Haunting at the No Return Motel marks my first anthology outside of Black Velvet Seductions Publishing—which, ironically, is releasing Vortex of Desire today, in which I also appear! https://virginiawallace.com/2023/07/11/welcome-to-vortex-of-desire/

So yep, new publisher, new set of teammates, new approach to publishing …

What a RUSH!!! I am so grateful to AMR Promotions for having given me this opportunity, and so proud of my fellow authors. Everyone pulled out all the stops, which—naturally—is the only way to do things. Do or die, you know?

So, without any further ado …

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you HAUNTING AT THE NO RETURN MOTEL!!!

“The Larchmont Motel” by Pete Thron

Wow …

Just … wow. No wonder the title of the anthology comes from this story. World-renowned, bestselling author Pete Thron brings us his A-game with this mesmerizing tale! I find it particularly unnerving that that the story is told—page by brutal page—from an old diary. The linking of the present to the past reminds us, for better or worse, that horror has ever been a part of the human existence.

I find it interesting that this is also a tale of crippling drug addiction, a topic that the author—a former NYPD officer—knows all too well. The story reads like exactly what it is: a tale written by a man who is intimately familiar with his subject matter. Well done, Pete!

“The Monolith” by Virginia Wallace (review by Suzanne Smith, author The Brute and I and The Scalp Collector https://virginiawallace.com/2021/03/03/a-chat-with-suzanne-smith/ )

I loved every minute of this dark and creepy story!

The detailed description of the monolith and the interior and exterior of the decaying house with the prophetic words written on the walls was super vivid, and gets a thumbs up from me. Love the way Virginia acquainted the reader with the characters of Moe, Shoe, and Rotchy by giving them nicknames to mimic their personalities.

These boys are so real. Clumsy, foul-mouthed, somewhat rambunctious, yet still so lovable. The back and forth timeline changes in the book were easy to follow and not confusing to the reader at all.

The ending was unpredictable and superb. This was the perfect Halloween read!

“The Lady in the Black Lace Dress” by Brian McCord

This … is an INSANELY well-told tale!

We all know about the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead.’ Mexico has a long and rich history of horror tales of its own, as well as appearances of Mexican culture in American horror stories. The setting is just exotic enough to be intriguing, and just familiar enough to be comforting.

The element of the ‘missing shoe’ feels VERY ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales,’ which lends a certain sense of timelessness to the narrative.

LOVE it!

“A Halloween Weekend” by Eileen Troemel

This is the first horror story I’ve read by Eileen, and I’m more than a little familiar with her work.

There’s a certain classic, 1970’s feel to this story. I’m reminded of such films as ‘The Amityville Horror.’ Not nearly so hardcore as ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ but still quite unnerving it its own right.

I think what makes this story brilliant is that Eileen didn’t alter her writing style one iota to suit the new-to-her genre. It reads like her classic science fiction, romance, and suspense. And therein lies its brilliance, as if Daphne du Maurier suddenly busted out with Psycho while using the same narrative style that made Rebecca a massive hit.

“A Halloween Weekend” reads like Eileen has been writing horror her entire life, despite my knowledge to the contrary. And that … is the very definition of talent!

“The Justified Hotel” by Allie Harrison

Randall ‘Butch’ Sawyer gripped the steering wheel with both

hands and sighed heavily. “I’m freakin’ exhausted.”

Butch was a pathological psycho with two capital P’s who felt

nothing when it came to killing a fellow human being. He had killed

to get what he wanted. He had killed to cover his tracks. He had

killed for the simple idea someone had looked at him too long and

studied his face. Yet, while he could skin a person alive or shoot

someone in the head and walk away without remorse, and had done

it on numerous occasions, he could not utter a single swear or cuss

word for fear of winding up in hell for it. So, he said things like,

“Freaking, fracking, oh fudge.” And when the situation really called

for something big and bad, he said, “Chocolate fudge.” Three days

ago, while at a gas station, the young, female gas station attendant

had stared at him. And when Butch was certain she had pressed a

hidden alarm even though he hadn’t seen her move, he’d said,

“Chocolate fudge with peanuts!” just before he shot off half her face …

Damn. Just … damn … WHAT an epic character!

And this story has the PERFECT spine-tingling ending, just like you expect from the best horror stories!

I hope they make this one into a movie someday.

“Bark at the Moon” by T. Elizabth Guthrie

This was a very thought-provoking tale. It reminded me of the movie Frailty, starring Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey. It’s a tale of twisted morality, in which people take noble beliefs to dark extremes.

The small-town setting made the tale even more creepy. People usualy feel safe in small towns, less wary than they do in big cities. It turns reality upside-down, setting a terrifying tale in such a quaint place.

The Stephen King-like vibe made this story a worthy ending to the beginning spun by Pete Thron. I’ve always said that a great anthology has perfect, complimetary ‘bookends.’

And this one DOES!

Thus concludes my review of the epic Haunting at the No Return Motel! Go pick up a copy TODAY!!! https://books2read.com/u/3k6LrN

Let the Bride Wear White

“Will strangers ever hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were? How bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?”King Odysseus (from Wolfgang Peterson’s film Troy)

I went to a wedding yesterday …

It was a GREAT time! You know how I know it was great? We had so much fun that my better half forgot to close out our bar tab. He had to call one of his trusty buddies to close it out for him, and retrieve his credit card. Whoops!

Weddings fascinate me. They really do. They’re the entirety of someone’s life—past, present, and future—condensed into a single day. The groom said something during his speech that I’ll never forget. He talked about losing his cell phone the morning of his wedding, and when he did something hit him: everyone that he ever cared about—everyone that he might have asked to call his phone so he could locate it—was together under one roof, for what was probably both the first and last time.

I was poignantly reminded of the line from Troy: “I’ll tell you a secret,” says Achilles gravely to  Briseis, “something they don’t teach you in your temple. The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

Or, as another author who is not Homer put it: “Life, I realized, isn’t about being happy ‘forever’. Forever is too fickle, too fleeting, and too vulnerable to tumultuous change. Life is about learning to seize a single moment, a breath-taking moment frozen in time, and keeping that moment … Forever.”

Weddings embody both the past and future, bound together into a single, surreal Present. What weddings have in common with funerals is that they are both, in part, a celebration of the past; that celebration is embodied by the guests, by their smiles and sniffles. There’s that fellow I went to high school with; there’s my good friend who started out as my tax preparer. There’s my grandmother, and there’s my drunken uncle that I don’t really like, but hey … he’s family.

But with weddings, the past and future intertwine. The guests represent the past—and in some sense, so do the bride and groom since their courtship is now over—but the ceremony itself represents hope for the future. In a traditional western wedding, the groom wears black: a color historically used to garb soldiers, peace officers, assassins, and even executioners. To me, it’s a grim reminder of the realities of our world, and how a husband is meant to bravely face them in defense of hearth and home. He’s the protector of his household, and his attire reflects this.

Then there’s the bride …

When I was a teenager, my local video store had this horror film called Let the Devil Wear Black. Every time I walked by it, I thought that was the coolest title ever. Then one day it occurred to me that I should actually rent it. So I went in, and …

Alas, somebody’s VCR ate the tape. I never got to see it. But it was still a bitchin’ title, and I’ve often thought that that it’d be cool to paraphrase it in a romantic story: Let the Bride Wear White, you know?

Wives—and by extension, girlfriends and fiancées—are just as flawed as their male counterparts. I would know. But for one day—just one—the bride gets to be perfect. She wears white to symbolize the softer, more supportive role that she will play in her newly-forged household.

There’s an element of risk in marriage. Fifty percent of American marriages end in divorce. The bride or the groom could get hit by a bus the day after the wedding. But weddings are a bold ‘looking forward,’ a fierce clinging to hope despite the risks inherent to daily life. Weddings celebrate the ‘permanently beautiful’ while willfully ignoring the ‘temporarily ugly.’

To those of us who are older, seeing a younger person say ‘I do’ reminds us of how we felt when we said it. The fluttering heart, the odd sense of joyous trepidation, the looking forward to the future despite not knowing what it would hold for us … Younger people often say their vows before others who said them long, long ago, reminding us that the human experience—and even reality itself—doesn’t move in a straight line; rather, it moves in circles.

