Tuesday, December 28, 2010

13 Questions With...Elizabeth Hand

1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.
Losing myself for hours in a a make-believe world in the woods with my friends.

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?
Not really.  I don't like extremely large hairy spiders or scorpions.

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?
I'm more of a forager than a collector: I find cast-off things, broken plates and furniture and whatnot, and fix them up or display them.  We have a lot of first editions of wonderful books, but my partner collects those more than I do.  I have some photographs from the NYC punk scene in the 1970s, and a beautiful photo by Peter Beste, and an original paintings by the British visionary artist Donald Pass, but they don't really constitute a collection.  More just my magpie sensibility.

4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?
Gilled lamb chops, rare, with garlic.  A nice salad.  A baked potato.  A bottle of good red wine, creme brulee.

5. What is your favorite cookie?
Pecan sandies.

6. Who is your favorite author?

7. What musical artist are you currently into?
The Norwegian Black Metal band Enslaved.

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?
When I was little, I had an imaginary friend named Karen Cowgirl.  She was ... a cowgirl.  Bandanna, boots, hat, western shirt, lasso.  I also had an invisible pet mouse named Celery.  When my mother asked me why he was called Celery, I indignantly told her "Because that's his NAME."

9. What's your favorite word?

10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
A beautiful, moody, snowswept landscape featuring the Norwegian musician Gaahl, by the photographer Peter Beste.  I own the original print, and it's gorgeous.

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?
Dim sum in all its forms.

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?
William Shakespeare.  For the obvious reasons ...

13. What are you currently reading?
For review, a not very good book I won't name.  For myself, a reference book on ancient Norse religion.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Black Light

Black Light
Elizabeth Hand

Available through Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble and other brick and mortar bookstores near you.

In a nutshell, if you like atmospheric, evocative explorations into the human condition, in a time and place not too long ago, this is the book for you.
Elizabeth Hand takes us on a journey to Kamensic, Maine, where life is idyllic at best.  A town full of actors, actresses, artisans, and musicians.  We are introduced to
Kamensic circa 1970 where we meet young Charlotte "Lit" Moylan at a party in a mansion called Bolerium.  It is a fantastic place of sights and smells, of party revelers, of debauchery hinted at but not quite seen.  In the middle of this is one Axel Kern, friend of the Moylan family, godfather to Lit.  He's a filmmaker and a madman...and something more.
As time goes on and Lit grows to teenage-hood, her godfather has returned to Kamensic to begin a new film project, and to open Bolerium up once again, and throw a party to end all of his previous efforts.  Lit is caught up in a series of encounters that boggle the mind - there were times I started to wonder if Hand had dropped acid as she was writing as her set pieces became more and more fantastic.    There are mysterious orders, the Benandanti and the Malandanti, both hinted at tantalizingly; one can't help but want to know more about them and how they play into the melange Hand so skillfully creates.
What is Lit's place in all of this?  That is where the mystery so beautifully lies.
Is there anything really horrific about Black Light?
At times, yes.
At it's heart, it's a coming of age story about a young woman presented with a future that has been predestined for her...or has it?

I've read other novels by Hand and am never disappointed at the way she weaves words together.  Allow me to cite this paragraph:
Everything gleamed with a primal intensity: the crimson and indigo of the carpet so saturated they looked wet, the gold letters on the spines of books sparkling like flame.  Decanters on a small round table glowed as if they held paint rather than liqueurs - emerald green, blood-red, sunflower yellow.  A daybed  was heaped with tapestried pillows and there was a small cast-iron woodstove set into one wall, its isinglass window glowing beneath one of several beautifully carved plaques inscribed with Latin phrases...

Black Light is a voyage into the dark fantastic, some of the finer dark fantasy writing available today.
Try Elizabeth Hand.  You won't be disappointed.

For more information on Elizabeth Hand please visit:
Elizabeth Hand

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Horns

Joe Hill
Available through Amazon, B&N.com, Borders.com
and other brick and mortar bookstores.

In a nutshell, if you like a book that will grab you by the shirt collar and not let go until it's story has been told, then this book is for you.

Horns is many things.
It's a love story.  It's a story of misunderstandings.  It's a story of a deeply disturbed young man.  It's a story of how one right made a lot of wrongs.  It's the story of a man who must make peace with events through a medium he never expected.  It's a story of vengeance and redemption.  It is also a story of horror.

When we meet Ignatius "Ig" Perrish, he has just recovered from one hell of a bender and can't remember anything that's happened...except for the fact that his girlfriend-since-they-were-teenagers, Merrin, is still dead and everyone still thinks Ig did it, even thought he was exonerated for the crime.  He has also awakened with an inheritance - a set of horns on his head.
Said horns have an exceptional effect on people - they can't resist telling Ig their innermost secrets.  So, Ig decides maybe he can find out who really killed Merrin...and the fun ensues.
Be warned.  We're introduced to a character that has to be one of the most foul since Hannibal Lecter in a lot of ways...Lee Tourneau.  He's not a nice man at all.  He gives new meaning to the word "psychopath".

Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, and it shows.  He's rummaged in Dad's toolbox, but Hill has tools and a voice all his own, make no mistake.  The plot is tight, flashes back and forth in time without confusing the reader, and makes some interesting statements on the afterlife, revenge and what a demon will do when given the task of avenging someone.

Now, you may be asking yourself why I'm reviewing Mr. Hill as Horns is his third book, his second book, Heart-Shaped Box has been optioned for a film (Horns has, too) and obviously he is getting to the established section of authordom?
It's because he's so damned good I want everyone to know it.
I liked Horns a lot.  It winds it's way through it's story and by the time I got to the end?  I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out how it was going to end.
When I give a positive review, I like to submit the 13 Questions to the author to answer so you the reader can get to know them better.

