Book Review: Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare by Patrick Barb

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Title: Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare

Author: Patrick Barb

Release date: November 29th, 2022

Firstly, huge thanks to Rob and Spooky House Press for sending me a digital ARC of this upcoming novelette!

Honestly, this is a tough one to review, and the only reason I say that is because of the subject matter. I think some of this may ultimately come down to what country you are from when you read this. In the US, there’s a significant belief that guns are a fundamental right and something every single person should own. Over the last number of years – and I’m old enough to remember all the way back to Columbine – there have been thousands of violent slaughters in the US and very little done about it. I actually remember when I first watched the movie American History X. Sorry, minor spoiler here – but I was beyond shocked at the end when the African American student guns down the Caucasian character in the school washroom. I couldn’t fathom it. I was 17 when it came out the thought that this was something that happened just completely shocked me. How could these things keep happening?

Which brings us to Patrick Barb’s novelette – ‘Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare.’ I went in knowing a few things. First – it would be a quick read at only around 90 pages. Second – it involved a parent grappling with what his son attempts to do at school. And third – that it involved divorce and a workaholic father.

I was intrigued with the set up and from the other reviews I skimmed over – not wanting to completely have everything spoiled – I was excited to dive in.

What I liked: The story is told from the father, Abe’s, POV. Set in the near future where everyone has some sort of drone hovering around them for visual ‘connection and visiting,’ Abe is relaying what happened to a detective and her helper drone. We learn about how Abe works a significant amount of time, how he and his ex-wife, Cathy, are divorced and how Abe has lost touch with his son Zack.

It’s an all-too common aspect that works well for me. The ‘that’s not how my kid is’ subplot that I fear all parents will deal with at one time or another. This is used as the main driving narrative. Abe can’t believe his son isn’t super popular anymore of that other kids find him creepy and disturbing. How, his son no longer excels at school and how he has lied and deceived in such a way as to ultimately give himself the ability to put his plans in place.

Barb does a great job of ramping up the tension and keeping it going until the very end. The final act that Abe has to deliver is a tough one, but one that works well within the story. It is something that I think will be hit or miss for many (and normally I might put this in the next section but it worked for me) but I felt it was a solid way to effectively cap off Abe’s story arc as well as Zack’s.

What I didn’t like: As I mentioned – school violence is something that should never happen. Either between students or from others entering the building illegally and with horrible intentions. This novelette is a tough one to stomach and I think we’ll see some folks either decide to not read it because of the subject matter or rate it lower because of the emotions it will stir up. I personally think Barb handled it with tact and sensitivity and it doesn’t come off as an aspect done simply for shock and awe, but for true growth and discussion on the subject.

Why you should buy this: ‘Helicopter Parenting in the Age of Drone Warfare’ will most likely make a number of year-end ‘Best Of’ lists and rightfully so. It’s a really well done, difficult read that will have you questioning the parents actions, the schools actions, the scope of technology in our lives and ultimately the gun control question. The fact this is wrapped into a novelette shows how phenomenal Barb is at controlling the story. This is a top notch read and one I think will be talked about for some time.


3Q’s: D.W. Gillespie is The Human USB!

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I’m always super excited when my favorite authors to agree to do the 3Q’s because then I feel like I’m able to get a small, sneak peek into what they’re working on or how they craft their tales.

Today’s guest is a personal fav of mine. D.W. Gillespie has put out some of the best and most frightening books over the last few years and having had the privilege of reading an unpublished piece of his (hopefully released soon!) which is phenomenal, I’m so happy he was able to stop by!

Please, welcome D.W.!

DW Gillespie

Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?
DW: I’ve written the majority of my books in my car during my lunch break! That was always my go to time to write when I worked in the office. I used to hate the fact that I didn’t have a nice writer’s nook with a mahogany desk and a door I could shut, but the truth is, if you want to do it, you make it work.
Since the pandemic, I’m able to get my words in on the couch instead. I still like to write around lunch though. If I go for it too early or too late in the day, I don’t feel like I’m firing on all cylinders.
I’m also living proof that you don’t have to write every single day. I almost always write in sprints with long breaks in between. When I’m officially working on a new draft, I consistently hit about 10k per week. That’s a nice pace for me, and it lets me knock out a draft in a few months.

