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?”

“What?”

“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.

Drink!”

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

MEET CHARLIE OF ‘BABYLON RISING’!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and rock stars …

It is my honor to present to you one of my absolute favorite musicians, a man whose work I have enthusiastically followed for quite some time. He was the founding member of the phenomenal heavy-metal band Scarz Within, and his new band Babylon Rising has become yet another metal powerhouse!

So, without any further ado …

Meet CHARLIE ROCCAFORTE!!!

WELCOME, Charlie! Anyone who’s even remotely familiar with the Hampton Roads music scene knows you’ve been fixture there for decades. Can you tell our readers how you wound up in the area, and started out on its music scene?

Great question! Well, back in December of 1993, I moved from West Babylon, New York, USA to Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. And hooked up with some people and started playing in bands. One band was Strange Flesh, and the other was AJ Nag. Then for a year I did a band called Montag. Then in 1998 was the Start of Scarz Within.

Now, Scarz I know … ‘Nothing Sacred II: The Seven’ is a staple album in my household. How did Scarz Within come together?

I love telling this story. I just got separated from my first wife, and I went to a Dokken show at the Boathouse.

OMG … I was actually AT that show!!! Small world, huh?

I know, right? This tall guy come up to me and we just started talking. He said he was a singer, and I told him I play guitar. And then he said ‘this is great! I was just talking to another guitar player and drummer. Looks like we have a band!’ So the singer Jerry Wright set up a get-together at his house. The other guitar player was Rial Eargle. The drummer was a no-show, typical.

Drummers always seem to be the wonky ones, don’t they? I’ve kinda noticed that. Weird breed, drummers …

True that. Jerry belted out some Pantera, and he had this ‘double vocal’ thing going. Dirty and clean, and sounded similar to Phil Anselmo. Rial and I had the same influences

Holy shit that’s high praise … Phil is a vocal GOD!!!

Right, this was 1997. So after the new year, we found a drummer and bassist, and called ourselves Scarred. The following year we changed it to Scarz Within. Just before that, the drummer we were trying out (sorta) came to my house for a try-out, Matt McCaully. He said ‘can I warm up first?’ We said ‘sure, go for it.’ My man warmed up to 6:00 by Dream Theater!!!!

What … whoa … DREAM THEATER?!

We were like holy shit!!!! You’re in. Yeah, no try-out needed. He accepted.

That’s like Randy Rhoads warming up with Mozart …

Yeah, like that. After that he came up with the name change. Because we all have a scar within us … There is a self-titled EP from 1999 /2000 when Scarz was a four-piece band. But that’s long gone.

Indeed! There must have been some lineup changes. I’m looking at the album jacket. ‘Nothing Sacred II: The Seven’ lists TW on vocals. He sounds more like Dio than Phil. And it also lists Will ‘Biscuit’ Bradford on drums. So how did the band evolve? Was it a struggle dealing with lineup changes?

Jerry left to pursue other things, and unfortunately he is not here with us.

Oh no! So sorry for your loss.

TW came in and showed us a tape with him singing Queensryche’s  Take Hold of the Flame. And then he did it a cappella. In my living room. He was in, of course

Holy shit … he covered Geoff Tate A CAPPELLA?!

Yes, he did. Finding a drummer was the hardest.

Wow …

Amazing. But drummers are the hardest to find. We went through several drummers before Will ‘Biscuit’ Bradford. Rial moved out of state, and then we got Sterling on guitar.

The only drummer I can think of that rivals Biscuit is Mike Portnoy. Wonky or not—and drummers always are—the percussion helped make Scarz Within truly shine!

Yes, very important part!

I see Sterling listed on the album jacket. Was it his idea or yours to use seven-string guitars? That added a whole extra layer of ‘heavy’ to the record. You can hear that brutal, lingering, open D note throughout the whole album. Adds an ominous tone to it …

That was his Idea. I bought one, and we tuned it very oddly

It makes the music stand out from the crowd. Your average listener might not be able to say why, but they could tell you that the music sounds … different.

We were tuned Dropped C#. My Idea was to tune the seventh string to the dropped C#. So on the seven strings our top four strings were G# C# G# C#. So that was my idea of tuning.

C# … my ear was off by a note!!! But yes, you can definitely hear an unusual element in the music, which is why that album is—and will always be—one of my absolute favorites!!! So … everyone knows that Babylon Rising is the official soundtrack of Crazy V’s writing operation. You guys were kind enough to lend me your music for the promo videos for my books. So can you tell us Babylon Rising’s part of your story?

So the end of Scarz within came in 2017. My Guitarist Mike Martin passed, and I lost the passion for music.

Oh no …

I stopped playing. I lost the heart. But after a year I picked it back up and joined a cover band. After awhile I had the itch for writing.

Isn’t that how it works? I was an accomplished novelist between 2004-2007, but then some things went wrong in my life. I disappeared for a long time … but at the end of the day, you do what you do because it’s who you are.

You are so right. We started come up with stuff. So I came up with the name Babylon Rising.

After New Babylon, NY?

Yes Babylon from where I grow up, and Rising from coming back to music.

LOVE it! What makes BR stand out to me is this: it’s a complete departure from your old music. Scarz had a heavy, progressive-metal feel. But there’s a … dirtier element to BR, something reminiscent of 90’s grunge. How did the band get together?

The first person I asked to play was Rob King. He was in 180Out. He helped sculpt that dirty-ness. Rob was first and he accepted instantly. We started writing Internal Madness. Then we just put a FaceBook message out looking for a singer, bassist, and drummer. Less than a week later,  Jeff Dietz and Drew Horn joined.

