Saturday, October 17, 2015

Meet the Author

Pretty cool support from Verto Publishing - Meet the Author showcasing my new story about to come out in the Gothic Tales of Terror anthology. Awesome Sauce, as they say!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Short Stay in Hell

A Short Stay in HellA Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I usually am disappointed when I read books based on other books or short stories, in this case, Jorge Luis Borges' La biblioteca de Babel (The Library of Babel). In this case, I found several things that interested me: Mormonism, Zoroastrianism, and Existentialism, well, kind of.

The Mormonism and Zoroastrianism are only entry points into this very well thought out and thought provoking Hell. One line that really stands out, also mentioned by another reviewer (Forrest):

"Anticipation is a gift. Perhaps there is none greater. Anticipation is born of hope. Indeed it is hopes finest expression. In hope's loss, however, is the greatest despair."

If you want to try and understand the meaning of eternity, this book will get you there. If you want to understand depression, suicide, some aspects of PTSD, without having to experience them, this book scratches the surface. If you want to walk away from a read that leaves you thinking, wondering, and not sure if you liked it or hated it, this is the novella for you. I have had to go back and re-read the ending several times.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 7, 2015

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Extraordinary Voyages, #6)Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The main reason I gave this novel five stars is because it is a classic, it is Jules Verne, the Father of Science Fiction (although I like Mary Shelley as the Mother of Sci-Fi), and the characterization was beautifully done. Yes, the plot is slow moving and buried in the entertainment of description, but consider the time: this book was published shortly after the American Civil War, the oceans of the world were still unknown, undiscovered, and misunderstood (not much has changed on that last subject), and people wanted intense and long descriptions of things, esp. if they included descriptions of the unknown.

Some say Captain Nemo is the perfect villain, but to me, he is not really a villain, but an imperfect and almost insane anti-hero (for more on that, read Verne's The Mysterious Island). I loved every mind-numbing page until the end (spoiler alert).

The end was quick, contrived, and unsatisfactory. I believe Verne may have ran out of things to say, had no idea how to end Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, or it was his editor's error. After reading such wonderful descriptions, struggling to maintain the plot, only to have Nemo and the Nautilus disappear in the Maelstrom, while the main protagonist, Professor Aronnax, is knocked unconscious, only to wake up safe and sound in a shack with his companions, Ned Land and Conseil, was a complete let down. Disney did it better (watch it if you have the chance).

Good things: it is a classic, the language well-written, and its a cheap read, either via Nook/Kindle, or picking up a hard copy.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Transylvania Writing Workshop

Some tower in France:)
Let me begin with a few words of commentary: a once in a lifetime, bucket list checking, experience... and the workshop was icing on the cake.  The journey began with a stop-over in Paris - Eiffel, Notre Dame, and the was a quick, down and dirty tour of the City of Lights and amazing.

Next, the Land Beyond the Forest, the home of Vlad Tepes, and all things Dracula, and the first ever horror writing workshop hosted in that country.  The special guest instructor was Richard Thomas, not to be confused with John Boy Walton.  Richard introduced students to Neo Noir, the New Black, and utilized several wonderful authors' work - Jack Ketchum, Stephen Graham Jones, and one of my favorites, Brian Evenson.  The workshop was a good review for writers who have been published and an excellent introduction and learning experience for those who are just testing the waters.  It was made perfect by the organizer and Commander and Chief, Tausha Johnson and her very capable and native Romanian side-kick, Ina Lolescu, both very capable and knowledgeable experts in the running of workshops, administration, and writing - please check the workshop site.
The majestic Carpathians
The scenery was haunting, terror-inspiring, superstitious, and, in a word, sublime.  The Carpathians are not a place, but an experience, and to seal that description, our first night found the local Orthodox priests blessing the participants and the pension where we stayed, Mama Conzonacilor, against evil.  If the setting was not enough to inspire ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves, it certainly inspired protection.  The Mama Conzonacilor and our host, Lorenzo, made everyone feel right at home, the accommodations were simply outstanding, the food, native and delicious, and everything Bram Stoker captured in the first few chapters of Dracula.  An experience not to be missed.
Mama Conzonacilor Pensiune
In addition to the writing and lecture, which was intense, but pleasant, several days included tours of the local area and famous (infamous) Vlad hang outs.  The routine involved 4-hours of classroom, including writing, followed by lunch, and then an excursion or more workshop and writing.

