Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Read-along | 11/22/63 by Stephen King [Parts 4-6]

Oh, man. My final thoughts on 11/22/63. I think I've finally recovered from my grief over finishing this book. It's so rare for me to get physically depressed when I finish a story! I love it, though!! It's one of the few rare finds I cherish when reading.

If you haven't read 11/22/63, I highly recommend you check it out. You should also wait until you've read it to read the rest of this post because it will contain lots of spoilers. Do feel free to read my spoiler free review of 11/22/63 here, but I can give you the short version. "I loved it."

If you have read 11/22/63, I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Spoiler thoughts on the first half of 11/22/63 can be found here.

Spoiler Thoughts 11/22/63 Parts 4-6

I have a question for you guys! After Jake was beaten at his home in Dallas, his neighbor - the lady in the pink nightgown - got help for him. Is it my imagination or did Sadie not find her and buy her flowers?

"the walker-lady (Alberta Hitchinson; Sadie sought her out and brought her a bouquet of flowers) stood over me on the sidewalk and hollered until a neighbor came out, saw the situation, and called the ambulance that took me to Parkland."

Why did we have a billion chapters (slight exaggeration) after that with Jake and Sadie trying to remember where he lived?! Um.. he lived by the walker-lady in the pink nightgown! What am I missing here? I'm hoping someone can tell me where my misunderstanding lies.

Jake's recovery was the only part of the book I didn't love. I know it was a necessary evil to bring us to 11/22/63, and the past is obdurate, but it was the one area of the book that hung for me.

Other than that, I hope you guys loved this book as much as I did! I'm not a romance reader but I fell in love with Jake and Sadie. When she asked Jake if he was from the future - I absolutely loved that! It was completely perfect that he didn't even have to tell her! As heart wrenching as it was at the end, I loved that part of Sadie remembered Jake. After learning more about the yellow card man (whoa!), I thought Jake and Sadie's last meeting was perfect.

What did you guys think about the natural world and possibly reality being affected so greatly by Al and Jake's travels? I'd still love to know more about the yellow card men! I can't help but wonder if the doors in The Dark Tower work like the portal in Al's Diner since the yellow card man said there were other portals like Al's.

I look forward to making the rounds today and hearing all of your thoughts!

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Post | Opening of Within This Garden Weeping (Division mythos) by Lee Thompson

I'm very excited to welcome Lee Thompson to Book Den today! Before Leonora Wakes was one of my top favorite reads of 2011 so I'm super stoked about his post today.

A big thanks to Jennifer for all the support and faith, as well as so many others. In thanks I wanted to offer up a little treat. In the first Red Piccirilli book Before Leonora Wakes (which is also the start of my Division mythos), Red had to find the strength inside himself to overcome something much larger than himself even though he feared he had little strength to begin with. And near the end of that first book he received both a blessing and a curse from a dark princess that he comes face to face with again, amongst many other wicked creatures, in this book Within This Garden Weeping. So, I present to you the start of the second Red Piccirilli book which will hopefully see publication within the next year or so. It’s a fun coming of age story but there is also a lot of danger, lessons for Red to learn, and more strands added to the reality supporting other realities. Enjoy.

One

Two summers ago, when Red Piccirilli was in the seventh grade, everyone thought he and Amy Lafond were kidnapped by some sicko-pervert, and Red let them believe that because it was so much easier to accept than the truth.

In his new bedroom he sat on the toy chest he’d always had, the one from the house in town where the magic happened and tragedy unfolded. It was very different here than it was in Kingston. English Road dead-ended, right where the little dingy trailer sat up on a hill with an oak tree in the middle of the turnaround, the trunk as thick as his dad’s Buick. He toyed with the band-aid on the top of his left hand, fingers flicking back and forth over the edge of it because he wanted to look at what lay beneath it again, but he didn’t believe he had that much courage, no matter how brave Amy, Maggie, and the missing Mr. Blue had told him he was.

Outside, the sky burned bright over trees shedding leaves, and beneath the sound of his mother bustling in the kitchen, beyond his closed bedroom door, something hummed in the swamp at the back of their new property.

The sound of a car jostling through the ruts in the washed-out road broke his discontent. Red stepped to his bedroom window. A plume of dust hovered around a beat up maroon Impala that looked as big as their new home clamored and spit black smoke as it pulled off the road and took a hard left into the drive. For some reason the rundown beast made him think of Mr. Blue, the missing angel. The car stopped between the oak and front porch and Red’s mom yelled something back to him but he didn’t hear her because the car hissed and growled.

Red studied the car but its shape up close blurred.

Sunlight glared off the windshield.

A dark shape moved behind it.