It sounds like that lineup was simply meant to be! I’m looking at the Babylon Rising’s album now … I gotta ask, what does O. B. S. O. L. stand for? You know, the title of the record?

OBSOLutly nothing! Jeff said I would like to name the Album OBSOL.

LOVE it!!! Totally random name for an epic record!

He said it meant nothing. I said ‘cool, let’s put dots after each letter, and let people figure it out.’

SO awesome … fuckin’ with the listeners’ heads!!! THANK you, Charlie, for gracing our page today. I so admire you for keeping on doing what you do. Life knocks you back, and often pulls you away from your art … but the true artist keeps on going, no matter what. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

STALK CHARLIE HERE: https://www.facebook.com/charlierock69

FOLLOW BABYLON RISING HERE: https://www.facebook.com/BabylonRising

BABYLON RISING’S MUSIC IS AVAILABLE ON SPOTIFY AND YOUTUBE.

‘FRACTURED’, by Eileen Troemel!!!

Eileen Troemel and I go back a ways, ever since I first read her mind-blowing novel ‘Dragon Lord’s Mate’ …

WELCOME to her new novel!!!

Blurb:

(This is a dark scifi romance. There is cursing and violence. Rape and torture are referred to.)

Sent to the prison planet Laken, Zulma expects to be raped and tortured. What she finds there may save her and her people.

Ordered to a crashed Dolian ship, Conasian prisoners of war Drake, Claud, Stuart, and Parker hope to survive the trek through the dangerous sleepers. The downed ship is vital. What they discover will change their future if they survive the sleepers and their own men.

Excerpt:

“What can you tell us about this ship?”

“You found the armory,” she said. “There’s food stores.”

“Found those too,” Stuart said.

“The self-destruct,” she asked.

“What?” Drake gripped her shoulders hard.  She flinched from his hard hands but stood her ground.

“In the pilot’s area,” she said. “It’s supposed to trigger if the ship crash lands.”

“Claud,” Drake dragged her forward. “Show us.”

She stumbled but tugged the dress back into place. “You didn’t dismantle it?” She sped through the cabin towards the pilots’ cabin.

Claud reached out to grab her but she dodged him. Skidding across the floor, she opened a panel in the middle of where the two pilot seats should have been.

Pressing a button on the panel the top slid to the side.

“Fuck,” the three men behind her saw the timer showed only ninety seconds left.

She gently wiggled a pin out from under the clock ticking down second by second.

“You don’t have time,” Drake put his hands on her shoulders.

She shrugged them off. “If you want to live, don’t do that.” Scrunching down to see, she slipped the pin in a barely noticeable indentation. The clock stopped ticking down the time. Twenty-seven seconds.

“Shit,” Stuart sagged against the wall.

“How did you know how to do that,” Drake demanded suspicious of her having this knowledge as a concubine.

“The chief armor reported the self-destruct on the Prime’s last escape pod was faulty.

They built this safeguard to allow someone to stop it if need be.  “The Prime was fucking me when the chief armor gave his report,” Zulma said her tone icy and her face hard. Her eyes met his but they were flat and lifeless. “We need a wrap or tape to secure it in place. There should be some in the bathroom.”

Drake signaled Stuart to go look.  Once she secured it, she stepped away from it slowly.  The timer did not start again.

TO PRE-ORDER FRACTURED:

https://books2read.com/Fractured-bk1-Love-of-the-Broken

TO CONNECT WITH EILEEN: https://linktr.ee/eileentroemel

TO READ MY REVIEWS/INTERVIEWS WITH EILEEN:

Meet FAITH IN FAILURE!!!

Hello, friends and rock stars! Welcome to another METAL interview!!!

I first ran across Faith in Failure’s music in the Facebook group ‘unsigned metal bands’. (That group is an absolute treasure trove!) So I checked out their music on Spotify, and WOW!!! It’s as raw as Pantera, and as polished as NightWish. Truly amazing stuff!!!

So, naturally—being the inquisitive/nosy soul that I am—I reached out to the band, and founding member Cole Kaluger was kind enough to give me an interview. So let’s all give him a big ROCKSTAR welcome, now!!!

Welcome! I see Faith in Failure is based out of Columbus, Ohio, USA. Can you tell our readers a bit about the members and their roles, and how y’all got together?