Steve: You end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript from an author you love. Do you keep it just for yourself or do you share it with the world?
DW: I could imagine my mood changing on this depending on how my writing is going. I’ve got a lot of unpublished books myself, but the early ones will stay that way on purpose. There’s something a bit ghoulish about rifling through someone’s things and holding them up for all to see, so I think my initial answer would be no.
BUT…I’m also in the middle of a dry spell, and all I want is for these books that keep piling up to grow wings and fly away. It’s a little heartbreaking to watch them just languish on a laptop. I’ll make a deal with you Steve. If I drop dead tomorrow, you have permission to drop my unpublished books out of an airplane over the city of your choice. (Steve – DEAL!)

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!
DW: It’s a couple years old now, but One by One is a haunted house novel about (tell me if you’ve heard this one) a family moving into a fixer upper. They end up finding a hand drawn picture on the wall that looks suspiciously like them, and soon enough, people start vanishing.
I always love stories that bounce between something paranormal and real world, leaving the reader not quite sure what’s really going on. Hopefully, it’ll keep you guessing till the end!

Steve: Bonus Question! You wake up in a comic book. What is your comic book character and what is your super power?
DW: I’m The Human USB…I don’t fight crime or anything, but I have a thumb drive port in my head. All I have to do is plug in, and all the books I want to write are just automatically downloaded. Not the most exciting comic book, but pretty handy for a writer.

Ha! That’s hilarious!

Thank you again, D.W.! I really appreciate!

To find more of his work, come check the links!




Book Review: The Insatiable Hunger of Trees by Samantha Eaton


Title: The Insatiable Hunger of Trees

Author: Samantha Eaton

Release date: February 21st, 2023

Huge thanks to Samantha for sending me a digital ARC of this one!

I gotta tell you – I was super pumped to check this one out when the cover and title were announced. I’d not read anything from Samantha previously, but you tack together woods, monsters and a bloody cover and I’m pretty much your target audience.

I’ve also been a responsible reviewer lately and doing my best to try and get well ahead of release dates. So, I was keen to dive in as the snow began to hit Edmonton and the temperatures dropped.

What I liked: I mean, you read what I said up top there yeah? Woods, monsters, blood? Ok, in all seriousness – the story follows a teenage girl, Cara, struggling to adjust to life after her older sister, Shelby, disappears. Her sister has been gone for almost a year. Some say she ran away while others say a monster took her into the woods.

One morning, the older sister simply walks back into their home and from there things ratchet up and chaos ensues.

Eaton does a great job when creeping us out. We get unflinchingly scary moments where things creep in the trees and eyes are spotted. We also get to see some really dark moments with the older sister. She keeps saying things that are horribly brutal and frightening to hear. Things like she shouldn’t have come home because she’s going to die anyways etc.

The story really takes off after a car accident occurs and something attacks the driver. It works well to set up the chain of events that take place after that and leads us to a horrifying conclusion.

What I didn’t like: Ok, mild spoilers in this section so stay clear if you wanna stay completely free of story plot points.

Firstly, the constant reactions that occur throughout towards Shelby, when she returns drove me batty. Over and over we hear her younger sister say a variation of ‘why are you acting like this?’ as though she expected her sister, who has been missing in the woods for a year, to just waltz back in and return to normal.

Secondly, there’s a frequent ‘convenience’ effect that occurs. The loner, odd boy just happens to be a monster hunter and there’s a contract to sign. Cara just happens to come across the car accident. She just happens to find things in the woods. Even when others are searching, she’s the one that finds it. It took away a lot of the potential of fear.

Lastly, I found the way the story unfolded to feel more like a short story that was expanded upon with an almost ‘and then’ effect, where just as it should naturally end something else is thrown our way. I really diminished some of the flow.

Why you should buy this: This one ultimately feel in the middle of the road for me. Frequent moments that pulled me along, only to be undone by odd interactions and frustration repetition. Eaton does do creepy really well and I think the flow that annoyed me at times is more a personal thing and many readers will absolutely love how it occurs. The closest I can relate it too, is I went in expecting a movie and it turned out to be a mini-series, if that makes sense.

Eaton has created an intriguing folklore type story here, one I think many folks will really dig.


3Q’s Special – Matt Wesolowski tells his stories!


Today’s guest is an author whose ‘Six Stories’ series I’ve torn through. I’ve also had the pleasure of doing a deeper dive with friend and reviewer Tony Jones into Matt’s work.

Matt is an author whose work you need to read and experience to understand the layers and nuances that take place within them. It is dark, depressive and utterly compelling to read.

