Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Gal's Favorite Book Covers of 2014

This is a first for me this year, but I decided that since there were several that I absolutely loved this year, I should go ahead and give the authors the kudos they deserve. :)


(Note: They are listed in no particular order.)

Necromancer
Graeme Ing


The Typewriter Girl
Alison Atlee


Birth of an Assassin
Rick Stone


Perfected
Kate Jarvik Birch


Poe: Nevermore
Rachel M. Martens


The Book of Calling
Tania Donald


The September Series 1:
Oranje
Jack Lusted


Fractured Souls 1:
Til Death
Kate Evangelista


The Perfect Christmas
Kate Forster

The Gal's Top Reads of 2014

It's that time again, y'all.  Time for me to list my favorite reads of this past year.  
            Last year, this was a really easy thing for me to do.  Four books really stood out in my mind at the end of the year.
            This year, it was a lot more difficult.  I began jotting down titles at the beginning of the year and, a few days ago when I looked, there were quite a few there.  I went through the list, weeding out the ones that had not stuck with me, and here is my list:


(Listed alphabetically)


Aquarius Rising 1: In the Tears of God
Brian Burt

Science Fiction
Double Dragon 5.21.2013
243 pages

On an Earth ravaged by global warming, human-dolphin hybrids called Aquariums have build thriving reef colonies among the drowned cities of the coast.  Now their world is under siege from an enemy whose invisible weapon leaves no survivors.  Only Ocypode the Atavism - half-human and half-Aquarian, marooned in the genetic limbo between species - knows why.  Disclosing the reason could be as deadly to Aquarius as the Medusa plague itself.  Ocypode and his comrades must face the perils of flight into the open ocean, a friends's betrayal, a killer storm, a lethal kelp forest haunted by mutant monsters, and a fundamental challenge to their most cherished beliefs if they are to have any hope of saving Aquarius from destruction.  They must enlist allies of the most unexpected sort from the most unlikely of places.  Even then - when confronted by rogue scientists determined to resurrect the land by slaughtering the sea - it may not be enough.



Bad Apples:
5 Slices of Halloween Horror
Evans Light, Adam Light, Edward Lorn, Jason Parent, Gregor Xane

Horror, Halloween, Short Stories
Corpus Press 9.5.2014
227 pages

The five freshest voices in horror will make you reconsider leaving the house on October 31st with these all-new Halloween tales:
  • A brother and sister creep out of the darkness with bags full of deadly tricks in Gregor Xane's The Riggle Twins.
  • A boy with a misshapen skull just wants to be normal in Evans Light's Pumpkinhead Ted.
  • A group of thrill seekers learn that looking for terror is a whole lot more fun than finding it in Adam Light's Ghost Light Road.
  • Two bullies go hunting for trouble but instead find a young boy and his imaginary friend in Jason Parent's Easy Pickings.
  • When a mysterious, Halloween-themed attraction comes to the town of Bay's End, everyone is dying to pay a visit in Edward Lorn's The Scare Rows.



City of Whores
Mark B. Perry

Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Hollywood
Starboard Home Press 9.16.2014
418 pages

Hollywood, New Year's Eve, 1951.  As Tinseltown rings in the twilight of its Golden Age, a gorgeous young man arrives from Texas, hell-bent on exploiting his brooding good-looks and smoldering sex appeal in exchange for his rightful place among the stars of the silver screen - only to become dangerously entangled in the lives of one of the most powerful couples in show business.  As his dream of stardom devolves into a lurid, erotic nightmare, he must choose between fortune and fame or his own sanity and survival in this City of Whores.



Confinement: A Novella of Horror
C. Michael Powers

Horror, Short Story
Christopher Powers 10.2.2014
78 pages

He tried to cut off his own face with a razor blade.  Now, he's here, sleeping in his confinement room and seen only through the small rectangular window in the wall.  For an unarmed Air Force cop stuck guarding this sick and twisted prisoner, this will be the longest night of his life.



