Author: Warren Nast

Epeolatry Book Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

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Title: Hidden Pictures
Author: Jason Rekulak
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Horror/Ghost/Thriller
Release Date: 10th May, 2022

Synopsis: Mallory is delighted to have a new job looking after gorgeous four-year-old, Teddy. She’s been sober for a year and a half and she’s sure her new nannying role in the affluent suburbs will help keep her on the straight and narrow.

That is until Teddy starts to draw disturbing pictures of his imaginary friend, Anya. It is quite clear to Mallory and to Teddy’s parents, even in his crude childlike style, that the woman Teddy is drawing in his pictures is dead.

Teddy’s crayons are confiscated, and his paper locked away. But the drawings somehow keep coming, telling a frightening story of a woman murdered… and they’re getting more sophisticated. But if Teddy isn’t drawing the pictures anymore, who is? And what are they trying to tell Mallory about her new home?

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Three Tricks Writers Use to Build Suspense

Three Tricks Writers Use to Build Suspense

By Warren Nast

 

Suspense is what keeps the reader turning the pages. What happens next? How are they going to get there in time? Will the bad guy win? Will everyone survive? The writer must always keep these questions in mind and when editing tightens the suspense elements like a guitar string; taunt but doesn’t break when played again in the next chapter. So let’s look at a few tried and true suspense techniques for you to use in your own writing.

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Four Things Star Wars Can Teach a Writer

As an author, you never stop looking for inspiration and knowledge on the craft of writing.

Star Wars IV is a great piece of writing and a master class in the fundamentals of storytelling.

From using archetype characters, good and evil themes, foreshadowing (who starts with Episode 4?), plotting, and editing, watching this movie is never boring; which you never want your writing to be.

Here are four more things that a writer can learn from Star Wars.

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What Can An Author Use To Give The Reader More?

Five Ways Writers Give You More

By Warren Nast

 

Being a writer is more than just putting nouns in front of verbs. There is a whole pantry of techniques and visual things we use to give the reader more. Here are my top five.

Epigraphs:

At the beginning of a fine meal, the chef might send to your table an amuse-bouche (a one-bite appetizer) that sets the tone for the rest of the meal. Likewise, an epigraph serves the same purpose as the mini-appetizer as it helps set the tone for what the reader is going to experience. 

Here are a few examples:
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Epeolatry Book Review: The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

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Title: The Other Emily
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: 23rd March, 2021

Synopsis: Number one New York Times bestselling master of suspense Dean Koontz takes readers on a twisting journey of lost love, impossible second chances, and terrifying promises.

A decade ago, Emily Carlino vanished after her car broke down on a California highway. She was presumed to be one of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims whose remains were never found.

Writer David Thorne still hasn’t recovered from losing the love of his life, or from the guilt of not being there to save her. Since then, he’s sought closure any way he can. He even visits regularly with Jessup in prison, desperate for answers about Emily’s final hours so he may finally lay her body to rest. Then David meets Maddison Sutton, beguiling, playful, and keenly aware of all David has lost. But what really takes his breath away is that everything about Maddison, down to her kisses, is just like Emily. As the fantastic becomes credible, David’s obsession grows, Maddison’s mysterious past deepens―and terror escalates.

Is she Emily? Or an irresistible dead ringer? Either way, the ultimate question is the same: What game is she playing? Whatever the risk in finding out, David’s willing to take it for this precious second chance. It’s been ten years since he’s felt this inspired, this hopeful, this much in love…and he’s afraid.

This is the story of a writer, David Thorne, recovering from guilt. A decade ago, he lost his fiancé, Emily, to a serial killer on a lonesome stretch of California highway. When David makes his annual trip back to California, he meets Maddison—a dead ringer for Emily.

I originally picked up this book because of the title; in essence, it asks, who is the other Emily?  When I started reading, I expected serial killer hijinks. But like the Sixth Sense, this story was not what I thought it was. Tension built throughout, and when Koontz tied all the threads together in the third act, I felt overjoyed. He swung for the fences and knocked out a home run. 

