Undercurrents

Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath

Fear is primal. Instinctive. Unavoidable. And right now, there is something you fear—and you can feel it. Creeping up behind you. Lurking in the darkness that lives under your bed, or in your closet. A nameless dread. 

In Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath, twenty-three talented authors, including New York Times bestsellers Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Jody Lynn Nye, have stood on the shores of their psyches and looked out over the ocean of possibility and wondered “What lies beneath?” 

The sea creatures and sea monsters that answered their calls range from a giant kraken that rules the deepest ocean to the smallest puffer fish that creates intricate works of underwater art. Creatures of classic mythology—mermaids, sirens, and sea serpents—swim alongside more unusual beasts—underwater cats and singing whirlpools. These stories dive deep into the fears many of us face, including loss, abandonment, death, and physical, mental, or emotional danger. When the fears we keep buried beneath the surface rise up and threaten to consume, we must make a choice: conquer or be conquered. 

This anthology is the fourth volume produced by the alumni of the Superstars Writing Seminar, and all royalties benefit the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

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After attending the Superstars conference this year, I picked up the newest anthology, Undercurrents. I’ve never been a big anthology reader though I own several (including all the rest of the Superstars anthologies).

But since I’ve been so busy lately and not had much time for reading, I found reading an anthology to be the perfect antidote to never feeling like I’m finishing anything. Instead of reading a chapter before bed, I get to read a whole story!

And, I really liked this anthology. I think every story in it was well-written, unique, and fresh. It was interesting to see how people interpreted the theme of “what lies beneath” and what they did with it. Many of the stories were more “classic” and involved krakens and sea monsters and sirens. But none of them were exactly conventional. Other stories took the theme of “what lies beneath” to thoroughly unexpected locales like Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The stories also covered a range of genres from horror to sci-fi to fantasy and even contemporary fiction. There was only one story in this anthology I couldn’t really get into, but I think its style just didn’t appeal to me.

This anthology is a great one to have on your shelf and if you’re a person who is obsessed with the sea or sea monsters, you will definitely want to add this one to your collection!

 

Ghost Bully: Review and Interview With Author Brian Corley

Ghost Bully by Brian Corley

Roommates can be hell.

Like when they’re late with the rent, late on bills, or constantly trying to kill you.

Jonah Preston thought he knew what he was getting into after signing the paperwork to buy his new home: yard work, a leaky pipe here and there, maybe the occasional squirrel in the attic.

He just didn’t expect to share that new home with a ghost.

Before all the boxes are unpacked, Jonah learns the previous owner, Willard Hensch, committed suicide in one of the bedrooms. It’s bad news, but Jonah and his (corporeal) roommate, Max, take it in stride. Jonah’s just happy to own a home and begin this new chapter in his adult life.

Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly short chapter.

Unhappy with his new roommates, the resident ghost quickly makes his presence known. Like, really known. When Jonah wakes up dead, he knows exactly who’s behind it.

Willard. Effing. Hensch.

For the newly deceased Jonah, that’s where his new chapter truly begins. He will befriend angels, fight demons, and take on a ghostly army in this comic-paranormal thrill ride through the freakish underworld of Austin, Texas. 

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I’ll start by saying this is not the typical book I’d pick up to read. As a rule, I like to stay away from anything with the potential to be scary and I definitely find ghosts scary.

But.

I have been known to make exceptions when the book just sounds too good for me to pass up. That’s why I ended up reading The Passage trilogy, The Dark Tower series, and the Gone series. Ghost Bully was much the same – the concept just sounded too fun, plus I got to meet author Brian Corley at the Superstars Writing Conference I attended earlier this year and learned even more about his creation.

Ghost Bully was a fun ride from start to finish. I only found one or two chapters near the beginning to be mildly creepy. Overall, the book elicited more chuckles than chills and absolutely delivered on the unique premise.

What really made Ghost Bully such a great read for me was that the world-building was on point. I think world-building is something I really care about in the books I read and I know the author has done a good job with it when I start wishing there were more books out so I could spend more time in the world they created. Or if I can imagine the story working as a movie or tv show, I know it’s become real to me.

All of the ghostly details were so fun and clever! It was a little bit like reading Harry Potter, where you’re given information you didn’t know you wanted, but once you have it, you can’t imagine the story without it. The world of Ghost Bully is clearly well-developed beyond the parts of it that appear in the text, which makes me excited for the possibility of there being more books.

The writing itself moves along quickly, delivering joke after joke. Not all of them quite landed for me, but I can be a little slow to get the joke.