I broached this with Joe Hill through his Twitter page:
@joe_hill I want to review Horns for The Written Universe...but I'll need you to answer the 13 Questions I pose to authors. Are you willing? 6:51 PM Jun 24th via web
@WrittenUniverse Sorry, I pro'ly couldn't swing it. Hope you had some fun with the book, tho. Friday, June 25, 2010 9:04:24 AM via web in reply to WrittenUniverse 
@joe_hill No problem - I'll only post at the end of the review you were too busy, but gracious about it (because you were)... Saturday, June 26, 2010 3:15:41 PM via web
For more information on Joe Hill please visit:
Joe Hill Fiction
Joe Hill on Twitter

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Written Universe Will Go On

Good evening constant reader,

I apologize for not posting anything sooner.
On August 11th, my son Evan was involved in a serious auto wreck.  He was unconscious from the time he was taken to the hospital and never regained consciousness.  He seemed to be improving and after a month in the hospital was transferred to a nursing home.  At that point, the doctor was telling us it was between Evan and the man upstairs as to when he would come out of his coma.
On the morning of September 14th, he passed away. 
His brain had herniated and was slowly swelling and ended up pressing on his respiratory center and that was what took his life.  There were no symptoms to warn what was happening and the injury was such that it was undetectable by CT scan or MRI.
My son's viewing and funeral was attended by between 300-500 people.  He touched more lives in his 23 years than people 4 times his age ever do.
Evan I will miss you for the rest of my life.
I love you my boy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

13 Questions with... Sapphire Phelan


1.Name one thing you miss about being a child.
Maybe the innocence I had. Though I still ooh and aah at fantastic things, I think my innocence as a child made those oohs and aahs greater. The child within me is still there, but not as perfect as it could be. I hope I made that understandable.

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?
Spiders and cockroaches. Hate them. Also, I have fear of heights lately.

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?

4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?
Chicken and dumplings with sushi, mashed potatoes, and green beans.

5. What is your favorite cookie?
Chocolate chip cookies.

6. Who is your favorite author?
Jim Butcher, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, really I have a lot of favorites, besides the ones I mentioned.

7. What musical artist are you currently into?
No one artist, and I like the older ones, like CCR, Meatloaf, etc...

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?
I think I had a lot as a child, as I grew up alone (both half-sisters were adults by time I was born) and entertained myself with the stories and people and creatures in my head. I was writing down those stories since I was eight years old.

9. What's your favorite word?
Dream? Because I hope that is where my stor4ies come from. I like a lot of words, especially if I come across cool words that I never heard of or saw before.

10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
Alaska snow-topped mountains and water with ice floes.

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?
Sushi, for sure. JalapeƱo chicken and chicken and broccoli.

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?
My father. Also Edgar Allan Poe.

13. What are you currently reading?
Bloodring by Faith Hunter.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: Being Familiar With a Witch

Being Familiar With a Witch
by Sapphire Phelan
Downloadable e-book
available in these formats:
HTML, PDF, Rocket/REB 1100,
Mobipocket, and Microsoft Reader
from Phaze Books

In a nutshell, if you like paranormal romance with explicit sex that's a quick read, then this book might be for you.

Our story begins as we accompany an incubus, Charun, as he haunts a woman in the throes of an erotic dream.  He is about to do what incubi do best when he is summoned to Hell by his superior, Byleth.  Charun is told he will lose incubus status and be assigned to a witch on Earth, in this case, Tina, as her familiar.  It will be up to him, on her 21st birthday to consummate their relationship to activate her latent magickal abilities.  This must occur or Armageddon will start, wiping mankind from the face of the Earth and giving sway to Lucifer and all the demons of Hell.

Charun spends the next 21 years watching Tina grow and mature, unaware of her witchcraft.  When she turns 21, Charun assumes the guise of a black cat and insinuates himself into Tina's life - finally revealing his true nature of being a demon to her.  He explains who he is and why he is there and gives her a deadline of Halloween to consummate their relationship in order for her powers to bloom.

Tina is initially skeptical, then comes to accept what she's been told, still a bit on the "oh sure" side of things.  However, she cannot deny her attraction to Charun (he takes on a hunky human look). 

The book is short, 116 pages, qualifying more as a novella than a true book.
It is chock-full of explicit language and sex scenes...and I do mean explicit.
Is this for everyone?  Possibly not, it depends on how much sex you like in your paranormal romance.
There's a smattering of magick behind the goings on in this tale, but nothing too involved.

The writing is not bad - the reading level here though is sparse (not a lot of time spent on detail)  but is heavy and detailed when the sex scenes show up.  That was a little jarring for me, as I would be reading along on what felt like a junior high school level and then wham, here was the XXX rated sex scenes.
I honestly think Sapphire Phelan can write - despite the explicit romps, I found myself drawn in to the action. 
As short as the story is, I did find the charaters of Charun and Tina engaging and well-crafted.
In fact, I wanted more detail regarding these characters.

I would like to see Ms. Phelan take on a longer and more involved work - she did pretty well within the shortness of this novella, but I believe she would shine given a longer format in which to develop her story and her characters,
Bottom line?  Watch out for Sapphire Phelan - she has the tools, and deserves a bigger canvas on which to work.

For more information on Sapphire Phelan please visit:
Sapphire Phelan's Blog
Sapphre Phelan's Facebook
Follow Sapphire Phelan on Twitter
Sapphire Phelan on MySpace

Friday, July 16, 2010

13 Questions with... M. Amanuensis Sharkchild

1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?
I get a bit squeamish when I have to kill a big bug.

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?

4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?
Double cheeseburger, fries, breaded veal, mashed potatoes, beef wellington, bread with olive oil and vinegar, strawberries, and homemade cheesecake (family recipe).

