Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology Features Our Man Fred by A.F. Stewart

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk AnthologyBOOK PREVIEW

Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology

Synopsis

Amid a cacophony of cranking sprockets and cogs, in chuffs of steam and soot, comes the expansion of classic literature into alternative Steampunk masterpieces. Follow nine skilled authors as they lead old friends and new acquaintances through Jamaica, Singapore, Cape Town, Denmark, Paris, London, and Geneva on a phantasmagorical Steampunk World Tour.

Tropic of Cancer: Edward Rochester battles the elements and Bertha Mason to save his brother and his own soul.

Sense and Cyborgs: Privateer Margaret Dashwood makes port at Singapore to get her husband back on his feet.

Micawber and Copperfield: Wilkins Micawber and David Copperfield create a legacy of loyalty in the Royal Dirigible Corps.

Little Boiler Girl: Power has a price, and one city unwittingly demands an enslaved child pay it.

The Clockwork Ballet: At the Palais Garnier, the Phantom trips the light fantastic with Meg Giry, the prima ballerina of his mechanical troupe.

His Frozen Heart: Jacob Marley saves Ebenezer Scrooge from robbing his wife’s grave and selling his soul.

Our Man Fred: Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and his fiancé, Mary, protect the Empire from mechanized malfeasance.

Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea: Victor Frankenstein’s bride discovers more than his horrific experiments on her wedding day.

Book Links:

Xchyler Publishing:  http://www.xchylerpublishing.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CFT5658/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mechanized-masterpieces-anika-arrington/1115181302 (you can read the book’s Forward and a part of a sample story, Tropic of Cancer by Neve Talbot here.)

A Quote from Our Man Fred:

“As they walked, it seemed almost every building had some similar contrivance as decoration, adorning the street in a cacophony of clangs, bangs and whirs. The street’s surroundings danced with steam and smoke, the scent of oil and grease its perfume.”

Bio:

A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home.  The youngest in a family of seven children, she has always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She is fond of good books (especially science fiction/fantasy), action movies, sword collecting, and oil painting as a hobby.

Ms. Stewart is an indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, with a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.

Learn more about A.F. Stewart at http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Book Review
Title: Three Graves Full
Author: Jamie Mason
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: February 12, 2013
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 1451685033
ISBN-13: 978-1451685039
Stars: 4.0


“There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”  This is the first line of North Carolina author Jamie Mason’s debut novel, Three Graves Full.  The first chapter is so compelling that you can’t help but keep reading this delightfully macabre tale, laced with black humour and tied up with suspense.

Every event is boxed in by a set of facts; the truth as it were.  There’s the what and the when of a deed; there’s where it happened and how it was done.  But it’s at the why that the liar’s margin begins.  It’s from this border that we launch the justifications for everything we do, and for all that we allow to be done to us.  Only our distance from the hard truth and the direction of our push – toward or away from it – is the measure of our virtue.

The protagonist, Jason Getty, is a meek and insecure widower living alone in his little house on Old Green Valley Road in suburban Stillwater, MI.  Well, he’s not entirely alone…as those who live with a deep, dark secret know.  He’s a murderer.  But like Dexter, he’s a killer that we can empathize with as we begin to understand the circumstances surrounding the fateful night that has left his conscience in agony seventeen months later.  He doesn’t eat and doesn’t sleep, but somnambulates through his boring life as an office clerk, rationalizing that “no worry has ever been invented that the mind cannot bully down into mere background noise.”

Little by little Jason finds himself relaxing and able to think about normal things.  Worried about what his neighbours will think of his unkempt property, he hires a landscaping crew to clean it up.  However, on the second day of the job they discover two graves in his backyard that Jason didn’t dig.  Although terrified, he’s forced to call the police to deal with the grisly discovery, all the while praying that they don’t find the third grave.

Next, we meet Leah Tamblin, the grieving girlfriend of the missing young man (Reid) found buried in Jason’s backyard, whom as it turns out, was cheating on her with the married woman (Katielynn Montgomery) found buried beside him.  It seems that Boyd Montgomery, a hardened redneck who named his dogs after The Beatles, didn’t take kindly to discovering that his wife was screwing another man, and from this point on, in a horrifying comedy of errors, action ensues as the plot thickens.

Detectives Tim Bayard and Ford Watts (who I envisioned as actor David Morse), accompanied by his devoted and very intelligent dog Tessa, round out the main cast of characters. After all, someone has to solve this mystery!  I loved that Mason made Tessa a main character and gave her a voice (frequently written from a first person/canine viewpoint) that this dog owner could easily identify with.  Chocked full of hilarious one-liners and unusually well-written and fully realized characters, Three Graves Full will make an excellent screenplay that’ll be a joy to cast, and with just the right cool soundtrack, could end up being a celluloid cult classic.

Mason’s narrative is fast-paced, sharp and scathingly witty.  Her innovative story takes us on a ride not unlike the one we experience when watching a Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), Quentin Tarantino or Coen brothers’ film.  Her development of Jason’s internal conflict and the inevitability of his having to face the consequences of his actions is superb. You’ll laugh and squirm at the same time as you viscerally experience the unhinging of his sanity.

Simon & Schuster were wise to buy her manuscript as Jamie Mason’s clever, unique voice and piercing prose is so much better than the average pulp fiction.  When this book is released on February 12, 2013, I urge you to buy it.

Fade To Pale by James Cheetham

Book Review
Title: Fade To Pale
Author: James Cheetham
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Released: July 2007
Pages: 248
ISBN-10: 1934069523
ISBN-13: 978-1934069523
Stars: 4.5

Seven-year-old Rita Hamilton is fond of sleep and believes that Heaven can be found at the beach. She’s staying with her Grandma, who loves her, and her Grandpa, who barely tolerates her, because her mother has finally been locked up in an institution after years of suffering through an alcohol-soaked personality disorder. Grandma is quite worried about Rita’s penchant for sleep and tries to bring her out of her cocoon with a trip to the beach.