I once wrote this, in the introduction to my book Fatal Distractions: “Life has become so chaotic that it’s easy to forget that this life is only temporary; indeed, it is almost illusory.”

Almost illusory. Just ‘almost …’

As we drift through life, it’s tempting to just let everything feel like one long dream. Honestly? I think that’s a natural defense mechanism. But there are rare days in which life makes itself crystal-clear, and we are more than happy to simply ‘live in the moment,’ with no need whatsoever to mentally disassociate ourselves from what’s happening around us.

Weddings … are ‘one of those rare days.’

Welcome to ‘VORTEX OF DESIRE’!!!

Our jolly little pirate gang is at it again … Welcome to VORTEX OF DESIRE, the latest anthology from Black Velvet Seductions! I admit, I love our anthologies. I love reading tales that are so diverse, and yet unified around a common theme. It’s fun to see what everyone came up with after being handed an assignment, you know? And it’s REALLY fun to market alongside my co-workers, instead of hyper-focusing on my own work. So without any further ado, check out the tales in Vortex of Desire!  

“Aurelian Bliss” by Deborah Kelsey Lazaroff

My favorite type of science fiction is ‘historical’—Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, etc. But ‘dystopian’ is a very, very close second. I think the best sci-fi acts as a cautionary tale, warning us of what the world could become.

“Aurelian Bliss” is set in just such a world. What I loved most about it was that the story is blatantly ‘erotic,’ and yet not ‘erotica.’ Deborah Kelsey Lazaroff manages to wrench a heartfelt sense of yearning from the off-kilter, steamy narrative. It gives the reader an emotional attachment to the characters, and—by extension—the oddball setting.

Fans of Creatures of the Night and “Stille Nacht” will love this tale!  

“Cosmic Connection” by Angelika Devlyn

Space, the final frontier

In an age in which science fiction is becoming more outlandish and life is starting to look like science fiction, there’s something to be said for a classic ‘spaceship exploring the universe’ tale …

“Cosmic Connection” … is THAT tale! I loved, loved, LOVED the female lead, Aurora! I just found her very relatable; I think it was her sense of loneliness that really resonated with me. When she finds her love interest, the reader is left asking ‘well, how did that happen?’

But this is science fiction; you’re supposed to ask that question! “Cosmic Connection” is “Star Trek” meets “The Twlight Zone,” both filtered through the author’s unique voice.

I am SO looking forward to reading more stories by Angelika Devlyn!  

“Eden Dome” by Eileen Troemel

If there’s anyone who knows how to write dystopian sci-fi, it’d be Eileen Troemel. I’ve been a huge fan of her work since the vicious dark fantasy novel Dragon Lord’s Mate, and “Eden Dome” did not disappoint!

The best dystopian tales are not the ones that focus solely on the social chaos, or the hardships following the collapse of society. No, the best dystopian tales are the ones that also focus on what social collapse does to people: the way it makes them turn upon one another, and the unholy power structures that inevitably come about.

This tale is intense. Seriously.

I must disclose that there is some commentary in this tale that—while appropriate within the context of the story—might strike some male readers as offensive, and I feel the need to say this because my horror stories attract a fair few male readers. I believe it’s important to let readers know what to expect, just as Black Velvet Seductions did when they put a ‘trigger warning’ over my story “The Ritual.”

That having been said,  “Eden Dome” is a gritty, dark, intense tale that’s not easily forgotten …

And I expected nothing less from the legendary Eileen Troemel.  

“Her Blue Treasure” by Patricia Elliott

This is a rather strange tale. While it IS science fiction, it doesn’t FEEL like science fiction. Honestly? That’s a compliment. The mythical setting is so seamless that you cease to even notice it, and that’s good writing.

“Her Blue Treasure” feels more like a classic fairy tale, perhaps “Snow White” or “Cinderella.” There’s a certain timeless quality to it that seems like a throwback to Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm. The heroine Jasmine is very much the ‘girl next door’ type, and her personality enhances the realistic tone of the story.

Fans of Her Lover’s Face and Not You Again! will love this one!  

“Humanity” by Nancy Golinski

Yep … the best sci-fi is a cautionary tale, one which reflects the fears of our day. In a world in which nukes getting launched is now a very really possibility, the story of a radiation-sickened refugee named Skye is rather haunting.

But “Humanity” goes even beyond fifties-style nuclear fears. In a world now tainted by something that the World Health Organization dubbed a ‘pandemic,’ humans have become less connected and more likely to engage the world via digital channels. In some sense, emotional connections have been replaced by algorithms and ‘compatability’ data compiled on dating websites.

“Humanity,” does what science fiction does best: it point outs the truth. And the truth is this: humans are more than data, and love is more than an algorithm.

Nancy Golinski was kind enough to assist me with my science fiction tale “The Protocols,” so I’ve always been aware that she knows a thing or two about the genre. It was wonderful to see her bring her own sci-fi to stunning life!  

“Moon Colony” by F. Burn

Like Patricia Elliott’s “Her Blue Treasure,” “Moon Colony” doesn’t feel like science fiction. It feels real.

Much like Stephen King’s brilliant The Shawshank Redemption, “Moon Colony” deftly captures the sense of oppressive danger inherent to prison life. I’m also reminded of John Carpenter’s The Ghosts of Mars, which portrays the realistic sense of isolation that an ‘earthling’ would surely feel as a colonist on a foreign planet.

This story is strangely dark … which, of course, I have come to expect from F. Burn. Like her signature romance novel Secret Love, “Moon Colony” is written in a very brooding, introspective tone.

I love it!  

“Prince Arawn and the Dawn” by Viola Russell

This is quite possibly the strangest tale in the whole collection. While most of the tales seem to be rather ‘dystopian’ or ‘space opera,’ “Prince Arawn and the Dawn” is written with levels of intrigue that seem almost on par with “Game of Thrones.” How she managed to squeeze an entire epic into ten thousand words is beyond me, but she did.

It’s fascinating how this tale subtly moves from a socio-political drama to a romance. I can’t honestly tell you where the shift takes place, but it does. The narrative is very smooth, and the characters well-drawn. I found the epic nature of the story to be absolutely fascinating. I’m a HUGE fan of stories about kings and queens and empires, and the interactions that fuel such worlds. In that sense … “Prince Arawn and the Dawn” is an AWESOME story!!!  

“Somewhere with Trees” by Alice Renaud

I would like somewhere with trees, sir … Ever since the Sea of Love trilogy, I have been a HUGE fan of Alice Renaud’s writing! And this story really, really hit home. As a native of the world’s second-largest natural harbor and America’s largest naval base, I know well the loneliness and struggles of the average sailor. And professionally, I also understand the frustrations of dealing with any government entity.

This story feels real. The fictional ‘history,’ the otherworldly setting … all of it fades away as you slowly swim through the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

Alice Renaud is one of Black Velvet Seductions’ heaviest hitters …

There’s a reason for that.  

“Stardust” by S.K. White

Has anyone seen the movie U.S. Marshals, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr.? Imagine that story, but set in space …

S. K. White is quite possibly Black Velvet Seductions’ most notable science fiction author, the writer of the ground-breaking All Gone. Her ability to make the bizarre feel perfectly normal is incredible. (I mean, I can’t do that. When I write bizarre, yeah … it feels bizarre.)

“Stardust” is a space opera worthy of the iconic “Star Trek,” and I don’t say that lightly.   

“Talitha” by Virginia Wallace (Review by Black Velvet Seductions author Suzanne Smith)

The character of Talitha offers the reader a grim, but accurate and interesting as hell psychological profile. The words used to describe her losing her virginity are very powerful (“Ben was not invading my body. No, he was trying to lovingly connect with it, and I welcomed his intrusion—even if the cost was a moment of pain.”) are definitely blurb material. The mention of tissue harvesting is substantial and thought provoking.

Even after I finished reading the story, I found myself wondering about Ben and Talitha’s future. In my opinion, the story is tight, with a dark eloquence in the words, and there is no fat to trim. It was a really good read.  