5. What is your favorite cookie?
Chocolate Chip.

6. Who is your favorite author?
H.P. Lovecraft.

7. What musical artist are you currently into?
Before The Dawn (Finnish melodic death metal)

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?

9. What's your favorite word?

10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
An image that my friend John Stifter drew for me of an angel clad in armor.

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?
Chow mein and orange chicken (mainly), with some fried rice, egg rolls, and beef and broccoli,

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?
H.P. Lovecraft, so we could discuss the subject of dreaming.

13. What are you currently reading?
The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: The Dark Verse

The Dark Verse
Volume One
From the Passages of Revenants
M. Amanuensis Sharkchild
Available through Amazon and from http://sharkchild.com/

In a nutshell, if you like taking a white-knuckled ride into the darker corners of the imagination, then this is a book for you.

The first thing you notice about this book is the graphic presentation.
It's a hard cover, black in color with an intricate silver foil illustration on the front .  Open the book and the end papers are artwork unto themselves, the paper is heavy grade, and each story has it's own individual illustration on its first page (illustrations courtesy of John F. Stifter)  The design alone tells you you're not in for the same old short story collection.
Our author, the enigmatic M. Amanuensis Sharkchild compiled this volume from material for his spoken word podcast, The Dark Verse.
Collected here are 26 of those stories, stories as lovingly crafted as the book itself is.  The term "wordsmith" comes to mind in describing Sharkchild's writing...he uses words to paint exquisite portraits of the fantastic, the wonderful, the terrible, the horrible.

Stand outs include "Gift of the Crossroads", where a scrap of fabric found in the kitchen begins one man's nightmare odyssey.  At one point as I was reading this story, I literally exclaimed out loud "God! Dude!", over a turn of events, and continued to the following page and gasped out loud.  That rarely if ever happens when I'm reading anything.
"The Missing Come Home" details one father and the loss of his daughter and her unexpected return and the horrifying consequences which ensue, rather than a joyous homecoming.
"The Captive Inside" which will make me forever think twice about wishing for a dusty old toy shop to dig through and whiling away the hours working a jigsaw puzzle (and for me that's saying something as I like and am fairly skilled at jigsaw puzzles).
There are two stories, "The Changing Feyth Part One" and "The Changing Feyth Part Two", that are crying to be developed into one full-length novel of their very own.  

The book is obviously a labour of love and artistry in the way it's presented.
Nearly every story, while more than able to stand alone on it's own as a self-contained jewel, could be expanded to a novel-length exploration.
It's as if each story is but a fleeting glimpse into one universe of the insane and horrific.
Yes, the writing is that good.

The cost of the book is $22.99 - and well worth it.

To find out more about M. Amanuensis Sharkchild, please visit:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

13 Questions with ...Jason Beil

1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.
I miss the sense of wonder.  Everything was new, and it was so easy to get excited over a movie, or a book, or the new record by your favorite band.  Now, as an adult, it’s too easy to become jaded and adopt a “been there, done that” attitude.

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?

I was pretty scared that time some psycho ran out in front of the van I was driving waving a gun around.  So crazy people with firearms.  That’s my phobia.

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?

Comic books.  Although, I don’t know if I’m a collector or just a fanboy.  I just love the medium... everything from superhero stuff to the more cutting edge adult material.

4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?

Depends on what I’m in the mood for.  Probably a big steak, medium rare.

5. What is your favorite cookie?

Chocolate chip... is there any other kind?

6. Who is your favorite author?

Good question.  Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy and obviously a huge influence on me.  Recently, I’ve been most impressed by George RR Martin, although if he doesn’t bring out his next book soon I’m sending him hate mail.

7. What musical artist are you currently into?

I guess I’d have to admit my latest flavor du jour is Lady Gaga.  She’s actually a very talented young woman.  However, I doubt anyone will ever knock Depeche Mode off the top spot of my all-time favorites list.

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?

No imaginary friends.  Imaginary enemies, on the other hand...

9. What's your favorite word?


10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
A dog getting sprayed in the face by a sprinkler.  My daughter put it on there.

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?

The question is... what DOESN’T go on my plate.  I love Chinese!

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?

Robert Jordan.  I want to give him hell for everything after book 6 in the Wheel of Time.

13. What are you currently reading?

Just catching up on my funnybooks.  The last real book I read was Atlas Shrugged (loved it!).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Revew: The Talisman of Faerie

The Talisman of Faerie
Jason Beil
Available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon,
Alibris, eBookPie

In a nutshell: If you are just starting to read fantasy novels, this is a good place to start, but this statement comes with a warning.

The Talisman of Faerie is a decent fantasy; there's the hero, Alec Mason, a humble baker, the girl,
Sarah, mysterious men like Michael, swashbucklers like Lorn, faerie folk, kings and queens, bad guys and evil sorcerers like Salin Urdrokk.  There's a talisman that must be returned to whence it came in order to preserve the land.  We've also got an army of the undead and ogres.

If any of this seems familiar, that's because it is.  The Talisman of Faerie borrows heavily from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  
Without giving away anything of great importance, allow me to numerate them:
Instead of a mountain hollowed out by dwarves that must be passed through to get to where the hero's party is going, it's a faerie burial chamber in the hollowed out mountain they must pass through. 
Instead of a ring of great power, it's a talisman of great power.  
The faerie folk are preternaturally beautiful and live in a stunning forest land in the trees.
One other borrowed theme is a sword Alec is gifted with named Flame which seems to feed the wielder's lust for blood, and also resists being handled by others.  I couldn't help but think of the prescient blades in Michael Moorcock's Elric series.