Please, do welcome Matt!


Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?
Matt: I’m very strict with writing time and being a father as well as jobs in the house, it always feels like there’s so much to do. However, I’m also incredibly driven; writing has been my dream since I was a child so I push myself very hard. My routine is quite set – I make everyone’s breakfast, clean the kitchen, make coffee and begin work at 9am. Work through until the afternoon when I spend my time reading or listening to an audio book or podcast and doing housework.
Two thousand words a day is my minimum – even if it’s two thousand words of rubbish (which happens frequently!)

Steve: You decide to host a writer’s retreat. One weekend in a luxury house on an island. What three other authors do you invite to come along?
Matt: I’m privileged in that I’ve met a great deal of authors at various festivals and there are some who have become solid friends – we’re all weird little introverts at heart so when you make a connection with another author it’s wonderful. I think I’d invite people whom I admire as well as get along with and hope I can absorb some of their skills through osmosis.
First would be my Finnish friend Antti Tuomainen author of The Rabbit Factor, The Man Who Died and other words of genius- one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Second would be Catriona Ward (The Last House on Needless Street, Sundial) as we’re always on spooky themed panels together and have consequently become friends; we share a very similar sort of humour too. Last but by no means least would be SJ Watson (Before I Go to Sleep) who is one of the most gentle, funny and kind authors I’ve ever met. I think the three of us would spend a lot of time laughing.

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!

Matt: My latest book, the sixth in the Six Stories series is ‘Demon’ published by Orenda Books, it’s written in the style of a true crime podcast; each chapter being an interview with someone connected to the crime and stands alone, as do all in the series. Demon deals with the subject of kids who kill other kids and the way out society is so quick to brand people as ‘evil’. Two twelve year old boys kill a disabled classmate on the austere Yorkshire Moors. But why?
I really like to look at blurry places in morality with my books and hint that there’s something supernatural going on. Were these two boys possessed by a demon or is that just an easy way for our society to look away from deep seated problems within ourselves?

Steve: Bonus Question! You receive an invitation in the mail from one of these two people. The invitation invites you to have dinner and spend the night in their home. Do you accept the invitation from Victor Frankenstein or Dracula and why?

Matt: Dracula for sure. I’ve not really ever grown out of my teenage goth phase and going to hang out with the man himself would be a life goal!


Excellent choice!

Thank you so much Matt for doing this!

To find more of his work, check the links!



3Q’s: Red Lagoe is a master Word-Spewer!

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Today’s guest is a fantastic author and is diving into the world of small press publisher as well! Red has been a super supportive and encouraging friend since we first connected and I think there will be a lot of folks out there who have a similar sentiment!

Super excited to have Red stop by today!

Welcome Red!


Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?

Red: I have this condition where if I stick to the same routine for more than a couple of weeks, my creative soul slowly begins to disintegrate. So I switch it up. Sometimes I do really well from 5-7am, and other times of the year I’m sitting in bed in my PJs, knocking out some words. I try not to focus so much on word count as I do hours. Sometimes 2 hours might yield a thousand words, or if it’s flowing easily, four thousand. Back in 2016, I developed some good writing habits by doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It challenged me to hit about 1600 words a day or more, every day, for the entire month of November. And I did it. At the end, I had a 52,000 word manuscript. It was a hot mess, but it really taught me about dedicating time. If I can dedicate the time, fairly distraction-free, then the words will come.

Steve: You end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript from an author you love. Do you keep it just for yourself or do you share it with the world?

Red: I think it would depend on the nature of the contents. Is this something that the author obviously never wanted to share? If so, I’d respect that. Or is this something I could give back to the family, if there is one? I’m probably putting way too much thought into this.

Ultimately, as long as it wasn’t some breech of privacy, I think I’d keep it all for myself for a week so I can read it first. And once my selfish heart feels satisfied, I’d then share it with the world.

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!

Red: Nightmare Sky: Stories of Astronomical Horror, releases November 4, 2022. I’m a life-long lover of astronomy. A person who, whenever I step out my front door, my eyes are drawn up. I’m the friend who always spots the shooting stars, because I’m always looking up. The sky has always been a tether for me. When the world is spinning out of my control, the sky is my constant. It’s a comfort. But it’s also a great source of fear for so many. I’d been wanting to do an astronomy-horror collection, and I have plenty of my own night-sky themed stories that I could probably put one together. But I also had been wanting to dip my toes into editing an anthology. So, I combined my two desires, and now I have Nightmare Sky. There are 28 stories and poems, ranging from psychological to apocalyptic, from sci-fi to bizarre, from quiet to gruesome, and they all explore our awe-inspiring—and terrifying—human connection to the stars. There are a lot of new talented voices in horror in this anthology—people I think we as a community might want to keep an eye on.