Red left his room and walked to the front door and looked through the screen. A tall, gangly man stepped from the car, his clothing battered and wrinkled, slightly frayed at the edges of his arm cuffs. The stick-like man stepped slowly around the bumper, his dirty black boots kicking up dust. He had the shine of the vagabond about him. Red could picture a door to door salesman lost in this age, displaced, useless, seeking one last trip across country to find out if his life held any real meaning anymore.

As he approached, Red noticed the man walked with a slight limp, dragging his left leg behind him, drawing a line in the driveway. He grimaced with each step, but when he saw Red standing behind the closed screen door, he smiled, his yellow and black teeth glinting in the sunlight that filtered through the oak’s branches. A bird called from somewhere and made Red think of Mr. Blue again, how the ravens that grew from his shoulders cawed bittersweet melodies in his dreams, all of them only wanting truth and goodness to win, but only becoming more lost in their fight for it; because to give all of yourself to something was to give it absolute control of your life.

As if reading his thoughts, the man smiled wider and Red shivered.

From somewhere faraway, Red’s mother mumbled under her breath, “Dear God.”

The traveler nodded his head in a sharp, quick movement. Red stepped back, his voice caught in his throat as the man raised his hand like a gun and dropped his thumb as if firing.

Red jumped as his mother’s hand closed over his shoulder.

She frowned at him.

She said, “Great. Like we didn’t have enough problems.”

Red whispered, “Who is he?” because the man was nearly to the door, the shoe on his bad foot making an awful scraping sound as he climbed the steps.

His mother rubbed a hand through Red’s hair and he flinched and ducked away because she pressed down really hard.

The air smelled of burning paper. And when Red glanced at the man’s eyes he saw a fire consuming his pupils.

Red inched into the kitchen, ashamed of himself for hiding. He considered grabbing a knife but he knew how ineffective steel was against things like this.

The man’s fingernails scraped the screen. Laughter filled his voice as he said, “Marie. It’s been a long time.”

Red’s mother cleared her throat. “What are you doing here?” Hands balled at her sides, she leaned toward the screen as if studying an insect, her face pale, a slight tremor causing the muscles in her jaw to twitch.

Red didn’t think he’d ever seen her work so hard at keeping her cool, except for the time she’d told him what she thought of Amy’s family, how they were all drug addicts, a blight on society, and would never be anything more. Thinking about it angered him and he wondered how different this man was from anyone else. Sure, he had a crappy old car that wilted the leaves on the oak, and his clothes looked so bad that the Salvation Army would throw them right in the incinerator, but did that make him a bad person? He reasoned that what he thought he seen in the man’s eyes was nothing more than his overactive imagination.

The man stammered, “Been a long time, all right. A long time. You’re married now.”

Red almost said out loud, Did you used to date him? Before Dad? Or is he family?

He slid closer to the wall, wanting to get a glimpse of the man, to see if in that ragged old face he saw an estranged uncle or grandfather. He’d always thought it odd how little contact his parent’s had with their families. It didn’t seem normal.

The stranger yawned and said, “I’m so tired. I’ve been searching for so long.” His shadow stretched through the door, tendrils of near-night, and some of them lovingly stroked her neck while others probed deeper into the living room.

Red stepped back and held his breath.

The sun seemed to flicker with faulty light and darken as if the man’s shadow drew power from it. Red’s mother brushed her neck and straightened her back. The man scratched the screen door again but never opened it. They stood there staring at each other for a moment longer before the stranger said, “Who’s the boy? Your son?”

Red took another step back and the sound of his foot against the linoleum in the kitchen sounded to his ears like the breaking of a heavy limb. He ran a hand down the front of his shirt. The stranger said, “Can I see him?”

“No,” Red’s mother said, moving closer to the door as if to protect him from whatever plans the man had, and Red wanted to tell her: I can stand up for myself, you don’t have to always do it. But he sucked in a deep breath, let it still his mind, and said, not meaning to say anything, “I’d like to meet him. If he means something to you, I’d like to.”

His mother shook her head. She said, “He don’t mean nothing to no one. He’s a bum, a vagrant.” She turned back to the door and her voice mingled with the scraping of leaves along the steps, “Get out of here. You’re not welcome.”

The man simply nodded, old worn neck creaking as if someone had wrapped a rope around it long ago and left him to deal with the punishment. His shadow receded from the step though Red had the feeling he’d never moved.

A moment later the car pulled past, a blur of red and black as it followed the turnaround, and the large oak swayed in the coming storm’s building wind.

*****

His mom told him to go to his room, that she didn’t want to talk about the stranger, so he did, grudgingly, irritated that she couldn’t just tell him who the man was, and why he was there, expecting her to talk to him like an adult since that was what she usually expected of him.

Red shook his head and thought, Christ, I’m almost fifteen. She can tell me things.

He opened the bedroom window and looked over the forest. Wind whispered through the trees, carrying a message that other boys, normal ones, might fail to hear but he picked up on. Red listened for a while then climbed out the window as his mother cranked the stereo in the living room to drown the sounds of her demons. Sinatra thundered against the walls.