Yes we are in Columbus, OH. My name is Cole and I play guitar. Our other members are Chad (vocals), Aaron (guitar), Matt (bass), and our newest member is Nathaniel (drums). The band originally started as an idea I had back in 2014. At the time I was finishing graduate school, and I had been playing in a few bands. Mainly cover bands, but I was really wanting to either join or start a band that just did original music. Where I was living at the time I knew it would be difficult to find the right people. The area was big into country music and 80/90’s metal. I was wanting to do something more modern like my favorite bands. So I decided I’d just get a head start on things by writing music. I ended up coming up with the name Faith in Failure while hanging out with my sister one night and coming up with bad band names. I had a name, music, and the first idea for a logo after that. I looked at the potential band more as a business so I wanted to have as much done and in place as I could so I could present the band to perspective members. Eventually I had the idea of moving to Los Angeles, CA which I made the trip out there in the beginning of 2016. Saved up a bunch of money, quit my jobs, and started driving across America. After being out there for some time I was really struggling to get my feet planted as far as a job that could help keep me from being homeless, and I was starting to run out of money. I had a fork in the road type moment where I could either stay in L.A. and tough it out for the meantime, or I could head back to Ohio to regroup and try again. I made the decision to go back to Ohio. I woke up one morning in Oklahoma City to finish the trip and I called one of my best friends Matt. Him and I tried to do some cover bands over the years but they didn’t work out like we had hoped. I told him I was coming back to Columbus and I wanted him to play bass in this band. That was the official beginning of the band in my eyes. We started going online to try and find other members however we could and we spoke with a lot of people in the beginning, but they didn’t work out for one reason or another. We decided to try filling out the band with friends of mine I had in older bands which worked for a few months, but the issue was they were on the east side of Ohio on the boarders so it wasn’t easy logistically. Eventually it was back to just Matt and I. We kept at it, but eventually I met Aaron one day when he came into the guitar store I worked at. We talked for a little bit about our bands, and became friends on Facebook. I messaged him a few times over the course of a few months seeing if he was interested in filling the other guitar spot, and one day he messaged me asking if it was still open. We met up and talked. Things went well, and he offered to introduce me to a friend of his who would become our original vocalist, Sergio. Then we met our originally drummer, Nick through Sergio as well. Time went on and we wrote, recorded, did a music video, and played our first show in 2019. After that Sergio would be heading to Florida for school which we knew about. We ended up searching for a new vocalist and found Chad on Craigslist of all places. Brought him in for an audition after we hung out and it was a perfect fit. Back in the spring of this year Nick decided to step down as our drummer so the search was on. We found Nathaniel through a recommendation of a friend’s band. I went to message him and it turns out back in 2018 before Nick we were talking to Nate about potentially being our drummer hahaha. Small world. At the time he was in a few bands like most drummers tend to be and he respectfully passed. After I spoke with him this time he was stoked about it. We all hung out and had him come for two auditions. Another perfect fit.

So who plays the piano? I love that element in the music. Lends a certain elegance to it …

That would be me. It was something I had to learn while in music school as an undergrad student. It’s a beautiful instrument. I love incorporating it in our music as much as I can

Which music school did you attend? Was metal something you always wanted to play, or did that evolve over time?

I went to West Liberty University in West Virginia for undergrad. I got a bachelor’s in music for guitar from there. For graduate school I went to Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts where I got a master’s in music production. I grew up with parents who were very into music. My parents were pretty young when I was born too. They are children of the 80’s so they were into hair metal, thrash metal, my mom was also really into pop music of the time. My dad also started playing guitar as a teenager and was in a lot of bands. He was playing in bands into the early 90’s. So growing up I was always listening to stuff like Metallica, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Black Sabbath, Pantera, Guns N’ Roses, but also Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, for example. So I had a nice background of music growing up. The first music I discovered on my own was punk rock. I bought my first CD when I was 10 which was MXPX’s “Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo.” That morphed into finding other punk bands like NOFX, Green Day, Bad Religion, Blink-182, New Found Glory, The Offspring, The Ramones, The Misfits, etc. Going with the times I got into Nu Metal with Korn, Papa Roach, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit for example. I really grew up on the mid-late 2000’s metalcore. That’s my first love musically. Avenged Sevenfold is my hands down favorite band of all time, but I love all of the bands from that era if we are being honesty. It’s harder to find a band I don’t like.

Going through music school and learning about a lot of different music I’d say my taste has become way more eclectic

Wow! I suspected someone had formal musical training. If I had to describe Faith in Failure’s sound, it would be ‘spans the entire history of rock plus some classical’. How do your songwriting sessions play out? Does one person write and the whole band arranges, or is writing a group effort?

Hahaha thank you. I try to wear my influences on my sleeve. I’d say that’s a pretty spot on description. I always struggle to find like a word or two to describe our sound because we do so much. Nothing is off the table and we aren’t afraid to try something crazy, or buck current trends in metal. Every song is something we are very proud of and we don’t release things until we are 100% behind it. As far as song writing goes I’m the primary song writer. I typically send demos out to the guys that have all the guitar parts, drums that I had been writing with which are more for ideas since I’m not an actual drummer, and any extra things like piano, strings, and choir. Chad and Matt write all their own stuff for the songs. Nate and I as well as Nick and I before will talk about drums because I’ll send things I liked for the vibe or maybe there’s a certain part I’d like to keep. Ultimately they are drummers and I’m not so I trust them and we go with their ideas. From time to time I’ve written with Aaron on songs. Our original vocalist came to the table with 2 older songs that we worked together on, and recently we have an unreleased song that was something Chad had wrote most of, but it wasn’t finished. So we finished that song together as well.

I’ll present songs, and the guys will do their own thing with it. Once that is done we’ll add extra little touches. When we are recording we’ll sit with our producer and work on ideas to fill up the song sonically with stuff you’d notice or maybe never notice but it’s there.

I LOVE Faith in Failure’s percussion! In hard rock, it’s very easy for the drumming to just end up sounding like a machine gun. FiF’s percussion is very tastefully composed, and meshes perfectly with the other instruments and vocals. So where can our readers find a gig? Do y’all tour, or do you stay around the Columbus area?

Thank you very much. Nick was not a metal drummer when he joined. His favorite band is Rush which they are known for having crazy and unique parts/songs. So he always had ideas that I wouldn’t have had and so we’d just make things work, and it always worked well in the end. With Nate he’s a more modern prog/metal drummer so he also has a lot of cool and crazy ideas that again I wouldn’t have come up with. So we make things work. I think they both bring a really cool and different element to the band which helps not only their drumming stand out, but it helps our music stand out as well. Very fortunate to have that element from them in this band. Currently we are booking for the fall/winter of 2022-23. We played our first show with Nate back on August 20th here in Columbus at The King of Clubs. Couldn’t have asked for a better first show with him. One thing we are focused on now is getting out of state. We’ve played all over Columbus, and a lot of different places around Ohio. Covid threw a wrench into our plans previously for getting out of Ohio but that’s life sometimes. That killed a festival in Florida we were a part of which would’ve been our first out-of-state festival. Still, we were up for some of the bigger rock festivals this year, but unfortunately didn’t get on them. So we’ll be shooting for them next year too. We are looking to play in West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. So hopefully we’ll be getting out to a lot of new people soon.