Curmudgeonism:
A Surly Man's Guide to Midlife
Kelly Crigger

Humor, Aging
Graybeard Books 9.17.2014
174 pages

Discovering who you are is not just for teenagers.  Midlife men must also rediscover the world around them while struggling with their own impending mortality and legacy, especially those who change careers and lifestyles.
            Middle-aged men like me are under siege, beset on all sides by personal ambition, internal expectations, familial pressure, disillusionment, uncertainty, and legacy.  In a constant battle to balance the needs of the self and the needs of others and a struggle to discover which ones really take priority.  Some win this battle and some tragically lose.
            Curmudgeonism is a state of mind, unwavering, unapologetic, and uninterested in what people think.  We are the proverbial old dog that can't be taught new tricks because we know the old tricks are tried and true.  We have firm beliefs that can't be shaken.  Free trade is good.  True leaders are rare.  Happiness is a luxury.  Golf is a waste of time and we don't have enough years left to be unproductive.  We don't apologize for our views because we've spent half a lifetime developing them.  Theory and idealism sounds good in school but only until it becomes cost prohibitive and the real world determines ground truth.  Curmudgeons are uncaring about what people think and have low expectations on the world because it's done little more than disappoint us.  We're middle aged and tired of looking, acting, feeling the way people want us to, so we're breaking out and being who we were meant to be; irascible curs who make the world a better place through brutal honesty.  We see this as our duty and take it seriously.
            Buy the ticket.  Take the ride.



Earthbound Angels 1: Oracle of Philadelphia
Elizabeth Corrigan

Fantasy, Paranormal
Red Adept Publishing 3.20.2013
222 pages

Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel.  But there are some problems that even the best advice can't solve.
            Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid.  He sold his soul to a demon in exchange for his sister's life, but his heart remains pure.
            Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others, and she cannot bear to see another good man damned when it is within her power to prevent it.
            In order to renegotiate his contract, Carrie must travel into the depths of  hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways.  As the cost of her journey arises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.



Earthbound Angels 2: Raising Chaos
Elizabeth Corrigan

Fantasy, Paranormal
Red Adept Publishing 2.4.2014
270 pages

When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge.
            The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful - overindulging in Sri Lanken delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet.  But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there  Bedlam's best friend, Khet - he can't sit idly by.
            Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer's request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ's side at His crucifixion.  Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location.  Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.
            His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel - his angelic ex - and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands.  But to Bedlam, "wrong" is just an arbitrary word, and there's no way he's letting Khet die without a fight.



Mirror Images 2: Sons of Man
C. Michael Powers

Horror, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal
Christopher Powers 8.14.2014
323 pages

Gabe and Lisa have finally made a peaceful life for themselves on the dark side of the mirror, high up in the mountains, where they've settled with a group of friends in search of the same serenity.  With a new baby on the way, a storm brews; evil forces believe there's a great power in controlling the first child born on the dark side, and they'll stop at nothing to get their hands on it.  This love story laced with mirrors, maniacs, and monsters continues as war is waged between good and evil with the survival of both worlds hanging in the balance.



Oasis of the Damned
Greg F. Gifune

Horror, War
DarkFuse 12.9.2014
76 pages

When her helicopter crashes in the middle of the Sahara, Heather Richter, a former Army Captain and veteran of the Iraq War, finds herself at an abandoned WWII military outpost in one of the harshest and deadliest deserts on Earth.  But she soon realizes there is another victim of the dessert in this empty expanse of endless sand.  Owens, a victim of an earlier plane crash, is there as well.  An enigmatic and brooding man, he knows the secrets of the outpost, that it was actually built on top of an oasis and a natural well, the only thing that's kept him alive.  But he also knows the darker secrets of this strange and forgotten patch of desert hell.
            He and Richter are not alone.  And the cruel terrain and relentless sun are the least of their worries, because inhuman things haunt the outpost, hideous and violent things that only come at night.  Ancient, evil creatures hungry for human flesh, and no matter how many Richter and Owens kill, they just keep coming.
            With little hope of rescue, and tortured by her horrific experiences in Iraq years before, as well as the untimely and tragic death of her younger brother, Richter struggles to maintain her sanity amidst the brutal attacks that occur each time night falls, all the while trying to figure out if Owens is truly what he claims, or something more.
            Is anything as it seems, or is there something more profound happening, a shocking wound bleeding deeper than the ancient sands, the dark desert nights and the blistering sun?
            Two lost souls ... a forgotten outpost in a haunted desert ... vicious creatures bent on destruction ...
            The brutal fight for survival has begun.



