Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tea Review - L'Oriental Tea Blend

The Midwest Tea Festival in Kansas City, Missouri was more than just a day of sampling teas. It was very much a chance to meet tea lovers from all over the world and to learn more about the Tea Industry. Such was the case with Emilie of Emilie's French Teas - French tea is more than just sipping tea from a cup. French Tea is ART! Thankfully, Emilie's French Teas had several tea blends to sample at the Festival. As soon as I tried L'Oriental tea, I knew a bag of it was coming home with me! Emilie and I even had a small conversation in French while I continued to try her teas.

When you open a bag of L'Oriental tea, you are immediately jettisoned away to a field filled with lavender, roses, and other flowers, each one giving off their scent that leads to a dizzying high. The tea is a delightful blend of sencha tea leaves with rich colour, passion fruit, flower petals, with peach and strawberry flavours. The tea, light golden in colour, tastes of sitting in a cafe after visiting an art museum - exquisite, delicate, creative, and delicious! The tea liquor has a faint scent of green tea and flowers without being overpowering to your palette. A great tea to enjoy on a lazy Sunday with a good book or while watching a foreign film.

Highly recommended!

Merci beaucoup, Emilie!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tea Review - Mad Hatter's Concoction

I had the pleasure of meeting the guys behind The Dragon's Treasure at the Midwest Tea Festival several weeks ago. The trio were funny and full of energy - perfect as Tea Merchants! Their concept is to create a haven for people who love tea and anime . . . . and it works! They had many blends to choose from in the way of sampling, yet with me being a fan of anything Alice in Wonderland, I had to purchase a bag of the Mad Hatter's Concoction!

The tea is a blend of green tea, orange peels, sunflower petals, and citrus flavours. When I opened the bag, the smell was intoxicating - reminded me of a Spring day in a valley filled with lemon and orange trees while a breeze gently blew through. Yes, all of that in one bag of tea! The leaves appeared to be full and vibrant, not just pieces of the leaves. Getting a closeup look at your loose leaf tea is a good indicator as to whether or not you will have a decent cup.

The appearance of the tea once made still reminded me of a Spring day - golden and rich. The smell was of fresh and grassy with just a hint of citrus. My first sip was pleasing to my mouth and light - all of the ingredients blended rather well without one overpowering the others.  Mad Hatter's Concoction is a good tea to begin your day or end it, preferably with a book or with friends.

Much thanks to the people at The Dragon's Treasure!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Circus of Dreams and Nightmares

A friend told me about a strange book titled The Night Circus by author Erin Morgenstern and I knew that I had to read it. Thankfully, I located a copy several weeks later at Prospero's Books in Kansas City and started reading it the next day. Yeah, this was one of those books that I completely devoured within days. If you are looking for books that are a healthy dose of magick realism mixed with alternate history, The Night Circus is for you!

Two men who are more than mere magicians have been a part of a game than has lasted longer than both men will admit. In order to play the game, they must "train" someone who will "fight" for their side, all in the name of magick. One of them named Prospero the Enchanter chooses his daughter, Celia, while the other named Alexander or "the man in the grey suit" chooses an orphan named Marco. For years, these two children undergo strenuous training with regards to learning true magick, reading many books, and keeping a low profile from the rest of the world. Moving forward several years, a wealthy eccentric named Chandresh Christophe Lefevre decides to create a new kind of circus, one that is beyond clowns and balloons. Le Cirque des Reves (the circus of dreams), created by Lefevre and a small group of his closest friends, is the circus for those who seek something different in the ways of entertainment. The circus is draped in black and white, opening at night and closing at dawn and they appear in cities by the blink of an eye. By random chance, Celia and Marco, now older and wiser in the ways of magick and illusions, become a part of the circus and soon, the circus becomes something more. Something darker and stranger. Since the book is written in present tense, the reader feels as though the book is happening right before their eyes.

Like I said before, I devoured this book within several days. This was an excellent read that gave me just enough to make me wonder and hope for a circus like this to suddenly appear. In fact, once I finished the book, I emailed my friend and suggested that we both wear red scarves (when you read the book, you'll know why). Kudos to Morgenstern for writing such a delightful book. I can't recommend The Night Circus enough.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Soul of Publishing a Poet

I have been a part of the publishing world for several years and I still feel as though I have no idea what I'm doing. Yet, the indie and smaller presses seem to make it a bit easier for authors as well as the publishers themselves when it comes to the daily grind of what to expect after hearing the words, "We'd like to publish you." However, there are those who still dream of getting published by New York - years ago, if you weren't published by a company in New York, well. . . . .

Sometimes, it's hard to explain to an "outsider" just what goes on in a publishing house. Muse, the debut novel by Jonathan Galassi, gives the reader an inside look into the New York giants. Galassi is an established poet as well as the President of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, one of the major New York publishing houses still around. Muse delves into the world of New York publishing as well as the fate and future of poets. The book begins with a history of America's greatest poet, Ida Perkins. Truth be told, once I was drawn into this novel, I found myself searching for her work . . . only to find that she is fictional. Yet, once you begin reading Muse, you'll wish she was real.

The book tells the story of Paul Dukach, a misunderstood young man from a small town. While his family enjoys all things sports, he enjoys the delight and comfort of books. He especially enjoys the work of Ida Perkins, a poet whose works ignite his soul as well as many others. Soon, Paul finds himself working for the publishing house Purcell & Stern, learning the ins and outs of the company as well as the trade secrets (and gossip). However, as Fate would have it, he gets a chance to meet the source of his soul - Ida Perkins, now much older yet no less feisty. Through this once in a lifetime meeting, Paul discovers a secret that could turn the publishing world on its feet yet point it in a new direction few would ever venture to guess.

Galassi's words drew me in from the beginning and I never looked up until the very end. He writes like an earlier Woody Allen film - filled with black wit, charm, sophistication, and dirty, dirty secrets held lovingly by eccentrics and society's darlings. Muse was a delight to read and savour, as well as a fresh addition to the literary world. I will read anything if the story grabs me and Muse did just that. Thankfully, I found a copy of the book at a used bookstore. I wondered about the person who had it before me - did they love it? Did they feel a sense of connection with Paul as he dug further and further into his world of books? Or, did they read it, say "that's nice", and then quickly dispose of it? As much as I loved this book, I will be passing it on to people in whom I know will be able to appreciate its charm. I hope this book will continue to make its rounds to people who read it and take something away from it. Muse is about finding a place in the world when you think there is none for you, and of how words still have the power to seduce, enrage, and soothe.

