Blog

Uncategorized

Review: Steph Post’s latest, Miraculum

eBook and Print Book Cover

These days there are many books that bend genres, making them next to impossible to classify. It’s to the point that lately, I’m not sure that any book deserves its pigeon hole. But people like making comparisons to whatever they know. That’s why genres are assigned. I’m not sure they are as relevant as they once were, though. When a reader has fallen in love with a given author’s work the importance of artificial categorizations diminishes. You read a book expecting the author to deliver and you follow no matter where his or her imagination takes you.

Steph Post writes Southern Noir, what a lot of people refer to as Grit Lit. Her novels are about rural Southerners who often get sucked into get rich quick schemes that are illegal. But people who live on society’s fringe face hardship daily and must make desperate choices.

Post’s previous works are A Tree Born Crooked, Lightwood, and Walk in the Fire. If you have already read those you respect Steph Post’s writing chops. You know her characters are lifelike down to the grit under their fingernails and the grease that doesn’t wash off their calloused hands. Her gut-wrenching scenarios present authentic dilemmas. Her settings are based on her experiences growing up in a part of Florida far removed from the resorts and amusement parks. In Post’s books the American South feels genuine down to cypress knees jutting up from the oozing mud. Snakes hide in the tall grasses and gators lurk in fowl smelling, murky waters. If you know Steph Post’s stories you have probably been waiting eagerly for the release of Miraculum, which entered our edge of the universe on 1/22/2019.

From the first page, Post grabs hold of your faculties and doesn’t let go for the duration of the strange ride that often dips into the darkness that underlies the superficial world that others, those who are invested in the systems and institutions of decent society, believe is real. Ostensibly, the story is about a carnival/circus experiencing an identity crisis as it struggles to adjust to changes in the early 1920’s. America has emerged as a major industrial power having survived intact while Europe was devastated by The Great War. To compete with other forms of entertainment for the nickels and dimes in the audience’s pockets, the circus must exhibit what people can’t find anywhere else, or at least convince them that its assortment of geeks, freaks and exotic enhancements is unique.

In the circus Ruby is the snake charmer. Most of her body is decorated with multiple tattoos – not particularly well-done ones at that. She’s a survivor and, as the story unfolds, we are privy to some of her secrets, her origins, her past relationships, and her few aspirations. We understand how much the world around her limits her life.

Daniel, a stranger, who is a study in contradiction, joins the circus as a glommering geek. Yet he always wears an immaculate and obviously expensive suit that never seems to soil. He never appears to sweat, despite the muggy heat of summer int he deep South. Apart from the side show performance, he’s urbane, well-educated, and well-traveled, leading most everyone to wonder whatever he is doing there. Of course, Daniel is attracted to Ruby but not for obvious reasons. Where he can control others, she is exempt. He finds this both frustrating and fascinating.

As always, Post breathes life into her characters with a careful eye for detail and well-tuned ear for dialogue. Her research into the period and the nuances of backstory are evident as the past collides with a present that cannot possibly be. Still, the haves shun the have nots. Shady people pop out of dark corners, trying to make a fast buck, even if it’s not completely legal. Rejected people, those who are discarded through no fault of their own, congregate in the only place that allows them to make a living, as freaks in the circus side shows.

All the elements that have made Post’s past novels visceral and gripping anchor what becomes a bizarrely compelling novel that dabbles in beliefs apart from the mainstream. Miraculum offers a weird, creepy, supernatural vibe beginning on page one. Along the way it simmers just beneath the surface while the story gains its legs. And then, it bubbles up violently toward a tumultuous and inevitable climax.


Miraculum by Steph Post
Available in eBook, Hardcover from Polis Books

Audiobook from Blackstone Publishing  

Audiobook Cover

Authors Life, Books, novel, Publishing, Writing

How My Fictional Universe Began

A couple of people have asked me about my first publication, ONE OVER X: FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER. They saw there were two books offered in eBook under similar titles. Here’s the story behind that.

