Author: Catherine Jordan

Review Requests

Review Requests

Article by Catherine Jordan

 

As a review coordinator, I see a LOT of review request. Those requests are indicative of what I’m going to see in the book. Some are sloppy, most are professional. Please be professional. 

 

  1. Ask for the review
  2. Title
  3. Publisher and release date
  4. Where it’s available
  5. Page count and genre
  6. ISBN
  7. What’s it like? Compare to ??
  8. Blurb
  9. Bio
  10. Contact links

 

EG:
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Epeolatry Book Review: The Creature Under Your Head by Morey Kammerman

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: The Creature Under Your Head: 20 Stories of  Horror, Sci-fi, Crime and Fantasy
Author: Morey Kammerman
Genre: Mixed
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: 26th August, 2020

Synopsis: The Creature Under Your Head: (20 Stories of Horror, Sci-Fi, Crime and Fantasy) is your escape from our mundane world. In this collection, you’ll experience fear and fantasy, scares and suspense, science fiction and terror taking you away to new realms of possibility. Here is your open invitation to other worlds. An entrance to past and future realities. The Creature Under Your Head will scare you, mystify you, entertain you, and make you laugh. Caution: the stories contained within are highly addictive and may be hard to put down. A whole new reason to sleep with the light on. 20 tales of darkness and travels to alternate dimensions written by Morey Kammerman.

The Creature Under Your Head: (20 Stories of Horror, Sci-Fi, Crime and Fantasy) is your escape from our mundane world. In this collection, you’ll experience fear and fantasy, scares and suspense, science fiction and terror taking you away to new realms of possibility. Here is your open invitation to other worlds. An entrance to past and future realities. The Creature Under Your Head will scare you, mystify you, entertain you, and make you laugh. Caution: the stories contained within are highly addictive and may be hard to put down. A whole new reason to sleep with the light on. Twenty tales of darkness and travels to alternate dimensions written by Morey Kammerman.

This collection from Morey Kammerman offered fast reads, omniscient point of view (which I like), fitting titles, marked details, and horrific reads—not a single story bored me. Yes, the editor in me caught a few typos and the overuse of punctuation (hey, even the best of the best has typos, and like lawyers, editors are their own worst clients) but that did not stop me from immensely enjoying this read. Kammerman set up every story with an enticing hook, and his voice came alive in almost every story. I’m going to focus on a few of my favorites.

“The Man Who Grew Success” will appeal to all authors. Rejection and writing go hand-in-hand. Harold’s ADHD and crazed thoughts regarding his unpublished stories hit all the sore spots. Then Harold noticed a growth on his head. Reading this made my head itch.

“Four Daughters” is a banter filled exchange between two strangers. The witty dialogue kept me reading and laughing.

“Luxury Apartment for Rent” takes a young couple through a portal into the horror of history. I can envision this story on the screen. As a traveler, I had gooseflesh while reading.  

“Castle in the Clouds”, a funny, futuristic video game left an uncle and nephew foiled by the fickle finger of fate. 

“Stream of Consciousness” appealed to me with this line on page 54: …in my earthly life, I was an adventurer; but by no means depressed. That’s the thing about dying. People always fill in the details. This character spent his life savings on the best raft, then tightened his wallet for the economically priced life-vest. So, what’s the moral here? Read it and see.

“Meat Special: Aisle Nine” elicited plenty of “Ew!” and guffaws while I read about a cursed grocery store with its meat department gone wild. 

“Dating in the Future”—I’d have cried if I weren’t already married. 

Kammerman saved the best for last. “The Legend of Sarah Silver”, about an 80’s valley girl who rises from the dead to make music, wistfully ensures us that music lives on long after death. 

I’d read another from Kammerman, and I encourage you to read this one.

4 out of 5 stars

Available from  Amazon.

Short Story Cover Letter

Short Story Cover Letter

Article by Catherine Jordan

 

So, now you’re submitting a short story and the publisher/editor wants a cover letter. What do you write? Good question.

 

They don’t want a query letter; it’s still a professional business letter. Find the editor/publisher’s name for your salutation. You might have to do a little digging to find it, but I can assure you, s/he is there. And PLEASE spell their name correctly! Keep the letter succinct—there’s often a word limit of 100 words or less. Skip the throat-clearing and within one sentence give the title, genre, word length, and hook. Get right to the main character—by name. What is the main character’s quest—what does s/he want? Include your bio. This should include your name, and any publishing kudos you have. They don’t care what your day job is unless it directly relates to your book. 

