Short Tuesday #27: “Sweet Dreams Are Made of You” by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to take a look at “Sweet Dreams Are Made of You” by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor (which, by the way, has to be the coolest author name of all time). You can read it for free here…

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story! It takes the form of media paraphernalia (Wikipedia articles, news reports, TIME articles), interspersed with second person narration. The story centers around a mysterious VR video game called Vore. Me being the creepster I am, I knew that I recognized the word “vore” as having some kind of insidious definition, and how right I was: as per the all-knowing Internet, it’s a fetish involving eating others alive or being eaten alive yourself.


As is the tradition with literature about video games, Vore doesn’t stay neatly contained within its code, but haunts players’ dreams. People are going missing, the game’s website and developers have gone dark on the world, and it’s just a fun, scary time all around. It’s been a while since I read any of the Ring books, but I was really reminded of those; they are much more sci-fi horror than the famous movie adaptation.

Anyway, “Sweet Dreams Are Made of You” is a great read for Halloween, and I highly recommend it.

Chapter Eighteen of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The eighteenth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m conscious of the fact that a lot of people don’t particularly want to read a story in their browser. To that end, a pdf/mobi/epub bundle of The Gold in the Dark Part One will be out soon (October sometime). The plan is to get it up for free on Amazon as well. I’m also uploading each chapter to Wattpad for those of you who like to read there—if you’re a Wattpad user, please vote and add it to your reading list, etc!

These past two weeks have mostly been working on the Beauty and the Beast and Aliens WIP. I’ve realized (with the firm advice of my alpha reader) that the story needs a bit more of a lead-up to the point where we actually encounter the alien for the first time. I normally like to start things more in medias res, but this just wasn’t enough to build up enough sympathy for the main characters, who undergo a lot of anxiety and turmoil in the opening segment of the book, and it also wasn’t enough time to allow readers to buy into aliens. Vampires, ghosts, and other creatures are easier to swallow, it seems, than extraterrestrials. So now the book has a new first chapter and a few more characters as well, which should hopefully patch things up.

Also, just a quick reminder that Specter is on NetGalley until the end of the month! So if you’re a NetGalley member, definitely head over, give the cover a vote, and grab a free copy.

That’s all from me at the moment! Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Eighteen.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag

I saw Ren Strange’s take on the Pumpkin Spice Latte book tag and thought it was so cute and fall-ey that I had to do it myself. Normally I’m not a book tag person (not against them, I just don’t think to do them), but this one hit me in just the right way. I think that might be because my reading selection changes a lot in the fall; I feel much more in the mood for spooky and paranormal reads, obviously, as well as fantasy for some reason.

So if you’re looking for a little fall reading inspiration, keep scrolling!

Pumpkin Spice Latte: A book everyone likes to shit on but is delicious

It makes me so sad that this book has poor reviews, which I chalk up to an unlikable MC. This book was a total binge-read, and the atmosphere, writing, and magical ambiguity were right up my alley. I received it as an ARC, but I’ve considered buying a physical copy—that’s how much I liked this.

Fall is My Favorite Season: A cliché you can’t get enough of

Slow burn. Arghhhhh I love this trope so much.

Sweater Weather in the AM and T-Shirt Weather by the Time You Get Out of Work/School: A book you thought was one thing but was completely different by the end

I was promised aliens by the cover, and this book did not deliver. What it did provide was too many characters and a lot of navel-gazing. Sad pass on this one. 😦

Spoops: Spooky books on your TBR

Um, I feel like half of my TBR is spooky; this girl looooves her horror. So I’ll pick three.

I love Daniel Kraus’s voice (he’s the author of The Shape of Water), and I’m all about aliens at the moment due to my WIP, so I’m super excited for his YA thriller with aliens which releases next year. I’m praying that I’m picked off the ARC list.

I’ve heard a lot about this author, and I love the retro cover. Very excited to dive into this book now that Halloween season is almost upon us.

I still haven’t read anything by Nevill (he wrote the book behind the awesome movie The Ritual), but I am always here for a cult story.