Steve: Bonus Question! You wake up in a comic book. What is your comic book character and what is your super power?

Red: I am Word-Spewer. Any story I imagine doesn’t require sitting at a laptop for months in order to tell it. When the story feels completely imagined in my mind, I retch rhythmically like a cat about to puke and eject the entire story into a document. A polished, well-written hairball of a story, all ready to submit. This superpower is entirely self-serving—I don’t think I can be anyone’s hero with this power, other than my own.

That, or flying would be cool.

Awesome! Thank you so much, Red!

To find more of her work, check the links!




3Q’S: Mark MJ Green delivers his debut!

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You know what I love? Seeing people get their debuts out into the world. Today’s guest, Mark MJ Green, was someone I connected with through his reviews and support.

Mark has always been super kind and continues to showcase all the exciting books he’s read and enjoyed. I’ve also loved connecting with Mark and exchanging some Christmas Cards between our kids. It shows you just how small social media has made the world.

Anyways, when I reached out to Mark, I was so excited he agreed to do a 3Q’s!

Please welcome Mark!


Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?

Mark: My writing time has been a sporadic mess as I try to juggle time with my family, writing reviews and recording and editing podcasts with my friend and fellow writer, Lee Richmond. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to get myself settled into a more set routine. On days when I manage to stick to it, I try and write for a few hours in the morning, break for a couple of hours to do some chores, walk the dog, or work on a few other things, and then; get back to writing for a few more hours in the afternoon, until it is time for me to pick my kids up from school.

On average, I get two thousand words down each session, but I don’t currently have an office or private writing space, so most of my work will be done sitting at the dinner table.

So far, I haven’t planned out any stories too much in advance. I have the title and a small paragraph outline of what it will be about, and then I write and see where it takes me.

For the story I am currently working on, I decided to set out with more of a plan in mind and made notes for the requirements I wanted to hit in each chapter. It seems to be working for me, so I am trying to stick with it.

I do find it difficult to keep to a strict schedule due to some brain-related issues, as I suffer from headaches and brain fog, so sometimes, I struggle to get into the necessary mindset, but once I get going, I love every part of it. Especially those unplanned moments. The ones where an idea filters from my brain and onto the keyboard almost effortlessly. I enjoy that feeling when something unplanned pops into my brain, and the story in my head truly evolves and takes shape.

I am new to all of this, so there is still experimentation with what works best for me, but I enjoy a relaxed approach to working. Writing should be a fun, enjoyable experience. Especially if I can throw in a subtle reference to another of my stories or kill off a character that I hope readers will have taken a liking to. On average, I think characters have a seventy per cent mortality rate in my work, and I like the unpredictability that makes anyone at risk. Due to my slightly haphazard way of approaching my work, even I don’t always know I am going to kill off a character until I have decided it mid-process.

Someone foolishly asked if they could be a character in my next book, and I am finding immense enjoyment in putting little things into it that will hopefully make them laugh and call me names at the same time.

Most people won’t even know it is there, but a few will, and I love that.

As long as I get enjoyment from writing, and someone somewhere enjoys reading it, then I have achieved what I set out to do.

Steve: You end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript from an author you love. Do you keep it just for yourself or do you share it with the world?

Mark: Stories are supposed to be shared. That’s why we write. We have an idea, and a desire to tell it. We hope someone else might want to hear it, and we put it down onto the page.

Obviously, I would do the sensible thing of trying to contact the author’s family, getting the work to them, and letting them have the final word on the issue.

If that wasn’t an option, and there were no family members or even publishers that the author had worked with available, and the decision fell solely upon me, yeah, I would get it published. I wouldn’t want to make money from someone else’s work, so that would go to charity. But I would love to keep the original manuscript. Although my wife would probably say, ‘Not more books, don’t you have enough?’

If I die with incomplete or unpublished work, I would like to think someone would pick it up and finish/publish it.

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!