 

Example of a bio:
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What is a query letter?

What is a query letter?

Article by Catherine Jordan

 

A query letter is a professional business letter. You have about 250 words to introduce yourself, your book, and why you are the one to write the book. That’s it. It’s one page, and it’s important to get it right. It’s not about you, it’s not a resume, and it’s not generic. I don’t advise stating this is a first book—why say what you haven’t done? Query letters focus on the future, on someone reading your novel when it’s published. Convince the agent/editor/publisher that you are the one to write it, and s/he is the one to publish it. And a novel is fiction—calling your work a “fictional novel” is redundant and ignorant. 

 

As a starter, always use a salutation, but not a generic one. No, “Dear Agent”. Find a name, and gear your letter directly to that person. If you have a referral, use it. Let the agent/editor/publisher know you’ve researched him/her, looked at their website, read their blog, checked out submission guidelines and reviewed what s/he is looking for. 
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Epeolatry Book Review: Daughters of Darkness by Theresa Derwin, Ruschelle Dillon, Stephanie Ellis & Alyson Faye

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Daughters of Darkness
Author: Theresa Derwin, Ruschelle Dillon, Stephanie Ellis, Alyson Faye
Genre: Horror 
Publisher: Black Angel Press
Release Date: 12th Feb, 2021

Synopsis: A quartet of established female horror writers from both sides of the Atlantic have joined supernatural forces to bring you – Daughters of Darkness – a publication from the women-run indie press Black Angel.These stories will take you across the centuries, from Whitechapel to New Orleans, from dark humour to Gothic, weaving the weird with the macabre.Within these pages, meet the myriad monsters these female writers have conjured, letting them loose to roam and cast long shadows.Beware – this is only the beginning …

With a forward from Lee Murray, four writers offer a selection of 20 varying works within this anthology. Stephanie Ellis gives 2 longer stories, while the remaining 3 women penned six pieces.

Theresa Derwin leads the collection of includes poetry and shorts. She authored two original takes on the victims of Jack the Ripper, and explore who-really-done-it. “Isolation” examines the gloom and the weight of our toughest decisions. “Tummy Bug”, my pick from her stories, told a relatable and alienating narrative regarding women’s reproductive system (a neatly packaged body horror). 

Ruschelle Dillon’s witty and gruesome writing…let’s just say I won’t look at cats the same way again. Dillon gives the reader a haunting and biting example of jealousy, a journalist who fails to heed warnings, mental illness accompanying a dollhouse, one hell of a Halloween party, and my favorite—song tunes which humor the tale of life and death between a hatchling and a moth. 

Stephanie Ellis’s longer yarns, “Painted Ladies” and “Beyond Hope”, added not only variety, but depth. Ellis peels away the masks and the lengths women go to retain their beauty—its painful love and loss. She explores corporate irresponsibility and the buried emotions of human connection. I favored “Beyond Hope” with its flavors of Dante’s Inferno and the movie Poltergeist.

Alyson Faye’s poetry and stories kept me turning pages even though my dinner sat waiting on the table. I heard scratching noises in the walls, I met a dandy of a ventriloquist and his creepy fiend, and I visited a family in a ghost town. Her western horror, “The Blasted Tree” was my favorite of Faye’s, and it brought to mind several photographs I have of gangly trees growing amongst nothing else in the barren desert. 

Women have a unique perspective on horror. Most females have a talent with body horror. All four of these writers deserve a place on everyone’s bookshelf.

5 out of 5 stars

Available from Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Till We Become Monsters by Amanda Headlee

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Till We Become Monsters
Author: Amanda Headlee
Genre: Supernatural Thriller/YA
Publisher: Woodhall Press
Release Date: 1st June, 2021

Synopsis: Monsters exist and Korin Perrin knew this as truth because his grandmother told him so. Korin, raised in the shadow of his older brother Davis, is an imaginative child who believes his brother is a monster. After the death of their grandmother, seven-year-old Korin, blaming Davis for her demise, tries to kill him. Sixteen years following the attempt on Davis’ life, racked with guilt, Korin comes to terms with the fact that Davis may not be the one who is the monster after all.

Past wrongs needing to be righted, Korin agrees to a hunting trip with his brother and father. But they, along with two friends, never make it to their destination. An accident along the way separates the hunters in the dark forests of Minnesota during the threat of an oncoming blizzard. As the stranded hunters search for each other and safety, an ancient evil wakes.

I tend to judge a book’s reading potential by its cover. Till We Become Monsters cover design—a rendering of a recognizable antlered skull dripping with danger—earns 5 stars. 