Once outside, he looked over the rough lawn, not much more than twenty feet of it to the wood line and the swamp nestled in its arms. Water dripped in the swamp. Red’s dad had warned him not to play back there because years ago, when the Tuscola County Road Commission was building English Road, they’d come across quicksand and lost a lot of machinery and a few men in the bog.

The danger of it excited and scared him and it reminded him of things he’d have rather forgotten forever because to dwell on them only made his chest hurt. But he couldn’t help but thinking, Part of me still misses Pig.

He wiped his eyes, knowing that if anyone from school was around they’d have called him a girl for struggling with his emotions. But he thought they would have struggled too if they’d been through what he had.

He shrugged against the chill crowding the air and considered climbing back into his room to grab a hoodie, but something moved in the woods and shoved the thought away while he was still wrestling it.

The chill against his cheeks and hands deepened.

A raven flew through shadows beneath dark limbs, weaving around branches, its wings beating furiously, beak snapping at the air in what almost sounded like a child crying. A swarm of dragonflies zipped around the bird. He wanted to look away, to check his surroundings, but he worried that he’d glance to his left and the odd man who’d stopped in earlier would be sitting on a rotten stump, folding shadows with deft hands, smiling because they were alone.

Red’s heart pounded. He glanced around but didn’t see anybody. Better safe than sorry, he thought. His nerves on edge, he crossed the lawn and stopped behind a birch tree, nervous and unsure why, other than that he sensed something in the air as the raven and insects made a circle in that small section of the forest.

The unease inside him worsened as the buzz of dragonfly wings grew louder. They passed and the leaves above him trembled. The insects rammed the raven, all at the same time, hitting it like a giant fist. The bird tumbled in flight and crashed against the earth, its collision vaporizing broken sticks and years of dead leaves. A cloud of dust hung in the air. Red gasped and scooted closer to the birch, careful to peek around it, wanting to watch and yet look away because he’d never seen dragonflies be so aggressive, or act of a uniform mind.

The buzz faded and then grew louder again as they flew off and came back in a sharp arc, all of them intent on making sure the raven was wounded or dead.

The forest hushed.

The bark was chalky and smooth to his touch.

The knees of his pants grew damp.

The dragonflies spun in a circle like a tornado of transparent wings, flying closer and closer until they all touched, merged, and their dimensions lost their individuality, all of their eyes poking out from the whole, looking every which way, casting yellow light over the forest floor until the creature stooped and rummaged through the leaves—its hands composed of many moving parts, the buzz of their wings soft whispers as they shifted around each other to produce grotesquely precise movements.

He held his breath. Sweat formed and stung his eyes. He wanted to wipe it away but he didn’t want to move, didn’t want to be seen by this strange creature hunting its prey.

The thing stood, in the form of a man, holding the damaged raven. One of its wings was clasped tight to its side, the other akimbo, broken, and pointed directly at Red.

The Dragonfly Man ripped the damaged wing free as it chattered and the raven screamed with the voice of a very small child.

Red gripped the birch tighter, wishing he could step from behind it, but he’d been in a situation like this before—when he’d first followed Mr. Blue home at the beginning of last summer and seen Leonora trapped in his shed.

The crow cried again as the dragonflies closed a squirming hand over its throat.

Something snapped like a twig.

The cries died suddenly.

Red looked away, ashamed of himself for it, and frightened too because if the strange creature learned of his presence, so close to the backyard, it could endanger his family. He wished Amy was there. She was smart, could think on her feet. And no matter what anyone else thought, he knew that she was much braver than he could ever be.

He thought, Amy would know the right thing to do.

Red shivered, imagining the Dragonfly Man turning its head slowly, looking right at where he stood and dropping the damaged bird that Red knew wasn’t really a bird, and neither one of them was from here, from this place or this time, and he saw the creature burst toward him in his mind’s eye, felt its hands close over his head and jerk him into the air, up, up, up, carrying him above the trees and toward the sinkhole and the dark water so far below…

He blinked as sweat stung his eyes and he wanted to move but his hands were slippery on the trunk of the tree and he didn’t have any strength in his legs.

Fearing that his mother would check his bedroom and find him missing, and then come outside looking for him, Red found what little strength he could and stepped back slowly, keeping the birch between him and the monster.

Every small twig breaking underfoot sounded like a storm tearing trees apart, but he made it to the edge of the lawn, the trailer right behind him, its shadow cool, chilling the sweat soaking his shirt. He shivered and drew his arms around himself and shook his head.

A whisper blew through the forest like a coming winter wind though fall had just started, and darkness rose from the trees as dragonflies claimed the sky, until the beat of their wings faded, and Red stumbled back hearing the old man scratching on the screen door, whispering with the voice of things lost and ancient.