“The Grey Mission” by Angella O’Hanlon

The building architect did not believe in elevators, so a ramp wound its way up to the 75th floor. In the centre was a glass construct of offices and office space, yet not a single window had a view of the outside world. It was a building within a building …

GREAT opening! I love descriptive writing. This opening paragraph creates a sense of foreboding, and immediately sets up an off-kilter, Tim Burton-esque tone. It only gets better from there.

The romance between Illyanna and Bart is extremely realistic. They interact with a chemistry that many couple can only envy. This is one of the most expressive, fluidly-written short stories that I think I’ve ever read. This is the first story I’ve read from Angella O’Hanlon …

I hope there are more to come! 

“Repo My Heart” by Zia Westfield

His hands captured her bottom and brought her against his jutting length … Kira closed her eyes and let herself be swept away on a trail of shooting stars that took her higher and higher until the galaxy burst into brilliant colors.

Was there ever any doubt that Zia Westfield is God’s gift to literature?! DAMN, y’all! Just … damn …

Zia is a writer after my own heart. There is an ever-present element of wry humor—and occasionally, even silliness—in her writing. (See also her character Sal, the smart-mouthed duck. And yeah, that wasn’t a typo. I actually said ‘duck.’) Her writing doesn’t take itself all that seriously … which, ironically, invites the reader to take it very seriously.

This story came to me a day late, but DEFINITELY not a dollar short! I’ve loved Zia’s shorts ever since “Bewitching the Wolf.” Not only was that a heart-melting, surreal story, Oggie the drunk-ass leprechaun was ONE funny mofo!

So yeah … Oggie would be proud of “Repo My Heart”! Or, at least, he would if he wasn’t too shit-hammered to actually read it …

So for now, that’s IT, y’all! Yep, Vortex of Desire, by Black Velvet Seductions … Pre-order it TODAY!!!  https://amzn.to/41ro29P     

Meet OSYRON!!!

Anyone who knows me knows that the FaceBook group ‘Unsigned Metal Bands’ is my HAPPY place!!! Nothing makes me smile like awesome metal. But finding buried treasure makes me even HAPPIER! 

Let’s be honest here: EVERYONE loves Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Black Sabbath, and Ozzy Osbourne. I love those guys! But metal is bigger than that. Sometimes the best metal is played in places other than your ‘top forty’ radio station, you know? Osyron … is one of those ‘beyond top forty,’ EPIC bands! And yep, I first  ran across them in ‘Unsigned Metal Bands’! So without any further ado, friends and rock stars …

Meet my friend Reed Alton of OSYRON!!!

WELCOME, Reed, to virginiawallace.com! As a HUGE fan of your work, it is such an honor to host your band today! Thank you so much for taking the time to appear. Can you tell our readers how Osyron first got together?

Thanks for having me. Happy to be here, and yeah for sure. Osyron first started many years ago with Bobby and Krzysztof (guitars) back in their home province of Ontario, Canada. Eventually they moved out west here in Alberta and joined up with myself, Tyler (Bass) and Cody (Drums). We consider this line up to be the first, steady and consistent lineup the band has had. And we are happy with it without a doubt.

So just to clarify, what is your role in the band?

I sing, and I make the others in band feel better about themselves when I make a big mistake on stage. But the former is what I love to do, not the latter!

Metallica always labeled their lead guitarist Kirk as ‘The Peacemaker.’ He once said in an interview: ‘I try to set an example to the rest of the band how to be ego-less. That’s part of my beliefs.’ Keeping the band in a cohesive state requires massive empathy and communication skills. And if that’s part of your job, then I SALUTE you! But man, seriously … let’s talk about them vocals, now. You’re one part opera, one part death metal, and three parts good ol’ hard rock! What are some of your influences?

Well, I guess I have different influences for different parts of my voice and range. So there are many many many vocalists over the years I have looked towards for inspiration and influence. However to name a few I would say Dickenson, Halford, Benji Webb, Stu Block, Joe Duplantier, David Draimen, Randy Blythe, Phil Anselmo, Lajon Witherspoon, Chris Cornell and Dio to name a few.*I might have spelt some of their names wrong*

OFF THE RECORD I can edit, lol! (K, I didn’t edit! That was funny.) You said Rob Halford and Chris Cornell … you speakin’ my language, now! I’m listening to ‘Battle of the Thames’ as we type, one of my favorite Osyron songs. I sent that one to a good friend of mine, the popular romance author Callie Carmen. Callie isn’t a huge metal fan, but even she was like ‘wow … these guys should make soundtracks for movies like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ The three-way split between classical, death metal, and traditional hard rock absolutely FASCINATES me! How did y’all come up with that sound? And I’m sensing a higher level of musical education here … private tutoring, perhaps, or did someone go to a music college?

Well, we appreciate the kind words and support. We have had many influences as a band from different metal styles, rock and prog as well as thematic/soundtrack genres too. So together we blend them into our own take of these genres and create our own Metal Style. I classify it as simple Heavy Metal or Dark Prog but honestly, labels are for the listeners, not the musicians in my opinion. And no one studied any of their instruments beyond maybe lessons at the beginning of their journey’s. We are all hard working and dedicated musicians who try to perfect their own individual styles and crafts!

Holy SHIT!!! Y’all did that all on your own?! WOW!!! I was counting on you to tell me that someone done went to Juilliard, or some shit. Wow. So what is Osyron’s songwriting process? Is it a ‘let’s all jam and see what comes out,’ or ‘a couple of us write, and the band arranges’? DO tell!

We usually write based off of someone’s idea and we expand upon it. We never really ‘jam’ out the songs, but more or less piece them together through collaboration from a single idea

So I gotta ask … as an author, I usually go through two to three drafts before I submit a novel to my editor. So how many drafts does Osyron go through before going into the final mix?

Aha, fair enough. And probably two or three. We always have demos and pre production before we record the final version.

Yep. Brother, will you do the honor of repeating after me? Here we go: THE FIRST DRAFT IS CANNON FODDER!!! Can I get an ‘amen’?


YES!!! And I wanna ask … I love the way Osyron arranges the bass. Osyron has this in common with Guns n’ Roses and Iron Maiden: the bass is exactly where it belongs. Just slightly louder than the drum, alongside the lead singer, but behind the lead guitars. I admire any band that puts the bass player in his proper place, because so many bands sideline the bass player. I hate that. So who is Osyron’s bass player? How did y’all find him, and what are some of his influences? I play the bass, so my answer would be Geddy Lee, Rob Trujillo, and Cliff Burton … but I’d like to know what answer he might give.

Well his name is Tyler and he is the sexiest in the band. So we decided to but him on bass to settle his ego. Aha, all jokes aside Ty is a secret weapon because he is first and foremost a very talented guitar player. He is able to write quality bass lines that are creative but never overly flashy. He also mixes all of our records and releases as he is a talented mixing engineer.

Do please tell Tyler that Virginia Wallace thinks he’s a fuckin’ BADASS!!! So what are some the challeges of being in band? Work/life balance, family/art balance … how does that work for Osyron?

Well to be honest we are all pretty easygoing guys for the most part. So we are able to balance most things fairly well. We also try to split up jobs and tasks evenly or as best as possible so we are all working together towards the same goal. I’d say thats what makes us a great team is we all have the same dream and aspirations and we work towards together.

As a die-hard ‘fan girl,’ I ALWAYS loved the comraderie of metal! Even if it meant getting bounced from the bar alongside my friends … and yep, that happened more’n a couple times! (Apparently, being ‘over-served’ is not something you’re supposed to do in public. Who knew?) So what advice would you give to a young/aspiring musician? What wisdom would you care to pass on to the next generation?

Aha, been there and understand that! Honestly, just to pursue whatever you love and don’t give up. It’s cliché but very true. We all haven’t stopped and are starting to see the success but it has been many years and many losses. So it will eventually happen, but ‘when’ is up to hard work and some luck.

Well said, brother … well said. I give the same advice to aspiring writers. THANK you for gracing my page today! I am truly honored. And I wish Osyron all the best going forward!

If you love metal with a dash of classical, Osyron has you COVERED, now!!! Thanks again, Reed, for taking the time to chat today! And Y’ALL, my dear friends and rock stars, may stalk Osyron at the following links:





Cheers! – V

Regarding Whiskey, Writing, and Life in General …

As so often happens in life, my new friend Victoria M. Patton and I crossed paths by chance.

