Bites

Published June 2010.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Peters is over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, agrees to act as her personal mentor. But when Father Mark’s enthusiasm for Olivia’s writing develops into something more, Olivia’s emotions quickly shift from wonder to confusion to despair. Exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can Olivia get out of it? (book back blurb)
It starts off innocent enough. Kind words. Little notes. But then it morphs. You don’t see the shift at first because it’s subtle. And really, it’s not too much different than it was before. But then the hand comes down and you’re left with a ruffled brow and a question mark over your head. The next thing you know, you’re desperate to get out of the situation but you’re in so deep, you don’t know how.
As someone that’s been in a very similar situation to Olivia, I could automatically sympathize with her. Even if I hadn’t been, Olivia is a very commanding character. She’s very likable, very honest. Really, it’s hard not to like her. If you’re a writer, you can share in her enthusiasm when she wins a coveted writing prize plus a chance to learn from a literary master. Who wouldn’t love that? But it’s when that power figure starts to abuse his power that things start to get ugly.
Olivia was such a pretty girl but the things Father Mark did to her (he never touched her inappropriately, in a sexual manner, mind) caused her to spiral. Her worry and her distress at the situation she was in started to show on her face. When a person you love starts to downward spiral like that, it’s hard not to notice. I could actually see her at the end of the book; her face sallow, her hair lackluster, her eyes red and puffy from crying. I wanted to tell her I understood, that everything would turn out okay.
Freitas’ writing just sucked me right in (obviously). She got it right. The reactions of the power player, the reactions of Olivia, they all hit home. They all rang true. I felt every twinge, every bit of happiness, every threat of fear. I could feel it in my bones. Trust me, it’s a shitty feeling. But I almost wish Freitas would have done the power play with a younger man just so we could have another Albatross, another rejection of the stalker = love notion that’s so dominant in YA right now. But it was amazing as is.
Father Mark had something of Olivia’s that he knew he could manipulate to make his own. She’s young, naive, afraid of losing it all. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to shout at the book, “drop him! Your writing life won’t end! He’s lying!” But she had to see it on her own. It still didn’t suck any less to watch someone, even someone fictional, go through something like that. But at least she had the support structure around her to help her through it, once she brought them in, anyway.
Making Father Mark the community pillar didn’t help Olivia either. It made her wanting to turn him in even harder. Who would believe her? He, a nationally recognized novelist and priest, over some pretty little blonde kid? The ending wasn’t a perfect wrap-up either. A switch wasn’t flicked that made everything all better. It was a slow process that we just start to see unfold as the final pages pass by. And I liked that. In a situation like this, it’s not all cookie cutter. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s going to take a long time to heal. I’m glad Freitas didn’t gloss over that fact.
You will not want to put this book down once you pick it up. You will want to soak in every single word, cheer with Olivia, cry with Olivia, scream at her, help her. So go ahead. Do it. You won’t regret it. It’s a hard topic but one that needs to be discussed and Freitas does an excellent job of that.
Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? Just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends December 9th at midnight, EST.

Published September, 2010.

These days you can’t swing an undead lycanthrope without hitting a Minion of Evil. They’re everywhere – TV, film, the basement . . . right behind you! It’s never been more important to know what you can do to keep them at bay.