Is the story entertaining?
There are times however, the book could have stood some more critical editing.  I thought if  Alec had to posit one more time how he was going to get to go back home and be a baker after this was all over one more time, I was going to scream.  Twice is fine...but after that, the events surrounding the character are so tumultuous and life-changing, Alec started sounding silly thinking he was going to return to a normal life at the end of the journey to return the talisman to the faeries.
There are some really good battle scenes with more blood and gore than I expected, a nice love story that blooms sensibly and enough rabbit trails that leave you wondering what lies at the end.  I'm assuming some of those trails are explored in the sequel, Sword of Kings.

Should you read this?
Yes, if you haven't read Lord of the Rings or any other of the classic standards of the fantasy genre.  Some fantasy novels overburden themselves with plots that twist too much, loaded down with a host of characters that make it hard to keep up with who is doing what to whom and where.  The Talisman of Faerie is compact in that regard, with enough characters to make it interesting, but not too many to keep up with, and not so many plot lines that you can't keep up with the action.  Biel has crafted a tight story that starts in one direction and doesn't wander off confusing the reader with too many subplots as some fantasies are wont to do.
If you're just starting out reading the fantasy genre, this is a good place to start.  I think Beil has talent and with more writing will continue to weave even more entertaining stories of the fantastic.

For more information on Jason Beil, please go to

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Undercroft Stories

Undercroft Stories
T H Davis
Available from the author by email request to:

In a nutshell: if you like short horror stories that are charged with atmosphere and urge you to turn the page to find out what happens next, then this is the book for you.

It's rare to find an anthology where all the stories are good.
TH Davis's Undercroft Stories is one of those rarities.
Every story is a winner.  I read this with a mixture of creeping unease and mounting excitement, hoping with the end of each great story, another was going to follow.  I was never disappointed.

As you read, it's as if Davis is standing next to you, his arm around your shoulder, walking you through the Undercroft, pointing out the people and places that populate it, thrilling to your reactions as the tales unfold.

After reading Black Lodge, you will never look at shadows again the same way.
In Unholy Rosary, an abandoned (and some say desecrated) convent becomes the stage for one man's descent into madness.
Oubliette serves up a chilling tale, full of claustrophobia and inevitability.
Pay the Ferryman is a harrowing take on the revenge from the grave story.
Once you've read Beneath the Water, you may think twice the next time you go to a secluded fishing spot.
Thy Will Be Done shows us what happens when we don't take something seriously, resulting in horrible consequences.
And finally, Prayer to Demugrah'keh illustrates what tampering with archaeological artifacts can cause.

Each story is atmospheric and finely crafted, with characters that, in such a short format, come to vivid life.
TH Davis is a master at crafting stories that scare and leave you breathless and wanting more.

This young author (he's only 24) has a long and prolific career ahead of him and needs a publisher sooner than later.I don't want to compare him to any one else out there, because it's apparent he has a voice all his own.
I cannot wait to see what he does with a fully fleshed out novel.

For more information on TH Davis, please visit:

Friday, March 26, 2010

13 Questions... with Shaun Jeffrey

      1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.
Only one thing. Damn! Okay, the one thing I miss is innocence. 

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?
Nothing springs to mind. I pick up spiders and throw them out of the house. I’ve sat in the middle of a bar with a snake around my neck. I used to go rock climbing so heights don’t bother me. No, no phobias. 

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?
God, yes. Rejection letters. Books. Bubble bath containers. Lucky charms. 

4. You're about to walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?
I’m a vegetarian, so I’d go for vegetable balti with naan bread. 

5. What is your favorite cookie?
I’m not that big of a biscuit fan. I used to work in a biscuit factory, and when you see the cockroaches scurrying under the ovens and the stalactites of fat hanging down from the top of the ovens, it sort of puts you off. 

6. Who is your favorite musical artist(s)?
Favourite artists, let’s see: Korn. Slipknot. Rammstein. Richard Wagner. The Prodigy. 

7. What musical artist are you currently into?

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?
Who’s to say what’s real and what isn’t? 

9. What's your favorite word?
Success, because it doesn’t come easily. 

10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
It’s a McDonalds Dragon thing that I put on for my son. 

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?
Tofu with black bean sauce and fried rice. 

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?
Leonardo Da Vinci, perhaps one of the most diversely talented people that’s ever lived. Painter. Sculptor. Architect. Engineer. Musician. Inventor. Botanist. Writer. The list goes on. I would love to have chatted with him. 

13. What are you currently reading?
I’m going over a manuscript of another novel featuring Prosper Snow, the lead character from my novel The Kult.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: The Kult

The Kult
Shaun Jeffrey
Available through Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, Book Depository, and Leucrota Press.

In a nutshell, if you like a great mystery/thriller/horror novel that grabs you and drags you along for the ride and doesn't let up til the last minute, this book is for you.

Mr. Jeffrey is like the friendly carnival barker who cajoles you into stepping right up and sitting your butt right down in his dark ride of horror and suspense.
The Kult starts out with a jolt as you strap in and hang on.
The Oracle is a master at murder, each of his kills a work of art, premeditated and rendered with exquisite care.
Our protagonist, Prosper Snow, a police detective is in the middle of this horrendous investigation, seemingly stymied at every turn, as The Oracle taunts the police with photos of his gruesome crime scenes.
Prosper is a driven man. Already dogged by guilt over an accident that has maimed his wife, he is now doubly deviled with this series of crimes.  As if his plate is not full enough, enter the Kult, an organization of which Prosper is a member, who call upon him to carry out a deed that goes against everything he stands for.
How Prosper and Company's actions entwine with those of The Oracle is how this particular ride takes off on a break neck pace that never lets up.
To say more I would have to give away too much and I don't want to ruin the reading experience.
There is gore galore for the gore hound, and disturbing glimpses into how far men are willing to go when pushed.
There were times when I literally became dry-mouthed reading this book the suspense was so great.
There are wonderful stomach churning descriptions of murder and mayhem that become darker with each plot twist.
Jeffrey renders claustrophobic you-are-there descriptions towards the end of the book that had me turning the pages as quickly as possible to:
a) find out what happened next,
b) to get the character the hell out of the mess they were in.
Three times I thought I had it figured out who The Oracle was and all three times I was wrong.  When the revelation did come I was totally unprepared.
The characters are flesh and blood jumping off the page.  He uses clever turns of phrase throughout the book, but not so much that they become cute catch phrases solely to be cute catch phrases.