Purgatory 2: Purgatory Origins:
Powers of Darkness
Darryl Olsen

Science Fiction, Space Marine, War & Military
10.21.2014
330 pages

When Professor Harrison Standish, a bookish young archaeologist, inadvertently stumbles upon an ancient burial chamber in Egypt, he is baffled to find symbolism inside that would appear to date from two different historical periods, thousands of years apart.  Suspecting the tomb has been tampered with at some point in the distant past, Professor Standish soon discovers the skeletons of ten half-human/half-canine creatures lying in a far corner of the chamber and his initial bafflement now turns to shock.  What kind of ancient madman would be conducting such a horrific experiment?
            As Dr. Standish endeavors to explain this mystery over the ensuing days, he happens upon news report, suggesting that these same grotesque, half-human/half-canine creatures have come to life in the remote mountains of Wyoming and he is immediately on the next flight.  By the time he arrives in Wyoming, a World War II Nazi bomber has materialized out of the sky and crashed off the coast of France and a Nazi general named Schmitz has stumbled into the 21st century, leaving behind evidence of his presence in Professor Standish's ancient burial chamber back in Egypt, all of which sets the stage for a rollicking, nonstop, modern day fantasy/sci-fi adventure.
            The cast of characters in Purgatory Origins includes Rachael, a pesky, auburn haired New York magazine correspondent, who is known equally for her ability to sink her teeth into a story and her unwillingness to let it go; Jason Kendall, an escaped rapist and killer who falls hard for Rachael when they cross paths and turns out to have a past with our half human creatures; and Harper, the ex-special forces FBI agent, whose primary goal is finding Jason Kendall, getting him back behind bars and keeping him there for the rest of his life, but soon finds himself sucked into this mystery woven of ancient symbolism, old Nazi war criminals and otherworldly creatures.



Shrink Rapt
Freda Hansburg

Crime, Thriller, Medical
Freda Hansburg 10.13.2014
325 pages

Psychologist April Simon finds her career and life on the line after the murderer of her arrogant department chairman.  When four of her patients, all subjects in the late psychiatrist's research, begin to violently unravel, April tries to solve the riddle of their transformation.  Her quest alarms the killer.  Will she be next?  So many of her colleagues, she discovers, had reason to kill the chairman.  Who can she trust, when no one is what they seem?



Tales from the Tudor Court 1:
My Lady Viper
E. (Eliza) Knight

Historical Fiction, Biographical
Knight Media 4.27.2014
415 pages

May, 1536.  The Queen is dead.  Long live the Queen.
            When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner's ax on a cold spring morning, yet another Anne vows she will survive in the snake-pit court of Henry VIII.  But at what cost?
            Lady Anne Seymour knows her family hangs by a thread.  If her sister-in-law Jane Seymour cannot give the King a son, she will be executed or set aside, and her family with her.  Anne throws herself into the deadly and intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined at any price to see the new queen's marriage a success and the Seymour family elevated to supreme power.  But Anne's machinations will earn her a reputation as a viper, and she must decide if her family's rise is worth the loss of her soul...



Tales from the Tudor Court 2:
Prisoner of the Queen
E. (Eliza) Queen

Historical Fiction, Biographical
Knight Media 7.19.2014
335 pages

I have served three queens in my life.
            One was my sister.  One was my savior.  And one my bitterest enemy.
            Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court.  After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth's court.  Until she finds love - then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.