Lee Thompson started selling fiction in early 2010. His novels include NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN (Delirium Books, 2011) and THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING (Darkfuse Publications, 2012) both small but important parts in his Division mythos. He also has several sexy novellas available and forthcoming from Delirium Books, Thunderstorm Books, and Sideshow Press. He's not a productive writer of short fiction, but has sold to magazines he loves, like Shock Totem, Dark Discoveries, Darkside Digital and Literary Mayhem. You can visit his website but don't be a stalker: leethompsonfiction.com

Thank you so much for sharing, Lee!!

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Jan. 22 - Jan. 28

These are the new releases that caught my eye last week (in order of publication date). What did I miss? Be sure to tell me what books you were excited about last week!

Thirty Miles South Of Dry County
Publication Date: January 23, 2012

[I will be reading this one ASAP.]

Milestone is not a town that can be found on any map. Those who are aware of the place avoid it, and those who call it home treat it with a respect borne from fear. A once thriving mining town, the legends of myriad horrors operate as a warning to those who seek to cross its borders.

After his friends disappear, Warwick Tanner, an old man whiling away his days outside a liquor store, is forced to go find them, which means crossing into the dreaded town for the first time, a town marked by a sign that proclaims that: THERE ARE NO MIRACLES IN MILESTONE.

But Warwick will quickly learn that there are plenty of miracles in Milestone, and plenty of horrors, all of which he will encounter in his search. Trapped within the town's fog-shrouded borders as the few remaining citizens, both living and dead, natural and supernatural, prepare for Milestone's anniversary, Warwick will realize that his coming here was not an accident.

Because the town knows something about Warwick that he has chosen to forget. A secret that perfectly qualifies him to become part of Milestone's accursed, and inescapable history.



Horizon by Sophie Littlefield
Publication Date: January 24, 2012

[I just finished reading this one last night! Expect a review in the coming week.]

Cass Dollar is a survivor. She's overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals, and the many evils of man.

But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North—a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others decamp and follow him into the unknown.

Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what's inside her—dark memories from when she was a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon….



Paskagankee by Allan Leverone
Publication Date: January 27, 2012

An isolated village, remote and vulnerable.
A series of brutal murders.
And a vengeful spirit born of tragedy, reawakened after a centuries-old massacre.
Three distinctly different people must come together, racing against time and their own personal demons in a desperate attempt to stop an unstoppable killer and save their town.

Welcome to Paskagankee, Maine. You may not survive the visit.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review | Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe is a YA dystopian space mystery from Beth Revis.

Book Description

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to awaken on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

I'm going to say right off the bat that I did not enjoy this book. I found many things regarding the characters, the plot, the science, and the technological advancements of the spaceship to be completely illogical and highly frustrating.

The people aboard the humongous spaceship of Across the Universe are at least 10 generations of descendents from the people who left Earth 250 years ago to travel to the new world. These people, however, are still fixated on the Earth and still using Earthly terms to describe things like Amy's "sunset" hair when they've never even seen a sunset. They find exercise to be unproductive, yet instead of looking like the folks from Wall-E, they have the kind of hot muscles and carved biceps you can see through clothing.

The ship - 250 years later - is now far more advanced than it was when it left Earth. Where did they get all of the new materials and manufacturing capabilities out in space? I'd also love to know why they can create these amazing technologies but aren't capable of splicing some wires together that get cut on the ship.

I would really love to give bigger examples, but I'm about to enter into spoiler territory so I'll just say a lot of things made no sense to me at all.

There are a couple of redeeming qualities to Across the Universe. It's a fast paced read. Despite the numerous flaws, it did hold my interest until the end. I don't know that I will be joining anyone in reading A Million Suns, but I do have hopes that the series could improve from here. The dystopian framework has already been laid, and the characters have the potential to be likeable going forward.

If you enjoy reading dystopian for the sake of dystopian, Across the Universe provides a new premise within the genre. I would most compare this book to Lauren DeStefano's Wither. They have a similar appeal despite their flaws in logic.

3/10: Didn't Like It

Have you read Across the Universe? Were you able to successfully suspend your disbelief?

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Interview and Giveaway | Michael West

I am very excited about two things today! First, I had the opportunity to do a quick interview with Michael West, author of The Wide Game, Cinema of Shadows, and the upcoming Poseidon's Children. Second, I have a fabulous giveaway for three lucky readers! Seventh Star Press is giving away ALL EIGHT (8) of their new Seventh Star Singles short stories. That's an awesome prize.

Without further ado, I'm pleased to welcome Michael West to Book Den:

Seventh Star Press has released a fun series of stories called Seventh Star Singles. Can you tell us a little bit about this series?