Koontz is at the top of his game here in this page-turning suspense novel. The first time David and Maddison meet at the café, the two characters exchange a snappy dialogue, and I squealed like a schoolgirl while immersed in the chemistry between these two characters. Koontz gives just enough information throughout the book to keep me wondering. 

Koontz also does an excellent job with setting, which I found distinct and memorable. This is my first time reading his work and I enjoyed getting lost in the locations. I have driven those highways in California—he got me feeling like I was there.

This book is for readers who like Harlan Coben, thrillers, and suspense. For us horror fans, there is a healthy dose. The Other Emily is the perfect summer beach book for 2021. Try not to learn too much about the plot before you start reading, and hopefully you will experience the same thrill I did.  I could not put this book down. It reads quickly, and you will root for David Thorne to see if he finds his true love again. 

5 out of 5 stars.

Available from Bookshop.org and Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

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Title: Forestborn
Author: Elayne Audrey Becker
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: 31st August, 2021

Synopsis: A young, orphaned shapeshifter in a world that fears magic must risk everything if she hopes to save her only friend in Elayne Audrey Becker’s Forestborn, first in a new fantasy series with a timeless feel.

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness—and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up—and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Forestborn, by Elayne Audrey Becker, is the story about Rora, a shape-shifter. A dire prophecy surrounds her. Rora is an outsider who works for the king and happens to be best friends with Prince Finley. The prince gets stricken with a magical plague. The rest of the book involves Rora embarking on a quest to find stardust, the mythical element needed to save her friend.

This book is part of Tor Teen publishing for 13 – 18-year-olds. The writer has nice passages describing her characters. For example, “Turns out, solitude is lonely, but being surrounded by people who want nothing to do with you hurts even more.” Rora gives the reader great insight into what this character is struggling with at the beginning of the book. 

Becker, tasked with building a new mythical world, has neat imagery with the trees and the giants that I really enjoyed. In the “Acknowledgments”, Becker thanks her friend who drew a map which is supposed to be part of the book. My big criticism—my reviewer’s kindle edition did not include a map. All fantasy books need a map! I lose my car at the grocery store so I will admit I had trouble orienting myself with the character’s location within their world. 

Quest books are hard to write. The character must get from A to B and three hundred pages can feel a little long. There were places in the middle where I wanted more action. Fortunately, it picked up again at the climax but then ended with Rora recapping her growth and heading back into the forest for Book 2. While I generally enjoyed the book, the ending left me with a “meh” feeling. 3 out of 5 stars.

Available from  Bookshop and Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Best of R. A. Lafferty by R. A. Lafferty

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Title: The Best of R. A. Lafferty
Author: R.A. Lafferty
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor Trade
Release Date: 2nd Feb, 2021

Synopsis: Acclaimed as one of the most original voices in modern literature, a winner of the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, Raphael Aloysius Lafferty (1914-2002) was an American original, a teller of acute, indescribably loopy tall tales whose work has been compared to that of Avram Davidson, Flannery O’Connor, Flann O’Brien, and Gene Wolfe.

The Best of R. A. Lafferty presents 22 of his best flights of offbeat imagination, ranging from classics like “Nine Hundred Grandmothers” and “The Primary Education of the Cameroi” to his Hugo Award-winning “Eurema’s Dam.”

Introduced by Neil Gaiman, the volume also contains story introductions and afterwords by, among many others, Michael Dirda, Samuel R. Delany, John Scalzi, Connie Willis, Jeff VanderMeer, Kelly Robson, Harlan Ellison, Michael Swanwick, Robert Silverberg, Neil Gaiman, and Patton Oswalt.

Lafferty’s newest short story collection includes introductions by other notable science fiction writers, such as: Neil Gaiman, Samuel R. Delany, John Scalzi, and others.  

Raphael Aloysius Lafferty, from Tulsa Oklahoma, was known as the Bard of Tulsa. He worked as an electrical engineer, and his friends called him Ray. Upon retiring at 45 years old, he became a professional writer. A Catholic and an alcoholic, Ray says, “When I was younger I got a lot of pleasure and companionship out of drinking, but probably no creative impetus. Drinking has influenced my writing all in the wrong direction.”