Tell Me My Name
Mary Fan

Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Glass House Press 10.14.2014
64 pages

In Mary Fan's second novella from Glass House Press, a teen girl was up in an icy hell, alone and frightened.  She has no memory of who she is or how she came to be there.
            She does know that she must get out, at all costs.  And that escape must start with remembering the simple things - her own name.  Her place of origin.  Her possible powers.
            When a group of dark magicians reveal themselves to be her captors, she finds herself in the clutches of those who will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets locked within her lost memories.  With her life fading under their merciless spells, the need to escape becomes dire.
            But can she get out when she doesn't even know who she is?  Can she count on one unlikely ally for help?  Or is it already too late for her, a girl without a name?
            Tell Me My Name introduces the main characters in Mary's new fantasy series, Fated Stars, with the first book, Windborn, due in late 2015.

Amazon ** Goodreads ** Barnes & Noble


The Faithful
S.M. Freedman

Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller, Suspense, Action/Adventure
S.M. Freedman 4.20.2014
365 pages


For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts.  They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick.  Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force.  Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears.  All the children had psychic abilities.  All the cases went cold - with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered.  Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.
            For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies.  The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place.  New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape.  Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey, and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.
            For Sumner, memories have become weapons.  He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders.  He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.
            To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth.  They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale.  If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive.
            Crossing several genres, The Faithful will appeal to anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries; high-tech, edge-of-your-seat suspense flavored with paranormal elements; thrillers, involving psychics, occult and high stakes action/adventure; tied up with a depth and humor usually reserved for works of literary fiction.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

REVIEW: Real Santa

Real Santa
William Hazelgrove

Genre: Holidays, Family Life, Humor
Publisher: Koehler Books
Publication date: 9.1.2014
Pages: 244

Recommended by: Koehler Books, Read 2 Review
Date read: 12.24.2014

Summary: George Kronenfeldt is an unemployed engineer with one shot to keep his daughter's belief in Santa intact.  When Megan tells him the only way she will believe in Santa is if she can videotape him and then tells her fourth grade class she will prove the existence of Santa Claus by posting her video to YouTube, George realizes he must become the Real Santa.
            Real Santa is a funny, heartwarming story of parenthood gone wrong and illustrates what lengths parents will go to keep their children happy.



I love feel good holiday stories.  In fact, in the couple of months leading up to December, I begin collecting them, whether they are just really interesting ones I find on Amazon (or in my local bookstore), or they are read 2 reviews offered to me.  

This one was offered to me ... and I wasn't so sure about it at first.  The idea of the story sounds awesome - I mean, who doesn't want the children in their lives to stay young and believe as long as they can?  (I have beautiful twin nieces that I wish were still the little ones who read stories with me.)  This book turned out better than I had expected - if you're looking for a feel good, this one is a good choice - but there were a few characters that I didn't care for, that "over-acted" their positions.  My two favorite characters were Josh and Megan - they are my kinds of children, always curious and wanting to know more, still believing, but at the same time needing proof.  My least favorite character was their teacher.

REVIEW: Krampusnacht

Krampusnacht:
12 Nights of Krampus

Genre: Fairy Tales, Holidays
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Publication date: 11.11.2014
Pages: 208

Recommended by: World Weaver Press, Read 2 Review
Date read: 12.23.2014

Summary: The joy and terror of the season.  For bad children, a lump of coal from Santa is positively light punishment when Krampus is ready and waiting to beat them with a stick, wrap them in chains, and drag them down to hell - all with St. Nick's encouragement and approval.  Krampusnacht holds within its pages twelve tales of Krampus triumphant, usurped, befriended, and much more.  From evil children (and adults) who get their due, to those who pull one over on the ancient "Christmas Devil."  From historic Europe, to the North Pole, to present day American suburbia, these all new stories embark on a revitalization of the Krampus tradition.  Whether you choose to read Krampusnacht over twelve dark and scary nights or devour it in one nacho of joy and terror, these stories are sure to add chills and magic to any winter's reading.