Thank you, Mr. Galassi and EX LIBRIS!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Shadow of the Greyfriar

I first met Clay and Susan Griffith at DragonCon several years ago. They were, and still are, some of the nicest people I've ever met. I picked up a copy of Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar, published through PYR Books, and later devoured it that night, only to return to their table the next day to purchase the second book in the trilogy. I devoured that one as well yet waited several years to purchase the third book. When I finally made that purchase, I decided to return to their Vampire world and found myself loving the story all over again.

It is the year 2020 and vampires rule most of the major cities in the northern part of the world, while the majority of humans are either bred as food for the vampires, or they live in the Southern cities as vampires don't truly care for warmer climates. Princess Adele, heir to the Empire Equatoria, is also quite a wielder with weapons against vampires. However, when her airship is caught unawares by a vampire attack, she is soon rescued by the enigmatic and dashing Greyfriar, the hero of Humankind and the scourge of vampires! As the Greyfriar continues to protect Adele from the vampires, her Intended, a brash and uncouth man, promises to tear Heaven and Hell apart to find her . . . . and start a war with the vampires to further his glory and fame. However, Adele has another "friend" - Prince Gareth, a kindhearted vampire who rules in Scotland and the elder son of King Dimitri in England. Unlike the other vampires and his younger and bloodthirsty brother Cesare, Gareth wishes to understand humans in a better way. He sees Adele as a way to understand them better while Adele sees him as something else.

This book is an excellent mixture of alternative history, vampires, romance, and action! I'm glad that I'm reading it again, because it feels even better the second time around. Adele is not your typical "woman who swoons at everything" - she holds her own, can kick many a vampire's ass, yet knows how to be reasonable and even forgiving when it comes to Gareth. Although Gareth is a "kind" vampire to his human subjects, he is still a VAMPIRE. He will kill and drink blood because that is his nature. Yet, when he attempted to learn how to write like a human . . . . yeah, my heart just melted. BIG crush on Gareth - I had forgotten how much I truly liked him.

I know that there is a new book involving Adele and Gareth - it will soon be purchased by me because I love their relationship. They learn from each other and yet are clearly their own person/vampire. The love they have for each other will never die.

Thank you, Clay and Susan - I hope I will see you two soon!


The Lifestyle of Tea!

Several years ago, I attended a Japanese tea ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona. Although the ceremony lasted only fifteen minutes, something inside of me changed. I wanted to learn more about tea, known as the Elixir of Life. I experimented with different kinds of green tea, followed by white tea, and black tea, until soon I opened my own tea blend company as well as began studying towards my certification as a Tea Professional. Thanks to the World Tea Academy, I began to see tea in a different and more complex way. Through my journey in tea, I collected books regarding tea and its history. However, I had no idea that I had a copy of the book Tea Here Now by Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer - Donna Fellman is currently my sensei at the World Tea Academy!

Tea Here Now is a great introduction into incorporating tea into your life. Beginning with an introduction by Tea Master James Norwood Pratt, this book was a delightful read. From learning about the history of tea, to understanding the Way of Tea or Chado, to creating your own tea ceremony to share with friends and loved ones, Tea Here Now is an amazing book that you will enjoy repeatedly. When I began reading this book, I knew that I wanted to pause and reflect - I decided to read a chapter every day and to quietly reflect on it with a cup of tea. Each chapter was a trip to a secluded place, hidden among a grove of trees and a pot of oolong tea waiting for me. Fellman and Tizer tell of their experiences with tea and how it has changed their lives. Soon, you will want to change your life as well with tea.

Next week, I'll be traveling to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the Midwest Tea Festival! If you're going to attend, be sure to find me and maybe we can have a cup!

Within three weeks, I'll be hosting my first tea education workshop - a full hour of meditation, reflection, and learning more about tea as well as Chado. I hope to make my sensei proud.

Brew up a cup of Taiwanese oolong (one of my favourite teas), get a copy of Tea Here Now, and relax and rejuvenate with a Tea Lifestyle!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Chosen One of the Toshigawa!

As I stated recently, I love delving into new comic book worlds. Although I am BIG fan of Moon Knight, I also love anything that has good illustration, well written story, and characters that I care about. Thanks to Martheus Wade and MAW Productions, Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa has been added to my Comic Book List.

The story is thus: Shianndrea Toshigawa is the Chosen One, the only one able to stop the evil plans of the KNAVE as they try to take over the world. As the Toshigawa clan has ruled Japan for many years, one of it's members turned evil and became the leader of the KNAVE. He plans to destroy the Toshigawa clan as well as his daughter, Shianndrea! Yet, she is more than an able fighter and proves that she has powers and skills far beyond that of any mortal person.

In Crucible, we get to see Shianndrea in the time before she truly takes the title of the Chosen One, as she does battle with Taki Soto, the most feared female warrior in Japan and her former trainer. Does Shianndrea have what it takes to become the Chosen One? Read Crucible and find out!

As much as people enjoy the comics from DC and Marvel, there are plenty of other comics out there that are just as good - Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa is one of them. Filled with blazing action, this comic is an excellent step into the Toshigawa world. I look forward to reading more of Jetta!


Athens for the Intellectual

When I read a recent interview of author Rachel Cusk in The New Yorker, I grinned. It had been quite some time since I last read her works and now, thanks to the article, I would return to her world of words. Outline, the first book of a trilogy, was a nice refresher. The story is thus: a female writer travels to Athens, Greece to teach a writing class. Along the way, she engages in conversations with elderly bachelors, other writers, lesbians who dreams strange dreams, and others. We join the writer on her adventures through the ancient city as we are also exposed to her life and background as well.

We begin the story with the narrator on a flight to Athens as she begins her travels through conversations with an elderly man. After their initial getting to know each other, the man continues to be a part of the narrator's life as she lives and works in Athens. From there, it seems that the narrator doesn't really live but rather floats from one conversation to another during the extremely hot summer. Each person she speaks with adds a little more to her life as well as breathing more life into the city. Even her students taking her course have stories to tell, even when one thinks of her as being a poor teacher.

Cusk is, in my opinion, reminds me of Ian McEwan or A. S. Byatt - British authors who seemingly write for those who enjoy their intellect to be stimulated. I adore Cusk's writing in that it is sparse yet lyrical. She makes you feel what the others are feeling with little intent or without overly flowery phrases. I will admit, however, that although the book is only a little over 200 pages, this book must be read slowly. You can't treat Cusk's books like a "quick read at the beach". You must sample her words carefully, like enjoying a five course meal with wine. Yet, in that slow style of reading, the book is worth it. I look forward to reading Transit very soon but in the meantime, I finally have a copy of her work Saving Agnes.


Friday, August 18, 2017

It's . . . . HELVIS!