By the time this dark ride came to an end, I was wrung out...and that's just the way I like it.

Shaun Jeffrey is a British author, one who most assuredly bears watching.
In my opinion, a good horror novel is hard to come by these days - Shaun Jeffrey is the real deal.

(I want to add that The Kult has been optioned as a motion picture to be directed by Kip Shelton, with shooting slated for September 2010.
This is especially good news, as Jeffrey's writing strikes me as being cinematic in nature, and The Kult dead on for a thriller of a film.)

For more information on Shaun Jeffrey, please visit:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good news for author CA Milson!

Good evening constant reader.
I wanted to share an exciting piece of news about one of the first authors I reviewed, CA Milson:

PR Log - Global Press Release Distribution
Horror Novelist C.A. Milson Strikes Deal With U.S. Based EDGE Publishing Company
By Amanda Clark
Dated: Feb 28, 2010

"The road to writing success for any author can be a difficult and arduous journey, however, Australian native, C.A. Milson, is looking forward to having a partner in his future endeavors. After years of working in the industry alone, he is now happy to say that his hard work has started to pay off. Milson's book, "The Chosen: Rise of the Darkness," first in a horror series now has the true opportunity to succeed. Milson just signed with U.S. based publisher, EDGE Publishing Company.

 "I have been working on my writing for years, but being international and a self publisher, it can be
difficult to get your books on the shelf in many of the large U.S. chains, I knew I needed a traditional
publisher to help me," stated Milson. "I am so excited to be an EDGE author."

 EDGE Publishing Company, through the direction of President, Phillip Vera, specializes in working with authors who are looking for a way to cut through the bureaucratic red-tape and "hoop jumping" of the publishing industry. "When I first read Chris's story, I realized he was a great writer with a unique story and I wanted to be a part of it. This book deserves to be in print," stated Vera. "I am looking forward to a long relationship with Chris and I can't wait to promote his work."

 Furthermore, there are other big things in the works. EDGE Publishing Company recently signed an
agreement with C.A. Link, a Chinese Literary Agency based in Minnesota, specifically for Milson's work.

This agreement will allow Milson's books to be marketed and sold to the Asian market.
 "I was so excited when I learned about the deal with C.A. Link, because I had been approached by them, but I couldn't do anything because I wasn't with a traditional publishing house. EDGE changed that and now billions of people might have the opportunity to read my work," stated Milson excitedly.

 Milson has been the recipient of numerous awards including placing in the Pre-editors & Editors Readers Poll in 2008 and working through deals to turn his book into a comic, a video game, an audio-book and an e-book.

"Chris has a fantastic product and he is an incredible writer. It's great that he is able to get more exposure and audiences around the world are going to be able to see his work in stores," stated Milson's agent, Amanda Clark of Charlotte, North Carolina based, Grammar Chic, Inc. "We are looking forward to getting his books on shelves very soon."

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate CA on this recent accomplishment.  Way to go!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Re-stating the purpose

Good afternoon constant reader.

I'm reading away on the next book up for review and wanted to take this opportunity to re-state the purpose of this blog and generally touch base.

I created this bog to review, at no cost to the author, books in the science fiction, horror, fantasy and mystery genres; books written by first time or just-starting-out authors.   I don't promise a good review, only a fair one.
There are lots of ways to get published these days, but once an author has seen print, how do they get reviewed so they can garner a readers attention?
I know of some sites that charge $175 for a positive review, and $35 to just list the book on their site.
To me, personally, that's blasphemy.
So I started this blog.

What are my qualifications to review books?
I love to read and read constantly.
I love genre fiction and want to give new authors as much help getting known as possible.
I worked in bookstores for 12 years and in a university library for 2 years.  From those experiences I developed a good sense of what it is readers want:
They want a good story.
They want originality.
They want characters that they can identify with on some level.
They want an ending that makes sense (and that doesn't always mean a happy ending).

I include a feature called 13 Questions, where I pose a baker's dozen worth of questions to the reviewed author (if the review is positive) so you can get to know a little bit about them.
From time to time, (as luck will allow is more like it), I will review an established author, focusing on a work of theirs I think needs more exposure, and will try like hell to get the 13 questions answered. 
For example, I'm reviewing a little at a time the Irene Adler books by accomplished author Carole Nelson Douglas, and at the end of that cycle will post her responses to the 13.
There's another established author whose responses I already have (thanks to author Nick Armbrister for making that contact for me!) and I will be posting that review in a few weeks.

So here I am...reviewing the genre fiction I like to read, discovering some really good talent and sharing it with you constant reader.

Be well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review: Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) Love & Friendship

Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) Love and Friendship
Reyanna Vance
Available on Lulu.com for $15.75 trade and on Amazon in a $2.99 Kindle edition.

In a nutshell: by the time I made it to the last page, I felt like I needed to take my eyes out and wash them off.

All right constant readers...this is the first negative review I've had to write and it was a long journey getting here.

I need to go on record and say I have a bias against reading books submitted to me via pdf file, as they tend to lull me to sleep while reading. I've had to resort to reading with my iPod in to stay awake. However, the other submissions sent via pdf were able to hold my interest. Sadly, this wasn't the case with Dies Irae. By the time I reached the end of this book, (506 pages, in two parts), I was more than ready to quit reading.

The world we find our story set in has dragons and humans intermingling, with dragons able to take on human form. Magic plays a role in this fantasy exercise, but not as much as you'd think...or hope.