In the mid-90’s I spent a lot of time digitizing a stack of typewritten pages. My now ex-wife regretted talking me into getting a home computer as every waking hour I was home I worked on that project. I had some stuff that dated back to my college years, a rough draft that has been titled TAROT, which as the title suggests had something to do with the fortune telling cards. I made an attempt to create characters based on the Major Arcana. I still have that rough draft, by the way. I’ve kept it around for humility’s sake. It reminds me of how badly I wrote at a time when I believed I wrote well.

Most of the material that I transcribed into computer files came from the period directly after my military service. You see, just prior to leaving Texas where I received a degree in Marketing, I threw away roughly 20,000 typewritten pages of accumulated bits of pieces of novels, short stories, and poetry along with the personal journal I kept throughout college. Trust me, it was trash and needed to be discarded. I’d say 95% if what I’ve written into draft manuscripts and published novels came from ideas I’ve had since 1987. However, ONE OVER X: FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER has roots in TAROT and shares many of the characters of a larger work, WOLFCATS, that date back to the late 70’s.

My wife and I separated in late ’97. For the next two years, in my spare time, I revised the material I had digitized. I wrote some connective material and rewrote large sections creating an extreme rough framework that would eventually become my first publication. While my first publisher wrestled with the editing, which all told took two years, I began writing a sequel titled A GAME OF HANGMAN. Roughly half of that book, which was also published through the same publisher, Ash Creek, and like FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER, is now out of print, became the core of the WOLFCATS story, which spans 10 as yet unpublished novels. I wrote that material in the summer of 2000, about a year before FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER was finally published.

I was never satisfied with either FROM THE INSIDE TO THE CLOSER or A GAME OF HANGMAN. The editing was sub par. At the time I was working in retail management, averaging over 60 hours a week and could not afforded the time to properly promote the books. However, I did not abandon the story. It is a series I plan to continue. There are drafts of two more novels. However, when the two ONE OVER X series books went out of print, I did a heavy revision of the material, using notes and comments from several readers as the basis for revision. Also, I split the book into two parts due to the length of the original material. In my opinion the story’s flow is much better. It is easier to follow Andy Hunter’s leaps and hops throughout the span of his multiple lifetimes. Also, it doesn’t take the reader over a hundred pages to figure out what is going on. Those books are available in Kindle format on Amazon.

Eventually, there will be a revised version of A GAME OF HANGMAN, though the WOLFCATS material has been extracted from the manuscript. There may or may not be two more novels in that series. There are additional stories involving Andy Hunter and Lee Anders Johnston of ONE OVER X, though some of that material falls into the FRIED WINDOWS series and THUPERMAN TRILOGY. So, the remaining story may be told as part of different series.

You may also notice another out of print book titled CURSE OF THE SPECTRE. The material contained in that book has been revised extensively, rewritten and reformatted. It is the prequel to the foundation material of the WOLFCATS series that I wrote int he summer of 2000. Much of the prequel is now contained in WOLFCATS I and II. Both are currently under contact with Pandamoon Publishing and I hope that one or both will be published later this year. The material that was extracted from A GAME OF HANGMAN is contained in WOLFCATS III. The remainder of the story I wrote as a separate volume during the summer of 2000 is contained in WOLFCATS IV through VII. Volumes VIII through X were written between 2005 and 2007, in response to several beta readers telling me they wanted to know how this, that and the other played out. Although there is a somewhat natural conclusion to WOLFCATS VII there are two major story arcs left unresolved. Those are completed in the final three books.

Authors Life, Blog, life, moving

If I Ever Go Back Home Again

Historic Shops along Chillicothe Street

I don’t know when it happened that most people in American lived in or around cities. When I grew up on a farm in the 1960’s and early 1970’s it didn’t feel that way. In the part of Ohio where I lived, I think roughly half the people at that time lived in small towns, on farms, or in the countryside. After visiting my old hometown, I get the feeling that things haven’t changed all that much in the past 50 or so years.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about going home to South Charleston, Ohio. The visit was rushed because of the schedule my publicist and I were on. We had less than a week to cover scheduled and unscheduled visits in three states. It was interesting seeing some of the places I used to live, though. Noting what had changed and what had not (most things hadn’t changed all that much) fascinated me.