Of course, the ultimate test of how much I’ve been enjoying a book is when I compare how many pages I actually read versus how many pages I meant to read. There were many nights where I meant to read a chapter before bed, but ended up putting the book down after three or four chapters because it was now super late. Considering I’ve been running around like a crazy person, you know the book was really holding my attention!

If you’re looking for the perfect book to tote to the beach or pass the time on an airplane, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of Ghost Bully this summer!

As one of my goals for the future of my blog, I wanted to do more author interviews…provided I could find any willing authors haha. Luckily, Brian and I are in the same writer’s group so I didn’t have to twist his arm too much to come answer some questions about his book and his writing!

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What inspired you to write Ghost Bully?

I had a beer with Jonathan Isaacs to talk about his haunted house story. I made a comment that ghosts don’t really think their threats all the way through. We’re afraid of ghosts because they’ll hurt or possibly kill us … but then what? You’d become a ghost too. What if you’re a naturally gifted ghost? Hey ghost, you thought you were annoyed at a guy kicking around the house for a few hours a night? Now you have to deal with this guy forever!

He thought that was a pretty funny take and told me I should write that book, so eventually, I did.

Who is your favorite character in Ghost Bully and why?

Hands down, Cat is my favorite character. I had a much different plan for her when I started the book, but she became such an interesting character during the writing process, that I just had to follow her and adjust the story as it happened.

Who was the hardest character to write?

Although some were definitely more fun than others, I don’t know that any of the characters were hard to write. I probably had more challenges with the scenes themselves. Once I worked out those out, the characters seem to know what to do.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

Sure, a few actually. At first, Jonah made a lot of the same decisions I would probably make. I wanted to ground the first act/haunted house story in a little bit of realism. I’d try to make a real decision in the moment and then puzzle out how that would back fire on me, or just ask myself what I would do if faced with the same situation. Like I would totally spend money on an exorcism solution, then look for a free back-up plan as well.

Max makes the jokes in real time that I’d probably only think about once the conversation was over. He’s quick, and funny—and who I’d like to be in the moment (except stranding Jonah alone in the house—although leaving was clearly the smart decision).

Unfortunately, there’s some of me in Willard as well. All the bad stuff, but none of the backstory. I can only hope that some of the people in my life are as forgiving as Jonah.

The city of Austin is practically a character itself. Why did you choose to set the book in such an interesting city?

I just took the “Write what you know” advice. There are a million obstacles to writing your first book, and I figured I’d remove the story’s setting from that list. Also, I’ve lived in Austin for close to twenty years, and love living here.

Not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book, but if you suddenly woke up as a ghost like Jonah…what would you do? Would you take your door? Or hang around for a little while?

That’s a tough one. The door shows you everyone you’ve lost so far in your life as well as the prospect of rest on the other side. Jonah lost his father and could see him there, however, he’d also just had his life cut short. At twenty-five, he didn’t have a lot of money, and he hadn’t quite figured out what to do with his life. He was mostly potential—and Willard stole that from him. So he’s dealing with all of that as well as the promise of revenge he made to Willard.

Me? I’d have a hard time passing up the opportunity to catch up with my dad and grandfathers, plus I’m really big on naps.

Had you written a book before this one? Nope, this was my first one. I was a songwriter a long time ago, and wrote a lot of those, but this was my first book.

What authors have inspired you on your writing journey?

I show my hand in the book here too, but I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and Terry Pratchett. Also, Brandon Sanderson has his BYU writing classes on YouTube, and I think I’ve taken four years worth of his classes. It’s an incredible resource, I’d recommend it to anyone.

What was your writing (and rewriting) process like?

I had three weeks between jobs last May and felt like that was about one week too long to just sit around and sleep all day, so I gave myself a temporary job—to finally sit down and write the damn story I’d been thinking about for a couple of years. Surprisingly, I was able to crank out a rough draft during that time, but it looked a lot different than it does now.

I did three major revisions before handing it over to a developmental editor who taught me a lot during the process. Everything from basic formatting, to major structural issues, he was great to work with.

I received some additional input on the first act of the book that spurred another major rewrite to opening chapters. Ghost Bully had four different beginnings, I think. A couple of characters didn’t even exist until two weeks before I handed in the manuscript for a Copy Edit. All in all, there were about twelve different revisions over six months.

TL;DR: three weeks for rough, about six months for everything else.

Do you use a computer or write by hand before transcribing?

Computer for writing, I type much faster than I write by hand, but I’m constantly jotting down ideas for the story on scrap pieces of paper.

I hand write the outline as well as character sketches on paper, though. Something about pen on paper, feels a little more creative for me in that part of the process.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you like to listen to?