Indeed! I was always a Rush fan. I also love your singer. It’s remarkable to find a singer who can balance ‘clean’ vocals with snarling and screaming, and make it all balance out. And your bass player meshes perfectly with the drummer. And the guitars … well, just DAMN!!! Is there anything else about Faith in Failure that you’d care to share with our readers?

Chad is definitely talented and one of a kind. All the vocals are him too. He nails the same stuff live which is always impressive. He’s got a super wide range which tends to surprise people. We always joke that Matt is a bassist who wants to play the bass hahaha. He’s a big fan of amazing bassists like Justin Chancellor, and Ryan Martinie. So he’s all about playing the bass to his full potential which means he comes up with killer bass parts that stand out and get compliments. I’m very thankful to have all of these guys in the band honestly. We’ve been able to put together something special and everyone is vital to our sound and success.

It’s been an honor having you on today, Cole. I’m super excited to see what the future has in store for Faith in Failure!

We’ve got more music coming out here pretty soon as well as a new music video. We’ve recently launched a full-service online merch store as well. We like to offer a lot of cool designs, and we are constantly coming up with more merch. We love to talk with fans and meet new people so you can reach out on your social media platform of choice. We always share anything people tag us in as well. We are just thankful and humbled by any and all support we get from fans and we want to connect with them however we can

Thank you so much. It’s always fun to talk and we are honored that you asked us to be a part of this!

You are MOST welcome!

So, yep … FAITH IN FAILURE, Y’ALL!!! Check ‘em out!!!

TO CONNECT WITH FAITH IN FAILURE: https://linktr.ee/OfficialFaithInFailure

Meet Fractured!!!

HEY, y’all! I am proud to welcome Brian Smith onto my humble lil’ blog!

Brian is one of the guitar players for the Georgia-based hard-rock band Fractured. And I gotta tell ya… Fractured stomps some SERIOUS ass, now!!! I found ‘em on FaceBook, and then I toddled on over to Spotify. Next thing I knew, I was throwing up the horns and banging my heads like a damn GROUPIE!!!

SO … let’s have a chat with Brian!!!

WELCOME, Brian Smith! It’s an honor to have you on our site today. So you’re a guitar player for the Georgia-based band Fractured. Can you tell our readers about how y’all got together?

Sure. Thank you for having me. I’m one of the guitar players in fractured, Dave the other guitar player, he’s the less pretty one … haha he also does leads. Rob and I were jamming working on some of his music with another friend of ours that was a drummer … when that didn’t really work out, Rob and I wrote a couple songs, thought about who else we could call, thought about Dave, known him since 1990 1989 somewhere around there. Let’s just say a long time, but we’d never even played guitar together before. He came down and it just clicked we started having fun and ride music, and Phil came in play bass, and now we have Greg as our drummer

I won’t tell Dave you said he’s ‘less pretty’, promise! Now you have a manager, and you’re touring. How did all that come to fruition?

Just opening up for different bands that came through town, and they’d like us and talk to their ‘people’ and the ball started rolling. And don’t worry, Dave knows he’s less pretty.

Haha! So did Fractured begin by playing the bar circuit, or did y’all start out more as a ‘concert venue’ kind of band?

We played a few bars but we’ve done a lot of charity stuff for The Wounded Warriors Project. Hometown Heroes. Playing quite a few Bike rallies. That’s a lot of fun when you get to do what you love while giving back.

Indeed it is. I’m listening to your EP ‘Alive’ right now, and what blows me away is how many diverse influences I hear in the music. I mean, ALL hard-rock fans are Children of Black Sabbath. But y’all go way beyond that. Can you tell us a bit about Fractured’s songwriting process?

We just started out having fun we didn’t have any specific genre or idea where we were going to end up. But the band and guitar player that I have always listen to is Black Sabbath. They are still my favorite band. And of course the other guys have all their influences that they bring in. you know it wasn’t just Sabbath for me it was Iron Maiden it was Led Zeppelin, LA guns, Guns n’ Roses, it was Van Halen all the greats. I listen to everything and I know that was the same for everybody else in the band. One of us will come in with a riff or a song idea, but we all put in our parts on the songs. Sometimes we just bust out a riff in practice and it turns into a song. Those are the best

I am VERY impressed with the music! It’s all fairly heavy, which makes the style consistent. But I hear some blues here and there, and some southern rock … Your band page says all the members contribute to the songwriting process. How does that play out during jam sessions, when everyone’s involved? As opposed to say, Metallica, where most of the music is written by a couple of men and then handed to the band to arrange?

Well sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it ends up just being a five minute Jam that we never play again. But then there are the special times when we keep working on, something to keep working on and it turns into something we all like. We’re just all feeding off each other

So does Fractured’s music come mostly from impromptu ‘jam sessions’?

Well, Dave and I usually have a riff. Maybe two parts of a riff that we put together, that we think is cool, and then the other rewrites the riff and we get mad at each other … ha … and then the next rehearsal Dave’s done something cool with the riff, or I have and we just take it from there. Usually Phil and Rob get together right away, but Rob always comes up with a hook or something to sing while we’re playing. Dave is really good at arranging parts of the songs and moving them around or whatever. It’s seriously a group effort

Ah, the ‘almighty riff’, as Kirk Hammett put it. I gotta ask, how did you guys meet your lead singer? I LOVE that dude! He’s very ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’.