Samara Callaghan is perfectly content to work her job in her grandparent's tavern until she is paid a visit by a mysterious woman who claims to know the truth behind the death of Samara's parents all those years ago. Samara naturally wants to get to the bottom of things and in so doing, discovers they died fighting the black dragon Cyril, their deaths resulting in his captivity in an orb. Cyril has been plotting to release himself ever since and is on the verge of doing just that, aided by his son, Danteous...who ends up meeting and falling for Samara...who is charged with finding the orb containing Cyril and destroying it before he can be set free to destroy all humanity...and therein lies the conflict.

Vance starts us off with a created world necessary for a fantasy story, but it lacks the details needed to make it come alive. It sufficed for a while, but took a real wrong turn when she introduced a radio and a computer to the mix. This was done in such a jarring way, I was wondering where I missed the fact that this world had electricity and other modern-day amenities. Fantasy books nearly always have a created world (Frank Herbert's Dune is a terrific example) and Vance fails to provide that here.

Character-wise, Samara is ok.
Leela, the mysterious woman who leads Samara to the discovery of what happened to her parents is put across as a hard-ass, hateful person to the point that I felt like she had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and felt like I was being hit over the head at every turn about how tough she was.
Rufus is the surviving brother of an attack against Samara and Leela, and becomes a tag-a-long on the quest. He's the best of the bunch, and is consistent throughout the book.
Kit is an irritating young lady who pick pockets Leela at one point. Due to Samara's soft-heartedness, Kit is brought along on the adventure as well. Kit is annoying as hell and I wanted to wring her neck. She may provide a little comic relief at times, but she is a character that is non-essential to the story.
Danteous is our bad guy, and all he does is smirk, act smug, smile crookedly and kill people. He doesn't seem all that evil, but according to his sister Leela (oh yes, she's his sister, forgot that little detail), he's completely ruthless.
The characters are too pat and paint-by-number.

Once Danteous and Samara meet and fall for one another, we are hit over the head again and again and again with the fact that they must kill one another and are never going to be on the same side. They meet up constantly and fall into each others arms only to part with neither one willing to come over to the others side. Then they kiss...and on it goes. I couldn't work up a lot of sympathy for this pair of star-crossed lovers.
The book would benefit greatly by some judicious editing. The same themes are repeated over and over.
Vance has some talent, but she desperately needs a good editor to bear their expertise on her work.

The book ends with Samara, Leela, Rufus and Kit stranded on a high mountain peak, in a blizzard, low on provisions and money, 2 of the 4 falling out from exhaustion.
I asked myself the question, "Do I really care what happens to these people?" and the answer was a resounding, "No, I hope they freeze to death and so endeth the story."

The saga is continued in Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) Betrayal and Tribulation, which I have. Do I intend to read it and see how things turn out?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: Good Night Mr. Holmes

Good Night Mr. Holmes
Carole Nelson Douglas
Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Borders.com and B&N and Borders retail bookstore locations.

In a nutshell, if you like mysteries set in Victorian England, with lots of spot-on period details and engaging/endearing characters, then this book is for you. And by the way, Victorian England in this instance does not equal boring and stuffy.

Before I get on with the review, no, this is not a horror, science fiction or fantasy novel, nor was it penned by an author just starting out, so yes, I freely broke out of my own set of reviewing parameters.

Carole Nelson Douglas is an accomplished author, with 61 books to her credit, amongst them her successful Midnight Louie mystery series, and this series, the Irene Adler mysteries.
I wanted to shine the spotlight on Douglas's Irene novels since we just saw the character of Irene Adler brought to life in the recent film, Sherlock Holmes.
Granted, Douglas's Irene was not the precise inspiration for the theatrical Irene; however, her books bring the reader a very likable and fascinating character and deserve to be read.

Irene Adler is "the woman" to Sherlock Holmes and the only woman to ever outwit him.
In Good Night Mr. Holmes, we meet Penelope Huxleigh, who is Irene's own Dr. Watson, and it is through her eyes we are told the tale.
Penelope and Irene meet on the streets of London after Penelope has been dismissed from her job at a fabric purveyor, homeless and penniless. Irene deftly saves Penelope from being accosted by a street urchin and the two end up taking a meal together, leading to Irene revealing her powers of observation concerning Penelope's circumstances. Rather taken aback, Penelope nonetheless accepts Irene's offer of lodging for the night and thus their friendship starts.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Charles Tiffany & Anton Dvorak, which lend the tale a true-to-life air.
Missing jewels, a thought-to-be-lost personal possession and a widow's inheritance are a few of the mysteries Irene must solve, with Sherlock Holmes himself, haunting the background.
However, it is Irene's involvement with the Prince soon-to-be King of Bohemia that takes up the second half of the book and lays the groundwork for an interesting twist at the end.

Irene is clever, advanced in her way of thinking and acting for woman of her time, which makes reading this so enjoyable.

Good Night Mr. Holmes is a rousing start to an 8 book series and I intend to review the rest of the Irene books, so watch this space!

For more information on Carole Nelson Douglas, please visit:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

13 Questions...with Anneke van Ginn aka Nick Armbrister

1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.
My old holidays to my aunties cottage in the English Lake District. Where I got into nature whilst out hiking around the lakes and mountains it was a very special time this is how my pagan religion of today was formed.

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?
Yes Ii have a phobia of needles but to look at me now you wouldn't think so coz now I have 36 or so tattoos. My phobia was from bad dentists when I was a kid and them not using an anesthetic on me so I hate dentists and their needles. I don't like blood tests but I'll have them if I have to but only when forced to!
And I don't like spiders coz they crawl and look spooky! Though they're part of nature and that but I'm not a fan of them though even though I like goth stuff.

