Cover Reveal For My Latest Release

Author Don Massenzio

I’m very excited about my upcoming release, Extra Innings. It is a bit of a departure for me as I’ve written mostly detective and mystery novels.

This book started as a memory from childhood of the old minor league baseball stadium in my home town. I spent many summer days there. I remember exciting games that often competed with the volatile Upstate New York weather. I even remember the field having to be plowed so there wouldn’t be snow to interrupt opening day.

The book then twists in the direction of the supernatural. The underlying theme comes from the age old conundrum, if you could go back and change anything in your life, would you?

Here is the blurb I’ve been trying out:

Joe McLean hated his life. He was middle-aged, divorce and living in a small apartment. The only bright spot in his life was cheering on his…

View original post 203 more words

Advertisements

Book Review: Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie

Book Review: Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie

Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie is a novel about a young upwardly mobile couple transferred to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Plot

He is an investment banker and she is trapped in a foreign country without much marketable skills or a visa that would allow her to work. The descriptions of Brazil are accurate. The division between the rich in their walled complexes and the poor in their shantytowns is very clear. Among the rich Brazilians, there is also a status competition. Emma, the American woman, works for friends teaching English. Having a tutor is a status symbol, even if one doesn’t really need one.

There is crime on the streets. There is corruption in business and government. There are protests and protests that turn into riots. Children of the rich are joining in the fight if not for the movement for the thrill. Haitian immigrants legal and illegal are protected by the parish priests and become the new outcasts giving the poor someone to target. A great deal is given to the division of the people and to the chaos of society outside walled complexes.

Writing Quirks

The most interesting thing I found and what kept me digging into the story is the narrator. The cover flap will tell the reader her name is Emma. You will only find her name once in the text. Her husband does not refer to her by name nor do her Brazilain friends. Perhaps she is just another American woman with no value except as a status symbol tutor or wife.

Equally interesting is her husband. He is never referred to by name. When they were dating Emma refers to him as “the man who would become my husband.” She addresses and refers to him as “my husband” throughout the rest of the book. No one addresses him by name.

Perhaps he too is just another Yankee in a foreign country. There for a while then replaced with another equally forgettable person. This makes the book far more interesting to me than I originally expected. It added depth to the story that made it much more than just a story.

About the Author

MacKenzie’s first novel was City of Strangers, and his fiction has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard College, and has lived in New York City, Ethiopia, and Brazil.

I do not review much contemporary fiction because it seems to be written for instant entertainment without much depth or lasting memory. Feast Days is something different.

This review of Feast Days was originally published on the Evil Cyclist.

About the Reviewer

Evil Cyclist is a vegetarian with an M.A. in International Relations, a and former Marine. Since then, he has left the corporate world to become a bicycle mechanic and wheel builder. He lives a car-free life in the suburbs of Dallas, TX and spends his spare time buried in books. Find him on Goodreads and Twitter.

Book Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

Book Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

9781449489427_frontcover

Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
Author:
 Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My second foray into contemporary free verse poetry went much better than my last, if my high rating is any indication. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One is my first read from Amanda Lovelace, covering topics ranging from historic female oppression to the 2017 Women’s March.

And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

At first I didn’t know what to expect and my hopes weren’t super high, but both Lovelace’s dedication and trigger warning at the very beginning made me sit up straighter. This is a woman who both knows and respects her audience, and the more I read, the more I realized that, yeah, I am getting feminist poetry from a female perspective. How novel! (You may think I’m being facetious, but I’ve had a lot of Male Feminism™ thrown in my face lately that has not been great, so this was a breath of fresh air in a room full of Axe body spray.)

Unlike my last poetry book, this one had structure. Glorious, beautiful structure. Not just with the poems themselves (and many of them were structured in interesting and unique ways) but the book as a whole. Lovelace splits her poetry into four parts: the trial, the burning, the firestorm, and the ashes, and within each of these parts, her poems build in ferocity, passion, and content. You really feel like each part is taking you somewhere, building you towards something.