The Singles are short stories set in the various worlds of the Seventh Star Press authors. Right now, we have a pair of sword and sorcery tales by Steven L. Shrewsbury, some epic fantasy/urban fantasy by Stephen Zimmer, and a couple of horror tales from me. The Singles provide a very unique experience for both the writers and the fans, as they become a way to explore more of these worlds we've created. And since they are stand-alone tales, they also give new readers a chance to discover our work for the first time. At $0.99, you can't beat the price! I think people will be much more willing to take a chance on new, unfamiliar talent when it costs them less than a cup of coffee to try. And just like coffee, I hope they become totally addicted and want more and more and more. LOL

How do your Seventh Star Singles stories Goodnight and For the River Is Wide and the Gods Are Hungry tie into your novels?

They're stand-alone tales that require no previous knowledge of The Wide Game or Cinema of Shadows to enjoy. They are set in the same small town of Harmony, Indiana, or involve people who attend the local college, Stanley University, but that is the only tie they have to the novels.

I really enjoyed reading Cinema of Shadows. Do you have plans for more books set in Harmony?

Oh yes. In fact, I'm writing the next Harmony, Indiana novel right now as we speak. It's called Spook House. The Harmony fire department works to turn an old farmhouse into a haunted attraction. Growing up, there was always that haunted house put on by the local Jaycees to raise money. So much fun! But, since this is Harmony, the house they've chosen sits atop a gateway to another dimension, and there are some nasty things on the other side of that doorway that have been waiting a long time to get out. Robby Miller (The Wide Game, Cinema of Shadows) really takes center stage this time out. He's been a supporting player up until now, but this is his novel, and we get just a little bit of set-up for the climactic battle of good vs. evil that will take place in the final Harmony novel, Field of Screams.

That sounds awesome! Obviously, I cannot let you go without asking about your upcoming series The Legacy of the Gods as well. What can you tell us about Poseidon's Children?

The Legacy of the Gods is an epic, dark Urban Fantasy series that will kick off with the release of Poseidon's Children. I'm very excited about it. This is a story that has been with me for years, and every time I would talk about it with faithful readers, they would always ask me, "When is that coming out?" I'm happy that they will finally be able to read it for themselves this March. I can't say much about it (no spoilers!), but if you're interested, you can read the entire first chapter right here, right now: http://www.bymichaelwest.com/pcsample

Excellent! Thank you so much for taking a moment to tell us about the Seventh Star Singles and for giving us the scoop on your upcoming releases!

More Information

For more information about Michael West and his books, please visit his website at http://www.bymichaelwest.com.

Seventh Star Singles Giveaway

Three random winners will be selected to receive all eight (8) of the current Seventh Star Singles:
  1. Goodnight by Michael West
  2. For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry by Michael West 
  3. Author and Finisher of Our Flesh by Steven L. Shrewsbury
  4. Insurmountable by Steven L. Shrewsbury
  5. Temples Rising by Stephen Zimmer
  6. Into Glory Ride by Stephen Zimmer
  7. Land of Shadow by Stephen Zimmer
  8. Lion Heart by Stephen Zimmer

This contest will be open until January 31, 2012. Once the winners have been selected, Seventh Star Press will contact you to ensure you get the ebooks in your preferred format.

This is my first time using Rafflecopter. Please let me know if you have any issues! Be sure to click Read More>> if you don't see the Rafflecopter entry form.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Post | Don't throw it out – the value of revisiting old work by A.J. O'Connell

I'm happy to welcome A.J. O'Connell to Book Den today!

Sometimes I hear writers saying that they want to throw out stories that they wrote a long time ago, things that might be old or embarrassing or that the writers for some reason no longer like.

Please, I want to tell them, please don’t do this.

I wrote the first draft of my novella Beware the Hawk in 2003 and 2004 while I was working with my very first writing group. It was my first attempt at getting serious feedback on a piece of writing. At the time I was just learning the ins and outs of telling a story. I was figuring out how to write dialogue and learning to build scenes.

Then for some reason, five pages from the end, the project was abandoned and ended up in The File.

If you’re a writer, you have some equivalent of The File. Maybe for you it’s The Drawer or the Box or maybe even The DropBox, but it’s the same thing. It’s like prison for creative ventures - it’s where your projects go to cool their heels until they are rehabilitated, or maybe, if they are very bad, to die.

For me, it’s The File, a file folder on my ancient Blueberry iBook G3, which currently lives under a couch in my house.

In the following years, I thought — every once in a while – about paroling Beware the Hawk.

I’d think “I should really write those last five pages,” but I never would. The most I’d do would be to review the piece, see how much my writing had changed and how much work the piece needed. Then I’d close the file and shove the iBook back under the couch.

About a year and a half ago, I briefly considered emptying The File for good, deleting everything that I had written before joining my Masters of Fine Arts graduate program in 2009. The stories weren’t good enough, I thought. They were written before I knew what I was doing, before I had a formal education about literature, and before I understood that adverbs were bad. They didn’t meet my current standards.