Don’t tell Dave I said that

Don’t worry, I won’t!

I’m met Rob probably 15 years ago, through a mutual friend of mine and his that’s a great drummer. I was playing in the band with the drummer, and Rob showed up one night to help him load in his drums in and out. Told me it was a singer, didn’t think much of it at the time. But then probably six months went by and I saw him again. I actually heard him sing, and I was like WOW I’ve got to get this guy in a band singing rock and roll!!! Then ten more years went by before we actually got together

GREAT acquisition! One thing I loved about the metal scene in my hometown was the sense of community. I was just the drunk ‘fan gal’, but I often got dragged on stage to tell the crowd about my books. I loved how supportive the hard-rock world was. Have you found that to be the case in your area?

Absolutely, the rock and roll crowd—the Hard Rock people that scare the hell out of everybody when they’re walking to the venue—will be the first to lend a hand to anybody who needs help. It is definitely a close Community; there’s a lot of great rock and roll bands and people that love rock and roll in Atlanta

I agree. There are those who say hard-rock fans are scary, but honestly? They’re the best people I know. Perhaps the challenges of being musicians keep them humble. So on that note … what are some of the challenges that come with being in a band? Balancing your music with your personal life?

Yes, your personal life becomes difficult sometimes. And being in a band is like being in a relationship with four other people because they bring in their good, their bad, their problems, and  their moods. But I’ve played in quite a few bands and this band is the easiest to get along with

Would you say it’s like having a whole other family?

Yeah the crazy side of the family!

Lol … So what’s coming up on the horizon for Fractured? New album? Tour?

Yes we’ve been working on some new songs. And also talking to some people. So yes to all of that!

NICE!!! I can’t wait to hear what’s next! ‘Alive’ stomped some serious ass, now. So before we go, what advice – given your decades of experience – would you give to a new/aspiring musician?

Thanks! Yeah, I love that song. My advice would be if you’re going to play music, play it for the love of it. Because no other reason will keep you going.

Amen. Writing is the same. Thank you SO much for taking the time to represent Fractured today, Brian. I for one am very grateful for your taking the time. And I promise not to tell Dave that you said he’s less pretty. I also won’t tell the other guys that Cheri said you’re the most normal! God bless you, and I wish Fractured ALL the best in future!

Seriously, Fractured whups ass! If you like hard rock, here’s where you can find ‘em:  https://linktr.ee/fracturedofficial

THANK you, Brian, for representing your band today! And here’s me wishing Fractured a bright and happy future!!!

Welcome to the World of DARK DESIRE!!!

I’ve worked for Black Velvet Seductions Publishing for about two years now …

WOW, what a rush!!!

The anthologies are always my favorites, at least when it comes to promoting. I LOVE seeing what everyone else wrote, upon being handed a basic theme. What fascinates me most is that every author has his or her niche. Some of us are aces at historical fiction. Some of us rock at sweet romance, and others are masters/mistresses of spicier tales.

And a small handful of us reign as the Lords and Ladies of Literary Darkness. (And yeah, that’s me. Just in case you missed the memo … DUH!!!)

What I love about the BVS anthologies is that most of us inevitably have to stray out of our respective comfort zones. Sure, I was BORN for Dark Desire … but I damn sure wasn’t born for Cowboy Desire, I’ll tell you that! I almost bailed on the project, but I finally came through at the last minute. Stepping out of my ‘safe space’ forced me onto a higher plane of creativity, and the experience was nothing but good for me.

And that’s what makes the anthologies so very, very special. There are always a handful of authors whose work easily fits the topic matter at hand—and there are also a lot whose work doesn’t. They have to step up; they have to expand their horizons. And the BVS crew does exactly that, every single time. Dark Desire features a few authors who eat dark fiction for breakfast …

It also feature a fair few who generally don’t

The beauty of the anthology is this: you can’t tell the difference. It reads smoothly from beginning to end. You can’t tell the authors who habitually write ghoulish fare from those who do not. Everyone stepped up. Everyone pulled out all the creative stops, and got the job done. That’s what authors do: they write, and they accept the oddball assignment as a challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle.

And thus it is my honor, ladies and gentleman, to present to you: DARK DESIRE, from Black Velvet Seductions!!! Meet the authors, and their absolutely STELLAR work!

Blood of the Ocean by Alice Renaud

With Mermaids Marry in Green, Alice Renaud gave us a glimpse of the darker side of her brilliant Sea of Love series.

That eerie thread continues in Blood of the Ocean, pulling back the curtain on the secret world hidden just beyond humanity’s gaze. Just around the corner—barely hidden from sight—one just might encounter a mermaid.

Or, if one is terribly unlucky …

Perhaps even a vampire.

Blood of the Ocean proves, once and for all, that Alice Renaud’s fanciful, mystical world is expansive enough to handle even nightmarish fare, adding a new element of fear to her already-gripping mythos.

Wonder Town Station, by Alan Souter

Was there ever any doubt that Alan Souter is the king of historical fiction? Particularly when it comes to tales about the American West, set during the dawn of the twentieth century.

In Wonder Town Station, one can almost hear the buzzing of cicadas, and envision the dry tumbleweeds rolling down half-abandoned, dusty streets. Set during a period of both social tension and economic malaise, one gets the sense that something awful is about to happen from the very first page.

And it does.

In the tradition of A Thread of Sand and Kilgore’s Colt, Alan Souter brings the past to gripping, pulse-pounding life like no one else. His ability to create massive suspense in very short order makes him a master storyteller …

And Wonder Town Station is a worthy addition to his body of work.