Family history and jealousy are the bones to this monster, the children are its flesh. 

Korin Perrin is a little boy who’s quite aware that monsters are real. So says his grandmother, who is quite the storyteller. Set in small-town Minnesota with a population of just 278, Korin’s older brother Davis is a brat; no spoiler there. Korin had a special relationship with his grandmother. It has abruptly ended. And Korin blames Davis. 

Headlee does a great job setting her account. I feel myself getting comfortable in Grandfather’s leather reading chair. I hear Grandmother’s tone, and her love for Korin. Minnesota’s cold, cold winter, which bodes well for any thriller, made shiver and reach for my blanket.

As with any good story, I was pulled from the comfort of my chair into the dark world of changelings, wendigo, and bears–oh my! A lot happens within this tale that I can’t discuss due to spoilers. There are woods and there are hunters. I will tell you there’s a twist—I do love twists! Headlee’s novel (her first, by the way) is an easy read, and it’s not laden with a huge cast. Good dialogue, and plenty of action to keep you reading. I read a galley copy so I won’t refer to any typos or formatting issues.  

4 out of 5 stars

Available from  Bookshop and Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: The Loosening Skin
Author: Aliya Whiteley
Genre: Weird Fiction
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 23rd Feb, 2021 (reprint)

Synopsis: Rose Allington is a bodyguard for celebrities, and she suffers from a rare disease. Her moults come quickly, changing everything about her life, who she is, who she loves, who she trusts.

In a world where people shed their skin, it’s a fact of life that we move on and cast off the attachments of our old life. But those memories of love can be touched – and bought – if you know the right people.

Rose’s former client, superstar actor Max Black, is hooked on Suscutin, a new wonderdrug that prevents the moult. Max knows his skins are priceless, and moulting could cost him his career.

When one of his skins is stolen, and the theft is an inside job, Max needs the best who ever worked for him – even if she’s not the same person.

Includes an exclusive short story set in the world of The Loosening Skin.

Ever hear the cliché, beauty is only skin deep? The author’s premise asks, what if love were only skin deep? Though dark and sad, this was a love story. And it centered around all things love: unrequited, self, selfless, detached, sexually based attraction, and unconditional. 

In my mind, true love lasts forever. Sexually based attraction is lust. Self-love changes as we change. So as I read, I kept thinking—if the love was real, then it would last regardless of a moult because love is not a feeling or an emotion. The act of caring and giving to someone else. Having someone’s best interest and wellbeing as a priority in your life. To truly love is a very selfless act. 

But this is fiction, and Whiteley’s unique story falls under the weird fiction genre. Her tale belongs to Rose. In the novel’s first half, Rose’s present is told in first person present tense, and her past (backstory) in third person past tense (the chapters are titled with a time stamp to help follow the narrative). The second part of the novel encompasses Rose’s future through the eyes of a secondary narrator—Mikhael Stuck. The narrative jumps around, but like reading a classic or another language or a foreign idea, I quickly got used to it. 

This quote sums up Rose’s perspective about moulting:

If only other emotions were lost in the moult. Fear, pain, guilt, sadness: why must these remain? Some people say it’s because those emotions are true, lasting, while love could never survive for longer. But I think love is the strongest feeling of all, and that’s why it has to die, and be sloughed away. Otherwise it could kill us. I remember how I would’ve taken a bullet for Max, or murdered someone who threatened him. Surely I’m better off without those false feelings. 

Why are skins like this? We’re never told in Rose’s world—they just are. With Rose, a new skin equals a new life—the old one’s personality and emotions end. She looks the same, but isn’t. She remembers the transition, but not the emotional attachments. 

This is one of those rare books that on the surface sounds unrelatable, until you read it. What if you could shed your emotions like a snake sheds its skin? A fresh start. You wouldn’t miss those emotions because they’re gone. What a relief, right? Or…maybe not. In Whitley’s novel some people save their skins, and those feelings can be awakened when the old skins are touched. 

Interesting, thought provoking, and unusual, I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

Available from Bookshop and Amazon.

An interview with Author Jo Kaplan

An Interview with Jo Kaplan, author of It Will Just Be Us

Describe your book cover; what are we seeing? How did it come about?

“In Wakefield Manor, a decaying ancestral mansion brooding on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, there is a locked room.” So starts the novel—and that mysterious locked room lies at the end of the third floor hallway. I like to think we’re getting a glimpse of that hallway in the book cover. We see a vine-covered wall, which also evokes the setting of the swamp, and on that wall a mirror reflecting the hallway back at us. Maybe my favorite part of the cover is the shadowy face of a boy—the ghost who becomes integral to the story.