But something stayed my hand. And that was lucky, because, last summer, a friend, now an editor with a small publishing company, asked me to send her a copy of Beware the Hawk. She remembered it from the old writing group, of which she was also a member, and was thinking about releasing it as an e-book.

I was ecstatic, but I also dragged my feet when it came to revisions. The task seemed too big. The writing seemed too different from my current style. I was also nearly 10 years older, and the things that were important to me when I first wrote Beware no longer influenced me in the same ways. It seemed like I’d have to write a new book, but I didn’t count on something.

After a few days of rewrites and edits, I began to notice that the book’s eight years in The File had somehow not been wasted. For eight years, the story had been dormant, but marinating in my brain. The characters had been growing and deepening without my knowledge, and when I began to work on them again, I found that I understood them better than I had in 2004. I found that I had more compassion for Leo, the spy with the substance abuse problem, and tolerated less crap from my protagonist. I also found that the settings had developed more fully in my mind’s eye. I could see them more clearly now than when I invented them.

I had grown, but my story had grown with me. When I realized that, the rewrites were a lot easier.

This was all a surprise to me. In grad school I’d been concentrating on writing and workshopping two literary novels. I never thought that something from The File would be published first.

So authors, please don’t get rid of the projects you’ve consigned to your File. Bring them up for parole once in a while. One of them might get a new lease on life.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, A.J.!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review | 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 is an epic time travel/historical fiction novel from Stephen King.

Book Description

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force. 

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history. 

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk. 

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life – a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time. 

A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.

You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. - Paul Sweeney

It's been a long time since I've grieved this hard over finishing a book. 900 pages and I wasn't ready to leave. I finished reading 11/22/63 last night, and when I woke up this morning, I still wanted to cry.

11/22/63 brought me through an entire range of emotions: happiness, fear, sadness, nostalgia, goosebumps, laughter... I made friends, and I lost friends.

According to Goodreads, I've now read 43 Stephen King books. 11/22/63 is ranked as one of my favorites. If you're a fan of Stephen King, you can't not read this one.

Whether you're a King fan or not, 11/22/63 gets my highest recommendation. Be sure to let me know when you do read 11/22/63. I'd love to hear your thoughts. It will hold me over until I read it again.

10/10: Awesome

Are you a King fan? Have you read 11/22/63?

This post is being shared as part of The Stephen King Project.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Jan. 8 - Jan. 14

These are the new releases that caught my eye this week. What did I miss? Be sure to tell me what you what books you were excited about this week!

Blemish by Joe McKinney
Publication Date: January 8, 2012

[Joe McKinney has published a new horror anthology The Red Empire. You can get Blemish - a story from that anthology - free on Amazon through this weekend.]

It’s people who are haunted. The ghosts are as real as our guilt and shame make them.

Part love story, part ghost story, part parable of the redemption of modern man, Blemish is the tale of two lovers who, for seventeen long years, chased each other through a nightmare world of violence and guilt and death.
One of the eight tales in Joe McKinney’s debut collection of horror and dark crime stories, “Blemish” is a prime example of why the New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry called him “the most original voice in modern horror.”



Gideon's Corpse by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Publication Date: January 10, 2012

[The second book in Preston/Child's Gideon Crew series. Read my review of book 1, Gideon's Sword, here.]

A top nuclear scientist goes mad and takes an innocent family hostage at gunpoint, killing one and causing a massive standoff.

A plume of radiation above New York City leads to a warehouse where, it seems, a powerful nuclear bomb was assembled just hours before.

Sifting through the evidence, authorities determine that the unthinkable is about to happen: in ten days, a major American city will be vaporized by a terrorist attack.

Ten days. And Gideon Crew, tracking the mysterious terrorist cell from the suburbs of New York to the mountains of New Mexico, learns the end may be something worse--far worse--than mere Armageddon.



A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Publication Date: January 10, 2012

[I'm currently reading Across the Universe. A Million Suns is book two.]

Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.

It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

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Read-along | 11/22/63 by Stephen King [Parts 1-3]

Grace over at Feeding My Book Addiction is hosting a read-along of Stephen King's 11/22/63 through this month. If you haven't read it, please be aware this post will contain major spoilers. I will say to you now this book is awesome. You should go grab a copy and join us. If you have read it, feel free to jump in the comments with your thoughts!

Other read-along participant posts:
Grace at Feeding My Book Addiction
Brittany at Self-styled bibliophile
Alice at Tales of an Intrepid Pantser
Rachelkiwi at she is too fond of books 

Spoiler Thoughts 11/22/63 Parts 1-3 (pp. 1 - 350)

This book is fantastic. I really thought I was going to read this throughout the rest of the month along with my other reads but I'm so hooked you couldn't make me stop reading it. This is actually the kind of book you want to call in sick to keep reading.