I first met filmmaker and too cool dude Mike McCarthy while purchasing a copy of his film, Cigarette Girl (awesome dystopian film - must see!) but we really didn't converse until a while later. Mike McCarthy is very much a staple of Memphis - his house is a lovely shrine to the city, Elvis, and anything that was cool before "cool" was cool. When I learned that he would host a signing for HELVIS, his latest work, I knew I had to have it. HELVIS is a wild ride through the Underground with our "hero" Helvis as he meets comic censors of the past, comic book guru William M. Gaines, Grim Reapers who really DIGG it, almost dead demonic lovers, and . . . the Green Bay Packers?! Combined with crazy illustrations and satirical writing that pokes fun at those within and on the outside of fringe, HELVIS is for those who get their kicks outside of the norm!

The only question I have for McCarthy is this - when will the next installment come out? I read the book twice and am ready for more! Much thanks to 901 Comics for hosting the signing (go check them out - cool selection and one of the owners does an excellent cosplay of Moon Knight!) and thanks again to McCarthy in continuing to be an artist who does his own thing, Memphis style!

Before I forget - great usage of the Zippin Pippin! For those of you who don't know, the Zippin Pippin was a wooden roller coaster from our now gone amusement park, Libertyland. The Pippin was a simple roller coaster yet it provided much entertainment for the citizens of Memphis and beyond. Elvis used to open the park late at night or shut it down so that he could enjoy the ride without dealing with the crowds and screaming fans.

Yep, what a cool ride . . . . in the UNDERGROUND!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Flash Story - Easy Chinese

Monica decided that the fast food-esque Chinese place would suffice for her sudden craving of crab wontons and noodles. An Asian man turned hipster stood before her in line as he complained to the young person behind the order booth that he had been charged for rice. As the young employee explained the additional charge in a rapid tone, the customer said in the air fitting for the Haves, "I eat here everyday, so I know about the rice." Monica wanted to asked him if his life as home was that dreary that he had to come here to eat every day, only to stop herself from creating even more embarrassment. She soon placed her order then found herself seated at one of the tables by the windows. She pulled out her latest read written by a female British author who seemed to be out of touch with the world and dove in, only to stop when her food arrived. Monica dug in as her hunger took over and had to admit to herself that the food truly wasn't that bad. She tore into her crab wontons while Coldplay played through the speaker system, calming everyone down just enough so they could enjoy their lettuce wraps that much better. Her Asian salad met with the same fate as her wontons while her book lay near her arm, momentarily forgotten. Several minutes and two empty plates later, Monica resumed her reading as her quite tasty and hip Chinese food settled in her stomach, dissolving her latest panic attack that led her to the restaurant in the first place.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Blackface with a Banjo

I never thought that I would enjoy a book regarding blackface in America, yet I did. Author Tom Piazza has done it again with his latest novel, A Free State. Just when I thought that City of Refuge  and Why New Orleans Matters clearly showed Piazza's talents as an author, A Free State proves it even more in a grander way. 

The story is thus: James Douglass, a white man living in Philadelphia in 1855, makes his living by performing as part of a minstrel troupe known as the Virginia Harmonists. He with three other white men blacken their faces and "pretend" to be happy go lucky Negroes who sing songs and perform about the "good ol' days" of living in the South. One day, he has the chance to listen to a young light skinned black man named Henry perform with only his voice and a banjo and soon, James is swept away with the music. While he and his fellow musicians perform under a guise of being black, Henry performs as a true black man with a soul that is both beautiful and broken. James invites him to be a part of the group, an unheard of thing as black people were not allowed to perform on stage. Yet, Henry has a plan that will help James as well as cover his murky past, as he is pursued by a ruthless and sadistic slave hunter named Tull.

Although I flew through this book, I still felt anger at such a point of history in this country. There was nothing "happy" about being a slave in the South, yet the minstrels showed quite the opposite: big smiles, loud mismatched clothes, and music to soothe or ignite under a guise of blackened faces. Piazza, in his dazzling style of writing, gives us a raw look at this form of "entertainment" without holding back. He makes us aware of what was accepted in those days and how, even now, skin colour still plays a heavy role in today's society. 

The scene in which Tull "speaks" with Henry's mother was terrifying to me. I knew that something dreadful would happen to her, yet I couldn't look away from the words. When Henry left the plantation, he made a promise to return for his family and get them safely away. Tull, as hired by the plantation master and Henry's father, Stephens, stops at nothing to locate the "property", even going so far as to mutilate or cause great harm to those who cross his path. Although Henry seems to stay several steps ahead of Tull, Tull is like a dog with its favourite chew toy. I did have some sympathy for James: although he blackens his face for a living, he appeared to be more than that. He sees Henry almost as a friend and understands, too late I think, the true ramifications of his actions.

Piazza wanted to know my thoughts on this book - beautiful in a chilling and disturbing way. 

I honestly hope Henry made it to Canada. 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Monster of the Mansion

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of my favourite novels and classic films. Boris Karloff played the part of the Monster rather well. His face is the one that sticks in my mind whenever I think of the Monster. I also enjoyed the Monster in Penny Dreadful, for he showed intelligence, cognitive skills, and the ability to live among men without raising too much suspicion. At the end of the novel, the Monster tells Walton that he will kill himself then drifts out to the arctic sea on an ice raft. Yet, what if the Monster decided not to kill himself but rather live? Thanks to the digest novel Monster in the Mansions by Lou Mougin and published through ProSe Productions, the answer to the question is given.

The Monster does not die but rather decides to live. He leaves the arctic land in search of a new life, one that (he thinks) may get him away from his bloody past. Mougin provides a story that is filled with seafaring action, treachery, growing sympathy for the Monster, and even one of the most unique death scenes I've read in a long time - it involves peeing. Adam Frank/Frank Cain is a terror to behold on the seas, yet he maintains his Beast and uses it only when necessary. Through much bloodshed and ships plundered, he finally reaches his destination of South America. Will South America prove to be the Monster's place of final peace, or the continuation of his Hell on Earth? Read the book and find out! This was my first time reading Mougin and I found myself flying through the digest novel with great pleasure. Although the ending felt like a cliffhanger to me, it was nonetheless satisfying. Highly recommended for those who enjoyed Frankenstein as well as for those who love well written stories regarding the sea and naval fiction.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Flash Story - For the Love of Satie

She walked into the room, the one that smelled of lavender. He played in that room only yesterday, yet the final notes still lingered in the room. When he played the piano, she was on his mind. He caressed the keys as though it was her neck or delicate arms that he loved to kiss after drinking wine. Each note played was a declaration of his love for her. She walked up to the piano and touched the keys that were still warm from his last performance. Just then, she felt his hand touch the back of her neck, his slender fingers barely brushing through her hair. She leaned into him and sighed as his lavender scented shirt enfolded her in a double lover's embrace. The faint sounds of Erik Satie now moved through the room, replacing his ghostlike fragments of music.