I had a crazy idea about visiting my old library, the place I learned to love books. I thought I’d donate my most recent books, the ones of which I’m proudest and a few others titles from my publisher, the great and underappreciated works of some of my dearest colleagues. Disappointingly, the librarians at the Houston Library of South Charleston were at best cool to the idea. To them, I was just another author (maybe they thought I was self-published) who wanted to get my opus onto the shelves of their hallowed halls. Really, what I expected was a brief conversation about my connection to the town and perhaps sharing a few anecdotes from the past – things that only someone my age might remember about the curious little town. That part of the conversation never happened.

It is a rite of passage for an author to have a book on the shelves of a library. It’s not as easily accomplished as you might think. Space in a library is at a premium. Although they may want to support authors, especially local ones, they also have to answer to superiors about their borrowing rates.

When I lived in Melbourne, FL, the local library was more receptive to my first two publications. I recall the feeling of accomplishment I had when later on I visited the library with my daughters and together we perused the stacks until we found my books, alphabetical by author. No, it didn’t appear that anyone had checked either of them out. But still, that ranked high on the cool factor for all concerned.

I was speechless after the reception I received in my hometown, which is something for me to say. My publicist commented that the ladies were rather rude. As I said in the previous blog post, they weren’t expecting me.

Houston Library of South Charleston

Since then, a lot of things have changed. I moved to Southern California, meaning I’m farther away from my roots. Although I have visited Ohio several times in the past few years, always before I stayed around Cleveland. The visits were intended to have a more local base of operation for other excursions. One year Christine and I went to Chicago, for example. As my publicist lives less than a hour to the west of the Cleveland, it made some sense going there and driving to various places across the Midwest.

Since I’m now three time zones distant, I’m not sure when I’ll next be able to swing a trip to the Ohio. I know that if I do return I want to have something scheduled for South Charleston, perhaps at the library of maybe Miami View Elementary. I’d also like to visit Shawnee High School in Springfield. That is where I graduated in ’74. Actually, I’d like to spend a few days in the general area, connecting with some old friends and relatives. On the past trip I was able to meet up with two of my cousins, Randy and Lanelle, but the schedule was so tight that even that almost didn’t happen.

I realize that everything in the world has grown older around me. I refuse to admit that I’ve changed too. I’m stubborn like that. There is a scene in one of my books where a guy who is my age is talking to a slightly older man who says, “When you get old everything starts falling apart, not just your body but the world around you, too.” To which the slightly younger character responds, “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

Truth is that the potential I had at eighteen years of age when I went off to college has greatly diminished. I had lots of dreams, and some were pretty big. Forty-four years later, I’ve accomplished some things I set out to do, but certainly not everything. I have seen a lot of the world, places the average person from South Charleston, Ohio never has. I’ve lived here and there throughout the US. And I have friends from all over the country and many around the world.

I guess I’d like to go back home to tell the people who live there, people I have never met (or the sons and daughters of people I grew up with), that as scary as the big bad world may seem when you’re a teenager in a small town, there are enchanting places to see and wonderful people to meet everywhere you go. Most people are wonderful, you know – once you get to know them, once you get past the artificial barriers that separate us. Also, I’d tell them not to sell themselves short of the opportunity of stepping out and making a lasting mark. And, by all means, NEVER stop dreaming.

Authors Life, Blog, Books, Editing, Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing

2019: Starting Out in So Cal

I’ll be consolidating my Facebook pages from three to one. It has been cumbersome maintaining the three pages and, frankly, I haven’t been keeping up with regular posts. Also, my FB account has nearly maxed out with the mythical 5000 friends limit, so I’m directing everyone to my author’s page. I will be posting everything book related there and, for the short term, some of those items may be posted on my timeline as well. Ideally, I will end up with a author’s page and a timeline which caters more to my family and close friends.