Tarot Reading: A five-star prediction

My Beauty and the Beast research continues, and this retelling just sounds so good, and I’m just so certain it will be great.

Sephora Sage & Crystal Set: A book that means well but missed the mark by a landslide

Like When the Sky Fell on Splendor up above, I desperately wanted to like this book, but clunky sentences, too many characters, and not much plot made for a very rocky read.

What’s on your TBR for fall? Any spooky or autumnal-feeling reads that you recommend?

Short Tuesday #27: “The Hundredth House Had No Walls” by Laurie Penny

This week I returned to Tor to take a look at “The Hundredth House Had No Walls” by Laurie Penny. You can read it for free here…

This was a fun and cute read about a bored king of the Country of Myth and Shadow who can summon anything into being with his magical storytelling abilities. As it turns out, having godlike powers with no limit make life quite boring for the king, as there’s no challenge or excitement to life, so he takes a trip to New York and falls in love with a woman there.

This story unexpectedly ended up being about character agency. Voice-wise, there is a lot of fourth-wall breaking and on-the-nose remarks about literary expectations both big and small.

So the King decided to do what kings do in these situations and go and wander the world in disguise as a normal, non-royal person. He took only a small entourage—just twenty Knights of Wild Notion, plus their ostlers, servants and squires most of whom, as is traditional, were actually girls dressed as boys.

If you like a bit of self-referential cheekiness in your fiction, this will probably be your jam; for others it will be a turn-off. I generally don’t like commentary like this (I’m not a fan of Good Omens or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for example), but this is a shorter work and the details were cute, so I found myself along for the ride. The combination of a fairy tale feel mixed with modern details was fun as well. Basically, I had a good time reading, but I have the inkling that this is the kind of story that’s love-it-or-hate-it.

The Shape of Water by Daniel Kraus and Guillermo del Toro

Man, it must be kind of a strange spot to be in for an author to 1) be really good at writing and storytelling; 2) sit down for breakfast with a famous director; 3) have said director broker a deal where he crafts your unformed book idea into a movie that wins Best Picture, while you get to write the book at the same time; 4) understand (because you’re really good at writing and storytelling) that the movie is actually total crap and didn’t deserve Best Picture, while your awesome book gets sidelined by the stigma that it’s a lame movie adaptation.

Imagine me, reading Kraus’s fantastic book, then finishing it and heading to YouTube immediately to rent the movie. (I should have learned my lesson from Bird Box that this will always result in disappointment.) I can’t wait to see the opening bit in the rainforest! I thought to myself as I punched in my credit card information. In my mind, I was conjuring up gritty, surreal jungle scenes à la Apocalypse Now. Which is a fucking great movie, by the way. I am not a movie hater, I swear!

I don’t care how many awards the Academy threw at The Shape of Water; the movie is garbage from start to finish. The characterizations are the definition of surface level. Characters make bizarre choices, such as making out with a chimp-like creature that just devoured a cat, or giving up crucial information that will kill others when they themselves are about to die, so why not take your secrets to the grave and die a hero?

And while watching all of this horror unfold, I had to wonder, how many of these awful story choices did Kraus have to write into his book because he knew the movie was coming out? How much better could the book have been if he hadn’t been dealing with the movie deal? As things are, I can only give this book four stars, because some of the questionable aspects of the movie are also part of the book.

But it’s still very, very good. Kraus has such a unique voice that makes each scene absolutely transportive. It was so refreshing to read a book by an author with a wiiiiiiiide vocabulary; I had my dictionary app in hand many a time while reading! And the characters that are so surface level in the movie are allowed to unfurl to a full-fledged form in the book. I particularly enjoyed Strickland’s character, detestable as he is.

Perhaps most importantly, what felt like bestiality in the movie was a much more nuanced relationship in the book. I’m in full Beauty and the Beast research mode for my current work-in-progress—that was the whole point of reading the book in the first place—and it delivered in spades.

So basically, I will definitely be picking up more work by Kraus (he has a YA book about aliens coming out next year, which is soooo up my alley right now!), but del Toro and I are officially done.