(model - Jean Marie, copyright 2014)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

City of Refuge, City of Hope

I was first introduced to New Orleans when I was very young. My mother used to take me down there for Mardi Gras and then later, Jazz Fest. While we were in the Crescent City, we would spend time in the French Quarter, soaking in all of the history, food, culture, decadence that the city had to offer. Although I no longer go to Mardi Gras with my parents, I still visit the city while I'm attending conventions as an author guest, or just visiting friends for the hell of it. There is no other city like New Orleans and that is the solid truth.

Author Tom Piazza's book, City of Refuge, shows the city in all its glory as we are introduced to Craig Donaldson, a white man from the Midwest who lives in NOLA with his family and SJ, a black man born and raised in NOLA who lives in the Ninth Ward. Both men love the city in their own way and what She has to offer. Everyone who lives in NOLA understands that they live in a "soup bowl" well below sea level. Hurricanes are, unfortunately, a part of their lives - get news of the hurricane, pack up and board up the house, leave for a while, then return and slowly return to a normal life. However, when Hurricane Katrina (or as I've heard NOLA people call her The Bitch) arrives, the two men must make desperate decisions to ensure the safety of their friends and loved ones, not mention themselves. Lives are lost, houses destroyed, and true darkness settles into the city as well as those who left and those who stayed. While Craig and his family escape to Chicago, SJ fights to help those who remained behind while getting his family to safety. When the water finally recedes, choices are made with tears and rage as NOLA struggles to regain Her life.

(Oak Street)

I'll be blunt - I couldn't put this damn book down. Piazza blew me away with his writing, although it was no surprise to me. I first read his book, Why New Orleans Matters, several years ago and fell in love with not only his words but with NOLA all over again. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Jazz Fest and he was quite a delight. City of Refuge needs to be read by those who have never lived in NOLA and wondered about what really happened during the time of Katrina. The book is also for those who are already in love with NOLA. I will admit that this book brought tears to my eyes many times while reading, mainly because my mind thought about my NOLA friends who dealt with Katrina and what they had to do to evacuate. Even my ex told me his story of how he, his wife at the time, and their child stayed in the Convention Center and the conditions they endured while there. My dad went down there when he worked for State Farm and he told us stories of what he saw. My mom soon joined him and told me of the water lines on the houses and how she only saw two people wandering around as she explored what she could at the time. During one of my recent trips down there, I drove through neighbourhoods that still had the spray paint markers on the houses while the water lines were faint yet still there.

Some claimed the storm to be the work of God trying to flush out the evil in NOLA. Others couldn't feel anything at all except to get through the water. Piazza's novel threw me right in the middle of the water that flooded the streets. I saw the floating bodies, the cars that ended up in people's backyards. I wanted to hug Lucy as she and SJ stayed upstairs while the water continued to rise. I was even with Craig as he sat in the coffee shop in the suburbs of Chicago, looking around at all of the white people in their comfort zones, while he felt anger towards them because they had no idea.

I can't recommend this book enough to people. Please, read City of Refuge.

Tom, I hope we can have a cup of tea sometime. By the way, thanks for mentioning some of my favourite places like Igor's and Rue de la Course on Oak Street - I always go to the coffee shop first then Blue Cypress Books afterwards. It's a ritual of mine.

(upstairs at Rue de la Course)


Friday, July 7, 2017

Flash Story - Creative Starvation

Emma watched the play with interest; it had been quite some time since she last went to the theatre. She used to treat herself to the theatre, followed by either dinner out somewhere followed by a nice cup of tea. Unfortunately, she stopped going after she started dating Paul, a nice guy who had no interest in anything that would stimulate his mind. Before long, several months passed and soon, she dumped Paul and returned to herself, gathering up the lost pieces she so carelessly threw aside when she was “in love”. Now that she was happily single again, she resumed her theatre nights. As she watched the actors perform the drama with great earnest, Emma recognized one of the actresses. There was Matilda, an older woman who used to work with her at her corporate job until she decided to quit to pursue her career as an actress. Emma had dreams of becoming a full time novelist yet decided to remain at her current job until she was able to make enough through sales of her first novel before leaving. She knew that both Matilda and her husband were actors and, although they did not make much, they both had passion for what they did.

Creative people, like Matilda and Emma, were driven by their passions no matter where they lay, but Emma knew that she had to eat and do more than just survive. Those thoughts drove her as she worked nightly on her second novel. When Emma saw her friend on the stage doing her best (which was always damn near perfect) she felt glad for her friend and wished her nothing but luck. Once the play finished, Emma went home to change clothes and then left out again to find a coffee shop to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey tea while reading. Emma put in one of her jazz CDs as she drove and hummed along with the bebop melody while her eyes scanned the streets. Suddenly, Emma saw an older woman dressed in shabby clothes clutching a bright red bag on her shoulder as she trudged along the sidewalk. It was Matilda. She passed Matilda by, wondering why she didn’t have a car to get herself home. Emma thought about slowing down so she could give Matilda a ride to her home yet hesitated in her actions. Something inside of her did not want to carry out the action. Emma listened to that part of her mind and drove off as the silhouetted figure of Matilda struggled with her belongings. Emma was an artist who did not want to live a starving life like her comrades. Ten minutes later, she had forgotten her dilemma as she  walked into the coffee shop with thoughts of Earl Grey and the plot of her novel in progress.  

(model - Jean Marie Sheridan - copyright 2014)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Love and Games in Buenos Aires

Happy Independence Day!

I was surprised to read negative reviews on The Foreigners by Maxine Swann. Someone wrote that they wanted to read about Buenos Aires and that this book did not talk about the city at all. Yet, I thought the complete opposite. The book IS about Buenos Aires, as seen through the eyes of three extremely different women - Daisy, a divorced American who travels to the city to get away from her past; Isolde, a lonely Austrian woman who finds comfort in the arts; and Leonarda, an Argentine woman whose moods and looks change from moment to moment. These three women present the city in all its beautiful and seedy glory as they attempt to make a life for themselves. Swann's writing reminds me of my friend's work, author Elise Blackwell - dreamlike, engaging, and well told.