2019 promises to be a wild ride. I’m starting out in So Cal. There have been some adjustments to make, but overall I like it here. And I can finally say I’ve eaten at In-And-Out Burger and shopped at Ralph’s. I’m not sure that makes me a Californian or that anything ever will, but that’s okay.

I’ve been working on a project titled Dead Men Don’t Wear Watches, which fits into the larger Fried Windows/Becoming Thuperman universe. Although the main character is a badass female detective named Mona Parker, Brent Wood and well as Will and Sandra make helpful appearances.

The book is set in this area of California. I wrote the draft for it several years ago and, while I’m here, I’ll be fine tuning the details to make a better fit to this setting. In the overall chronology of the fictional universe I’ve been working on, DMDWW come after Fried Windows and its sequel, Castles of Ninja Bread, which, of course, occurs a decade later than the Thuperman Trilogy (Becoming Thuperman, Homer Underby and Thuperman & Cassandra). It serves as a backstory piece for my Wolfcats series as well, filling it a few details not covered in that story. There is also a prequel to DMDWW, which is set in the Boston area as well as a sequel, which is set in central Texas.

Anyway, I’ll be busy for a while finishing those stories . For now, they exist in various stages of completion but certainly need updating.

Authors Life, life, moving

Settling In

It’s been a week since I flew into LAX to begin a new chapter of my life in Southern California. For the most part I’m settled in, now. It’s great being with my son again and helping he and his wife, Laia, with the newborn, my grandson, Jackson Legend Williams. But settling has required some adjustment.

The weather is considerably different here from Florida. Although the climate in Orlando is considered semi-arid, it always feels like it’s about to rain because of the humidity. And though it doesn’t rain everyday (and can go for long spans without any precipitation) it certainly rains more than it does in Irvine, CA. Here, the humidity is generally lower at midday. This time of year, it tends to be foggy in the early morning, though.

Another adjustment I’ve had to make is the time. It’s 3 hours earlier here. That means stuff I used to get up to do at 3 AM I can do at midnight before going to bed. Also, if watching a night game on TV, it usually starts before sunset and ends around 9 PM. I’m not sure my body has completely adapted to new scheduling requirements, but I am better off than I was the first day here. I’m told that adjusting is worse going from west to east. I don’t doubt that. I recall how painful it was getting used to being back in the States after spending two years in Asia.

This is not my first time living in California, either. While I served in the Air Force, I attended the Defense Language Institute at Presidio of Monterrey, where I spent about a year studying Chinese Mandarin. I’d like to drive up the coast to revisit some memories I have of the place, but I’m not sure when or if that will happen. Even though Monterrey is in the same state, it is about as far away from Irvine as, say Orlando is to Charleston, SC. Also, this is not my first time in the LA area. One of my fellow DLI students and I took a trip down here during 4th of July weekend in 1983. We stayed at his cousin’s apartment in Newport Beach, which is roughly 5 miles or so from where I’m living now.

I have some friends who live in California. One lives upstate a bit. A couple of others live in LA. A fellow Pandamoon Publishing Author, Katie Masters, lives in the next town – maybe three or four miles from here. I’ve already contacted one of the LA people, a former model, actress and author. We’re meeting soon for lunch. My friend from upstate will be driving down here around mid-month. Since her birthday is around then, I’m thinking of taking her to a movie and dinner. A couple of editors I know live here, too, as well as two of the voice actors who have done Audible books for Pandamoon authors.

My immediate plans are to finish a revision of a book that is set in this area. It’s funny, because when I wrote it I had not been in So Cal for years. There are things I need to correct.

Concurrently I’ll be looking for a job, something to help with expenses while I’m here. Yes, a lot of things in California are higher, but so far what I’m seeing is that housing, fuel and taxes are the big difference. Everything else seems to be priced around the same as it was in FL, with some variation for food depending on where it is produced. A lot of fruits and veggies are cheaper here, for example, because they are grown in state.