Not really, my mind starts looking for patterns in what’s playing instead of focusing on the page.

That said, there were some nights when I listened to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis while editing. In particular, the scenes with DeeDee and Jeremy as well as (weirdly enough) the scenes where Jonah and team tried to psych themselves up for battle.

What did you edit out of this book?

Tons.

Writing, for me especially, is rewriting. I think I took around thirty thousand words out after the developmental edit, and put forty thousand back in. The first two beginnings of the book started at the title company with Jonah meeting Max for Tex/Mex before going to the house, and now we begin at the house. I kept getting feedback that people just aren’t interested in title companies … can you believe that? People don’t want to read about the process of closing on a house? I kid. It was obviously great advice!

Nicole Alvarez wasn’t in the original plan, but I’m glad she’s there now, and the cemetery scene as well as Masephson’s “Tour of Heck” were also added … and I’m glad. Those are a couple of the more memorable scenes for me.

Biggest takeaway from the journey to become a self-published author? [do you prefer the term indie?]

Definitely prefer the term indie. It’s kind of an Austin badge of honor—from Willie Nelson to Rick Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, we just go for it.

I’m still on the journey, in my opinion, but my biggest takeaways so far is to be the biggest student of the game as you can. From writing to marketing—find out everything you can. YouTube is an incredible repository of knowledge, and talking to other authors has been tremendously helpful as well.

Ghost Bully has only been out for a few months, but what has been the coolest moment so far of having a book out in the world?

Probably like any creative endeavor, it’s just nice to see people enjoy the work.

What’s next for Jonah, Cat, Max, and the Psy-Kicks?

Plenty! Thanks for asking. Ghost Bully is book one in a series of five books, and there will be a series of short stories as well. Hope to have one of the shorts out this summer, and book two out in early 2019.

Where can people find out more about you and your upcoming projects?

On my website, www.brian-corley.com or on Twitter and Instagram as @nicebookbrian

Tower of Dawn

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

The first quarter of the book took me awhile to get through. I had some other books to read for my bookclubs and then I was busy and didn’t want to get caught up in the obsessive page-turning that often happens when I read a Maas book. I needed all the sleep I could get to deal with my busy schedule.

I was finally able to devote time to Tower of Dawn when I left for Colorado for Christmas. I got out of the doldrums of the first quarter and by the middle of the book, the novel had hit its stride and I was hooked. I ended up staying up late and finishing it on Christmas Day.

Here’s my verdict: while not as action-packed as other entries in the Throne of Glass series, Tower of Dawn was interesting and I’m glad we have it. We did get some new details that will be crucial to the resolution of the plot. And I thoroughly enjoyed the world-building of the Southern Continent and am glad we got to travel there. I am hoping there may be spin-off series set on the Southern Continent in the future.

Of course, I’m now very eagerly awaiting Throne of Glass #7 which won’t be out until next fall. I am hoping this really is the final book because I don’t think my heart can take anymore. I just need everyone to be happy and Erilea to be saved. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

The Books I’m Most Excited to Buy in 2018

Okay so the book situation at my house is a little out of control. I say a little, because really, I do have it under control. It’s not a hoarders situation, there’s just twenty, maybe thirty, okay, fifty, books that don’t fit on any of my bookshelves. But it’s fine. I’ve totally got this.

So while I’m once again technically on a book-buying moratorium (moment of silence here, please), there are a few books I’m irrationally excited to purchase in 2018. Therefore, I will be buying them despite the ban on adding to my collection. Because I just can’t not read them!

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

VICTORY COMES AT A PRICE.

Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all . . . starting with the crown on Maven’s head.

But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolish everything—and everyone—in his path.

War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced?

In the epic conclusion to Victoria Aveyard’s stunning series, Mare must embrace her fate and summon all her power . . . for all will be tested, but not all will survive.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.
 
A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?
                  
And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 
                  
A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.
                  
An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.
                  
And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

What begins as a manhunt for the missing daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire becomes something altogether different when the young woman’s body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Kew Gardens, Queens, the head nowhere to be found. It appears there may be two killers on the loose–one responsible for the young woman’s death, another responsible for the mutilation. A pair of such dastardly killers requires a team of equally talented investigators. Luckily, both Vincent D’Agosta and Special Agent Pendergast are back in town.

D’Agosta hopes that working a case back on his home turf for the first time in years will reinvigorate the FBI Special Agent and give him an opportunity to flex his investigative might. But neither is prepared to face a killer–or killers–as diabolical as this. It will take all of Pendergast and D’Agosta’s intelligence and strength simply to match wits–let alone stay alive.