“Day of the Glacier,” (sadly, not included in this anthology) was Lafferty’s first published science fiction story. He was 46 years old. “It didn’t put me on easy street, but it put me on easy alley,” said Lafferty of his writing. “I was moderately successful.”  Lafferty is what I would call a foundation writer. An influence on more famous writers but not a household name like Rodenberry, Asimov, or Gaiman.  His works draw from Irish and Native American tales to the writings of St. Theresa.

Lafferty’s distinctive style — he loves proper names and alliteration. Basil Bagelbaker, Maxwell Mouser, Willy McGilly, and Arpad Arkabaranan are but a few tongue twisters encountered in these stories. Lafferty employs tall telling, using deadpan humor and adding the surreal. Consider this passage from the “Narrow Valley.”

“He’s getting better at it, Mr. Dublin,” Mary Mabel said. “He was a twin till last week. His twins name was Skinny. Mamma left Skinny unguarded while she was tippling, and there were wild dogs in the neighborhood. When Mama got back, do you know what was left of Skinny? Two neck bones and an ankle bone. That was all.”

“Poor Skinny,” Dublin said, “Well, Rampart, this is the fence and the end of my land. Yours is just beyond.”  

“Is that ditch on my land?” Rampart asked.

“That ditch is your land.”

One thing I like about a book like this — it satisfies my itch for science fiction stories, and my writer’s itch. I love books that include the authors thought process, commentary, and in this case why and how these stories influenced them on their writing journey. This anthology also contains Lafferty’s Hugo winning story “Eurema’s Dam.”

Terry Bison said, “For Lafferty is that most tender. wretched, and essential of creatures, the writers’ writer: celebrated by, beloved of, but mostly visible only to his own proud, primitive tribe.”  I would encourage you to add The best of r.a. lafferty to your collection. 

I give this book 4 out of 5

Available from  Bookshop and Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Monstre by Duncan Swan

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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: Monstre: Volume 1
Author: Duncan Swan
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Super Hoot Publishing
Release Date: 20th September, 2020

Synopsis:  THERE IS NO STOPPING IT.

THE CLOUD IS ARMAGEDDON, STEAMROLLING THE WORLD AT A WALKING PACE.

Day 0. From the wreckage of a research facility in Switzerland, a plume of toxic smoke and ash pours into the sky, forming an impenetrable cloud that is slowly smothering the world in darkness. As Europe disappears beneath the Cloud, a squad of United States marines are sent on a desperate mission to find out what went wrong, and how to undo it before it’s too late. Venturing into a cold, dark world, the marines must travel deep under the Cloud, with no comms, no backup, and no idea of what they will face.

Monstre Volume 1 is a tight and suspenseful novel about the end of the world. The story begins at Hadron Collider, located at the CERN facility, and it has brought something into our world.  A cloud from the research facility’s wreckage begins to ooze across Europe. In the United States, a Marine squad is sent to find out what the hell is going on and how to stop it before it’s too late.

Monstre has a big cast of characters, and Swan devoted each chapter to telling their stories. From the scientist, to the Marines, to the old Tennessee Sheriff who helps a family escape west, to a rumored nuclear bunker that may be their only hope for survival. Swan’s chapter breaks and cliff hangers enticed me to keep turning the pages. 

As any novel within the Lovecraftian vein, Swan does a good job balancing horror, fantasy, and science fiction elements. Even before starting to read, I was drawn in by the cover’s horrific image and the blackened page borders, which gave the book a sinister feel. The French spelling “Monstre” imparts an indie film quality; I can see this tale as a European Netflix series.

This book will draw comparisons to Stephen King’s, The Mist. King focused on a group of survivors in a grocery store, while Swan points the camera on a worldwide view of what survivors and the military would do in a situation like this.  

People who relish Lovecraftian style writing, with an added touch of Stephen King and Tom Clancy, will enjoy this account by Swan. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

This is Duncan Swan’s debut novel. Swan was born in South Africa, raised in Australia, and now resides in L.A. with his wife and child. 

Available from amazon.