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?
Good question lol I collect tattoos and have over 35 now and I've actually lost count I have ink from many good studios in the north and south of England. Tribal, nature, witches, sexy women(come on I'm a guy lol), warplanes, song words from bands I love and their names and singers like The Gathering and Agua de Annique and also Ghost Dance.
I also collect Liz Hand books from her early ones to her newer ones.
And I collect CDs by bands I love like The Gathering and old skool records by All About Eve and other 80s bands.
In my youth I used to collect model plastic airplane kits and I had over 300 of them!

4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?
Tough question! Ok I'd have a mixed kebab on nan bread with 4 types of meat on it - chicken donna, chicken shish, lamb donner and another with all the trimmings like salad, salad cream and hot sauce.

5. What is your favorite cookie?
Chocolate cookies! Lots of them.

6. Who is your favorite author?
It would be mad to say myself so I'll say two in joint top position Elizabeth Hand and Sven Hassel.

7. What musical artist are you currently into?
Anne Marie Hurst of Ghost Dance and Skeletal Family a great English 1980s singer now back in music after a 20yr gap. Her music is still wicked and new sounding. I love her Stop the World record in Ghost Dance.

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?
They lol? That's more than one, actually no I don't think I did though I can't think back over 30yrs ago to when I was a kid. I guess I did but I can't think who now lol.

9. What's your favorite word?

10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
One of a grassy hillside under blue sky.

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?
What I ate tonight from the Chinky Chippy lol chips, sausage and egg fried rice. I like crispy duck too.

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?
Russian/Soviet air ace Lilya Litvyak coz she's one of my heroines of all time she was a brilliant air combat pilot who inspires me no end.

13. What are you currently reading?
State of Fear by Michael Crichton and By Any Means Necessary by William E Burrows.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: The Final War

The Final War
Anneke van Ginn
(Nick Armbrister)
Available through Amazon in paperback for $10.48 or through Lulu in paperback for $11.90

In a nutshell: If you like war-torn civilizations, alternate histories, sex, violence, bloodshed, explosions, aliens and witchcraft, then this is the book for you.

From the introduction:

"A time and town so very different from now, several key events have changed European history forever. First the civil war of 2005 – 08 is now over, which led to the break up of United Kingdom. A quarter of a million died achieving what politics never could.
The weeklong conflict with France is over. From what started as a fishing dispute led to
a localised nuclear war in which thirty million British and fifty million French perished.
The madness that irradiated half of Europe stopped.
A third key event saved the remaining innocents from the abyss. The arrival of a girl
with special powers from nowhere, a so-called Goddess of the Earth, she is called
Juniper’s Daughter…"

Thus begins a tale of a call to arms amidst the aftermath of civil and nuclear war, as penned by British author Nick Armbrister, writing as Anneke van Ginn.

The story starts at a clip and doesn't ease up - Armbrister employs prose packed with action and detail.
Our characters, Lee, Sarah, John, Gun Barrel and Red drive the story and tell the tale of their efforts as freedom fighters after the UK has been ravaged by civil war.
Into this comes the rumor of a young woman who may be able to save the war torn land, Juniper's Daughter. Who is she and where does she come from? These questions are answered in the last third of the book (lending things to a sequel quite nicely).
The first two thirds of the book deal with the freedom fighters efforts at repelling English army troops intent on preventing any more fight for freedom.
Explosions, gun fights, strategizing, bloodshed, capture and escape - it's all here.

Armbrister injects his tale with bits of humor - either coming out of the mouths of his characters or as an aside to the reader and it works every time.
The characters are well-drawn and their dialogue is easy and never forced.
All the guns and ammo are lovingly detailed - this writer knows his armaments!
The story barrels headlong, with details snowballing on top of one another, driving the story to it's conclusion.

Armbrister has explored the Cold War and the effect it has on his writing shows through in this effort quite clearly, proving with this entry he deserves a larger audience.

As I read, it struck me that this cries out to be made into a film - I see it along the lines of The Road Warrior or Doomsday.
The mix here of an alternate history, alien intervention, blood and witchcraft firmly seats this in a section any reader of genre fiction can appreciate. I had a good time reading this.

For more information on Nick Armbrister, (aka Anneke van Ginn) please go to:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

13 Questions...with CA Milson


1. Name one thing you miss about being a child.
The one thing I would miss about being a child is how simple things were. We tend to see things a lot different when we are children; running and playing without a care in the world. The imagination was a lot richer back then too :-) I personally think we have the whole life thing backwards. I think we should die first, and get that out of the way. Then we immediately go to a nursing home until they kick us out because we're too young to be there. Then, we get a gold watch and go to work, then we go to college, then we go to school. Then we leave school because we are too young to be there, and we live the remaining days running and playing with no responsibilities :-) Nice huh!

2. Do you have any phobias? If so, what are they?
Off the top of my head I cannot think of any. Except maybe bugs. Nasty little creatures they are, especially cockroaches. Not the ones you get in the States, but the nasty flying ones you see in Aussie. Absolute disgusting! :-) Nothing worse than having roaches in your house. Some parts of Australia are notorious for them, no matter how clean your house it. That and spiders! Give me a scorpion or a snake anyday thanks :-)

3. Are you a collector of anything and if so, what?
Movies. I like to amass as many movies as I can. I am a film nut at heart. There is nothing I like to do more in my down-time than watching a movie. I have hundreds of movies in storage and several hundred on my computer :-) (Yes, I have a beast of a computer that I just refer to as "beast") :-)

4. You're about the walk the Green Mile - what do you have for your last meal?
That is a good question. Never really thought about it that much, but at first thought I will almost quote Jack Nicholson's character Melvin Udall from "As Good As it Gets": 3 eggs overeasy, 8 strips of bacon, short stack, fries, cornbread with gravy, and a huge cuppachino :-) (Hey, well I did say almost quote him) :-)

5. What is your favorite cookie?
Without a doubt, one of the best would be Tim Tams :-) Until you have dipped a Tim-Tam into a cup of hot chocolate, you haven't lived :-)

6. Who is your favorite author?
Stephen King.

7. What musical artist are you currently into?
I don't have a favorite singer but I do like a variety of music. What appeals to me more is the beat. There are some songs that are good, but there are also a lot of music that quite frankly gives me a headache.

