOME PEOPLE need sleep to function properly.”

“Woah! Chill Scarlett!” Kyle laughed as though the entire situation was a great joke to him, and Scarlett turned away from him in a huff, hating how great he looked when he curved his lips into that gorgeous smile of his. ‘NO Scarlett! Focus.’ She silently scolded herself.

“Well?” She asked, forcing  her voice to remain stiff and punishing as she turned around to face him again, folding her arms crossly. “What was your reason for waking me up at the crack of dawn when I’d been up all night, unlike everyone else in the entire…”

She didn’t see him fly towards her in the space of a second, and only caught up with his movement as his lips quickly dropped to hers and she felt him give her a soft kiss. Soft, but meaningful.

He pulled away as quickly as he’d moved in, and Scarlett opened her mouth to scold him only to find that no words would leave her lips.

“Happy Christmas, Scarlett.” Kyle grinned at her, a twinkle in his eye, and before she could even utter a syllable, he flew and disappeared out the door in a swish of arrogant gracefulness.

“Idiot.” Scarlett finally managed to spit out, even as a shy but bright smile grew on her face, and she literally floated back to bed.

“Best Christmas ever!” She sighed happily as she fell back onto her bed, a content smile on her face as she drifted off to sleep.

THE END

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