While lounging on the sand, Rita’s only friend and confidante, the mean-spirited Emily, makes an ominous appearance and the next thing Rita is conscious of, is awakening in a hospital room after nearly drowning.

Twenty-six years later, married but estranged from Michael and her two children Zack and Angie, and more like her mother than she ever wanted to be, Rita lives in her own, private nightmare, possessed by drug-induced dreams of menacing water rising in her bedroom and telephone calls that may or may not have actually occurred.

Winnipeg author James Cheetham has woven a brilliantly, creepy tapestry highlighted by the horrific, messy, unraveling of the human mind in this superb tale of dark fiction called Fade To Pale. It is so good in fact, that I believe that Stephen King should be worried…very worried. Fade to Pale is unnervingly accomplished for a debut novel and although it has developed a well-deserved cult following, it should be a best-selling, award-winner. Cheetham’s got the writing chops to achieve horror superstardom to rival the likes of King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz.

Nothing is as it seems in Fade To Pale. We slowly discover through Rita’s mental breakdown that her entire existence has been a lie and there was no other way that her destiny could have been played out given the sensational circumstances of her life. We also realize that there is a lot more to Emily than we could have imagined and that one might not exist without the other.

Emily shook her head.

“YOU ARE THE UGLY DUCKLING OF THE HUMAN RACE, AND I’M SORRY FOR THAT BECAUSE UNDERNEATH ALL THIS TRAGEDY YOU ARE ONE OF THE FINEST HUMANS I HAVE EVER MET, THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER MADE ME RECONSIDER MY OWN PLACE IN THE WORLD. YOU ARE THE VIRUS AND I AM THE CURE. THERE WILL BE DIRE CONSEQUENCES IF I DON’T LET FATE TAKE OVER FROM THIS POINT ON. I ONLY HOPE THAT YOU AND YOUR FAULTY MIND CAN GET THROUGHT HIS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.”

Fade To Pale is an intense, chilling, audacious and deeply disturbing psychological thriller about how unbelievably ghastly human beings can behave towards one another, and at the same time it introduces us to another world called the Here and There…a world you don’t want to visit. The nightmarish world that is Rita’s mind invoked remembrance of Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining and more recently, Mike Enslin in the movie 1408 starring John Cusack, based on a short story by King.

The ending of Fade To Pale was satisfying and gave me goosebumps, but I won’t give it away.

My one criticism of the book is that the text should be more generously spaced out (but then again, I need bifocals and don’t have them!) and the layout could be much more attractive, but that’s really not a big deal and does nothing to distract one from the story.

Lovers of horror, psychological thrillers, and dark fiction should NOT miss out on reading James Cheetham’s Fade To Pale. Where there was once Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft to scare us to our cores and make us doubt our sanity, there is now James Cheetham, King of Fear and Loathing on the Canadian prairies.

Chronicles of the Undead by A. F. Stewart

Book Review
Title: Chronicles Of The Undead
Author:  A.F. Stewart
Publisher: Lulu.com
Released: July 2009
Pages: 168
ISBN 10 – 0557026709
ISBN 13 – 978-0557026708
Stars:  2.5

Chronicles of the Undead by Nova Scotia author A. F. Stewart is a captivating, quick to read horror novella that pays homage to the master of all vampire tales, Bram Stoker, and will also immediately bring to mind the author of The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice.

Set in London, England at the end of the 18th century and in the first quarter of the 19th, A. F. Stewart has chosen the diary format and writes with no dialogue, in the first person of her main characters, Samuel Harrington, his son, Edmund Harrington, and granddaughter, Charlotte Harrington with an authentic voice for the time period.

Chronicles of the Undead begins with the diary (1793-1795) of Samuel Harrington. Harrington is a stock broker who has just met his new neighbours; the mysterious Henri Forain and his beautiful cousin, Eleanor de Burgh. He embarks upon a close knit friendship with Henri based on their mutual common interests which include carousing in the local brothel, drinking and gambling, much to Harrington’s wife Eliza’s dismay.

Harrington soon reveals that he is not happy in his marriage to a disapproving wife and yearns for the life he led in his wilder youth. Indulging in his new found hedonistic delight, Samuel spends his days working on his financial interests and his nights with Henri at Dame Montague’s brothel.

The estranged Eliza complains frequently about Samuel’s vices and his friendship with Henri, so Harrington takes to giving her sound thrashings, and she becomes very meek and amiable which pleases her awful husband. Shortly after, Harrington discovers that his dear friend and partner in hedonism is a vampire!

Will Harrington ever be the same? Will he allow Henri to make him a vampire? What is the exact nature of Henri’s new found relationship with Harrington’s teenage daughter, Flora?

I won’t give away all of the plot, but these are old-fashioned, nasty bloodsuckers who feed on human blood with no remorse.

Stewart’s story continues in part two with the diaries of Harrington’s son Edmund (1795-1797), and concludes in part three with those of his granddaughter, Charlotte (1825-1826).

“Chronicles of the Undead is an intimate portrayal of family, weakness, the lure of evil, and how one selfish act can have horrific consequences.” Although it is not terribly unique, it is a satisfying read that ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, although one can figure out the ending for him/herself. The book has been poorly edited for grammar and punctuation but other than that, it is a fine effort from Ms. Stewart, who has a wonderful imagination and whose main writing focus is in the fantasy and poetry genres.