I adore how the cover designer, Melanie Sun, brought all of this together, and with beautiful colors, too! The publisher had asked me some very detailed questions to help nail down the best cover for the book, and I think they all did a spectacular job.

 

Tell me about your novel’s genesis, and its inspiration.

It Will Just Be Us is, first and foremost, a haunted house story. I love a good haunted house story and knew I wanted to write one—but I also wanted to do something a little different with the haunting, and with the notion of ghosts. It was definitely inspired by great haunted house books like The Haunting of Hill House and House of Leaves, as well as by the dark psychology, moody atmosphere, and twisted history of the Gothic tradition.

But the idea of a house haunted by echoes of the past really coalesced from a concept into a story with the genesis of Julian, and the question of whether we can be haunted by the future as much as we are haunted by the past.

Tell me about Julian and his inspiration.

So, here’s a funny coincidence: I was writing this book around the time my sister was pregnant with her first child—my nephew. And the book is about Sam Wakefield, whose sister is also pregnant… with her son, who may or may not be the creepy faceless ghost Sam keeps seeing around the house. To top it off—and this really was a total coincidence—my nephew’s name sounds surprisingly similar to Julian.

But that’s where the similarity ends. My nephew is a sweet boy and couldn’t be further from the sadistic Julian.

The key question that really inspired the whole situation with Julian is that philosophical question: would you kill baby Hitler? In this case, if Sam is really being haunted by the ghostly presence of her sister’s unborn son, and he is as evil as this ghost seems to be, then what will she do to stop him?

I love creepy kids in horror, so it was also just a great opportunity to play with that trope!

Without giving away the novel’s ending, did you know where it was heading? In other words, were you headed toward that ending, or…?

Yes, I knew exactly where it was headed. I actually find it almost impossible to start writing a novel without some sense of its conclusion. I like to know where it’s all heading so that I can work out how to get there. I love when a story surprises me, though—there are often elements of the ending I haven’t quite worked out yet that crystallize once I’ve written my way there. But in terms of the main events and revelations, well, once I realize where a novel is going, it seems almost inevitable.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

It’s probably pretty clear from my previous answer that I’m a plotter. Often the middle section of a novel is less planned-out than the beginning and end, so there’s still plenty of room to see where the story takes me as I write it, but I like to have at least a basic sense of plot to guide me.

Where do you write?

Currently, I’m lucky enough to have a home office that provides a peaceful place to write, although one of my cats nearly always jumps up onto my desk and gets in my way when I sit down, and he’s just too adorable to push away. I love having a private, quiet place to write, but it’s only recently that I’ve gotten to enjoy that, since my husband and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with a small desk against the living room wall, so I had to learn how to tune out whatever was going on nearby when I wanted to get my writing groove on. Sit me down in my own space with a cup of coffee and I’m set!

What is the first horror novel you ever read, and what made it appealing?

You know, that’s a great question, and I truly cannot remember. I’ve been reading horror since I was a kid, starting with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books and the Goosebumps series. My first horror novel was probably some forgettable children’s horror book from the library—I used to churn through as many of those as I could get my hands on. I was just drawn to everything about the horror genre: the delightful spookiness, the ghosts and monsters, the supernatural encroaching on the real. Once I started reading horror, I just never stopped.

Do you have a favorite female author?

There are so many amazing women horror writers; one of my favorites is Shirley Jackson. We Have Always Lived in the Castle was another big inspiration for It Will Just Be Us, and is a book I could just read over and over again. Her short fiction is deliciously unsettling, too.

Some other favorites are Joyce Carol Oates, Gemma Files, T. Kingfisher, Jennifer McMahon, and S.P. Miskowski.

Who’s your favorite female villain?

This is a hard one. I think I’m going to have to go with Annie Wilkes.

How do you watch horror? (In your pjs, alone, with popcorn?)

In the dark. I always have to turn out the lights to watch. It’s just so much better and more immersive that way! Not alone, though—my husband likes horror, too, so we usually watch things together.

What writing tools are a must?

I think the only 100% necessary tool is your brain. For me, personally, I need a computer, though. I’m way too impatient to write by hand, and my fingers move much faster on a keyboard. All I really need is a word processor and a cup of coffee, but it’s also helpful to have something on hand to jot down notes and ideas throughout the day, whether it’s a little notebook or my phone.

Best writing advice you’d like to share?

Be wary of all general advice.” – Richard Bausch