Grow Where You’re Planted by Nancy Golinski

What if the world really is full of dead people, just out of sight, but quite tangible in their influence? What if only a select few can see them, let alone communicate with them?

In Grow Where You’re Planted, Nancy Golinski unveils a disturbing vision of the world, one in which the line between the Living and the Dead is less concrete than most of us would like to believe. In the tradition of The Wyoming Way, the romance is sweet, tamer than most literary offerings …

But that doesn’t mean the story still doesn’t have a set of claws.

Seen and Unseen by Anne Krist

Anne’s story Life Saving was my absolute favorite in the Mystic Desire anthology. Not that all the other stories in that volume weren’t fantastic, mind you, but there was just something about that one that struck a nerve with me.

That ‘something’ struck again with Seen and Unseen.

While this is ostensibly a detective story, there’s a supernatural element to it that pulls it out of reality and makes it feel more than a little dream-like. Of all the tales in Dark Desire, this is the one about which I hesitate to say to too much. Spoilers, you know?

But read it. It has a distinct Nightmare on Elm Street vibe to it, albeit far less violent. The story leaves the reader with a lingering sense of un-reality, like the world has faded into the background for a while.

Linked  by S.K. White

Linked is such a surreal, brooding tale that I’m reminded on the haunting, epic film Cemetery Man. Why have Lily and Colin found themselves together, alone in an abandoned cabin? Why does the cabin mysteriously provide all their needs? What happened to the outside world?

Is this the afterlife? Or is it something else entirely, something that exists outside of the known world—or even the known universe?

Fans of Ray Bradbury’s writing –or television’s The Twlight Zone— will LOVE this story! It’s a bizarre, psychedelic tale, written in the rich tradition of old-school dark fantasy.

The Ritual by Virginia Wallace (Review by BVS author Suzanne Smith)

Romy and Bert are psychopaths in every sense of the word.

But, in spite of who they are, Virginia Wallace has written their story in such a way that the reader can’t help but to fall in love with them. While there’s plenty of action, dark humor, and gore in this work, what makes The Ritual different, I should say better, than all of the blood and guts love stories I’ve read, is the connection between Romy and Bert.

They understand each other. That understanding inspires a loyalty and commitment that is indeed admirable. In addition to the depth and complexity of the main characters, the imagery in this story was fantastic. Without giving away too much of the story, I’ll just tell you that fire, guns, and stolen vehicles all play a part in Romy and Bert’s perverse world. If you like your romance reads tame and conventional, this isn’t the story for you.

But, if you’re looking for a passionate, bizarre, no holds barred, love at first sight romance, you’ll simply adore The Ritual. Five stars. 

The Substitute by F. Burn

Anyone who’s read Secret Love knows that F. Burn doesn’t shy away from bold subject matter. And while vampires are comfortably tried-and-true fare, it’s the way The Substitute is written that makes it truly shine.

Is this a contemporary soap opera with vampires? Or is it a vampire tale in a contemporary setting? Somehow, the story feels strangely real despite the supernatural elements. One usually expects a vampire tale to be set at night, in dreary settings.

That this one set in a brightly-lit classroom makes it more than a little unnerving; I was reminded of the ghastly horror film Midsommer, which is set entirely in broad daylight. Taking monsters out of their dark hidey-holes seems to somehow make them even more frightening.

I have long admired F. Burn for her ability to dig into the dark recesses of the human mind, to delve into those thoughts that we all think … but we don’t know we’re thinking them. Or maybe we just can’t admit that we’re thinking them.

Her work truly is the epitome of Stephen King’s iconic quote: ‘As writer, you try to listen to what others aren’t saying, and write about that silence.’

Electrifying by Gibby Campbell

Electrifying begins on the most depressing note possible: fired from her job just before catching her boyfriend in bed with another woman, Alex is having a really, really bad day!

It should be all uphill from there, right?

Maybe … or maybe not. The chaos of Alex’s life is rivaled only by her peculiar sexual appetites, appetites that a stubborn cowboy named Josh Hanson just may or may not be willing to fulfill.

In the tradition of Paging Dr. Turov, Gibby Campbell once again merges mundane life with the sexually bizarre, making for a very intriguing read! Fans of erotic romance will LOVE this one!

Beginning Forever by Virginia Wallace (Review by BVS author Callie Carmen)

Beginning Forever was exciting and full of passion.

I loved learning how Dave and Jillian met up again after so many years. This first person read had me engrossed in the overwhelming emotions that flooded through Jillian. You just knew these two were destined to be together because her desire and arousal for him was so strong. What Jillian wanted Jillian got or else … Definitely a five star ‘must read’.

Ryker’s Destiny by Zia Westfield

Okay, this one really threw me for a loop!

Ryker’s Destiny is epic, high fantasy at its absolute BEST!!! Shapeshifters, fae, witches, and tons of references to the old Norse gods … This story could be made into a role-playing game. It’s Conan the Barbarian meets Dungeons and Dragons, with a dash of The Lord of the Rings thrown in.

What makes Ryker’s Destiny truly noteworthy is this: the over-top, mythical adventure isn’t so mythical that the romance gets lost. The love story between Ryker and Lana is truly heart-melting

This … is romantic adventure done RIGHT!!!

The Wolf of Varg Island by Estelle Pettersen

The trick with writing werewolves, of course, is that the setting of one’s tale must be very original. Because werewolves, by default, are not at all original. If you don’t believe me, check out any paranormal romance reading group.

Estelle Pettersen obviously knows this.