Daisy, after arriving in the city, sets up in a less than desirable apartment while attempting to work on a grant project. She meets Leonarda through an ad for people who want to learn English, only to find out that Leonarda speaks perfect English. Together, the two embrace danger while telling lie on top of lie, all the while giving into what they desire. Leonarda even asks Daisy for help in a Master Plan - an attempt to seduce a well known Argentine man, yet Daisy suspects that even darker forces are at work. Isolde comes into the picture through Daisy and is shown to be a woman who wants something yet is not really sure what it is. She is herself when it comes to cocktail parties and art openings but without it, she is like a canvas with no paint. The three women go in search of what they think will make them happy and as it turns out, it's not what they expected.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this book, yet once I began reading Daisy's words, I found that I couldn't put it down. I turned each page, wondering what they were going to do next. Would they accept that invitation to that party? How far would Daisy allow herself to fall with Leonarda leading her? Would Isolde ever be happy by being alone? Is Leonarda really who she says she is? I found this to be a quick and most enjoyable read and, like so many other authors I've recently read, I look forward to reading more of Swann's work.


Monday, July 3, 2017

The OTHER Side of California

When I first watched the film Deliverance, I had no idea that it would be THAT intense. Although I've seen it twice (yeah, I didn't learn my lesson after watching it the FIRST time!), the film is forever burned in my mind. Stories like that are hard to forget - big city folks wanting to spend time in peaceful Nature, only to have their world flipped upside down. The book Lost Canyon by author, teacher, and activist Nina Revoyr feels the same way.

I do want to say that this is by far the most multicultural book I've ever read. The story is thus: four people from Los Angeles - a half Japanese half white fitness instructor with a taste for reckless adventure, a young black woman who gives hope to those who have none, a Hispanic man involved in the real estate business, and a white man who lives the life of the upper crust - seek something more in Life. Tracy (the fitness instructor) decides to get her clients together for a camping weekend in the Sierra Nevada. Backpacking, hiking, roughing it in Nature, and being able to "get away" from it all. Each comes to the event with trepidation, excitement, and fear yet they all decide to go anyway. And that is when the shit hits the fan. Soon, they realize that the Sierra Nevada is truly untamed and wild but not in a good way. And it will take every ounce of their willpower and strength to overcome it.

This book had me riveted from page one to the satisfying end even though I had questions that I don't think have any answers. Each of the characters is real and not the "token" of their race. They are all Americans, all used to the comforts of home in LA. They are used to the occasional bouts of racism and they shrug their shoulders at it. It's all a part of living in the 21st century - we may be advanced in technology but skin colour is still a problem. Yet, these characters come out of this story transformed in a better way. The colour lines fall down and all we have left are Americans, people, human beings who can love and look out for each other. It gave me hope.

Revoyr also describes the Sierra Nevada right down to the rocks and flowers. I was right there with the four as they endured their long hikes through the "too beautiful to be real" areas. Her descriptions were just enough to give me a mental picture as I read. I almost expected to smell the clean mountain air wafting from the pages. Even when they faced multiple dangers (won't tell you what they are!), the area provided a beautiful backdrop. Death lived among untouched beauty.

Thank you, Nina. I'll be reading more of your work very soon.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Witch and The Mute

The Cove by author and professor Ron Rash reads like a dark dream. We don't want to make up from it, yet its dangerous beauty will long linger in our minds. I had always been told that North Carolina was "different" with regards to the people, the "feeling", even the attitude. The Cove is proof of that Otherworldy strangeness in that state. The story is thus: it's the height of World War I and the world is gripped by fear. Even small town Mars Hill, North Carolina feels the shock waves of the war. However, they are also concerned about Laurel Shelton, the lonely and beautiful woman who lives in the Cove, a place that few visit. The townspeople fear her because they think her to be a witch, yet she is a harmless woman with a rather large birthmark and an affinity for herbal folk cures. Her brother, Hank, has returned from the war minus one hand, yet it does not slow him down as he assists in repairing their house and farmlands. However, one day, Laurel hears strange music by the river and discovers a young man with a silver flute. He plays with a gift that is beyond normal and Laurel is drawn to it and soon later, the man himself. Soon, the man who can not speak becomes a fixture at the house, giving Laurel moments of happiness, yet it comes with a price. The townsfolk are searching for Germans or "Huns" and their supporters, considering them to be the enemy of the United States of America. And soon, they will find their way to the Cove to sate their lust for blood and revenge. 

I absolutely loved this tragic novel and the characters who were resigned to their fate. Rash guides you by the hand back in time and delivers a story that is both powerful and mesmerizing. As I neared the end, I didn't want to leave the young "witch" and her mute friend to the limited mindset of Mars Hill. Both were more than the town yet circumstances prevented such obvious conclusions and gives the reader instead what could only be their fate. Laurel reminded me of my friends who are very much in tune with Nature and it's a beautiful thing. They live according to the "rules" of Nature and do more than just exist. Although very few people would even speak with Laurel, she lived her life in her own way and would play up the "evil witch" part if someone thought they could get the upper hand on her. Yet, when she meets Walter the mute, she realizes that even she can experience love and true kindness. 

I will admit that I loved reading about the food that Laurel cooked - from pumpkin pie to blackberry pie, to cornbread with blackberry jam, to snap beans. She claimed the kitchen as her own and spread her magick to even there. I would have enjoyed eating her warm cornbread with blackberry jam, plus a cup of homemade muscadine wine as we sit on the steps, while listening to a mute man play his silver flute. 

Welcome to the magick of North Carolina.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Aliens, Sex, and GORE!

Nineteen pages into Night Creeps by Michael D'Ambrosio and I was already gagging. So much gore, so much alien sex . . . I LOVED IT! From the first page all the way to the (literally) bloody end, I was gripped by the story and the characters of good, evil, and even more evil. So much torn flesh . . .

The story is thus: small town Parmissing Valley soon "welcomes" three new visitors - aliens from another world who are bent on destruction, control of the "stupid" human masses, and eating human flesh. The aliens Grimwold, Shurek, and Kroll have the uncanny ability to turn humans into either flesh eating ravaging mutants or half alien half human beings that are linked through the mind. The three descend upon the town without a second thought and eat their way through with glee. They soon get the "brilliant" idea to turn three women - Jane, Suzie, and Pam - into their "companions". However, all goes to hell in an entrails covered hand basket as the body count increases, betrayals are made with fanged glee, and long wiggling tongues are used in the most unique way. Oh and did I mention strange pulsing lumps of DNA? Or eggs with tentacles? Or jellyfish looking creatures with a higher intelligence than the entire planet????

Like I said earlier, this book had me gagging all the way through and yet I couldn't put it down. Although the majority of the book was gore and really, really kinky alien sex scenes, the book held enough humour, action, and twists to make for a damn good read. This book reminded me of the film Tremors and in a good way (if you've never seen that film, I highly recommend watching it!) There are only four authors that have ever made me gag and want to vomit repeatedly - Alexander S. Brown, Jason Fedora, Clive Barker, and Michael D'Ambrosio. Yet, all four of these authors can tell a story rather well, showing off their creativity. Three of them I call good friends. Even if you take the gore out of their stories, they still are worthwhile reads. I highly recommend these four if you are into horror, splatterpunk, dark fantasy, and just good books.