Short Tuesday #26: “The Bleeding Maze: A Visitor’s Guide” by Kurt Fawver

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read the short story “The Bleeding Maze: A Visitor’s Guide.” You can read it for free here…

True to its name, this story is written in an informal, guidebook style. The narrator never names themselves or gives personal details; really they just detail a mysterious maze that resides in the middle of the narrator’s small town which grows by the year. The maze features bleeding walls and presents those who enter it with off-kilter characters and eerie tasks. And of course, not all who enter the maze find an exit. Why enter at all? you might ask. As only suits a magical maze, this labyrinth has a mysterious pull on the townsfolk, tempting all resident teens to enter in what essentially becomes a local coming-of-age ritual.

This is the kind of story where suspension of disbelief only gets you so far. You can feel the author trying to pull us along towards believing, throwing in lines here and there to quell questions and preserve the mystery. One example: drone technology to fly over the maze for observation doesn’t work, for reasons. There are a lot of explanations like this to keep the story going.

You might be thinking, “Why don’t you go searching for those kids? Why don’t you run into that maze in parties and pull them out?” In the past, adults tried this, or so we’re told. They went in packing compasses and lights and maps and weapons—all the accoutrements of proper search and rescues. Despite their best efforts at navigation, however, the maze led them in endless circles and forced them to backtrack to its entrances when they used up their supplies. No matter how many times they subsequently resupplied and reentered and tried to solve the maze, they failed.

Nevertheless, it’s a fun read, and I did enjoy the accounts from the townsfolk who entered the maze. Some extended anecdotes from the local townspeople weren’t very convincing in terms of realistic dialogue… but frankly speaking, extended dialogue for the purposes of storytelling is a difficult thing to pull off if your aim is realism in how people actually talk. I’d say if you’re up for a short story that kind of feels like a hokey House of Leaves, then give this one a chance.

Chapter Seventeen of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The seventeenth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST! I know that this illustration was a lot of trial-and-error for Ally, but I love how the final illustration came out; I think it’s so elegant looking! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here. I’m also hopeful to have a pdf/mobi/epub document out soon for Part One for those of you who want to read on different devices and programs.

These past two weeks have been part of the busy season at my work, so my WIP word count has been less than stellar. Even so, I’m happy with where the new Beauty and the Beast and Aliens book is headed, even if it’s slow-going.

It’s also been a pretty exciting last week or so because Specter is currently on NetGalley! If you’re a NetGalley member, head on over to grab a free copy. The only reason I’m able to get Specter onto NetGalley is through the Kobo Writing Life team, so as ever: Thank you, Kobo! I love how dedicated they are to helping their authors succeed.

That’s about it from me! Things should hopefully be slowing down at my job, so I’m excited to dive back into heavy drafting. (And also a bit scared. Let’s face it—drafting is a bit like pulling teeth.) Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Seventeen. ❤

ARC: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A quick note that I’m a bit confused about the publication date of this book. As far as I can tell it was originally published in 2017 and is being re-released. NetGalley says the new edition came out September 1st, while Goodreads says it comes out November 15th. So basically you can buy a copy of this book right now, but I’m not exactly sure which edition you’ll receive. I also don’t know if the 2017 text differs in any way from the 2019 edition.

The premise of this book hooked me immediately: Jemma, a sixteen-year-old girl with severe cerebral palsy who cannot speak or move, learns the identity of a killer—from the killer himself. When her health aid goes missing, it’s up to Jemma to alert people to the culprit’s identity, despite the punishing limitations of her disability.

The language of this book is very simple and straightforward. If you are looking for a lyrical read, this is not it. However, there is a poignancy to this book; you cannot help but root for Jemma, who has little to no communication with any of her family members. Not only does she have a killer to wrangle with, but she is also a teenage girl dealing with a health condition that can cause those around her to treat her as if she is of less than a clear mind. It will be a long time before I forget the humiliating scene where her new carer treats Jemma like a toddler, rather than the clear-headed teenager that she is.

I also really enjoyed reading about Jemma’s family members. She has a unique family—Jemma’s two sibling are both foster children dealing with their own problems. I enjoyed the way her parents were written; her mom and dad are very supportive of Jemma, and they have their own personalities and flaws.