Introduction
by Kate Wolford

First Night of Krampus: Prodigious
by Elizabeth Twist

Second Night of Krampus: The Wicked Child
by Elise Forier Edie

Third Night of Krampus: Marching Krampus
by Jill Corddry

Fourth Night of Krampus: Peppermint Sticks
by Colleen H Robbins

Fifth Night of Krampus: Ring, Little Bell, Ring
by Caren Gussoff

Sixth Night of Krampus: A Visit
by Lissa Sloan

Seventh Night of Krampus:
Santa Claus & the Little Girl Who Loves to Sing & Dance
by Patrick Evans

Eight Night of Krampus: Between the Eyes
by Guy Burtenshaw

Ninth Night of Krampus: Nothing to Dread
by Jeff Provine

Tenth Night of Krampus: Raw Recruits
by Mark Mills

Eleventh Night of Krampus: The God Killer
by Cheresse Burke

Twelfth Night of Krampus: Krampus Carol
by Scott Farrell




A couple of years ago, shortly before my nieces' 5th Christmas, the Houston Chronicle posted an article about the way other countries celebrate Christmas, the way they see Santa Claus, and other ... creatures ... that come around during the winter time.  We shared this article with the and they were intrigued, wanting to know more about the people we were reading about, asking us to help them look up pictures on the computer so they could see what they looked like.  One of them was Krampus.  Ever since then, I have been obsessed.  There is just SOMETHING about this guy that has me enthralled.  He's intriguing and scary.  (And, I must add, my nieces, who had been acting up, like all young ones do, were REALLY good after finding out more about him.  Well, him and the mother that sends her three sons out on Christmas Eve to pick up the really bad kids so she could eat them for dinner.)

When I received an email from the publishing company telling me about their latest releases - and saw THIS - I did something I never do.  I contacted them, asking if I could spotlight this book on my blog.  Elizabeth Wagner, the publicity manager at World Weaver Press, emailed me back saying that she would love for me to do this and sent me all kinds of information to use.  She also offered me a copy of this book.  

I am SO glad that I contacted this publisher - and that I accepted their offer of an r2r.  I LOVED this book.  It starts out with a really great Introduction that offered some history on Krampus, with some snark and sarcasm mixed in.  Each story was different and well written.  I loved reading the way each author depicted him, some as you would expect and some not.  Not only did I really enjoy the stories in this book, but I plan on reading more from each author.  This is definitely a book I recommend, especially to people who are as interested in Krampus as I am.

BOOK BLITZ: Revelation


The Todor Trilogy 1:
Revelation
Jenna Newell Hiott

Genre: Fantasy
Publication date: 1.1.2014
Pages: 378


Free Today on Amazon!

Do you love fantasy adventures?  Let Revelation take you on a magical journey that will leave you questioning your own reality.

            "Careful, this book is addictive."

In a land where magic was created through the spilling of blood, turmoil is looming.  Grief and despair flood the land of Todor, and its creators - the omniscient Deis - consider destroying it altogether.  That is, until a single spot of joy attracts their attention: the idyllic village of Aerie.  Believing in the hope found there, the Deis give Todor one more chance.  They place three infants within this village who are unknowingly tasked with ending Todor's suffering and saving all creation.

            "You will fall in love with these characters!"

As the three chosen ones grow, they discover that their beloved village is a haven of secrets, and nothing is as they believe.  Can Gemynd, Soman, and Nuna move beyond the secrets of Aerie in order to learn the truth about themselves and the world they thought they knew?  With impending war, passionate love, and the heartbreak of separation facing them at every turn, will they do what is required to save Creation?

            "Newell Hiott's gripping style of writing completely immerses the reader in the story."