Now, I know a lot of authors. I interact with a lot of authors. Most of them are female, since I started out in the romance genre. (That’s beginning to change, since I also write horror and fantasy. But for the time being, that’s still the norm.) And yep, when it comes to booze most of the authors I know talk about wine, or maybe mixed drinks.

But I’m Southern. I just don’t drink like that, you know? Beer n’ whiskey, baby!

So I was pleasantly surprised to hear a fellow romance author mention whiskey. I was like, WOO-HOO!!! We gotta chat, now!!! Victoria was kind enough to agree to a pleasant digital sit-down, over a couple glasses of whiskey.

Here … is that conversation!!!

WELCOME, Victoria, to virginiawallace.com! So, we’re authors! And therefore, not teetotallers. But what caught my eye was this: you don’t generally see female authors talking about whiskey. Usually, it’s rum, vodka or wine … so DO tell! What made you gravitate toward whiskey? What about that venerable beverage entices you?

Man, that is a good question. LOL. I had someone ask me if I wanted to try some Pappy Van Winkle. That did it. Of course, once you try that, you are kind of spoiled.

I’ve heard of that one, but never tried it. What is it? Rye? Bourbon? Scotch?

Pappy is buttery smooth, no burn. Bourbon. VERY expensive. I could never afford it. And hard to get. But that set in me motion to find whiskeys I could afford.

Ah! Bourbon, well … you speakin’ my language, now! Are you exclusively a bourbon drinker, or do you branch out?

I like every variation of whiskey … bourbons are my favorite and rye is my liquid of choice. I love Ryes.

I love Rye best in the summer, with its tangy flavor. What’s your favorite rye, and why? I’m gonna say Knob Creek, on my end.

Love Knob Creek. Love it. Jack Daniels has one of the best ryes … but … the best rye you will ever try is from the Banff Distillery in Banff, Canada. It is a clear rye AND NOT aged. and it is fabulous. Another rye that I love, and actually love all their whiskeys is Canadian Club.

Ah, I must research this! I have an easy time getting Canadian product where I live. I was actually introduced to rye with Jim Beam’s version, which isn’t half bad. It’s funny, I don’t like Beam’s flagship whiskey because it tastes oily to me, but I love a lot of their other products. Do you find a signifigant difference between ‘corporate’ whiskies and whiskies from smaller distilleries?

Not so much. But I think distilleries that focus on the whiskey … not the dollar … make the best whiskeys. I believe some rush the process and skimp on the ingredients.

I agree. So let’s back up a bit … what’s a ‘clear’ rye? I always thought of rye as a dark liquor. Might you explain?

Yes, when they are aged. When they are not, it is clear. I don’t know anyone else that has a clear rye other than Banff Distillery. MY GOD it is so good. I should have bought a shit ton to bring back because they have not been able to sell to the US yet. To get the color it is aged at a minimum of 2 years. You know that the oak used is what gives the whiskey the flavor. That is why so many buy Jack Daniels barrels and refurbish them to reuse.

Oh no! I did not know that. Now I’m on a mission from God to find some clear rye! So how do you drink your bourbon and rye? On the rocks? Straight up?

I like a little ice. Adding water to your scotch or whiskeys help release the aromatics and the flavors … I drink it fast enough that it doesn’t get watery. LOL too fast. I like it straight up too.

I am in the exact same camp with bourbon and rye! It just smells nicer when the ice mellows it a bit. Have you ever had a ‘rock n’ rye’? That’s 50/50 lemonade and rye, over ice. It’ll put you on the floor!

NO … but I will try it … LOL

You mentioned Canadian Club. I must confess, I haven’t developed much of a palate for Canadian whiskey. Being a native of the American South, they taste odd to me. So which Canadian whiskies do you like, and why?

I am currently drinking a Canadian Club 9 year reserve … it is great. Smooth with a hint of caramel and english toffee. My favorite canadian club is a 12 year small batch … that has a vanilla undertone and mixes very well with coke (Coke Zero for me) but it makes the coke taste like a vanilla coke … goes down way to easy.

Nice! Vanilla notes are why Wild Turkey 101 is my favorite bourbon. I have Tullamore Dew XO Caribbean in my tumbler … Irish whiskey, aged in Caribbean rum barrels. Straight up, warmed up in a coffee mug that I put in the microwave. So … how do you feel about the ‘old Irish,’ as my recently departed friend Gerry called it?

I love Irish whiskeys. Off the whiskey train … I love to Macallan scotch. That is for another discussion.

And you mentioned Coke. Yep, some whiskey purists would cry ‘foul.’ But honestly? Jack Daniels goes well with Coke. And I love Wild Turkey with Cheerwine. Cheerwine is an older precursor to Dr. Pepper, and sold primarily in the South. And YES, we are indeed moving toward Scotch! But in the meantime, do tell me about your favorite Irish whiskies!

I have had Tullamore … love that. Bushmills I like it becaue it has subtle notes not overpoweriing … I have had tons of Jameson … which I do love. I need to drink more Irish whiskeys. Rye I drink straight up … nothing added … but occasionally I want a whiskey and coke, or Vanilla Dr. Pepper.

Jameson is God’s gift to whiskey. It’s not too heavy, not too strong, and no one note is overpowering. It’s just … balanced. Have you tried Green Spot? I love that one, tastes like cloves and green apples. And I love Teeling, which tastes like watermelon with a buttery finish. So that begs the question … do you prefer fruity or spicy notes? And what finish do you prefer? Spicy, smoky, etc. …

When it comes to whiskey i prefer the vanilla, caramel and smoky flavors. The Canadian Club I am drinking now has caramel, english toffee, with nutmeg and cloves … the smell is fabulous … My husband can’t drink whiskey at all, but he said this particular one smells so good, he wishes he had a cologne with this smell. Here’s the thing for those that don’t drink whiskey and why I think they don’t drink it after one taste. When you first try a glass of whiskey, or scotch, it burns … because your tastes buds are not used to the alsohol and the pain receptors react as a fiery burn. But the more you drink whiskey you train those tastes buds to not react like that … thus the burn goes away. Once that happens, you begin to taste the notes of the whiskey …

Coffee and whiskey have this in common: people who won’t drink it still love the smell. And yes, it takes practice to calmly sip straight liquor without being overwhelmed by the burn. Only then do you taste the notes! So let’s talk Scotch. I hated it until I was thirty. I finally figured out the truth about Scotch: you get what you pay for. If it’s good, it ain’t cheap. If it’s cheap, it’s piss. So I didn’t appreciate Scotch until I hit my prime earning years and could afford the good stuff.

So I am not a huge scotch drinker … but occasionaly I will get some … unfortunately for my wallet, I prefer Macallan … and that adage you get what you pay for is so true … while a lot of the less expensive Macallan whiskeys are good, if you fork out 50 bucks for a shot, yeah … that is wonderful! My grandmother loved scotch. She would put a little water in it. I would drink it and die … but as I took more and more sips … it didn’t burn … that must have been where my love of whiskey started i just didn’t know it. Also, she used to make me hot totties when I was sick … which always had scotch in them. LOL. Not enough to get me drunk, mind you! LOL. Just a dribble to make me stop coughing and sleep. Prolly would go to jail for that now, but not in the 70’s.

Macallan 12 is around $60 American per bottle, which ain’t half bad. And yep, my granny gave me a spoonful of ‘medicine’ back in the eighties to make me sleep. Looking back? It kinda tasted like Old Crow … Sadly, my absolute FAVORITE whiskey is Johnny Walker Blue. $250 American a bottle. It’s always a birthday or Christmas present, but I love how complex it is. You put it over ice, and it tastes like dried fruit and nutmeg. Warm it up? Peat moss and smoke, very dark and earthy. Either way, I LOVE it!

My step father loved Johnny Walker.

Honestly, I don’t care for most of their product line … but the Blue Label is pure gold! So … you’re an author, as am I. Why is it, you think, that writers all have discount cards to their local liquor store? What is it about we do that makes booze such a loyal companion?