The Worf of Varg Island is set in northern Europe, a rather exotic location to most western readers. One can almost feel the chill in the air, and sense the danger looming over Varg Island like a black cloud.

While this story isn’t nearly as erotic as Lessons on Seduction, it is spicier than the sweet, heart-melting Elizabeth. The sexual content falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, which allows the fantasy elements to really shine.

I must say, this short really surprised me. I’ve never seen Estelle write paranormal fiction before; I thought I had her pegged as a contemporary romance author.

Wrong!

Estelle Pettersen is living proof that a solid writer can write just about anything. As evidence, I present to you: The Wolf of Varg Island.

And that, friends and rock stars, is my synopsis of Dark Desire! I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I am to be part of such an eclectic cast of authors. Our publisher Richard Savage has assembled an amazing pool of talent, and done a fabulous job of coordinating our writing and marketing efforts.

I’m just grateful to have a place at the table …

‘Cuz it’s a GREAT damn table!!!

TO ORDER DARK DESIRE: https://amzn.to/3SMFfY7

Derivative Originality

Artists are a rather odd dichotomy, I think.

Every artist is unique, be they an author, a musician, or visual artist. Every person lives through experiences that belong to him or her alone, and thus no one’s art can be truly duplicated. Imitated, perhaps, but never duplicated.

The irony is this: every artist is also the lump sum of his or her influences. There are some experiences that are shared—in some way—by nearly all of humanity, and thus we see common threads in almost everyone’s creative output.

But there’s only one me. No one writes quite like ol’ ‘Crazy V’, after all. Some authors may write similar content to mine, and others may have a similar style … but in the end, they’re not me. But that idea begs the question: who helped make me ‘me’? Whose work thrust me headlong into paradigm shifts that forever altered who and what I am as a writer?

Let me give you a glimpse …

Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Knowing what I know of Mary Shelley’s life, I can honestly say that I do not share her morals or social philosophy. She—like her husband and peers—was a shameless hedonist. But I first read Frankenstein when I was around eight or so, and the book blew my fragile lil’ mind. I didn’t have a happy childhood, and the ghosts of my past haunt me to this day. Shelley’s work taught me that dark literature can be cathartic. It taught me that one can turn fear and pain into art, and in so doing, strip fear and pain of some of their power. Honestly, I believe reading this novel began my journey as a writer, even if I wouldn’t pick up the pen until years later.

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

I first read this book when I was nine. Literary scholars call it ‘the first American novel’, and I agree. As much as I love Frankenstein, that novel was English. And early American authors—such as the talented Washington Irving, and the deplorable James Fenimore Cooper—were distinctly British in style and tone, despite being American. Mark Twain was the first American novelist to use words such as ‘ain’t’, and the first to exhibit the dry, sarcastic style that would forever become known as American humor.

Above all else, Twain taught me that yes, you can actually write the same way that you talk. I am often described as having a ‘conversational writing style’, and I consider that high praise.

Mark Twain taught me how to write that way.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

I was fourteen when I first read Rebecca, and the story blew my mind. I have suffered my entire life from insomnia, and on the rare occasions that I do actually sleep … well, let’s just say that I don’t really sleep. Vivid dreams and nightmares torment my every slumbering moment.

Rebecca—as does all of Daphne du Maurier’s work—feels like a dream. It feels like a tale completely removed from reality, one that makes sense only according to those ill-defined, ever-changing terms that always define a dream.

It was Daphne du Maurier who taught me how to pull my dreams out of my head, and turn them into fiction.

The Brute and I, by Suzanne Smith

I researched dozens of romance novels when I decided to venture into that world. Most of them were published by Harlequin, and honestly? Most of ‘em sucked. I learned a hard lesson, pretty quickly: romance can often be a brilliant genre, but because of the sheer consumer demand, a lot of sub-standard work slips through the cracks. That’s just a marketing reality. There is so much demand for romance that publishers often cut corners, in ways that they would never do with less popular genres like science fiction or fantasy. (The only bright spot in my research was Daphne Clair, who writes for Harlequin; she truly is a brilliant writer.)

So I wrote When the White Knight Falls, which is now available from Black Velvet Seductions. I took what I learned from ‘the Harlequin formula’, and found a way to make it my own.

Then I read Suzanne Smith’s The Brute and I ...  

Suddenly a whole new world opened up. Romance is meant to be a beautiful, heart-warming genre … but it can also be ugly. It can reflect the darkest parts of the human psyche, and learning this tied my new-found grasp of romance to my roots in horror and dark fantasy.

The Brute and I brought my understanding of romance full circle. It taught me that I can work in romance without disavowing the darker side of my work. I would later read Patrick, by Callie Carmen, which cemented the lesson I learned from The Brute and I. Both novels are defined just as much by mental illness as they are passionate love.

There’s only one me. No one else could ever write like I do. But I am also Mary, Mark, Daphne, Suzanne, and Callie. I carry their legacy like an eager apprentice, even as I revel in my uniqueness.

And that’s what it means to be an author: to be forever original, and yet forever derivative. To glory in new creations, while always carrying the torch for those who made you who you are.

Every writer is one of a kind.

And every writer is also part of an ever-expanding coven.

That’s a beautiful thing …

   

The Legacy: Sins of the Fathers by Viola Russell

I always wished I could write historical fiction …

Alas, I am NOTHING if not a literary lazy-ass! I make stuff up, and I never do any more research than I absolutely have to. I’m a ‘write what you know’ kind of author. It doesn’t help that a lot of what I know is really, really weird, but hey … to thine own self be true!