From today’s foremost experts on nightmares come to life, this indispensable guide identifies and described mankind’s enemies – supernatural beasts, ghosts, vampires, serial killers, etc. – and unearths effective, time-proven responses to each horrific threat.
  • Separate fact from fiction, the deadly from the merely creepy.
  • Learn when to stand your ground and when to run screaming for your life.
  • Determine which monster-specific heroes to call and their likelihood of success.
Whether we’re talking ancient vampire hunters or modern-day FBI profilers, it’s good to know someone’s got your back in the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. And this book, with over fifty illustrations as well as commentary from luminaries like filmmaker John Carpenter, author Peter Straub, and the legendary Stan Lee, provides all the information and reassurance you need to sleep soundly at night. Just not too soundly. (book back blurb)
What a thoroughly amazing book. From the definition of evil to its incarnates and how to fight it in its various forms, Wanted Undead or Alive has it all, with pictures to spare. It’s a textbook on fighting evil without the boring text. From Dracula to Ted Bundy, Maberry and Bashman don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to seeking out evil and unearthing the heroes that smite them.
And don’t think we’re limited to your standard film and literature fare. Oh no. Take that huge section on comics for example. Not only do you get a timeline of great comic heroes, but you get to see the trials and tribulations the arena went through in trying to bring those masters, and monsters, to life. See, things got too real for people in the comic world and the Senate, yes, the Senate, initiated the Comic Code of Authority which is, in fact, still in force today although not strictly adhered to anymore. Go ahead and read the restrictions that comic artists and authors had when it came to developing and writing their comics –
As a result of the 1950s Senate hearings and protests from vocal but deeply misinformed critics, comic book publishers were bullied into censoring their own content. The Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) was established and instituted the Comics Code Authority (CCA). In a stunning move to ignore the First Amendment, the Comics Code seal of approval would only be given to a new wave of sanitized comics. Here’s what the code specified:
  • Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
  • If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
  • Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position that creates a desire for emulation.
  • In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
  • Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory, and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
  • No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
  • All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
  • All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
  • Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, not so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
  • Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
  • Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols that have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
  • Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
  • Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
  • Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
  • Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
  • Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
  • Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
  • Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product, clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals. (295-296)
So you think authors of today have it bad? Try having to write within those confines. Comic book artists and authors of yore were the heroes fighting the evil of misinformation, lack of education and just a sheer lack of intelligence. Of course, it wasn’t too long before the comics started fighting back, starting with Stan Lee and Marvel. They pretty much said ‘stick my fist’ to the code and the rest started to follow. Eventually.
So whether those evils are the ignorant masses trying to stifle the First Amendment, some ghoul trying to eat your face or your run-of-the-mill serial killer trying to do the same, Maberry and Bashman have a hero (or antihero) to counter those guys. The amount of research gone into formulating this novel is amazing. From film and literature greats to FBI profilers and artists that let their artwork speak for themselves, everyone has a different take on what’s evil and what’s needed to fight that evil.
While the monsters under the bed and creeps on the pages and screens may give you nightmares, I don’t think there’s anything more truly terrifying than the last portion of this book detailing real life evil in the likes of notable serial killers. Some of the details are rather graphic and I’d recommend not reading that particular part while eating. I made that mistake and, well, let’s just say I lost my appetite.
If you’re a writer, you’ll definitely want this mini-encyclopedia in your collection for GvE reference. It will certainly broaden your scope to avenues that you probably wouldn’t think of. The unconventional along with the conventional is highlighted between these blood red pages and you’ll get sucked right in. Hopefully you’ll be able to get back out again. If you’re thrifty enough and take note of the tips doled out in these pages, you’ll be sure to walk away from this sight relatively unscathed. Relatively.
Contest Time!!!
Want to win a copy? Just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. The question must be answered in order to qualify. Entry gives me permission to post your answers on this website. Contest ends November 1st at midnight EST.

Published 2010.

This fantastically freaky look inside the fearsome world of zombies takes you, the newly undead, from first bite to fun-filled afterlife with hands-on hints covering:

Fitting in at home, work, and school as a zombie.

Dressing like a hideous undead creature.

Brains – do you have to eat them?

Get bitten.

Get gory.

Get your zombie on. (book back blurb)
First, let me just say the romanticizing of zombies really cranks my grinder. They’re zombies. Undead, rotting corpses. What can possibly be appealing about that? But putting that aside, this was a pretty cute book. Very nicely put together, I loved the visuals that came with all of the tips. My favorites were the musical selections.
I liked how the book outlined each different type of zombie gathered from various sources and stuck to the confines of each zombie; meaning those rage virus zombies didn’t have much of a chance for a romantic life since they’re pretty much bat shit insane and would rip apart any significant other they came across. As much humor that was throughout the book, there is legitimate lore littered throughout which is a nice break from it all. It helps ground out the extreme that the book is taking zombiism to.
I loved all of the pictures and fonts that went along with all of the text. It complimented the entire feel of the book nicely. A mixture of digitally edited photographs and drawings, they’re both heinously creepy and when need be funny at the same time. It was a nice juxtaposition throughout the book. Yes, it’s pretty much making fun of romanticized zombies and banking on the extreme that people are taking it to but at the same time it’s showcasing just how icky these things really are.
It gives excellent selections for zombie-related music and classic zombie movie choices. You can’t really beat that. There’s even a quirky comic and a couple of zombie quizzes you can take to see where you rank in the greater zombie-verse. The voice is poignant and portrays what it’s trying to say as clearly as possible, with just a little sarcasm. It’s definitely catering to a specific audience but at the same time those that are a little more leery of the romanticized zombie can get a kick out of what Valentino is saying.
It’s quirky, funny and, yes, cute. There’s just no other word for it. I love the make-up of some of the chicks in the photos and I can use other creeptastic photos for excellent triggers for writing. Can’t beat that. This book certainly doesn’t take itself seriously but it hits upon pretty realistic points concerning zombies that you might not have thought of otherwise. So if you want a good kick out of the zombie world, this book’s a good one to do it. It’s a quick read that’ll have you laughing at points and taking notes at others.
Contest Time!!!
Want my copy of How to be a Zombie? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win! Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. The designated question must be answered for the entrant to qualify. Entrance into the contest also grants me permission to post your answer on this website. Contest ends October 24th at midnight, EST.