I’m not sure, but one time I talked about whiskey and writing … which is my website, go figure. And someone commented I am giving authors a bad name because I drink and write … l literally told him to fuck off. LOL … I drink whiskey because I like the taste. I write because I am no longer employable in the real world so I thought I could use my forensic chemistry degree and love of killers and make some money …

In my case, I think it’s because I’m a rather antsy person. If you look at my body of work, I clearly have adult ADD. Can’t keep me on topic for five minutes, you know? I’m like, ooh I wanna write THIS! K, now I’m done and I wanna write THAT! Booze turns down the volume in my head, you know? It helps me focus. I ain’t looking to get shit-hammered and fall down. I just wanna become someone other than my usual scatter-brained self. And yep, along the way you develop an appreciation for the art and talent that goes into crafting fine whiskies. So, to wrap up … is there anything else you would care to share with our readers?

Hm … When I write I usually only drink whiskey … I don’t get hammered, but sometimes I have several glasses … takes a lot to get me hammered, which I found out on my fiftieth birthday, LOL. But when I drink and write and I have my music on, my creativity seems to soar. I’m letting go of all the things that i might worry about. Should I say that, or should my character do this? I just seem to get into a groove and relax. I don’t drink whiskey to be cool or hip … it truly is the best drink out there. LOL. I never drink while editing. Just saying. I’m on my second glass of Canadian Club … I might need to write tonight …

It is indeed, which is why I snapped you up for an interview. You get it! And yes, as our boy Hemingway put it: ‘Write drunk and edit sober!’ THANK YOU so much for gracing my humble page today, and I wish you all the best with your writing!

TO STALK AND CONNECT WITH VICTORIA, CLICK HERE! https://linktr.ee/victoriampatton


Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a HUGE fan of the hard rock scene in Hampton Roads, Virginia, USA. So today it is my honor to introduce Nate Atkins, the wonderfully talented drummer of the band Divided!

WELCOME, Nate, to virginiawallace.com! Thank you so much for taking the time to appear today. Can you tell our readers where Divided is located, and how all of you got together?

We are based out of Chesapeake, Virginia. Myself, Nick Youngkins, and Russell Dotson divided after we left another band called unbound. We also had original members. Matthew Gumm, and Richard Hoffman who are no longer currently in the band that formed it with us.

I lived in Chesapeake for years.! So I gotta ask, are you working in military service? Eastern VA is a Naval region, after all. I’ve often seen military service playing hell with trying to get one’s music off the ground.

Yes, I am! I’m active duty Navy. And I have been in for 14 years.

Thank you for your service! I always ask that question, because to me it seems even more challenging than just balancing personal life with one’s music. I grew up watching half the men in my neighborhood disappearing for six months at a time! How do the other guys handle that?

It can be challenging at times but for the most part my band members have all come to understand that. You know it’s part of my job that sometimes. I have to leave but we make it work. Kudos to the boys cuz it’s definitely had it’s ups and downs. But now since I’m stationed on shore duty it’s a lot easier.

I would imagine! What are some of the musical backgrounds in the band? And what sort of influences did that bring to the music?

Nick has a big background in Deathcore, metalcore, and some thrash influences. I would say some of his biggest influences as far as bands go would be lamb of God, suicide silence, power trip, they art is murder, just to name a few. Russell Is heavily inspired by thrash music and was originally our bass player. But after our last guitarist, Matthew left russed up to the plate and took over for guitar. His biggest influences are Pantera, Megadeth, Trivium, and Slipknot. Trent is the newest member to the band as a bass player, and his influences are Motionless in White, Asking Alexandria, Black Veil Brides, Trivium, Avatar. Nate ( myself ) was heavily influenced by thrash, metalcore, deathcore, and death metal. My biggest influences as far as bands go are Dying Fetus, Infant Annihilator, Slaughtered to Prevail, I Am, Power Trip, and Municipal Waste. Currently we have a fill in vocalist. Zachary Tyler. Not sure exactly what his influences are but he is also a vocalist for another band called House Divided.

I’m listening to the singles ‘Greed’ and ‘B.T.K.’ on Spotify. I can tell this music was composed by hard-core metal fans. Stylistically, I’m reminded of one my favorite albums of all time: ‘Into the Darkness,’ by Kittie. When I lived in the area, Hampton Roads had a huge and diverse indie metal scene. Is that still the case?

Yeah, the metal scene’s not bad in the area. We have a pretty decent following ourselves and have recently started traveling outside of our area to Richmond. Which is just as equally as good as far as the scenes go. And here in another month or so we’re going down to Charlotte, North Carolina to play with our boys in the coursing. So we typically travel and don’t necessarily play just this area all the time specifically.

Nice! That’s always good to hear … and I remember going to Richmond for shows, too. Are you planning on expanding your reach over time?

Yes, we definitely intend to extend our reach and travel more frequently. We’re hoping to do a week tour maybe more sometime this year. If not, maybe next year. We did a short weekend run last summer as like a trial and we loved it and we want to do it again.

That takes some dedication. I’ve helped bands pack out after shows, usually because I was the last gal standing at two AM. I’m not sure people quite realize the insane amount of prep/cleanup that goes on even for a modest barroom show! So how do you balance all that with your personal life, your friends and family?

I’ve been super lucky when it comes to that. Ever since I was probably 15 or 16 I’ve been in a band. For at least involved in something musically, and now that my kids are older, it’s a lot easier for me to do the band thing a little more full time. Plus my fiance is super supportive and even travels with us. And is that every show. Which is awesome!

All artists eventually build an entourage after a while, I think. When I release a new book, I can always tell who the first stalwart to buy it will be. And bands are the same way. Back in the day, some of my favorites were ScarZ Within, Bully, Bullistic, and Nemesis, among others. Eventually you figure out who’s married to whom, and who hangs out with that guy and who that gal’s son-in-law is. I loved the sense of community! So is Divided recording new music anytime soon?

Yes, we are actually currently recording with Charlie Roccaforte, and hope to be finishing up our recording soon. We’ve had them recorded for quite some time now. We just have to go through and tweak some things and lay down vocals with our new vocalist whenever we announce him. Now I’m currently in a side project with Charlie myself nick ( my guitar platform divided) and Walter Stanley were called Roccaforte

Oh, Walt and Charlie I know! I was so sorry to hear about Mike. I moved away in 2011. I’m glad y’all were able to move on with your music after such a tragedy! I didn’t know Mike at all, but I bet he’s proud of all of you. So tell us a bit about Roccaforte? I’ve seen videos on YouTube and FaceBook. Juggling two bands must be a lot of work!

I definitely is but we manage it and make it happen. Roccaforte It’s just a side project that myself, Nick, Charlie and Walt have. We play older Scarz songs. Along with a few Nemesis songs. And we have some material that we have written ourselves as Roccaforte. We also have a female vocalist that we will be announcing soon. I also host Virginia Deathfest which is a pretty sizeable event.

DO tell! Where and when are said festivities? Who are some of the bands involved?

June 23, 24, and 25th at Another Round Bar and Grill in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

NICE!!! Save the date, everyone! This looks like a headbanger’s DREAM!!! So before we say goodye – and I do have one last question for you – is there something I haven’t asked that you’d like to answer?

If you’re interested in tickets follow the group page : Virginia Deathfest 2023. There’s link’s for tickets through Eventbrite 🙂

Got that, everyone? Get yer tickets NOW! So, Nate, I’ve always believed that every artist – musician, writer, visual artist, actor, etc. – has a duty to help train up the next generation. As a family man as well as a musician, I’m sure you feel the same way. So on that note, what advice would you ofter to a young/new/aspiring musician?

Never give up and practice makes perfect!

Simple yet profound! THANK you, Nate, for appearing today! I’m very grateful, and I wish you, Divided and Roccaforte all the best for the future!

TO LISTEN TO DIVIDED ON SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0AmpmW2PBAABnPa7pkPun2

TO FOLLOW DIVIDED ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Divided757

Meet Silversel!!!

WELCOME, friends and rock stars! Joining us today is our VERY special guest: Ricky Saldano, the drummer for the metal band Silversel. Be sure to check the links at the end, ‘cuz lemme tell ya: Silversel just takes metal to a whole new level!!! There’s just a certain dark elegance to their music that is almost eerie.

SO . . . without any further ado, I give you RICKY SALDANO OF SILVERSEL!!!