8. Have you ever had an imaginary friend? If so, who are they?
I don't think I have had an imaginary friend since I was a child. Of course, when I was a child I used to hang out with Batgirl.. Oh my, now I am stepping well into the past. Now who was it that played Batgirl in the 1960's Batman show?

9. What's your favorite word?
Any word that comes out of my mouth which sounds long and impressive :-)

10. What is your current desktop wallpaper?
A rocky cliff overlooking the ocean and there is a lighthouse in the background.

11. You're at a Chinese buffet - what goes on your plate?
Easy. Dim sims, spring rolls, steamed pork buns, won tons, special fried rice, sweet & sour pork, sweet & sour chicken, beef in black bean sauce.. All on one plate :-)

12. What person now deceased would you most want to spend some time with and why?
I think for this one I have a list somewhere. Ab Lincoln would be in the top 5; Ronny Reagan naturally for being one of the most influencial leaders of the 21st century; Michael Jackson because of how he changed and redefined the music industry; Vlad the Impaler, strictly for research reasons for one of my upcoming books; The Apostle Paul for inspirational reasons; and there are no doubt some others in there. Of course, my list does change from time to time, depending on the way my own life makes a series of stops and unexpected turns.

13. What are you currently reading? A collection of poems by two very talented writers who should take the next step :-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: The Chosen - Rise of the Darkness

The Chosen - Rise of the Darkness
CA Milson
Available through Amazon in hardcover for $21.03 or in paperback for $15.96

In a nutshell: if you like stories where battles are waged between man and forces of the darker regions, then this book is for you.

CA Milson has crafted a well-paced story of man versus demonic forces, both intent on winning the day.

Our main characters are all paranormalists of some stripe, some really into the game and others with motives less than pure.

It all starts when Alex attends a seminar where fellow paranormal investigators are going to speak. We are introduced to Usher, a Cherokee Indian who has a gift for sensing the supernatural and Drake Winters, the All-American Boy who has taken to paranormal research.
Another personality in the paranormal world is discussed in the seminar, one Jamiesonn, who back in the 1700s established a cult and literally indulged in human sacrifice and all manner of atrocities until local townspeople where he lived put him to death in a variety of ways - yes, you read that right, ways...he pulled a Rasputin and just wouldn't die and ended up literally disappearing before the crowds eyes...dead or not? You decide.
During the discussion at the seminar, it is posited that Jamiesonn survived and is merely biding his time to come back and take up his evil ways.
Drake declares he will be the one to send Jamiesonn to another plane of existence, but Alex doesn't believe he can.

Drake and Alex form an uneasy alliance, neither one really trusting the other, and set out to find Jamiesonn and stop him. Before they can, an apparition appears and warns them off - and then the fun starts.

Demonic forces begin to run rampant...visions are seen and heard, death prevails, people are taken over by demons...blood runs.
Yet there is another force at work here in the form of a scroll that was found in some Mayan ruins which tells of the destruction of the greatest civilizations in history. The scroll contains the name of The One who will end the strife and preserve mankind.

It is from this point that Milson takes us on a frenetic ride of demons running amuck, forces of good opposing forces of evil, and Alex's journey into the midst of this maelstrom.

Ultimately this is a story of good versus evil, playing out their epic battles in the midst of mankind who is usually woefully inept at handling a crisis like this.
Milson pens a story revealing how we as humans are sometimes asked to do some things we don't think we can do to go towards the greater good.

My only complaint is there were a few set pieces in the book where I would have liked to see more detail. Don't get me wrong, you get enough to know what's happening, but I could see some places where Milson could have stood to add a little meat to his stew.

Milson says Stephen King is an inspiration and I have to admit there were times when I did notice the writing did bring to mind the style of a younger SK.

Take note - the story will continue in Bloodline of Darkness.
For more information on the sequel visit: http://bloodlineofdarkness.info/About_The_Book.html
For more information on CA Milson, visit: http://www.authorcamilson.com/

Friday, January 1, 2010

Coming soon to this blog

Good evening constant reader.

The purpose of The Written Universe is, primarily, to expose new authors to you the reader.

However, seeing as how this is my blog and I can review whatever I please, we're going to take that fabled left turn at Albuquerque.

In the coming weeks I intend to review a series of books, the Irene Adler mysteries by accomplished author Carole Nelson Douglas.
In 1990, Ms Douglas published her first Irene tale, Good Night Mr Holmes. It was my pleasure then, when the book came out, to host an author signing for Carole for this title. I read it and was completely enchanted with it.
After that came Good Morning, Irene, (1990, aka The Adventuress), Irene At Large, (1992, aka A Soul of Steel), and Irene's Last Waltz (1994, aka Another Scandal in Bohemia).
There followed 4 more Irene books, Chapel Noir (2001), Castle Rouge (2002), Femme Fatale (2003) and Spider Dance (2004).

What is so special about these books?
For starters, they're good, really good - Irene Adler as written by Carole Nelson Douglas is a strong, resourceful female character, one you can't help but enjoy.
Now that there is a major motion picture currently in theatres, Sherlock Holmes, and said film features the character of Irene Adler, I wanted to throw attention to Carole's books, and let you the reader know Irene has been given a different life in these books and deserves to be discovered.

I will go on record here and and state that I have not read the last 4 books in the series. However, that will be rectified as soon as possible.
In the meantime, I intend to re-read the first 4 books, and review them 2 at a time over a period of weeks.