With symbolism largely revolving around witch burnings, imagery of fire and ashes and the rage they come from abound, but I never got bored with it. It never devolves into the raging feminist stereotype for me. So much of it is about women taking back our power, expressing our anger, getting back at our oppressors, but the endgame is one of action, dedicated to leaving the world better than when we found it. There’s a lot of healing taking place here:

here’s
the tricky thing
about fire:

it stays soft
even while it
destroys

everything
in its
path,

but
it’s up
to you

to
make sure
that

it doesn’t
burn the
good

with
the rot.

– we can’t lose our empathy.

That isn’t to say the poems pull their punches. Many deal with topics such as sexual assault, insecurity, eating disorders, fear, powerlessness, violence, and the venom that comes with them. They call out the patriarchy, the laughable “Not All Men” saying, and the 2016 election. All the while, Lovelace pays tribute to women, both fictional and real, by name and by identity, regardless of race, religion, or gender. There are poems dedicated to Eliza Hamilton, Hillary Clinton, Diana Prince, Emma Sulkowicz, and many more that had me sitting there, stunned, when I realized who and what they were about.

So would I call this form of free verse real poetry? Well, poetry is about making you feel something. It’s about making you think and keeping you company. There were so many times I was nodding along, going, “Yeah. Yeah! YEAH!” in my head because the words and lessons in Lovelace’s work were so relevant to me. I have lived so much of this female experience, and I have seen other women go through the more terrible consequences that come with the crime of being born women.

I felt angry and heartbroken at times, but also hopeful and empowered AF. I felt called to action, both for societal change and for personal change, namely to always treat other women like family because they are. We’re all going through a lot of the same stuff and our differences can only enrich and teach us, not divide us. We are united in more ways than those who seek to oppress us want us to know.

they don’t want us
to be

mary sue’s,
but

they don’t want us
to be

unlikable,
either.

that begs
the question:

do they even want us
to exist

outside of their
late-night fantasies?

– i am neither your paper doll, nor your blow-up doll.

Is this real poetry? Damn right, it is.

This review was originally published here, on Where the Words Take Me.

About the Reviewer

Melody, is a 26-year-old, who lives in Georgia, USA. She reviews books she reads; some good, some bad, all appreciated. You can find her on Twitter @melodyrenah.

Reading is a Simple Heresy

Reading is a Simple Heresy

Just this week I read a new article about the collective loss of an important skill. We have, as a society, lost the ability to read.

This is not new news. Neil Gaiman spoke about the importance of reading and libraries in 2013. In 2010 Karen Hovde spoke of the importance of reading, of libraries, and the folly of relying on digital editions of everything. During the same year, Nicholas Carr wrote The Shallows, later nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Each of these writers has raised an alarm that no one can hear. Our inability to read well, and read deeply, does not mean we have lost the ability to make sense of the words in this blog post, or in numerous articles like the ones linked above, but instead, that we have collectively rewired out neuropathways. We are hooked on fast and easy information. Reading has become a simple heresy. It is not just the children teething on tablets and smartphones, nor is it only the young adults who brokered teenage relationships in AOL chatrooms, but the neurological changes are evident in the cynical GenXers and  BabyBoomers who are reprogramming the worlds most adaptable processing hardware – the human brain. What has changed in the discussions surrounding the ability to read like we did a century ago, is how we talk about it.

The articles and books from 2010 to 2013 speak of the travesty of intellectual loss. The 2018 article, by Canadian writer and journalist Michael Harris, discusses how we are reverting to a more natural state of distraction and that change is inevitable. It is comforting to read that the dumbing down of society is inevitable because our brains are easily distracted, however, we have managed to overcome our wiring and find a deeper ability to imagine, to understand, and to empathize through reading. Should we let that ability diminish in favor of fast and easy entertainment?

Paired with the loss of cursive as a school subject in all but a handful of United States schools, numerous historical documents are no longer accessible to graduating classes of high school seniors. Firstly, they were written in the long-thought format of pre-digital minds, and secondly, they were written in the long-hand of a pre-print society.  If our children’s children continue on the path of fast and easy information, then the less than 8,000 words of the Constitution and Amendments will be as incomprehensible as the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs were before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.