History is something that always fascinates me so it’s no surprise that when I picked up Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran, I fell in love with it. With engrossing characters and a plot that sucks you in like a vortex, what’s not to love? So, of course, I contacted Michelle hoping that she’d be willing to do a guest post. And she graciously agreed! Not only that, either! See the end of the post for the goodies Michelle is offering up. Thanks so much for stopping by, Michelle!

The Idea Behind Cleopatra’s Daughter

I have always been a traveler. From the time I can remember, my family was on the move, and no location was too strange or exotic for them. As a child, I stayed in every possible kind of accommodation: tents, hotels, caves, villas, even teepees and huts. So it’s no surprise, really, that as an adult I would end up doing a great deal of traveling. Out of college, I began traveling for fun, but when I discovered that writing historical fiction wasa great passion of mine, I began to travel for research. Since then, most of my destinations have been countries with rich archaeological sites. These places have been constant sources of inspiration, and on a trip to Alexandria in Egypt, I was afforded the amazing opportunity of participating in a dive to see the submerged remains of Cleopatra’s ancient city. Thousands of artifacts remain completely preserved underwater: sphinxes, amphorae, even the stones of the Marc Antony’s summer palace. Although I’m not a fan of diving, it was an incredible experience, and it changed the way I looked at Cleopatra. I immediately wanted to know more about her life, and it was mere coincidence that my next trip took me to Italy, where her ten year-old twins were brought to live after her suicide.

While in Rome, I was able to retrace the steps of Cleopatra’s children. From the Pantheon, which was being built while Cleopatra’s daughter, Selene, was there, to the Mamertine prison, it is still possible to see many of the places where Selene herself would have walked. Most impressive, however, was my visit to the Emperor Octavian’s villa on the Palatine Hill. At one time, its vibrantly painted dining room had hosted magnificent feasts, one of which would have been the celebration of the Emperor’s triumph over Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt. As the heir to Caesar, Octavian was determined to rule the western world without interference. He changed his name to Augustus, and with the help of his general Agrippa and his architect Vitruvius, he turned a city of clay into a city of marble. After three million dollars in restoration, Italian archaeologists have made enormous progress in restoring this two-thousand year-old villa. They have been able to recreate not just the intimate library and studies which Octavian once used, but the mosaic floors he once walked on with Ovid, Seneca, Cicero, Horace, and even Julius Caesar himself.

As we were quickly escorted through the frescoed rooms, we stopped in the triclinium – the dining room which had once seen so many famous faces smiling, laughing, even crying for mercy. With a little imagination, it was easy to see the tables and couches that had once adorned the chamber, and there was the undeniable feeling of standing in the presence of the ancients. It was the kind of feeling you only get in Grecian temples or Egyptian tombs, and it was here that I decided I needed to tell the story of Cleopatra’s forgotten children. What they witnessed while they were in Rome, how they survived, and – eventually – what became of them.

~~~
And thanks to Michelle’s awesomeness, she’s offered up two signed copies of Cleopatra’s Daughter for a giveaway! Just fill out the form below to enter. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends October 12th at midnight, EST.

First I have a couple of winners from recently ended contests to announce. The winner of Middleworld: The Jaguar Stones Book 1 by J&P Voelkel is . . .

Daisy Mota!!!

Congratulations! I’ve already emailed you. And the winner of Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff is . . .

Autumn Crochet!!!

Congratulations to you too! I’ll be emailing you shortly. And a big thanks to everyone that entered both contests!

Now on to this week’s Summer Blast Giveaway –


Dylan Flack never wanted to leave New York City for Florida, but his mother’s death changed everything. Drifting further away from his father and losing sight of his future, Dylan stumbles through a hot summer as a caddy. But a sighting of the Blessed Virgin Mary brings hundreds of worshippers to town, including the beautiful and mysterious Angela, who leads Dylan to the life-changing realization that faith requires wanting something badly enough to take a risk. (book back blurb)

This ARC is SIGNED! Want to win it? Just fill out the form below. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends August 20th at midnight, EST.