Could you start by telling our readers who Silversel is, and how the band got together?

We are a swamp metal rock band out of the good Ol’ state of Georgia, on the southeast coast of the US. We got together about 12 years ago. Our lead Guitarist and I were in a band called Splynter out of Jacksonville We were asked to open for Molly Hatchet and our singer at the time couldn’t make the show. We had met Wally Silver at a prior engagement. We called him asked if he could do the show with us and the rest is history. Today’s line up consist of Wally Silver vocals Justin Myers lead guitar Micheal Buress rhythm guitar Daniel Durden rhythm/lead guitar Stephen Saxon bass Ricky Saldano drums

I’m listening to the song ‘All Out Rocks’ as we’re talking. What strikes me about Silversel’s music is how ‘clean’ it sounds. You can clearly hear every element of the music, in perfect balance. How does Silversel handle the songwriting process? It is more of a ‘jam session’ approach, or do the members kind of write their own riffs and then bring ’em to the table?

Typically Wally will come to the band with a riff and some lyrics and then Justin Daniel and Mikey, will take the riff and finesse it. Then Stephen and I will bring in the rhythm and the song becomes what we like to say is the next best thing, lol

I’m hearing a lot of different influences here. I’m listening to ‘Enemy’ now, which struck me as reminiscent of the 70’s wave of British Metal. What are some influences behind Silversel’s music? As I’m fond of saying, all metal-heads are the children of Black Sabbath. But who else is there?

We all come from different eras, myself I grew up on Molly Hatchet Black foot and Skynard, plus I am influenced by Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch, and Alice in Chains to name a few. Justin was influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dream Theater, Trivium, and the list goes on. Wally likes Demon Hunter, Winger and Staind. Daniel digs Soil work, Death cab for Cutie, Kill Switch Engage. Stephen likes Poison, Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Mikey likes Motley Crue, Beatles, and Marshall Tucker. The list goes on and on . . .

NICE! I think having diverse influences is what makes a band special. I’m impressed by your drumming. It’s very tastefully done. It’s so easy to over-do drums in metal, and whack away at that kick drum like you’re trying to kill it. Who are some drummers that influenced you?

My biggest would be my Father Tony Saldano, he was a session drummer and Bruce Crumps back up drummer for Hatchet. Joey Jordison Erin Illjay Travis Barker Artimus Pyle The Rev and of course Neil Peart

So you kind of grew up on the music scene?

I did

Another element of Silversel’s music that stands out to me is the lead guitar. It reminds me more of Dave Gilmour’s playing than traditional metal guitar styling. It’s articulate, but a hair slower, and more heartfelt. You mentioned lineup changes. Has Silversel’s music evolved as members came and went?

I would have to say that it definitely has evolved and yes Justin is a beast on the guitar . . . He lives for it

So do you guys tour? What’s your traveling range? What sort of venues do you typically play?

Yes we tour. We currently have been in the studio recording our 4th album. We have been shooting some cool videos and we are geared up to to hit the road in March. We have played from the east coast to the west coast. In Ampi theaters to the Whiskey Agogo to club lavela to good old Furnace 41 in Jonesboro, GA, USA . . .

Wow! You guys do get around! Do you find it challenging to balance being a musician with your personal life? Whenever I’m asked that as author, I suddenly realize that I’ve forgotten the definition of the world ‘balance’ . . . again.

We have been doing it for so long it has become second nature to us so all in all we balance pretty good.

You’ll have to give me some tips! I have one more question for you, but before we go, is there a question I haven’t asked that you’d like to answer? Something you want our readers to know about Silversel?

Just that we want to thank all of our fans friends and family who support us. We also want to thank our troops, past, present, and future . . .  and most importantly,  the Big Guy Himself. That’s right! The Man Above, the One and Only God!!!!

Amen, amen, and AMEN!!! ‘Unless the Lord keep the city, the watchman awakens in vain’! So what advice do you have for young/aspiring musicians?

I would have to say play, play, play,  and play some more. No matter how many times you get knocked down, get up and keep pushing. Because in order to catch a dream, you first have to chase that dream . . .

Indeed you do. Thank you so much, Ricky, for appearing on virginiawallace.com today! I’m so grateful that you took the time to join us, and I wish Silversel all the best going forward!

Thank you and all your avid readers for having us!!!!!!!

TO CHECK OUT SILVERSEL ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/groups/745030392883446

TO LISTEN TO SILVERSEL ON SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1HJ4xfTtu1yLiZontZSDHu

TO STALK SILVERSEL: https://linktr.ee/silversel

Welcome to ‘Fatal Distractions’!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and rock stars …

Welcome to the dark, often humorous world of Fatal Distractions, featuring seven stories and one poem for your enjoyment!

While most of this book is my work, I have also assembled a small-yet-powerful pool of talent to help flesh out the project: authors Loren A. Douglas and Catalyst Jost, and poet Chris Taylor. I have never worked with a more talented crew, and I am VERY honored to have them on board!!!

So without any further ado, let’s take a peek at the stories!!!

Borrowed Time, by Virginia Wallace

“Ellie, why did you leave me? Why did you stay away? Was there another man?”

Never!” spat Elinor heatedly, suddenly wide-eyed. 

Her assertion was followed by a violent coughing fit; fortunately, she had a glass of water handy.

After the fit subsided, she took a deep breath and resumed talking.

“Do you know what it’s like to live on borrowed time, Willis?” she asked gently.

“Borrowed time?”

“Yes. It’s kind of like when you’re at a picture show, you know. But nature calls, and you duck off to the restroom. The lights in the bathroom feel garish, unreal, and you have this desperate feeling that you’re missing something important. You don’t belong in the bathroom, and you feel it in your gut. You belong in the theater, and your spell in the bathroom is just that: borrowed time. It feels unnatural, doesn’t it?”

“Why is that important?” asked Willis, raising a grizzled eyebrow.

“Because that’s how I’ve felt for seventy-eight years now: like I’m in the bathroom, when I’m supposed to be in the theater. Nearly eight decades, Willis; I’ve been trapped in seventy-eight years of borrowed time.”

“How did it start, this stretch of ‘borrowed time’?” asked Willis. “I loved you so much, Ellie. And then you were just … gone.”

“It was pretty simple,” said Elinor.

How simple?”

“I died.”

The Budsem Affair, by Virginia Wallace

And so Bubba began his trek, heading for the school with his usual shuffling gait. As he neared the building, he noticed something else written below the bold Mistress Mary’s School for Girls logo.

BDSM Club, read the smaller letters.

Budsem?” Bubba said to himself, squinting. “What the hell do that mean?”

He thought for a moment, trying to figure out what the word meant …

And then he decided that he didn’t care. All he needed was a phone, so he shrugged his shoulders and kept walking.

As he neared the building, a tall, black man with dreadlocks opened the outer door, and stepped outside.

“Howdy!” said Bubba. “You work in there?”

“Yeah, mon. I watch the desk. Wha gwaan?”


“How are you?” said the dreadlocked man, speaking more carefully this time.

“Dandy!” said Bubba. “Kin I use yer phone? My truck’s on the fritz.”

“Sure, mon. It’s on the front desk. Me be back soon, but gwaan help ya’self.”

 “Much obliged,” said Bubba, tipping his baseball cap.

The desk attendant walked away, and Bubba opened the door underneath the Mistress Mary’s sign.

He stepped inside, grateful for the dawning relief of air conditioning. The front desk was right in front of him, and—as the dreadlocked man said—there was a phone there. There was just one problem …

Someone was talking on it.

That ‘someone’ was a pretty young woman. She was dressed in black leather, and her corset was cut scandalously low upon her ample bosom.

Bubba averted his eyes. T’ain’t nice to stare, ‘specially at a young lady, his mama had often said.

So there stood Bubba, awkwardly shuffling his feet.

“He makes, like, a terrible sub!” said the young woman, holding the receiver between her cheek and bare shoulder. “He wants to be a dom, but he can’t seem to understand that he has to pay his dues first!” Her accent was distinctly Californian, which Bubba found rather annoying.