An imaginative fantasy debut from Jenna Newell Hiott, Revelation combines intrigue, passion, and magic to create a mythical tale like no other.  The first book in the epic Todor trilogy, Revelation introduces readers to a unique fantasy realm, intelligent and layered with hidden truths, it will stay with you long after you've read the last page.


About the author:
Author, healer, all-around kook, Jenna Newell Hiott boasts of having a limitless imagination, unless it's nap time.  While many of us had an imaginary friend as children, Jenna had an entire imaginary family - complete with a second set of parents and three siblings - all of whom lived in a make-believe world of Jenna's own creation.  One could say she's been writing fantasy fiction since she was old enough to use words.  And she never outgrew it.  Out of this hyperactive imagination, Jenna created the land of Todor: a world of magic, intrigue, and power plays.

Monday, December 29, 2014

BOOK BLITZ: Hunter's Haven


Hunter's Haven
By: Linda Thackeray

Genre: Dystopian/Action
Publication date: 12.25.2014
Pages: 334

After taking revenge on a drug lord and his crew for murdering his sister, John Hunter is a wanted man.  It's 2030 and in the aftermath of a great plague, John makes his way to Haven, craving sanctuary and peace but instead runs into a rogue religious group who wants to play God even as they run rife with corruption.  But they haven't counted on meeting big bad John who's meaner than they could ever be.  And just when they think they've put him out of their misery, he's resurrected from his hospital bed and hell hath no fury like a hunter scorned ... who's become a devil with a cause!
            Hunter's Haven is an action packed thriller that grabs you by the throat and won't let go until the end of the book.  To miss this incredible adventure would be criminal!  Get your copy today and enjoy the read of a lifetime.



Author info:
Linda Thackeray is a freelance writer who has only started to self-publish in 2014.  When she isn't writing, she works in the publication of safety standards at a recognized national body.  Linda has been writing in numerous genres over the past twenty years, including science-fiction, romance, dystopian and fantasy.
            At present, she is working on republishing the very first book she ever wrote, 'Children of the White Star,' while a sequel to the Avalyne series is being edited.  She will soon begin work on the second part to 'The Guardian' series.
            In her spare time, she is an active member of the Author's Cave, writes reviews on Amazon and also indulges in the occasional Play by Email Role Playing Game.  She lives in the coastal town of Woy Woy, meaning Big Water, in New South Wales, Australia with her long-haired ginger cat named Newt and spends more than normal time thinking about Michael Fassbender.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: S.M. Freedman


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hello!!  Welcome to The Gal.  Let's start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

S.M. Freedman:
I'm a former private investigator turned author.  Mom of two, wife of one, and ruled by one giant orange cat.  Seriously, don't anger the cat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are 5 things about you that most people don't know?

S.M. Freedman:
Confession time, oh dear.  I'm actually quite an open book (pun intended), but many people don't know I studied theater in New York.  That was a blast!  I'm an introvert in disguise.  I will absolutely lose my nut if I think I'm going to be one minute late for something, and I believe Nutella is heaven's nectar.  Oh, and I'm terrible at math.  There, now that's five.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

S.M. Freedman:
Anne of Green Gables.  I still love it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide to begin writing?

S.M. Freedman:
I've been telling stories since I started talking, so writing was just a natural progression.  Being a writer has always been the dream that stirred my soul, although I pushed it down for many of my adult years as I pursued more stable careers.  But the dream never died, and now that I'm following that passion I've never been happier.  You can fail at what you don't want to do, so you might as well do what you love.  Life is too darn short.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

S.M. Freedman:
I'm a mom of two.  I've learned to write between demands and diaper changes.  When I get an uninterrupted hour to write, it's like Nutella.  Heavenly.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

S.M. Freedman:
I write in the living room, while ducking Lego missiles.  It keeps me alert.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

S.M. Freedman:
That darn blank page.  It's both invitation and condemnation.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

S.M. Freedman:
Anything that is genuine.  There is an amazing spectrum of humanity, and if the story touches on any aspect of that in a truthful way, I'm hooked.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What book(s) have most influenced you?