But that’s not Viola Russell. She has a keen grasp of history, and the ability to chronicle it in an wonderfully engaging manner. So let’s check out her latest release! And do stick around for an interview afterwards!

The Legacy: Sins of the Fathers blurb:

As war rages in Europe and Asia, Jude Mooney’s progeny battle to survive. From Europe to Asia to the Home Front, the Mooney clan faces the terrors and danger in the jungles of Asia or the city streets of Europe. In New Orleans, war offers its own challenges.

Daniel—the son who married his brother’s wife to protect her. Daniel thought he would surrender the beautiful Esther to his brother Paul if they survived the war, but his feelings for her now smolder, surpassing the friendship he’d initially proposed. Nonetheless, he and his brother must resolve the tension between them as they embark on a dangerous mission.

Paul—the son who escaped from the hell of Colditz prison only to find that his brother had married the woman he loved. He is caught between the abiding love for his brother and the love for the woman he desires. The war will change him forever and lead him onto an unforeseen path.

Esther—the beautiful Jewish operative skilled in espionage is adapting to her life as a wife and mother, but she sees a world of hate and vengeance enveloping her. When war ends, she will be faced with a monumental choice.

Julia—Jude’s niece, trapped in San Tomas. She wrestles with a sin for which she can’t forgive herself as she treats Allied prisoners of war. Scarred by war, she sacrifices for her captured friends.

Jade—Jude’s step-daughter and friend of Julia. Like Julia, she cares for prisoners in San Tomas, but her love for a handsome British officer could lead to disaster.

Wally—Jude’s nephew, reckless and daring. He fights his way through the jungles of the Philippines to rescue his sister and to save the beautiful Filipino woman he loves.

Peppy—Wally’s honest and honorable brother who suffers but endures in the hell of a burning Europe.

On the home front, Jude and his wife, Marjorie, wrestle with the challenges war brings to the United States and with the changes taking place within the beautiful and passionate Aoife, Jude’s daughter. How will the Mooney family survive the war and adapt to a post-war New Orleans?

Interview with Viola:

(All opinions and statements contained in this interview are solely those of the author providing them, and may not necessarily reflect my own. – Virginia)

When did you start writing? What made you first decide to try your hand at it?

I always wrote, but I never had the time or discipline to finish major projects. Grad school, work, etc. always intruded on my time.

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

My first published work is no longer in print. It was a contemporary/second chance story called Buried Truths.

How do you balance writing with your personal life?

This is a continuous difficulty. I have a full-time teaching job, a husband, and own a rental house. I write mostly in the summer (which will be short this year because of Hurricane Ida) and during school holidays.

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Some historical figures make appearances, not people I know; however, I think elements of my personality, the personalities of friends and family, etc., make appearances in my writing.

Do family members or friends help with your writing? Your marketing?

I have some individuals who help me with marketing in a professional capacity. Friends and family help me by spreading the word.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

I’m trying to finish a manuscript right now. I also may want to tell the story of the Mooney family yet again.

Do you ever target differing age groups or demographics with your writing?

My contribution to Rainbow Desire, “The Holy Trinity,” was about teen gay love. As a teacher, I’ve seen how young people struggle with their sexuality and/or experiment sexually.

Have you ever written non-fiction? If so, what?

My graduate career was all non-fiction and all analysis.

Are you married? How does being a writer affect that? Has your marriage affected the way you write love stories?

I married later in life. Marriage to my man has taught me that there are happy endings.

If you could see one of your stories made into a movie, which one would you pick and why?

I’d love to see my Mooney saga stories become films, and I also think Love at War has that potential.

Do you try to keep your stories within their pre-determined genres, or do you just tell the story your way regardless of genre expectations?

I write the story, not the genre.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kinds? Does music influence your stories?

Music often inspires me. For instance, I listen to Irish rebel music before writing one a scene set in Ireland and the war for Irish Independence.

Do you let real-life events influence your work, or is there a ‘disconnect’ between your stories and world/national/local events?

Local and national events definitely influence my writing. For example, The Unveiling of Amber dealt with the way an ex-lover could use the Internet to betray and ruin someone. The Doctor and the War Widow dealt with online dating and its pitfalls.

Is your writing time planned out or structured? Do you go on writing ‘benders’?

I plan, but as I said, the time has to come between work commitments. Sometimes, a plan doesn’t always end as planned.

What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

I love creating, and having my books published is a dream come true.

Which character of yours is your favorite? Why? Whom would you pick to play him/her/it in a movie?

I don’t know if I have a favorite character, but the one actor who could be Jude Mooney was the late, great Marlon Brando. Colin Ferrell, the talented Irish actor, could be his son Daniel. I’d have to think about who should play Paul. That’s a tough one.

Do you write when you take a vacation, or do you prefer to simply relax?

To my husband’s chagrin, I write.

Do you prefer to read fiction that’s similar to what you write, or do you pick different types of stories?

I love mysteries and historical fiction.

Do you set up events to meet your readers, or is your interaction with them strictly online?

I haven’t met much with anyone since COVID, but I love book signings and have one quickly approaching in July.

Have you ever had to exhaustively research something (say, history) for any of your books?

I do a lot of research on my historical work. I love the WWI and WWII eras. Right now, I’m researching The Troubles in Ireland.

Thank you, Viola, for joining us today! It was an honor to have you!

Check out Viola’s Website! www.violarussell.com

Order The Legacy: Sins of the Fathers: https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Sins-Fathers-Viola-Russell-ebook/dp/B09Z2VKDCK/ref=sr_1_2?crid=302XT5NGVLXYQ&keywords=viola+russell+the+legacy&qid=1654135569&sprefix=%2Caps%2C221&sr=8-2