What was even more annoying was this: he didn’t have the foggiest idea what she was talking about …

Thirst, by Catalyst Jost

“Hey,” I managed to croak. The strobing golden light further revealed that the glass eye was the lens of a camera. A tiny black speaker acted as its silent neighbor; that’s when I noticed an extra kick to my voice.

“Hey, what is this?” I demanded.

I gasped out greetings and pleas toward the camera for what seemed like hours, until my lungs felt like inhaled, putrid smoke.

“You can’t fuckin’ DO this!” I shouted. “Wait ‘til I find a way out of these chains, punk! You gotta let me out sometime.”

My threats finally elicited a response …

Instantly, I regretted those threats.

The apparition stepped into my prison. It wore a black robe, which draped ominously over its hulking frame. Its shrouded face had the appearance of a pitbull. Its jowls were an envelope for what I assumed were rows of glistening white teeth, yet I could not make out any strands of saliva that would normally gleam in the light. The fur was short and had a phosphorous tint that resembled snow, or a spirit yet to have passed on.

Where normally the eyes could produce a plethora of ethereal colors of blue, gold, and green, I only saw the void. Starless, obsidian space. Jagged cracks ran down all sides of its face, almost like that of the jigsaw puzzles my dad would help with when I was little.

I could feel gravity bearing down upon me, as the pale hand of the apparition reached for me. I closed my eyes, anticipating pain …

Instead, I felt a sudden sense of freedom as the apparition un-shackled my feet and wrists. I looked up, appalled by the grinning leer of my ‘savior.’

My only greeting was the offering of a clear goblet. It was filled with a murky red liquid; its scent had an aroma of seduction, and foreshadowed mortality.


At first, I assumed the command came from the robed golem towering over me. The voice, though dominant in tone, had an artificial resonance to it.

“Maxwell, you must drink from that bowl immediately …”

The Protocols, by Virginia Wallace

It was agreed that Asus’ crew would begin by examining one of the basics: cuisine. It would be good to know if Plutonians could stomach earth’s food in the event of more invasive investigations.

After doing some cursory research, Captain Asus decided to hover the flying saucer over the American city of San Francisco. It was an impressive metropolis, which surely possessed some of the most talented chefs in the world.

After a few brief adjustments, the chief technical officer zeroed in on someone working in the kitchen of a large restaurant. After double-checking the coordinates, he teleported him aboard.

The security team stood behind the captain, armed with their stun rifles as they looked through the glass at the reassembling human. They were trained to follow the hallowed Prax/Dreezus protocols to the letter; there would be no Plutonian blood shed on their watch!

At last, the human came into view. He was wearing a white uniform and a small, matching cap.

He was also waving around a dead, gutted—and plucked—animal by its neck. In his other hand he held a meat cleaver, which he was also waving around.

“Scan that animal,” ordered Captain Asus tersely. “Find out what it is, and check it for contagions!”

“The auto-scanner says it’s a ‘duck’,” said the technical officer. “Checking for unknown pathogens now …”

The technical officer punched a few more keys while the chef slammed his duck against the window, shouting at the top of his lungs.

你在做什? 们疯? 生什事了? 我的厨房在哪里?” screamed the chef, repeatedly whacking his duck against the window as he waved his meat cleaver about. “上送我回家!!!

“Did you catch any of that?” Captain Asus asked the technical officer.

“We don’t know much about that language, I’m afraid,” said the technical officer. “I’m sorry. Also, I’m getting uncertain readings on the duck; we may need to probe it.”

“Gentlemen,” said Captain Asus, “if you’d be so kind as to relieve the gentleman of his … duck, please. And also his weapon, if it isn’t too much trouble.”

The security personnel marched grimly toward the door, as the crew chief punched the security code into the panel. The door slid open as the men lowered their stun rifles, prepared for the worst.

“Sir, if you would please just …” said the crew chief calmly.

咒你!!!” screamed the chef, flinging his duck at the crew chief.

As the crew chief stumbled backward, the chef ran past him. He looked both ways upon exiting the transport room …

And then he charged straight toward Captain Asus, holding his meat cleaver high …

Five Candles, by Virginia Wallace

Jake remembered the next few weeks only in snatches.

There were the bright lights of the hospital, and the surgical ward. And there were doctors, their faces hidden behind masks like characters from a horror film.

He only vaguely remembered the inquest. Deputy Jones was represented by the same lawyer who prosecuted his arrestees, and the same judge who signed his search warrants presided over the affair. The grand jury cleared him of any wrongdoing, as juries are wont to do when a cop gets into trouble; the last thing anyone wants is retribution from the police department.

The whole affair was a grotesque charade, a kangaroo court. After the initial inquest, the court moved on to Jake’s competency hearing.

The images jumbled together in Jake’s fevered, withdrawal-plagued brain. The whole aftermath felt like a dream; he had no drugs now to keep him focused, and no alcohol to keep him calm.

He had trouble separating the memories of his hearing from his memories of Deputy Jones’ disciplinary inquest. The only thing that stood out was a single phrase: incompetent to stand trial.

Had his testimony been that garbled? Jake could hardly remember testifying. The prosecutor’s face was a nightmarish memory; the man was a fat, ghoulish specter with a red slash across his face for a mouth. His eyes were black holes, twin abysses of darkness that radiated gleeful condemnation.

He only vaguely remembered his mother being at the hearing, wringing her hands and begging the judge for mercy. She, like the prosecutor and the doctors, also seemed a bit unreal.

When it was all over, Jake found himself alone in a cell. The walls were padded, and his cot had leather restraints at the corners. He thought that he vaguely remembered them being used a time or two, but perhaps that too was just a nightmare.

Time didn’t exist here, in this padded haven that protected the world from the criminal known as Jacob DeCarlo. One minute segued seamlessly into the next; hours did the same, and so did days and months.

The orderlies slid his trays of food through a slot in the bars. Jake ate each meal dully, three times a day. Then he would relieve himself in the stainless steel toilet. Even that one perverted guard—who always stopped to watch him going to the bathroom—ceased to bother him after a while.

Jake was simply … dead inside. A shell of a man. A walking dial tone …

A Time to Die, by Loren A. Douglas

From his back stoop, Adam watched his neighbor’s door through the broken board in the fence. Any time now

He was so sure that tonight she would exit that the hours had slipped away. Fireflies had ceased their mating rituals. Even the frogs in the swampy woods behind them had ceased their singing. Soft, rhythmic breathing through the open window told him that his wife was asleep, but it made no difference. Rose was unaware that he had left their bed long ago. To watch. To wait. In silence.

When Lily would slip out, the neighbor’s pit bull would not growl. Adam had seen to that a day ago. His neighbor had not been sober enough to notice that it was gone. He paid no attention to it but kept the dog chained in the backyard to guard his pile of junk: old cars, refrigerators, aluminum siding, and a boat. Nor would he miss his daughter. Lily, so pretty and lithe, like her namesake—and so alone.

Her mother had abandoned her teenage daughter to this unshaven and big-bellied sot during one of his drunken rages years before. For a decade, Adam and Rose, both research scientists, had heard the shouts of their uneducated neighbor, the smashing of dishes, and the throwing of furniture next door. They had pitied the young Lily who had remained behind and become the focus of her father’s abuse—which only intensified as she grew older.

But no longer. After tonight, Lily’s healthy body and ravaged mind would no longer have to endure her father. Such a pity. But what Adam would do for her tonight was out of pity. It was a kindness.

Adam heard a noise ever so slight; no, not a noise but its absence, and the weight of the loneliness he had endured pressed harder upon his heart. What he wouldn’t give to hear his wife say her name for him just one more time. To have her converse upon her deep theories of brain activity connected more to the soul than the body … or just complain about their aging golden retriever that slept all the time. Like her. He sighed to release the ache. When Rose passed, that old dog would be a short-lived companion. No, it would work. It had to.

It already had …

Find Me in the Mirror, by Virginia Wallace

The Repeating Universe Theory claims that there are infinite universes, representing endless possibilities. If you were to travel through infinite space and time, you might actually encounter another universe much like our own …

And even another you.

Amanda rose from her piano, modestly smoothing down the hem of her nightie as she eyed herself in the mirror. She walked towards it, eyeing her reflection.