S.M. Freedman:
There are so many, and I love many different genres.  Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (a perfect example of cross-genre awesomeness), Sue Grafton's Alphabet series, Jodi Picoult's character development, but most of all I love Stephen King for bravely going right to the edge, and for his ability to paint a picture you'll never forget in just three words.  That's pure genius.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What inspires you most?

S.M. Freedman:
My children.  Kids come into this world without a filter, and they are so gloriously weird.  I love that.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your book come from?

S.M. Freedman:
The meteorite that exploded above Russia in February 2013 started what eventually became The Faithful.  I started researching a NASA program called Spaceguard, and my main character became a meteorite hunter.  Somewhere along the way the story grew to encompass the kidnapping of hundreds of psychic children by a twisted organization bent on Armageddon.  That one I can't explain.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

S.M. Freedman:
They're all me to some extent.  Josh has my sense of duty and gentle heart, poor Sumner has my inappropriate sense of humor, and Ryanne  has my sass and appetite for junk food.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating this book?

S.M. Freeman:
That I won't stop writing until they pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hands.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think readers will take away from this book?

S.M. Freedman:
I hope they enjoyed the roller coaster, and they're sad it's over.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

S.M. Freedman:
I'm working on the sequel to The Faithful, and I'm hoping it will be out sometime in the first half of 2015.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by The Gal today - and I hope you will be stopping by again when that sequel comes out.  It's been a lot of fun having you. 
            One more thing before you go.  Where can we find you?

S.M. Freedman:
Website ** Blog ** Facebook ** Twitter

About the author:
S.M. Freedman is a top-ranked Amazon author in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense categories, and a member of the WorldWiseWriters group.  She lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children, and a giant orange cat.
            She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and spent years as a private investigator and business owner.
            Inspired by authors of many different genres (favorites include Sue Grafton, Diana Gabaldon, Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Suzanne Collins and Lawrence Hill, to name a few), she eventually turned back to her first love: writing.
            The Faithful, a paperback and Kindle Amazon Bestseller in both the US and the UK, and a Quarter Finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is her debut novel.  She's currently working on the sequel.

REVIEW: The Faithful

The Faithful
S.M. Freedman

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Paranormal
Publisher: S.M. Freedman
Publication date: 4.20.2014
Pages: 365

Recommended by: Worldwind Virtual Book Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 12.28.2014

Summary:  For agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts.  They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick.  Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force.  Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears.  All the children had psychic abilities.  All the cases went cold - with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered.  Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.
            For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies.  The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place.  New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape.  Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey; and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.
            For Sumner, memories have become weapons.  He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the branch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders.  He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumpkin through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.
            To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth.  They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale.  If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive.  Crossing several genres, The Faithful will appeal to anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries; high-tech, edge-of-your-seat suspense flavored with paranormal elements; thrillers involving psychics, occult and high stakes action/adventure; tied up with a depth and humor usually reserved for works of literary fiction.



"Humankind isn't at war, humankind is war.  They rape and pillage our sacred mother earth, call their own brothers 'enemy' an kill in the name of a God who long ago turned His back.  They are blind to the enemy that walks amongst them, to the deity hiding inside human skin.  They move about our earth like an infestation of cockroaches, oblivious to the coming extermination!  But the time of Judgment is upon them.  The time of Brimstone and Fire.  The time of Extinction.  Day Zero approaches, my children.  We must walk the straight path, and remain faithful."