Mark: My latest, and first solo release is titled Abortus. It was initially a short story I wrote as part of Medley of the Macabre, which is a collection of ten short stories. Five of them are by me, and five by Lee Richmond. It was the first time I had written or published anything.

I revisited and rewrote parts of Abortus after the awesome Nancy Sienna Sundquist added me to a reading challenge on one of Duncan Ralston’s Facebook pages.

Abortus is about Mel, a drug addict who sells her body for money and has found herself pregnant again. Rather than have another child born addicted to drugs and placed into care where she will never see it again, she decides to terminate the pregnancy herself. A drug dealer/client makes her a large cash offer to let him film her undertaking the procedure.

Why should someone read it? They probably shouldn’t. It’s nasty.

It’s only around forty pages, and I’ve had reviews stating how readers had to stop to take a breather or that it almost made them cry, so it’s not going to be for everyone.

I wanted to create an extreme tale that was more than just gore for gore’s sake, and I tried writing something that would impact the reader. It’s not just the fucked-up nature of the situation Mel has placed herself into but also the psychological damage to her mind driving the story.

Being a new writer and knowing readers have enjoyed something I created – well, it blows my tiny, little mind.

I’m currently writing a short story called Birdsong. It won’t be an extreme tale, although the psychological aspect will still be there as it deals with an elderly widow with dementia. That, admittedly, doesn’t give much away, nor does it sound particularly creepy, but the horror elements will certainly be present.

After that – who knows? I have multiple ideas written down; I just need to decide on which one will be next. Most likely, I’m going to write something with a more comedic aspect, if only to give myself a break from characters with psychological trauma.

Steve: Bonus Question! You wake up in a comic book. What is your comic book character and what is your superpower?

Mark: There is no way I am responsible enough to have superpowers of any kind. I’ll inevitably do something idiotic through laziness or boredom. My favourite comics have tended to lean more towards anti-heroes, so things like The Punisher, Lobo and Dredd have been my favourites.

The other day we were on a family trip to visit Sheffield Comicon, and my youngest (who’s eight) tends to become bored and grumpy on more than an hour’s drive. He began complaining about how he wished he had teleportation powers. So, I would pick teleportation to make that aspect of my life easier. Also, I would never have to use the postal service ever again. I could teleport to wherever I need my parcel to go and deliver it myself.

However, I’d probably waste it on inane tasks like transporting myself from the sofa to the fridge; or the toilet. Basically, I’d be like an overweight version of Nightcrawler from the X-men.

Thanks, Steve. I really appreciate you getting in touch with me to be part of 3Q’s.

Hey, awesome! Thanks so much, Mark! I appreciate you doing this!

To find all of his work, check the links!


3Q’s Special – Tessa Wegert is Kind to Kill!!


Say what you will about my fandom of Andrew Pyper, but my joy and love of his work is directly responsible for my connecting with today’s 3Q’s guest. A few years back, I was either raving about one of his books or doing a giveaway, and it led to me and Tessa chatting a bit back and forth. We shared a mutual love of his work, an admiration for just how kind he was and through that, we’ve been supportive of each other! The book world and community is a wonderful place and I’m so glad to have connected. As well, I’ve super happy that she agreed to do a 3Q’s!

Please, do welcome Tessa!


Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?
Tessa: I would describe my writing process as frenetic. I work best under pressure, so I tend to overcommit and overschedule myself, which means fitting the writing in wherever and however I can. I try to carve out a few solid hours a day to make sure I hit my word count, which at the moment is 1-2k because I’m currently drafting, but I usually end up writing while waiting outside my daughter’s school, at my son’s hockey practice, after midnight, and every free second in between.

Steve: You decide to host a writer’s retreat. One weekend in a luxury house on an island. What three other authors do you invite to come along?
Tessa: I would bring fellow mystery author Sarah Stewart Taylor because our series – both of which feature female investigators – have lined up book for book, and she’d make an excellent critique partner. I would love to invite Louise Penny in the hope that she’d reveal what’s next for Inspector Gamache. Tana French, whom I would ply with drinks and encourage to tell me dark stories, would definitely make the cut.

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!
Tessa: My next book is called THE KIND TO KILL, and it’s part small-town mystery, part serial killer thriller set (like all of the Shana Merchant novels) in the Thousand Islands. This is a book that I had meticulously mapped out, only to introduce a big twist at the eleventh hour, just two days before my deadline. It surprised the heck out of me, so I think it will surprise readers, too. It’s about a tourist who goes missing during a pirate-themed street festival, and the impact of true crime stories not only on a victim’s relatives but her killer’s own family.