She was aging well; she was forced to admit this despite her inclination to self-criticism. It seemed like a lifetime since she’d been that sad, little girl, miserably playing a piano to which she desperately wanted to take an axe.

Her mother had been gone for ten years now. Amanda took a fair amount of heat in the press for playing a show the day of her funeral, publicly ‘scorning to attend,’ as Rolling Stone magazine had put it.

But Amanda had felt nothing that even began to resemble scorn …

She felt nothing at all, and no need to pretend that she did.

Somehow, that sad little girl seemed like another entity altogether, as though her memories were borrowed, or stolen. Scarcely aware of what she was doing, Amanda Hunter placed her hand gently upon the surface of the mirror …

Rime of a Fairy, by Chris Taylor

No fairy and man may join in this land!

And he breathed out a thick rime.

My love was caught, amid this cone.

Then, my maiden so fair, frost and ice in her hair,

Stood frozen to the bone …

And THAT’S our preview, folks! On 1/14/2023, Fatal Distractions will be available on Kindle and in paperback! Order your copy TODAY!!!

Cheers! – V

(P.S. – Kind of like Santa Claus in reverse, my friends and I will be compiling a list of everyone who doesn’t order our book. And at the end of the year, we’ll be sending the Plutonians after ‘em. So yep! S’best just to order the book, and be done with it!)

TO ORDER FATAL DISTRACTIONS: https://tinyurl.com/Fatal-Distractions

‘The Beast of Bradley Downs,’ by Stephanie Douglas

It all started in her hometown.

A small town, the type of town these things happen in. These things never happen in the big city. Too many places to run to. Too many places to hide.

It starts with parents trying to scare their children, get them inside before the sun completely sets. How long had that legend been part of the town? The parents didn’t even know. No one knew where the stories actually came from in the end.

Bradley Downs was the town …

When it comes to dark fiction, Stephanie Douglas is a woman after my own heart.

From Summoned to Fright Club, Stephanie has her finger on the pulse of all things dark n’ creepy. I’d been meaning to read The Beast of Bradley Downs for a couple of years now, but I didn’t get the chance until last week, when I was recuperating from an injury.

Wow …

Just … fuckin’ wow, man!!!

I’ve always said that the best horror starts out on a deceptively normal note. Yes, you can begin a horror story in a cemetery, in the middle of the night. Those stories are often quite entertaining. But the absolute best horror opens with a ‘normal’ setting, and then slowly ramps up the tension. (See also It, my favorite horror novel.)

‘Normal’ is exactly how The Beast of Bradley Downs starts out. Karoline is a loveable high-school student, with a penchant for ‘goth’ clothing and heavy metal music. (Talk about a reason for me to love a character, now!) She’s dealing with nothing more than the usual teenage issues: school, budding love …

Then people start dying all around her.

It’s funny, even when people start dying, this book doesn’t feel like ‘horror’ quite yet. It reads almost like a mystery, or a true-crime thriller. Looking back, I honestly can’t say when the story crosses the line into outright horror. The transition is very, very subtle. All I can say is this: at the beginning of the story, Karoline is a normal teenage girl, living in a charming small town. And at the end, she’s a tormented soul, living in a waking nightmare. The two extremes intersect somewhere in the middle of the tale, but it’s difficult to say exactly where.

What makes this story so horrific is the absolute, utter inescapability of the monster. There’s no peace, no sanctuary for young Karoline. The Beast could be anywhere, and it will find her; her only choice is to run, run, and run some more. (I’m reminded of the nightmarish film Truth or Dare, starring Lucy Hale. The demon is always following …) 

The ending was fantastic, which is oh so important in horror! You can write the best story in the world, but if you falter at the finish … well, you blew it. Stephanie Douglas did not blow it! The only thing I’ll say about the ending is this, lest I accidentally drop a spoiler: there is still an air of mystery after you turn the last page. Some horror novels end like a ‘whodunit’, in which the last few pages answer every single question that the reader might have. Other horror endings leave a few lingering, unanswered questions, like the stories in Ray Bradbury’s iconic The October Country.

The Beast of Bradley Downs has a ‘Bradbury ending.’ This book ain’t a ‘whodunit’, it’s HORROR!

I cannot possibly recommend this book highly enough. It’s tense, exciting, frightening, with vividly-drawn and relatable characters.

So check it out!!! – V

TO CHECK OUT MORE OF STEPHANIE’S HORROR WRITING (INCLUDING AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW) CLICK HERE: https://virginiawallace.com/2022/01/14/fright-club-a-review-and-author-interview/

TO STALK STEPHANIE (AND ORDER HER BOOKS) CLICK HERE: https://linktr.ee/sdouglasauthor

‘Forgiving Liam,’ by Estelle Pettersen!!!

Estelle Pettersen has long been a favorite author of mine, from the sizzling Lessons on Seduction to the heart-melting Elizabeth

Now, there’s Forgiving Liam, the follow-up to Elizabeth. (To read my review of Elizabeth, click here: https://virginiawallace.com/2022/02/11/elizabeth-by-estelle-pettersen-a-review/ ) Elizabeth was the prequel to The Starling Sisters series, and Forgiving Liam continues its tradition of lush, engaging contemporary romance.

Rose Starling is the daughter of Elizabeth, the title heroine of the prequel novel. Her tale begins with a classic, coming-of-age trope: a seventeen-year-old girl feeling insecure about going to a dance. The story opens with a note of adolescent angst, quickly pulling the reader into Rose’s life.

Liam McAvoy is an old family friend of the Starlings, and he is a most complex character! He possesses endearing qualities, but he is also plagued by a few inner demons—not the least of which is feeling insecure about being part Aborigine, as the story is set in Australia.

Therein lies part of the charm of Estelle Pettersen’s writing. She’s an Australian author, but—like her contemporary, Jan Selbourne—she makes her work very, very readable to an American or European audience. The geography is clearly described, even down to how far apart the various towns in the story are; this keeps the reader from being confused about who’s going where. And, much as the biblical Gospels explain the oddities of Hebrew culture to non-Hebrew readers, Estelle Pettersen clarifies some of the quirks of Australian culture for her non-Australian readers.

While Forgiving Liam is a classic, Harlequin-style contemporary romance, it is a bit … darker than the sweet Elizabeth. The story arc involving Rose’s sister Jasmine is especially disturbing. Also, Liam’s personal issues are almost overwhelming at times, at one point even bringing his and Rose’s relationship to an end. Yes, you know that in a contemporary romance, the heroine and hero always end up together. That ain’t a spoiler; it’s just the truth. If they don’t end up together, then the book isn’t a romance; it’s some other kind of book with a romance in it. But the life-like struggles of Rose and Liam are so painful that one almost wonders if they might not end up together …

I almost left this part out of my review, but I feel like I need to say it. I am firm believer about being open and honest about what’s in a book. I would rather scare a reader away, than have them hate the story because they weren’t warned about certain content. Such an approach, I believe, treats both the reader and author with respect.  

So here’s the deal: Forgiving Liam is partially set during the era that the World Health Organization dubbed ‘the pandemic.’ Also, Rose Starling’s father is a politician. So given the nature of the story, there is some overtly political content. Now, mind you, it wasn’t at all distracting from the story—to me. But I am well aware that others might be more sensitive to such things. The Western world is evenly split between between two radically opposed socio-political idealogies, which—for the sake of avoiding controversy—I will simply label ‘right’ and ‘left.’

The political content of Forgiving Liam is, by and large, solidly on the ‘left’ side of the political spectrum. That’s all I’m going to say. That statement is no reflection whatsoever on my personal opinions or beliefs, so much as it is simply a ‘heads-up’ as to what’s in the book.

That having been said, Forgiving Liam is not only a worthy follow-up to Elizabeth, but it ratchets the saga up to a whole new level. I am now very, very interested in the Starling girls and their relationships, and I am eager to see how Rose’s younger sisters, Jasmine and Daisy, fare in the future!

So yep! Forgiving Liam, by Estelle Pettersen. Check it out!!!

‘Til next time! – V

TO READ AN INTERVIEW WITH ESTELLE PETTERSEN: https://virginiawallace.com/2021/03/09/meet-estelle-pettersen/

TO STALK ESTELLE (AND ORDER HER BOOKS): https://linktr.ee/estellepettersen