While doing the social media research for this review, I noticed that there is a Night Creeps II on the AZ Publishing website. . . . . . I'm really not sure if I want to read it . . . . . yeah, I probably will!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Speak the Word ASHMITA Again


When you hear that word, be warned and look up in the sky to see a bolt of blue flying through the heavens! It's Bombay Sapphire, the superhero and servant of Agni, the Indian god of storms! Episode II - The Deccan Dholes, written by Tyree Campbell, head of Alban Lake Publishing, picks up the story a year after the first book, with more action, more of the fight between good and evil, and even . . . . romance?

Nakushi, a young Indian woman whose name means Unwanted, still fights the good fight for her beloved India of the 1960s as Bombay Sapphire, all the while assisting soldiers as they face a new enemy - China. She is also still in pursuit of locating her sister who ran away as well as taking down the Deccan Dholes' crime boss. However, Ganesh Bose, leader of the Dholes, has been searching for her as well, requiring the assistance of an immortal giant named Kazeem. And, to top it all off, she must fight the greatest enemy of all - LOVE. Bombay Sapphire may be the kick ass servant of Agni, but does she have what it takes to take down an immortal, not to mention a civil engineer who may be falling for her? Read Episode II and find out!

I knew that Episode II would be just as good as the first book, yet I will admit that this book was a bit darker with regards to the sick pleasures of Bose and Kazeem. However, the action and cast of characters against the backdrop of India is more than enough to make you want to fly through the book. One MAJOR kudos that I give to Campbell is that he can write women characters rather well. All of his women are intelligent, "real", have emotions yet they don't faint at the drop of a hat, and are independent. Bombay Sapphire is an amazing superhero for anyone to enjoy, but I hope that more women and young girls will pick up the two books and read them with joy. Bombay Sapphire is a hero for the downtrodden and those who feel that they have no fight in them. She will fly from her clouds, give you a smile, and let you know that you do have someone in your corner. Someone who will fight for what is right.

You can purchase Episode II through Amazon or at the ProSe Productions table at conventions, or at the Alban Lake Publishing table at conventions. I've been told that the third book is coming out soon and I look forward to devouring it! (UPDATE: the third book is OUT on Kindle so far - go check Amazon!)



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Dagger To the Heart

I, like other bibliophiles, have more books than we can count. It's even harder when you have friends who are authors because you know that you'll be taking home their books after hanging out with them at a convention. Such was the case when I met author Chris S. Hayes at Contraflow (a fantastic con in NOLA - check them out!) several years ago. I purchased a copy of her book Sikkiyn and it sat in my library for quite some time. However, I decided to read it several days ago . . . . WOW!!!

Sikkiyn is, at best, a perfect blend of sci-fi, romance, humour, and action that will have you turning the pages late into the night. You may even want to call in "sick" at work so you can read it in the privacy of your home. It kept me entertained and I'm eagerly awaiting the second book. The story is thus: Johan Larsen, captain of the space ship the Valkyrie, decides to take on the job of transporting a deadly assassin for some extra money to purchase another ship. However, what he didn't plan on was the fact that the deadly assassin is a woman, and a very attractive one at that. Lara, the sikkiyn (assassins who can tap into people's minds and emotions by touching their skin) from Alaran, wants nothing more than to get away from her past - mistakes made, lies told, and vengeance that continues to rear its ugly head. From the first moment that Larsen sees Lara half naked, he is consumed with a desire to be near the small woman with cat eyes. As much as he desires her, she can't figure out why she feels the way she does towards him . . . Add in mobsters with oceanic DNA, French diplomats with no emotions, and descendants of Vikings that look to be on super steroids, and you've got one amazing story to read.

One thing that I will say about Hayes' writing is that it's solid. She can both tell a story and write well, a foot in both realms that shows. She gives just enough description without overloading the readers, yet leaves out just enough so our imaginations can run wild. Her characters are full and rich against an outer space background that provides an interesting answer to the question of What If? What if humans are bred to have certain abilities, like breathing underwater, having giant like strength, or cat like reflexes? To be altered is the wave of the future - extend the life cycle and even be able to repeat it several times. Ah, the Future.

I really liked the romance between Johan and Lara - seeing it bloom from awkwardness and protection to gentle touches and declarations of calling each other elsekede and habibi while in the throes of passion. They belong together because they are alike in many ways (can't give it away - no spoilers!). Their passion and love for each other is real on the pages. When they finally do come together, you sigh because it was done well and at the right time.

Kudos to Hayes for writing such an awesome book! I hope we'll see each other at Contraflow this year! Maybe Farspeaker will be out by then!

Here are her social media links:

Facebook - Chris S. Hayes

Twitter - @chrishayesmd

Please follow her and purchase a copy of her book  - well worth the money and time!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Only In Asheville

For quite some time, people had been telling me that I needed to visit Asheville, North Carolina. It was, as they put it, "right up my alley". I knew what they meant. So, not too long ago, I visited the city for a short period of time, yet that was all I needed to agree with my friends. Asheville is a fun, quirky, eccentric city and those who "get it" are there in abundance. While visiting, I decided to purchase a book from the city so as to cement my visit. Although I'm a big fan of Thomas Wolfe, I wanted something else. And so, I spotted Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History by Marla Hardee Milling. This slim book is a love letter to her hometown that will have you wanting to visit the city as soon as possible.

Asheville is a quirky city, filled with free spirits and those who seek something different in life. It is a city that is welcoming and accepts all, just as long as you respect the eccentricity that is Asheville. Asheville is different from other artistic and quirky cities in that there is also a deep sense of something else there. A spirit that thrives and nourishes the city. When I drove through Downtown Asheville, my head turned this way and that because there was so much to see and feel.

Milling tells how the city came to be while talking of those who played their part in putting Asheville on the map. From the construction of the Biltmore Estate, to the buskers such as the Man in White, to those who wrapped cloth around buildings to prevent a mall from being constructed, to entrepreneurs who took a chance  to open restaurants, to on and on and on, it is these people and so many more who created Asheville and breathed life into it when it was on its last leg. She also talks of how, thanks to the boom that is showing no signs of slowing down, there is a thin line between remaining true to what the city's all about and becoming an Anytown, USA - having large chain stores that will entice outsiders to move there.