Steve: Bonus Question! You receive an invitation in the mail from one of these two people. The invitation invites you to have dinner and spend the night in their home. Do you accept the invitation from Victor Frankenstein or Dracula and why?
Tessa: I happen to own a first-edition copy of Dracula given to me by my librarian mother, so I’d be eager to chat with the monster himself and find out what’s fact versus fiction.


Wowsa! That is amazing!

Thank you so much for doing this Tessa and best of luck with the book release!

To find more of her work, check the links!




3Q’s: Heather Miller shares words of wisdom from her Grandma!

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Another fun one today here at 3Q’s!

Hot off the recent release of her collection, ‘Tales My Grandmother Told Me: Thirteen Unsettling Tales,’ Heather Miller was kind enough to stop by and share a bit about her process. Heather is someone who has helped a lot of writers throughout the years and remains a positive and encouraging force to this day!

Please do welcome Heather!


Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?

Heather: I do try to write at the same time each day, but which time of day that is varies depending on what I’m writing.  With my first book, Knock Knock, which took place almost exclusively during the nighttime/early morning hours, I did every bit of the writing between four and seven in the morning.  I generally write during whatever time of day the story I’m currently working on is set in.  It helps me get in the right mood.  I write for an hour or two at a time, which usually means somewhere between 1500-2000 words, depending on how many times my kids interrupt me!

Steve: You end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript from an author you love. Do you keep it just for yourself or do you share it with the world?

Heather: Oh, come on.  Of course you send that story out into the world.  Share the stories, share the love. Well, unless there’s some note on the manuscript that says, “NEVER TO BE PUBLISHED” or something.  Hmm.  That sounds like a story idea itself…

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!

Heather: My newest release is a short story collection titled TALES MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD ME.  In it are thirteen tales, most of which are based on stories or songs that my grandma used to tell us.  She was quite the character and she loved a good scary story.  She would scare us absolutely silly with creepy voices and the most awful facial expressions.  I’ve taken her tales and expanded on them a bit so that they read more like literary tales and not just oral retellings, but also still tried to maintain that creepy-spooky campfire tale feeling.  Some of the stories deal with the supernatural and some focus on the man-made horrors of real life.  There may even be a bit of humor hidden away in there somewhere.  The book is written for adults and has a sense of nostalgia about it that I think will strike a chord with most horror lovers.  It’s also “clean” horror so is perfectly appropriate for teens or even pre-teens who like to be scared (aside from a brief and non-detailed scene in the story “Cries from the Attic”, which portrays a sexual assault and may not be suitable for the younger end of that spectrum).

Steve: Bonus Question! You wake up in a comic book. What is your comic book character and what is your super power?

Heather: Well, my favorite characters are Jean Gray and Scarlet Witch.  So basically as long as I can be a red-haired femme fatale with the power to destroy the world, but with an eternal internal conflict as to whether or not I should, I’ll be happy.

Great choice! Thank you so much, Heather!

To find all of her work, take a look at the links!




3Q’s: Nick Roberts asks you to come visit The Exorcist’s House!

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Got a fun one today for 3Q’s. Nick Roberts latest book, The Exorcist’s House, has stormed out of the gates and captivated readers from page one! Nick has been grinding it out for a few years now, so it’s always exciting to see when a book strikes reader gold!

I’m super happy to have Nick stop by today!

Welcome Nick!

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Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try and write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?

Nick: My writing time varies throughout the year. With my first two novels, Anathema and The Exorcist’s House, I wrote them over my summer break from teaching. My routine was to wake up, exercise, and then have my butt in that computer chair at 10 AM every day. I wasn’t allowed to get up until I hit at least 1,000 words. Some days were easier than others, but I never sat there staring at a blank screen for more than a few minutes.

This past summer, I finished my dissertation for my doctorate, so that consumed all of my writing time. I’m finished with school now, but I’m back to work in the classroom. The novel I’m currently working on is coming along slower than usual because I have less time to work on it. I’m writing most of it at night (which is new for me), and I make time every other day rather than daily. Other than the fact that I’m not trying to burn myself out with work, family life, and writing, I have also increased my reading time. I have found that it’s essential to always be reading. It’s improved my writing and brought me closer to other authors in the horror community.