I was surprised by how fast the time travel stuff came into play. I love when a book jumps straight into it. At first it seemed a lot like Groundhog Day with Al explaining how the past reset each time, but then... I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The Kennedy plan, the way Al tried saving that girl but it got reset, the way he did save that girl (happy ending!), then what?... wait... why is that girl in a wheelchair?... Jake got a rootbeer!!

I have no idea what to think of the yellow, orange, black card man. He really gave me the creeps from the beginning. I wanted Jake to follow Al's advice to a tee. He scared me. Then the whole black card throat slit thing... I wonder if Jake could even return to the past if he wanted to? It makes me feel like this is his only shot at it.

I'm also a little worried about him finding the steps to go home!

I really should have written this post when I finished Part 3. I'm on page 694 and all of my thoughts of the first half and the second half are running together. I will say I love that the past is obdurate. It's helping make this one hell of a story!

Are you guys loving it? What do you think of the yellow card man?

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: The Dampness of Mourning by Lee Thompson

The Dampness of Mourning is the latest horror novel from Lee Thompson.

Book Description

A ringleader of phantoms and collector of souls, he played rhythms on bare flesh, hellish melodies on bone. Fifty years ago he disappeared as quickly as he came and the town of Division gladly swept his tortured acts from memory.

But John McDonnell and Michael Johnston have drawn him home—he hears their names in his sleep, tastes their blood on his tongue, and fantasizes about the rapture birthed of their mourning.

I keep wanting to say "for fans of Lee Thompson!", but no kidding, right? Seriously, if you've read and loved anything by Lee Thompson, you won't be disappointed with The Dampness of Mourning.

The Dampness of Mourning is the second book in the Division series after Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children. In Dampness we are brought back to Division - a pretty messed up town like Stephen King's Derry - for a deeper look at the evil that dwells there.

All of Lee Thompson's works are pretty stand alone yet they are all part of a much bigger mythos Thompson is creating. I personally recommend you read Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children before reading The Dampness of Mourning, but hooray for me for having read Crooked Stick Figures, Before Leonora Wakes, and Beneath the Weeping Willow, too, because all of these stories tied into The Dampness of Mourning. Awesome.

So... if you love Lee Thompson, The Dampness of Mourning will give you even more to love. If you've been wanting to read something by him but you haven't, you need to jump on board. I look forward to everything he writes.

7/10: Recommended Read

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Notable New Book Releases [Jan. 1 - Jan. 7]

There were some great releases this week. These are the new releases that caught my eye. What did I miss? Be sure to let me know what books you were excited about this week.

Switched by Amanda Hocking
Publication Date: January 3, 2011

[I still haven't read this from her self-pubbed release. Does anyone know if the versions are different?]

When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers her mother might have been right.  She’s not the person she’s always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel—all because of Finn Holmes.

Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her.  Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken…though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she’d ever admit.  But it isn’t long before he reveals the truth:  Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth—and he’s come to take her home.

Now Wendy’s about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that’s both beautiful and frightening.  And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she’s meant to become…

As a special gift to readers, this book contains a new, never-before-published bonus story, “The Vittra Attacks,” set in the magical world of the Trylle.



Loss by Glen Krisch
Publication Date: January 4, 2012

[After enjoying The Nightmare Within, I'm looking forward to reading this.]

A 29k word (or about 110 printed pages) novella of psychological horror

After Angie Chandler's husband dies in a car crash in which she was driving, her life comes undone. Though her soul mate is gone, her memories of Paul linger as she tries to recover at their secluded wooded estate. Ostracized from Paul's family--the only family she has really known--Angie's life spirals down a dark path of alcohol and pills. In the blur of constant self-medication, Angie is in no position to know what is happening to her.
Is Paul haunting her?
Has she gone mad?
Or is there another possibility, something far worse?



KIN by Kealan Patrick Burke
Publication Date: January 4, 2012

[I'm a fan of Kealan Patrick Burke.]

A new novel by the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE TURTLE BOY.

On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers -- a family of cannibalistic lunatics -- are closing in.

A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood.

In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun.

And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance... a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers.

It's time to return to Elkwood.

In the spirit of such iconic horror classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, Kin begins at the end and studies the possible aftermath for the survivors of such traumas upon their return to the real world -- the guilt, the grief, the thirst for revenge -- and sets them on an unthinkable journey... back into the heart of darkness.



A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood
Publication Date: January 5, 2011

[This sounds like a great stuck in the snow thriller.]

A BROKEN FAMILY: Cass is trying to rebuild her life after the loss of her soldier husband, and a renovated mill in the picture-perfect village of Darnshaw looks to be the idyllic spot to bring up her traumatised son.

A DARK SECRET: But the locals aren't as friendly as Cass had hoped, and Ben is beginning to display a hostility she can't understand. Then the blizzards blow in, and Darnshaw is marooned in a sea of snow.