Yet, and I mean this in all honesty, I don't see that happening. Asheville is just too funky to be tamed. And good for them. I love visiting "funky" cities - New Orleans, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, even my home city of Memphis. These cities may have their large chain stores, but the core of the city seems to stay true. As a Memphian, I've seen Memphis go from really beautiful city to "what the hell" to making an awesome comeback. We now have several breweries, two distilleries, tons of local places to eat, a thriving music scene, a kick ass artistic scene, tons of festivals and events that celebrate Memphis, and Elvis! However, where Memphis does have its moments of toning it down at times, Asheville seems to let the freak flag fly non stop. How cool.

Thank you for the love letter, Marla. I look forward to visiting Asheville again really soon.

Oh yeah, I DO have an Asheville story: while I was there, "Viking" took me to an IHOP to eat because I was starving, although we had just left a beignet place owned by a former New Orleanian (Bebettes Beignets and Coffee is awesome!). Anyway, our waitress was this multicoloured hair young woman who, after learning I was from Memphis, welcomed me to Asheville. She then told me of how she visited the city then just never left. As she talked, she certainly had the vibe that Milling spoke of in her book. To date, that was still one of my best food experiences. She was cool and my omelet was quite good.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Quantum of Tea

I have always enjoyed reading about physics, especially quantum mechanics. For those of you who don't know what quantum mechanics is all about, it is basically the physics of nature at a smaller scale. The components of what makes everything . . . everything! However, one running joke in quantum mechanics is the thought that "if you don't understand quantum, then that means that you understand it". I even have a shirt that says I'm Uncertain About Quantum Mechanics. Funny stuff.

Ever since I began this little tea blend company, I'd always wanted to make a tea to reflect my love of the unknown and the "maybe". So, without further ado, may I present to you Quantum Mechanics Tea Blend!

This blend of bai mu dan white tea, lemongrass, and spearmint will assist in clearing your mind so as to fill it with physics! SCIENCE RULES!

The blend will be available through my Etsy store, through me at the Cooper Young Farmers Market, and other places coming soon.

If you are interested in learning more about quantum mechanics, click HERE to check out the Wikipedia page, or corner me at a convention and let's discuss QUANTUM!

Join The Leaf!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This Way To Death . . . .

I hate being redundant but here goes:

Whenever I tell people that I'm a thanatologist, I get several responses:

The Blank Stare

The "you need a boyfriend" look

The throwing of holy water on me (okay, that's never happened . . . yet)

In any case, thanatology is a subject that most do not want to talk about. What happens to us when we die? Do we just become worm food, or perhaps we reach the Pearly Gates? Are we stuck in Limbo until we are born again?

Brom, may the Dark Gods adore him, has created an answer that made me want to believe in it. Welcome to Lost Gods. This story transcends the Dark Fantasy subgenre and becomes something else, something more tangible and fearful than we can ever imagine.

The story is thus: average guy Chet Moran has just left jail (again), yet this time, he wants to do the right thing. Trading in his old clunker for something more reliable, he makes his way to pick up his pregnant girlfriend, Trish, in the hope that she will run away with him to become his wife. She does, and the two travel to his grandmother's home in remote South Carolina. They are welcomed by the loving(?) grandmother named Lamia and given a place of refuge as long as they need it. Yet, all is not right in this pretty picture, and soon Chet must literally die to save the life of his wife and child.

The majority of the book takes place in the netherworld a la Brom, filled with mysterious robed women who are protectors, bottles of alcohol that will make you forget everything, a rising group of souls who want to free themselves from the gods of old, and battles fought between darkness and "not as dark". The netherworld that Chet encounters welcomes him with poison drenched hands and tongues that are black and rotting. Chet rises up to the challenge, proving that it takes more than Death to keep him from the ones that he loves. I loved the fact that Chet was a flawed hero. I honestly did not expect for him to succeed in his task. Not only did he succeed but he also changed to something harder and more mature. He becomes more human than human (thank you White Zombie!) because he risks it all for the woman who loves him.

This book grabbed me from page one and did not let go of me, even after closing the book once completed. Brom extended his mastery of the Darkness from art to words and it shows. I completely forgot at times that Chet was in the LAND OF THE DEAD, that everyone he encountered was dead. The "life" that exuded from the netherworld reminded me of the film The Corpse Bride - how the land of the living was dreary and dull, while the land of the dead was simply not. I've been a fan of Brom's art for years, yet now I want to read all of his other works. I know I won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The World's Most Famous Monster Tells All

It's been years since I read Beowulf, yet the story remains inside of my mind. A monster like no other. A hero who comes to the aid of others and smites the "dangerous beast". Good shall win while Evil will perish. Yet, what about the monster? Do we just watch him get killed without wondering about his life and background? Thankfully, John Gardner answered those questions.

Grendel is the most philosophical monster book I've ever read and I'm ashamed to admit that it's taken me this long to read it. Yet, it was quite a delight to read as I stumbled through the woods with Grendel, watched him eat the humans, and sat with him and his "mother" in the cave. From the time he is a child to his gruesome death, Grendel's view of the world is that of a hairy and brutal philosopher. He questions what he sees, chooses to believe what he wants to believe, and enjoys taunting the humans on an almost daily basis. I enjoyed the conversation he has with the cantankerous dragon as well as how he torments the would be hero Unferth with much mirth. The death scene was short yet Grendel's mind and thoughts continued to ramble on. He will live in eternity.

I look forward to sampling more of Gardner's works and views on Life and Death and the Absurdity of It All.


Friday, June 2, 2017

To Tell the Truth . . . .

Although I read all kinds of books, I am a sucker when it comes to certain British authors. Ian McEwan, although I haven't read his latest, is the top of my list (read Atonement, Amsterdam, The Cement Garden) in the "British overload with just the right amount of tweed" moment. Iain Pears is another author whose books I devour. I truly think my IQ goes up whenever I read Pears' works. Stone's Fall, The Portrait, The Dream of Scipio - all great works to get lost in. However, I think his magnum opus is An Instance of the Fingerpost. The 683 page tome sat in my library for quite some time before I decided to read it. It came in handy when my city recently experienced Hurricane Elvis II. With no power, the book was my friend until my utilities were restored. And what a friend I made.

The story is thus: we travel back in time to 1660s Oxford England. A time of discoveries, treachery, revolutions, faith, ignorance, and the vast differences between men and women. A member of New College is found dead in his home and all fingers point to a young servant woman named Sarah Blundy. The story is told from four different perspectives: a young Italian Catholic man who visits England for further studies in medicine, the violent and angry son of a Royalist traitor, a cryptographer who truly has no heart, and an esteemed antiquarian who is also a bibliophile. From their words, we "see" the events leading up to and surrounding the murder as well as whom each person thinks committed the heinous act. However, while each person offers their "truth" of what happened, only one story is the Actual Truth.