The plasticity of our personal supercomputers allows us to rebuild, or in some cases start building the pathways required for deep, independent, imaginative thought. We just have to exercise our minds and we can do that by reading books. Pick up, and work through every page of an actual factual, ink on paper, book. It may be slow, it may be difficult, but the future is worth it.

Originally published on Simple Heresy. You may find the original article, here.

About the Author[s]

Simple Heresy is a blog focused on a simple living – outside the mainstream.

5 Biggest Cliches in YA Romance

5 Biggest Cliches in YA Romance

Recently, I’ve spent some time working my way through the bestseller list of YA romance fiction – everything from John Green to hit debuts such as Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon, which was recently made into a movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. But for now I’m done with YA fiction and going back to my usual genre of world lit, classics and general gritty depressing stories that leave me in existential doubt for days afterwards.

As charming as it sometimes is to indulge in the idealistic world of manic pixie dream girls (MPDGs); deep conversations under the stars; and passionate, obsessive love affairs; it’s all starting to feel a bit fake. Here are the 5 biggest cliches that I think have been way overdone in YA these days.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

She’s beautiful. She’s deep. She’s probably a metaphor. She’s ‘broken’ but ‘strong’ and wants to make cryptic remarks about the meaning of life on a rooftop at 3am. She’s ‘not like the other girls’ because she’s a special snowflake and apparently has the ability to understand life better than everyone else, despite being a teenager with no actual life experience.

Most likely she has a mental illness that’s probably being romanticised by the male love interest. Examples: basically anything written by John Green, pretty much ever.

Astronomy.

The MPDGs favourite activity? Astronomy of course. Because relating everything in your life to the workings of the universe automatically makes you deep, apparently. Sorry, no. It doesn’t make you deep. It makes you sound kind of egotistical and occasionally like a bad science textbook. Example: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon.

The dead parent/sibling/relative trope.

Quite often it just seems like a lazy attempt to remove the adults from the story so the author doesn’t have to write them. In reality, family relationships are a pretty damn huge part of teenager’s lives. It’d be nice to see some more YA novels accurately reflect that.

Romanticising mental illness.

This one worries me. While I have read some books which have given the topic the gravity it deserves (Laurie Halse Anderson does this excellently) I’ve also read many more that treat it as ‘teenage angst’ or an interesting quirk to make the character seem broody, mysterious and ultimately more attractive.

Yeah, no. Just don’t. Being depressed isn’t sexy, it’s just extremely unpleasant and soul-destroying really.

Instalove!

Because why spend valuable pages on having the characters actually get to know each other when they could be discussing the stars and their undying love instead.

What tropes and cliches do you hate in YA fiction? 

This article was originally published here, and was edited and reformatted for publishing at black CATastrophy.

About the Author

Annmarie McQueen is a London-based writer, blogger, and idealistic millennial. She enjoys instagramming food, taking selfies with dogs, and spoken word. If you want to make her super happy, please check out her my new novel ‘This Really Happened’ here.

Black Catastrophy

The Moreau Witches Mini-Contest: 3 Months of YouTube Red

The Moreau Witches Mini-Contest: 3 Months of YouTube Red

Alexis Chateau

For Halloween in 2016, I spent the month sharing a paranormal murder mystery set in the Victorian era. At the time, I had just wanted to share a fun story, but it grew to be so much more than that. Many of you fell in love with the characters, admiring their strengths as much as their weaknesses, and their fight for freedom.

But how well do you know or remember The Moreau Witches? While I continue to work on the book, I thought I’d put a quick contest to test that memory. The prize will be a coupon from Skullcandy, offering *3 Months of YouTube Red.