Amazon, Blog, Books, Fantasy, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Technology, Urban Fantasy

Review of Audible Service & The Three J’Amigos Trilogy (JADE, JANE and JILL) by Rose Montague

Recently, I upgraded my Kindle Paperwhite. The latest one has twice the memory and is waterproof (within reason, anyway). It also supports Audible audiobooks, which is rapidly becoming huge in the publishing industry, with many Indies and small publishers joining the major publishers with titles in release. So,  I decided to give this new thing a test drive.

Audible Trademark

Audible is an Amazon company, but you don’t need a Kindle device to enjoy the audiobooks. If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) you can download the Audible App for Apple or Android and play the book through your Bluetooth speakers, headphones, earbuds or vehicle (if so equipped). There are some special trial deals going on for little or nothing. Once you see how much it frees you up, while still satisfying your lit needs you’ll want to sign up for it. You get one free download per month and discounts on other purchases throughout the period. What I have discovered is that I can listen to an average length book in a day or so, while doing menial things like laundry, cleaning the house, riding my bike, taking a walk, just about anything.

Author Rose Montague has been an early adopter of the audiobook format for her action-packed YA/NA books. Previously, I’ve read two of The Three J’Amigos Trilogy, as well as both of her other, spin-off books, which take place in the same universe but feature some other characters that have supporting roles in the trilogy. It was just with all the requests for reviews from others I hadn’t gotten around to reading JILL, which was published within the past year or so. But it was coming up on my “to-be- read” list.

All three audiobooks are narrated by Caryn Kuhlman, who does a fine job. It is essential for continuity between books of the same series to have the same narrator, I believe. Kuhlman varies her voice to make each character distinct, which helps a lot from a listener’s standpoint. For example, Jane in the series is “London Jane” and, yes, she has a British accent.

Cover of Jade Audiobook, 1st in the trilogy.

The one thing I will say that is a difference between listening to an audiobook and reading the eBook or print formats is that if you have read the print or eBook previously, it takes a bit to adjust to the narrator’s voice as opposed to your internal, reading voice. The characters are not going to sound the same as you have previously imagined. But you get used to that in relatively short order.

As for the story – I recommend taking the time to binge read or listen to this series. If you enjoy YA books featuring Supernatural beings (Supes), like Vampires, Shape-Shifters, Witches and Faeries, this is a series you’ll love. It offers a mind-expanding journey into the imagination of the author who is a great, natural storyteller. Her books’ pacing is quick.

Cover of Jane Audiobook, 2nd in the trilogy

Her characters are diverse. Jade is a Supernatural mutt, having the attributes of just about every supernatural being. Jane is a Vampire (Vamp) and a member of her community’s royalty. Jill is the Faeire Winter Queen who interacts with the human world on occasion. The female lead characters are strong, independent, sometimes snarky, sword-wielding, dagger-jabbing, (or steel-bat-swinging) badasses who you’ll be rooting for straight out of the gate. Oh, yes, there is a dragon in the mix as well. As J.R.R. Tolkien informed us, every good fantasy needs a dragon. There is plenty of action, excitement, and globe-trotting along the way, with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat guessing what will happen next. Rose’s books are a thrill ride waiting for you to jump in and claw at anything available while you hang on for dear life.

Cover of Jill Audiobook, 3rd in the series, 

Following this first exposure to Audible, I’ve decided I much prefer listening to the three books in sequence. While waiting for JANE to be written (after having read JADE) I had forgotten some of the story and had to go back into the first book of the series and catch up a bit. I am certain I would have needed to do the same with Jane before reading Jill. However, listening to the books proved to be the best way to revisit the story in preparation for JILL. The trilogy comes to a satisfying, fitting conclusion that also directs the reader to the author’s other series which features Jewel, a budding teenage badass in her own right. Having read both available books of that series I can say that I can’t wait for the audiobooks and also look forward to the next book in that series.