If the language of the book were a bit more lyrical, this likely would have been a five-star book. I found this book quite riveting, reading it in little more than a day. I knew next to nothing about cerebral palsy, and I think this quick thriller is a great way to gain some insight into the condition.

Short Tuesday #25: “Spore” by Amanda Downum

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read the short story “Spore,” which was published in a female Lovecraftian horror anthology. You can read it for free here...

“Spore” was a quick read, and I was interested in the premise of a purported fungal infection that is influencing its hosts in strange and unanticipated ways. I’ve thought of including some sort of magical fungus in the sequel to The Gold in the Dark, so I’m always psyched to see tangential ideas in fiction.

The language in this piece is really beautiful. Settings are detailed in a way that makes the piece come to life.

Condensation drips through the weave of the metal table onto the pavement. People pass us on the sidewalk, bright summer colors and chattering voices. Hands touch arms to punctuate conversation; shoulders brush; a couple rests their hands in each other’s back pockets.

I do wish we’d been given more of a glimpse into the further aftermath of ingesting the mushrooms, especially in terms of further physical effects and mental urges. I also don’t get a Lovecraftian feel from the piece, despite the anthology it’s housed in.

Nevertheless, I liked the detail-work in the piece and the MC’s personal struggles with her own personality as it relates to belief, so I’d recommend this story.

Fairy Tale Romance: My Passionate Love Affair With Eloisa James’s Books

Those of you who have been around a while might know that I’m on a quest of sorts to get to know the romance genre better. I was pretty sure that Eloisa James would be an author whose style I’d like, so with that in mind, I picked up some of her fairy tale-inspired romances.

Oh. My. God. I can’t get enough of them. I never used to really understand the addictive nature of the romance genre, but I get it now. So I thought I’d give some quick reviews for the three I’ve read so far. I will undoubtedly be reading more from James in the near future, and I recommend her books for anyone who is interested in the genre but isn’t exactly sure where to start. Just so you know, these are all very loose fairy tale retellings—they have a fairly whimsical tone and are not at all fantasy.

The Duke Is Mine is inspired by “The Princess and the Pea.” Just like in the original tale, the heroine arrives at a manor one stormy night soaked through to the bone. In James’s version, her destined duke greets her at the door and is immediately wildly attracted to her—a sodden gown clinging to every curve will do that. 😉 Too bad she’s engaged to a simpleton and is really only visiting the duke’s estate as her sister’s chaperone; it’s the sister who is being tested as the possible duchess-to-be.

I really liked this book; the female MC is sassy yet honorable. I’m a sucker for sister relationships in stories, and this one is really cute. It also handles neurological disorders in a sensitive, sensible matter. The duke love interest has an Asperger’s-like disorder, and the MC’s betrothed, who is mentally handicapped due to a temporary loss of oxygen at birth, is depicted respectfully. Out of the three here, I’d say this book is great for a first impression of James’s work.

Once Upon a Tower is of course inspired by the tale of Rapunzel. Of the three books of James that I’ve read, this one is the most “realistic.” The female and male MC are both quite young and sexually inexperienced. The chemistry between them is very strong, but when they get married, their inexperience in the bedroom introduces major tension into the relationship; I don’t know that I’ve ever read a more realistic and raw depiction of a young couple’s sexual struggles. I even read their first unfortunate sexcapade out loud to my husband. His response? “Oh, damn.

So this is a more serious read than the other two here, and it will really pull at your heart strings. I’d also recommend it to any classical music fans out there; the female MC is an expert cellist, and James has really done her homework in this department.

I’m not sure exactly how to put this in a blog-appropriate manner. Umm… When Beauty Tamed the Beast threw me into a strong romantic tizzy. I knew, in a clinical sort of way, that romance books had the ability to do that—but didn’t ever really expect it to happen to me.

Well, we all get proven wrong sometimes. This is a book that will please female readers and indirectly please their romantic partners. You catch my drift? ;D I’d give this ten out of five stars if I could.

Have you read any great romance books lately? Do you tend more towards contemporary, historical, or paranormal? Leave your recommendations down below!