The winner will have until April 1 at midnight to redeem the offer, so this contest will end on March 29th. To win, all you need to do is answer the questions below:

  1. What was the name of Madeleine Moreau’s tutor in Barfleur?
  2. What relation…

View original post 136 more words

“Layers Part 6” by Kaine Andrews

“Layers Part 6” by Kaine Andrews

Part VI

I moved to the door, nudging it the rest of the way open with my knuckles. The room beyond was the bathroom, fully decked out in yellow paisley wallpaper, antiseptic green tile, and baby-blue formica fixtures.

I saw myself in the mirror for a moment as I scanned the room. It was almost like looking at a stranger. My hair, instead of being straight and brown, had gone frizzy and white. My face had none of its usual color, bleached almost the color of my hair, and the lines of old scars were replaced with the ruts and grooves of age.

I looked away quickly. I didn’t want to see what else coming here might have done to me.

I could see the toilet peeking out around a small corner in an alcove to the right, a dead sunlamp mounted above it. I wondered who’d sit on the crapper with a heat lamp pointed at their face. Assuming it was Dad, I decided he was even weirder than his little house of horrors might have revealed.

To the right was a combination bath and shower, the only thing showing any real signs of use in the house so far. Unlike the other fixtures, the lip of the tub was chipped in places, showing the rusty metal beneath. There were small puddles of mossy water, breeding who-knew-what sorts of bacteria splashed on the floor beside the tub and along the rim. Blocking the view of whatever lay within was a vinyl shower curtain with a seascape pattern that looked more mid-90s than late-60s.

The crying was coming from behind the curtain. Steeling myself as best I could, I wadded one side of the curtain up in a trembling fist and yanked it back.

There he was. After all this time, all the bad dreams and wakeful nights, he was here in front of me. It wasn’t so bad. It was almost anticlimactic.

The thing in the shower stall was tall; probably just shy of seven feet. How I hadn’t seen its head peeking out over the top before pulling the curtain back was a mystery, but one easily solved. He hadn’t wanted me to see him, not until it was time.

The face was a pitted ruin, flaps of black and blue flesh interspersed with hillocks of burned and mutilated flesh, some of it leaking fluids that I didn’t want to consider. The whole of it looked like a mask that had been poorly stapled over a mannequin head. The eye sockets, like those of the family up front, were empty. Instead of flesh or whatever passed for a brain beyond, there were flickering flames that occasionally turned a rotten green. The mouth was just a wide gash, ringed with split lips and fractured teeth. It lay open though unmoving. The crying was coming from there.

The body was wasted, emaciated. Bones jutted through the broken skin in places, giving the impression of a skeleton someone had laid a sheet over and tried their best to stitch in place. At the shoulders, ragged wing-like flaps of skin hung. Unlike the rest of the meat on the thing, they were pallid, shot through with tattered holes as though moths – or something worse – had been gnawing at them.

The arms were longer than they should have been, hanging almost to the thing’s knees. It didn’t have hands; instead, it had spade-shaped claws with three fingers each, tipped with nails that extended several inches past the fingertip, black with veins of silver and red shot through them and looking razor sharp.

The crying stopped. The edges of that jagged gash in the middle of its face slid upwards and I was horrified to realize it was trying to smile. The fear came flooding back at that, caving in my chest with the force of a sledgehammer.

“You came,” it whispered.

One of those claws shot out towards me, circling those talons around my forearm. Though it looked fragile and skeletal, there was a terrible strength behind it and I could feel the bicep and the bone beneath screaming and creaking under the pressure.

I felt blood running down my arm, and realized the thing’s claws had punctured the flesh. The pressure increased. It was dragging me closer.

“You came,” it whispered a second time.

I began to scream.

This story was originally published at KaineAndrews.com. Intrigued? Stay tuned for Part 7, next Thursday!

About the Author

Kaine Andrews

Kaine Andrews was raised in the wilds of Nevada, molded by NASCAR-loving witches, a Catholic school education and typewriter theft, granting a natural fascination with all things dark and dreary and demented scribblings. He currently resides in Oregon, where the omnipresent drizzle keeps him somewhat sane.

Black Catastrophy