Steve: You end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript from an author you love. Do you keep it just for yourself or do you share it with the world?

Nick: If I were to end up at an estate sale and discover an unpublished manuscript by an author that I love, I would keep it to myself rather than share it with the world. This might sound like a selfish answer initially, but I promise I’d do it for honorable reasons. As an author myself, I would be mortified if a piece of my writing was published before I was ready to release it. Stories get edited and polished so many times that I wouldn’t want to share something unfinished without the author’s permission. This is, of course, assuming the author was not a total dick-bag in real life. (If I find an H.P. Lovecraft manuscript, you bet your ass I’m capitalizing off that guy.)

Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!

Nick: I’m currently working on a dark horror novel that takes place in West Virginia—shocker, I know. This novel has nothing to do with my previous two. My main goal with this one was to write the scariest story imaginable. Yes, I wanted my first two novels to be scary, but I also had separate motivations with those. Anathema was written to depict a character in recovery who can live a normal life, no matter what horrors are thrown her way.

After dealing with more mature themes in Anathema, I was ready to have some fun with The Exorcist’s House. The Exorcist’s House is a roller-coaster ride through Hell with lovable characters that you actually root for. It’s a bit lighter in tone than Anathema, though equally as terrifying.

I’m a little over halfway through with the third one. This one is written primarily to unsettle even the most desensitized horror fan. It’s inspired by films like The Strangers and It Follows as well as books such as Stolen Tongues and Pet Sematary. It’s coming together nicely and will hopefully be out next year.

Steve: Bonus Question! You wake up in a comic book. What is your comic book character and what is your super power?

Nick: If I wake up in a comic book, I would be a dark vigilante in the vein of Rorschach, Batman, The Punisher, and Dexter. I’d have a creepy mask, lurk in the shadows, and strike unmercifully at evildoers. Like the characters previously mentioned, my only “superpowers” would be my mind, personality, ingenuity, and skills in hand-to-hand combat.

Ha! Very cool! Great answer! Thank you so much, Nick!

To find more of his work, please do check the links!




Book Review: Mandate: Thirteen by Joseph J. Dowling


Title: Mandate: Thirteen

Author: Joseph J. Dowling

Released date: January 10th, 2023

Since Tim McWhorter launched Manta Press, I’ve loved seeing the variety of phenomenal books that have been released. Spanning a wide scope of genres, Manta Press has quickly established themselves as a ‘must-read’ small press and one that you’re guaranteed to experience solid storytelling with lots of heart.

Case in point – Mandate: Thirteen. This one, while set in the very near future, has alarmingly real themes throughout and that alone pushed this into a truly uncomfortable reading experience.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect going in, but this one packs a wallop.

What I liked: The story is set in a world where most women are now infertile and those who can have children are taken from their families and imprisoned in birthing facilities. Almost all of the ethnicities have been forced out of England and as the climate crisis worsens, prices rise, jobs become scarce and supplies limited.

Dowling does a solid job of teasing out these issues while also introducing us to the Randall family. The story really explodes when the fertility mandate changes to include girls aged thirteen. From here we follow father and daughter as they evade capture and attempt to make their way to the Scottish border and find a way to cross, hoping to get asylum.

The story is filled with emotions. We get a lot of secondary characters who are hard to trust, especially in such uncertain times and, as one would suspect, when trustworthy people are found, it’s only for a momentary reprieve, as those chasing quickly catch up.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, plenty of ‘hold-your-breath’ moments where you’re not sure what’s going to happen, and the ultimate climactic moment works really well to see how it relates back to decisions from the past.

What I didn’t like: Ultimately, for me, there were two things I wasn’t super keen on. The first was some of the dialogue was off. There were times where I read some of it and thought ‘nobody talks to each other like that.’ It might’ve been just me and for others it flows well, but specifically between dad and daughter, there were moments that I was pulled out of it by how the dialogue read between each other.

The second thing, which I can’t expand on too much as it would fall into major spoiler territory, was that I found there was simply too much extra stuff after the ‘ending.’ I do enjoy when we find out what happened after the finale and the final events have ended, but this kept going for a bit and was a bit much for me.

Why you should buy this: If you’re a fan of dystopian, all-too-real-feeling action based reads, look no further. This had shades of Nevill’s ‘Lost Girl’ throughout and was a thoroughly solid, great read that had me captivated the entire time.

Definitely one to bump up your TBR!