Have you ever read a book that, when you sat down to write the review about it, there was not a single thing you could say?  That is where I am at this very moment, but not for the reason you think. This book was amazing - but everything I want to say about it will potentially give away important information, and I am the last person who would want to ruin a book for someone.  This book was everything I expected it to be and more.  It had mystery, suspense, action, adventure - it had a story that pulled you in and kept you reading, it had characters that were interesting and well written.  It was intense.  I knew, from the synopsis (and, yes, the cover!!), that I would like this book, but love is more like it.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Caldric Blackwell


The Gal in the Blue Mask: 
Hello, Caldric.  Welcome to The Gal.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Caldric Blackwell:
I grew up in the Bay Area and went to college in Santa Barbara, where I studied English and psychology.  I started out writing short stories for adults, but eventually migrated to writing children's books.  My first work, a children's book titled The Enchanted River Race, was published in December 2012, and my second release, a picture book titled The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf, came out in late 2014.  Outside of writing, I play a lot of guitar and enjoy the outdoors.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are 5 things about you that most people don't know?

Caldric Blackwell:
I can't think of five.  I think the one thing that most people don't know about me is that I play a lot of instruments, such as the mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass, keyboard, and tin whistle, among others.  My newest instrument is an erhu. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Caldric Blackwell:
That'd have to be Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff.  I remember it being kept in the advanced reader section of the classroom bookshelf.  It was as if my teacher was saying, "You can read the books with a real story once you finish the senseless books about pets, cots, and people with simple names."  When I finally got my hands on a copy of Danny and the Dinosaur, it was a glorious moment.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide to begin writing?

Caldric Blackwell:
I have always been a creative person, and writing is a great way to express this creativity.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Caldric Blackwell:
Yes, whenever I write I have to have sixteen Snickers bars lined up on my desk in the shape of a giant triangle, with one side slightly shorter than the other two.  I kid.  I don't have any quirks that I'm aware of.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing that you find most challenging?

Caldric Blackwell:
I think world building can be challenging.  I can't imagine writing something like Lord of the Rings, where you have thousands of places, events, and people to keep straight.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Caldric Blackwell:
I don't think I can make a blanket statement about what makes a good story.  There are so many variables at play.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What book(s) have most influenced you?

Caldric Blackwell:
I don't think there are any books that I can definitively say influenced my writing.  I'm sure a lot of my favorite books have influenced my writing on a subconscious level, however.  A lot of the books I admire, such as Quest by Aaron Becker and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, are completely unlike anything I've ever written.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What inspires you most?

Caldric Blackwell:
Music, nature, people, etc.  While writing my new picture book, The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf, I was mostly inspired by things that I thought were imaginative.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

Caldric Blackwell:
I don't think any of the characters in The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf are particularly like me.  They're all fairly unique.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating this book?

Caldric Blackwell:
The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf is the first picture book I've written, so I had to learn a lot about what works for me when writing a picture book.  One of the lessons that really stands out is the importance of ensuring the text and illustrations work together.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think your readers will take away from this book?

Caldric Blackwell:
My hope is that reading The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf will stimulate the reader's imagination.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your book different than others that fall under this genre?

Caldric Blackwell:
I think it strikes a decent balance between the fun, entertaining story and the theme.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's in your trunk?  (Everyone has something that they've hidden away to work on 'when they get time' - what's yours?)

Caldric Blackwell:
I almost wrote about my car jack and spare tire ... I have a lot of short stories I dabble with; maybe someday I'll put them together in a collection.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Caldric Blackwell:
My next release is a middle-grade novel titled The Missing Alchemist, set to be released on January 20.  It's very different from my picture book!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Caldric.  And I look forward to The Missing Alchemist -  you'll be back here in early February for that blog tour.  
            Before you go, where can we find you?

Caldric Blackwell:


About the author:
Caldric Blackwell realized he loved reading when he read about a bunch of people (with single-syllable names) and their pets (along with single-syllable names) in kindergarten.
            Exposure to a host of great authors while studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara inspired him to begin writing fiction.  Although he began writing short stories for adults, he eventually migrated to writing children's books.  His debut work is an early chapter book titled The Enchanted River Race.  His next release is a picture book, The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf.  
            Outside of writing, Caldric enjoys hiking, gardening, and playing a variety of string instruments.  Caloric currently resides in California.