The author and his wife at Rasnov
Our first outside activity was to the ancient citadel/fortress of Rasnov, built between 1211 and 1225 by the Teutonic Knights.  It was interesting, a trip worth taking, but offered very little for the writing of horror or ghost stories; however, the age, the ambiance, was an amazing tonic to inspire creativity and most likely to give a respite to jet-lagged participants.  A site not to be missed by visitors.  My wife, who attended as a non-writer, found the excursions to be the most exciting part of the journey; however, just lying around and catching up on her reading at the hotel was nice as well.

Probably one of the most amazing activities was a visit to Bran Castle, an immense fortress located near the border between Transylvania and Wallachia.  The castle, also with Teutonic roots, was destroyed in 1242 by the Mongols.  Unfortunately, depending on one's point of view, it has more links to the English Monarchy than to the infamous Impaler, but as in most histories, tourism drives reality.  The implements of torture,
Vlad Tepes, possibly a tenant at Bran Castle
legends and myths, made it an excellent spot for writers of Nuevo Neo Noir Negro (N2N2), the latest genre in Horror.  It was also reported as the second-most haunted location in Romania.  I believe our camera ran out of battery at this point, so please check my FB links and friends for additional photographs, courtesy of the wonderful writer and photographer, Holli Moncrieff.

Iulia Hasdeu
If I mentioned the second-most haunted location in Romania, you are probably expecting some commentary on the first-most haunted spot in Romania.  Yes, we visited there too, and it inspired a wonderful story that, I hope, will see publication soon.  Iulia Hasdeu Castle, Julia to her American friends, was constructed after Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu's daughter, Iulia, died at the age of 19, an event that dramatically shook and changed Hasdeu's life. Hasdeu, an acclaimed academic and possibly the smartest man of his time, claimed that his belated daughter provided the plans for building the castle during sessions of spiritism. The building was completed in 1896.  Yes, there was definitely a spirit or spirits present, although none showed up on film.  It was an awe and horror-inspiring adventure, which was only added to by the 6-hour van ride to and from Bran.

Next came the actual birthplace of Vlad Tepes, the Impaler and Bram Stoker's infamous Dracula: Sigishoara.  It was a beautiful, protected Medieval Village (UNESCO).  It was like taking a step back in time, and I mean from the time we were in, which already felt like pre-Soviet Romania.  Despite
The author, his wife, and a very nice Roma woman.
its thriving tourism-driven economy, there were many historical sites to see, as well as many story inspiring sites, including a citadel atop Sigishoara Mountain, including an ancient church and still functioning cemetery. The 100-plus steps leading to imposing fortress was made perfect by an old and kind Roma woman selling flowers.  It was a great opportunity to impress my wife, and our friend Ina, by making a small purchase of two bouquets, one of which we left in the very Hollywood-style coffin of Vlad Tepes later in the day.  I am still processing everything we saw and did.  I'm sure there are a number of stories just waiting to be written.  Of all the places on earth I have visited, Romania must be at the top of the list of places I plan to return to.
Vlad and our flower offering

So, Vlad Tepes birthplace... It has become a restaurant, with excellent food, by the way, and a tourist trap akin to a Tunnel-O-Love from the mid-twentieth century.  Still, there was a certain charm, a chic, that can be found nowhere else on the planet.  It was also the only certifiable link to the infamous Impaler on our trip, other than the empty plot of Vlad Tepes at Snagov (next).  The setting and lighting were excellent for a nice snapshot.

Finally, on our way to the airport on the last day, we had to stop by Lake Snagov and the empty grave of Vlad Tepes made famous in Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian.  It was everything we expected.  We especially appreciated our tour guide, Roxana Petrescu.  It was a short, 20-minute drive from the airport.  If you are traveling to Romania, an excellent site to see/visit
on your way into the country or on your way out.

I plan to go into more detail, and include some commentary on each of the sites in additional detail, as well as our Paris adventure and our follow-on 4-day trip in the U.K., including Stonehenge, Avebury, and the city made famous by Jane Austen.  If there are any errors, please let me know.

Mulţumesc foarte!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Amazon Author Page -

Don't know if this is a good thing:)
Bringing back memories of the altitude chamber and hypoxia symptoms - just a quick note - May will be a busy month - Holistic Survival, Writing Conference, Emergency Preparedness Seminar - but writing is the thing.  Keep Writing!  I am pleased to announce that I will have a short story appearing shortly in O'Dark Thirty.  Will post a link when it's available.  Also, have created an author's page on Amazon - a link should be available shortly - probably - they say it will be active in 30 minutes, or so! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Old Scratch and Owl Hoots

It's out and ready to read!

All of the writers are in Utah or have a connection to Utah.  You can pick up a copy at FANX or LUTE for ten bucks ($10), or suggested retail at Amazon ($12.99)

Utah Horror

Griffin Publishers