I could not put this book down. At all. I found myself tearing through the pages I walked with the characters, shared their awful food and ale, and listened to secrets being told that would never see the light of day. We the readers will be called upon to question everything and to deny nothing, for everything you read in this book, as I said before, is a certain form of the Truth. Pears masterfully blends mystery, history, a bit of romance, politics, and especially religion into a novel that you will miss once you reach the shocking end. I will not give out spoilers but the ending floored me. I had no idea.

I think it's always good to engage in events that challenge our minds and make us think rather than just blindly accept and move on. An Instance of the Fingerpost will challenge you and, hopefully, make you want to learn more about the presented historical figures and time period.

A well done novel!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Order Welcomes You . . . NEW TEA BLEND

I blame it all on Rick Johnson.

On the last day of  the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention several years ago, Rick was sitting at his table, working on a commission piece. It was of a plague doctor. Being a fan of his work, I asked him about the piece, all the while a story idea began to brew in my head. Minutes later, I sold the Order of the Black Silk Trilogy to ProSe Productions. The first book came out March of this year. However, it wasn't enough. I wanted to not only write more about the world I had created, but also create a tea inspired by my words.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the new Viridian Tea Company blend - Order of the Black Silk Tea!

The blend of assam tea, lemongrass, dried orange peel, and dried cranberries is an excellent way to enter the Otherworldy city of Cinis! The blend will be available at the Broom Closet in the South Main Arts District of Memphis, on my Etsy site, and through me at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market.

THIS SATURDAY (3 June 2017) I will be throwing a sale - if you purchase a copy of the book from me at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market, a regular bag of the tea will only be $4 and a sampler will be $2! I'm only doing this one day, so stop by the booth.

May your Cup never dry!

Friday, May 26, 2017

901 Story - Cookie Shaped Boots

Thanks to technical difficulties in the showing of a classic film starring Marlon Brando, I instead learned about the role Memphis played (and still plays) in the film industry. After the engaging lecture, I felt the need to enjoy a cookie, and so drove to the coffeehouse that stays open late and houses a drink called Funky Monkey. When I reached the place, the nice barista sold me a freshly baked cookie the size of a saucer, and so I found a place to sit and enjoy the warm goodness. Something caught my eye and as I looked up, I noticed a man tuning his guitar. He wore a wide brim hat and looked like a rough hipster version of Harry Connick Jr.. I was immediately interested as he introduced himself as Frankie Boots. Born in California, now living in New Orleans was his line. He sang of being an only child, living in California, being in love and being hurt with a voice that seemed older than his supposed years. At one point, he dedicated a song to me about a bar stool far away and I wanted to look away, yet found myself staring at him even more so. After an hour of solid playing, he took a break and sold his music to anyone who wanted to take him everywhere. He asked for my name and I felt a connection, one that creatives get when they are able to find each other amid the sea of white noise and "fitting in". When I finally left, glowing on the inside and out, I waved goodbye to him as he sat rolling his cigarettes outside of the coffee shop. Maybe our paths will cross again - I wanted to take a photo of his guitar and the soul that possessed it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mind Over Murder . . .

When I first met author Steve Bradshaw, I knew he either was a cop or used to be a cop. People in law enforcement have that LOOK, the one that easily tells you that they are not to be trifled with. Although he does have that look, he is also quite a nice man and apparently one hell of an author. I tore through Evil Like Me: A Forensic/Paranormal Thriller, as published through Griffyn Ink, and I was sorry to leave that version of Memphis. It was, in short, a ride through the mind that I'll never forget.

The story, based on actual events, is thus: the United States Government began a program that utilized the talents of psychics as weapons. Years later, the program is stopped to a grinding halt and all future research has been cancelled . . . or so everyone thinks. Speed up to current time in Memphis, Tennessee, where Homicide Detective Tony Wilcox is looking for a man who may or may not be responsible for four deaths. However, as he soon teams up with Medical Examiner Dr. Victoria Petty, the two slowly realize that there's more to the deaths than they think. Everything that they consider to be of logic and reason is thrown out the window as they must handle matters of the mind . . . . literally.

This book read like a really really good episode of Law and Order, except that rather than watching the show from the comfort of your home, you are right there with Wilcox and Petty, stumbling through the dark in an attempt to understand just why a man named Hunter Keller is so important to the United States Government. Every bullet shot out and received in a bloody fashion, every chase that leads to more bodies and more questions, and every moment of suspended disbelief will have you turning the pages. You don't get bogged down with forensic details, nor is the book one giant car chase through Memphis - Bradshaw paces out the story just enough so that you get to take a breath and maybe get some water. His writing style reminds me of author Harlan Coben (I LOVE his work!) in that you are thrown into it all right from the beginning but it's so good that you don't care.

I do know that Bradshaw will be at the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention this year - if you get a chance to attend, do yourself a favour and attend his panels. Having the pleasure of being on a panel with him, I have to admit that he's a delight to talk with and the dude knows his stuff. If, however, you can't wait to purchase copies of his books, you can either order them through Amazon, or purchase them at South Main Book Juggler in the South Main District of Memphis.


Friday, May 19, 2017

901 Story - Cold Tea

The hip coffee shop was half full when I walked in. Due to my latest round of frustrations with my job, I figured that a cup of Darjeeling tea and a muffin would set me right. After receiving my super sized tea and muffin warmed just right, I found a table and soon started jotting down thoughts before I forgot them. As I wrote, I overheard several of the baristas talk about a young man who recently died due to a caffeine overdose. I had heard of the story and remembered shaking my head in sadness over it. Just then, one of the baristas said that when he used to work in a corporate office, he would drink cup after cup of coffee not for the caffeine but for the warmth. Soon, another barista who sat behind me agreed that that particular place had been too cold for words. I turned to face her and offered my story - that my corporate job space was cold every day and how one could almost see their breath while working. We shared a nice laugh and I returned to my tea as the stress of corporate left me. Even though I had to return soon, I knew that the tea and muffin were enough good juju to finish the day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

901 Story - The Old Men and the Vinyl

(sample of my vinyl collection)

While searching for book titles in the library bookstore in an attempt to kill some time, I overheard two older men talk about the good ol' days via vinyl. They reviewed each album that was on sale, each asking the other if they owned a copy of it, all the while talking about their obviously massive vinyl collections. As much as I wanted to go through the vinyl to possibly add to my nice sized collection, I continued searching for books and let the men have their fun. They spoke of how they locate their vinyl at estate sales with such pride as though they were talking about their children and grandchildren, complete with photos in their wallet. Did they, I wondered, enjoy their vinyl with friends and flowing cocktails? Showing off their latest find to those who were of the Vinyl Faith? Perhaps they saved that experience for themselves, considering it to be too sacred for the masses. Vinyl spoke through the ages and those two men continued to answer the call.