 

The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin

Just putting it out there that GRRM is going to pull a Beyonce and just drop the next Game of Thrones book at our feet in 2018 with no warning.

Throne of Glass #7 by Sarah J. Maas

The conclusion to the Throne of Glass series, the title, cover, and description haven’t been revealed yet. This book is slated for release in Fall 2018.

Which book are you most excited to buy (and read!) in 2018? Tell me in the comments below!

Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

Oh boy. This book broke my heart six ways to Sunday. It took me forever to finish it, but that was because I couldn’t stop reading it when I picked it up. Not ideal for someone who primarily reads before bed. Luckily I was traveling a lot this month and was able to knock out this monster on a couple of plane rides.

I’m glad I waited to read this book until the paperback came out. I’m also glad I haven’t been waiting as long as everyone else for Tower of Dawn.

Empire of Storms is decidedly more grown-up than earlier books in the Throne of Glass series. A lot more sex, a lot more graphic sex in particular, a lot more romance, and even more violence. Though I have to say Empire of Storms has some epic battle sequences. I believe I read somewhere there’s a show in the works for the Throne of Glass series. Though unless HBO is doing it, I can’t help, but feel that it might be a disappointment.

I think every character who’s not Aelin is my favorite. I do find her (as do most of the other characters in the book) more than a little insufferable. But she is balanced by her more redeeming qualities. My favorites are Rowan, Manon, Elide, and Lysandra.

Which makes me impatient to read the conclusion to this series! On Maas’ website, the seventh book is expected out on May 1st, 2018 and Goodreads reports that it will be the final book in the series. I hope so – I don’t think my heart can take any more cliffhangers only to wait months for the next book!

Shadows Cast By Stars

Shadows Cast By Stars by Catherine Knutsson

Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet— especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe— government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors— and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument…

I loved this book instantly. It was so beautifully written and right away I knew I was going to love it and I was right! It’s rare to see a book featuring the mythology of the native peoples of Canada and Alaska. The last one (and the only one I’ve read) that did was The Gods of Second Chances, which I also loved a lot. Clearly, I stumbled upon a subject I like so if you guys have more fiction recommendations for books that feature this type of mythology, send them my way!

Okay, back to Shadows Cast By Stars. That is a lovely title for a book and the cover of the one I had was equally as lovely (pictured above!). So what else did I like besides the mythology stuff and the writing? The dystopian setting (more on that later). The magic. Cassandra. The world-building. Pretty much everything.

Now I have to note on the dystopian stuff, I guess reading the reviews if people didn’t like this book, it’s because they expected it to have as much action as The Hunger Games. It’s definitely not like The Hunger Games at all. But I did enjoy that because it’s so different from most other entries in this genre, for the dystopian world to be mostly offstage and not front and center to the story.

I do think this is the first book in the series. It has to be, with everything that was set up at the end of the book. Which excites me!

However. This book was published in 2012. As of the summer of 2017, there’s no mention of another book forthcoming. Not on the author’s personal website, not on Goodreads, not on her publisher’s website.There’s no updates or anything I can find on the web in the past five years. Not even a note to be like, “Hey guys, sorry it’s taking forever, but I really am writing another book!” It’s like she dropped off the face of the Earth.  Which makes me really, really, really concerned that maybe something has happened to her and that this fantastic story that was set up has no ending…

Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows By Sarah J. Maas

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

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It felt like it took me forever to read this one. Not that it was a bad book. Far from it. Life just got in the way and I kept making excuses not to get sucked in and stay up late reading. Also, I was probably dragging my feet on purpose because I’ve decided I’m waiting until Empire of Storms is out in paperback this fall to read it.

I continue to stand by my assessments of the first two books in this series. If you’re thinking of reading this series, plow through the first two because you have to and fall in love with books three and four where the real story begins. I just love all these new characters so much (Rowan! Manon!) and now Nesryn, Elide, and Lysandra. I’ve very happy with my decision to read The Assassin’s Blade when I did. If you don’t read it in order of publication, reading it before you read Queen of Shadows is another good choice.

Overall, Queen of Shadows feels like a good place to leave the series for awhile. Certain things wrapped up and while there are many more things looming on the horizon, this novel ends in a relative moment of peace and what feels like a penultimate climax to the series.

Now, I have a debate: Empire of Storms is being released in paperback in September. Book 6, Tower of Dawn, is also being released in hardcover in September. But the final novel, Book 7, is not coming until 2018.  Should I read and wait in agony or wait in agony and binge the rest of the series? Decisions, decisions…