ISOLATED: Now, threatened on all sides, Cass finds herself pitted against forces she can barely comprehend.
The cold season has begun...



A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton
Publication Date: January 5, 2012

[I've been on the lookout for a good YA witch book. Recommendations welcome!]

Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her - but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Feature Friday | The TBR Pile

How fun is this?! I get to be featured at Parajunkee today for Follow Friday!

I love connecting with other readers. I hope you'll say hi while you are here so I can get to know you and follow your blog!

Today's Follow Friday question over at Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read is:

Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

I got a little freaked out when I read today's question. Just the thought of having to pull all of my books off the shelves to count them... My "to-read" shelf on Goodreads only has books that I actually own so I will start with that number: 151.

These are some of the books I am longing to read that were recently added to my TBR pile:



Do you have any books calling to you from your TBR shelf?

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stephen King Challenges and a Readalong

11/22/63 READALONG

First off I want to point out a readalong for 11/22/63 over at Feeding My Book Addiction. It will take place this month (January), so if you are like me and you have Stephen King's latest tome sitting on the shelf, join us! There will be two posts:

Post One: Saturday 1/14/12 Covering Parts 1-3 (approximately 350 pages in the hardcover edition)

Post Two: Tuesday 1/31/12 Covering Parts 4-6 (approximately 500 pages in the hardcover edition)


You can get all the details and sign up here.


THE STEPHEN KING PROJECT

Natalie over at Coffee and a Book Chick has recently become a fan of Stephen King. As you can imagine, she now wants to get her hands on more of his books. She has joined up with Kathleen from Boarding in My Forties to host The Stephen King Project.

Stephen King movie adaptations count as well, but you should post more book reviews than movie reviews.

I'll be joining in with my review of 11/22/63, and any success that may come from The Dark Tower Reading Challenge I will detail below this one.

You can find all of the details regarding The Stephen King Project here.


THE DARK TOWER READING CHALLENGE

Leighanne's Lit is hosting The Dark Tower Reading Challenge. Some of you may remember I was making my way through The Dark Tower series at the beginning of last year. I'm currently stuck somewhere within The Wolves of the Calla.

I've been pretty open about my struggles with The Dark Tower. I did enjoy The Drawing of the Three, but my journey for The Dark Tower has not been an easy one.

According to Goodreads I have read 42 Stephen King books. Reading The Dark Tower is more of a Stephen King completist goal for me.

If The Dark Tower has eluded you and you want to take up the journey with me, you can find all of the details for The Dark Tower Reading Challenge here.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten (Series) Books I'm Excited to Read in 2012

I started a lot of new series last year. Even though a lot of them were by accident, I couldn't help but get hooked. These are the top 10 books in a series I am looking forward to reading in 2012.

10. Gideon's Corpse by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Series: Gideon Crew



9. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium



8. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent



7. Poseidon's Children by Michael West
Series: The Legacy of the Gods



6. Horizon by Sophie Littlefield
Series: Aftertime



5. Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin
Series: Ashfall



4. The Dampness of Mourning by Lee Thompson
Series: Division



3. The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon
Series: Matthew Corbett



2. The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore
Series: Lorien Legacies



The #1 series book I am most looking forward to in 2012 is:

The Twelve by Justin Cronin



This post is shared as part of Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and The Bookish.

What series are you looking forward to continuing in 2012?

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: Mystery Walk by Robert McCammon

Mystery Walk is another epic read from Robert McCammon.

Book Description
One talks to the dead. The other heals the living. Both must make the ...Mystery Walk

From deep within the empty house of a murdered family, Billy Creekmore hears his name whispered... and is drawn inside. At a revival meeting in Alabama, Wayne Falconer demonstrates his miraculous healing powers... while demons feast and grow in his soul. On separate journeys through the Deep South to Chicago, from a world of innocence to a world of evil, greed and lust, the two young men discover their manhood - and fuel a deadly rivalry. On a scorched slab of desert they will meet in fear and unite their extraordinary powers against a raging, unshackled spirit - the walking, hungry corpse of the Shape Changer. - Goodreads

I have a strong desire to read The Five again. I can't help but wonder if the shapeshifter from Mystery Walk is the same evil that is in The Five.

Mystery Walk has everything I love in a story: coming of age characters, good vs. evil, ghosts, suspense, scares... Like all of McCammon's works, Mystery Walk is a huge story I was able to lose myself in.

If you are a fan of McCammon and you haven't read Mystery Walk, you need to read it. If you aren't familiar with McCammon but enjoy books like Justin Cronin's The Passage, you would also enjoy Mystery Walk.

9/10: Highly Recommended

The Great McCammon Read

If you'd like to learn more about McCammon's books, you can find all the details of The Great McCammon Read here. This month I'll be reading and reviewing Usher's Passing if you'd like to join me!

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