Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

Pre-Order The Silverblade Prophecy Today!

Throughout the ages, messiahs have come and gone, and all have fallen.
After centuries of exile, Bantaka the Godslayer is active once more. The Seer manipulates the strands of Time and Space to bring together Pankea’s only hope: the most unlikely motley of misfits and cut-throats in the land, and a godling half-breed who’s bloodline heritage holds the key to saving—or dooming—all Existence.
Destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy to “pierce the heart of her ancestor,” Marian Silverblade is hailed as the current messiah of her age. But prophecies often get misinterpreted. And Lord Calahan Darkblade—Marian’s ancestor and Bantaka’s Herald—has plans of his own….

The Silverblade Prophecy is the first book in The Messiahs War Trilogy. When destinies collide in a war unlike anything before seen on Pankea, the choices made by the most unlikely of heroes may determine the outcome.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Writerly Updates | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse—Review of Remnant in the Stars by Cindy Koepp

remnantinthestarsThe freelance crew of the Gyrfalcon are given a special mission to find the Kesha, an exploration vessel that disappeared after leaving a garbled message. All Derek needs to complete his crew is a pilot and an Aolanian astrogator. He recruits Kirsten Abbot, an injured fighter pilot with a malfunctioning prosthetic arm; and Calonti Sora, an Aolanian banished by his people who has a daughter who was onboard the Kesha. In order to save the crew, they must deal with two anti-Aolanian groups seeking to sabotage the search and rescue.

Remnant in the Stars by Cindy Koepp reminds me of some of the more old-school science fiction where characters resolved conflicts with their brains instead of just their weapons, but while also focusing on the characters instead of just the gadgets while delving deep into cultural, philosophical, and religious themes. Koepp takes a basic plot, a search and rescue mission, and weaves in subplots both personal and political like a master seamstress.

I found this book very enjoyable and fell in love with the main characters almost immediately. I highly recommend Remnant in the Stars.

Best to read while listening to: soundtracks to Star Trek, Contact, and Avatar.



cindykoepp_authorphoto_650x400About the author: Originally from Michigan, Cindy Koepp has a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. After teaching for fourteen years, she pursued a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has five published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently working as an optician in Iowa and as an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press.


remnantinthestarsBook Synopsis for Remnant in the Stars: Two hundred years ago, the Aolanian home world exploded and a remnant of survivors escaped. As their convoy combed the galaxy looking for a new world to colonize, they discovered Earth and were given permission to establish a temporary base while they continued their search for a new home world. When an Aolanian exploration vessel goes missing after transmitting a garbled distress call, the uneasy alliance between the humans and the Aolanians is put to the test as two anti-Aolanian groups jockey to use this opportunity to press their own agendas by foiling the rescue mission.

Because his daughter was onboard the Kesha when it vanished, Calonti Sora reluctantly signs on as an astrogator with the Gyrfalcon, one of the ships in the search party. There he meets up with an old human friend, Kirsten Abbott. Together, they work to overcome prejudice and political plots as they race toward an enemy no one could expect.


loudest_actions_coverBook Synopsis for The Loudest Actions: First contact missions are hard enough, but they get even tougher when the negotiator has an ego the size of a gas giant.

Burke Zacharias, a first contact researcher, is chosen to spearhead humanity’s first official contact with Montans, an insect race that has already had a run-in with less friendly humans. Although his words and overtures toward the Montans are cordial enough, the Montans are put off by how he treats the crew of the scout ship that brought him to the world.

With other, less friendly forces trying to establish a foothold on the world, the negotiation must succeed in spite of Burke, or the Montans could be facing extinction.


Author Links:


Twitter: @CCKoepp


Tour Schedule and Activities

11/7 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post

11/7 The Seventh Star Interview

11/8 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Interview

11/9 Jordan Hirsch Review

11/10 Magic of Books Guest Post

11/10 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! Top Ten’s List

11/11 Sheila’s Guests and Reviews Guest Post

11/11 Novel-ties Review

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11/13 Darkling Delights Guest Post

11/14 Enchanted Alley Guest Post

11/15 Bee’s Knees Reviews Review

11/15 The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn Guest Post

11/16 Jorie Loves a Story Review

11/16 The Word Nerds Guest Post

11/17 SpecMusicMuse Review

11/18 Jorie Loves a Story Q and A

11/18 Sapphyria’s Book Reviews Guest Post

11/19 Deal Sharing Aunt Interview

11/20 Jorie Loves a Story Review

11/20 D.L. Gardner Blog Guest Post

11/21 The Swill Blog Review

11/21 Willow Star Serenity Review


Amazon Link for Remnant in the Stars

Kindle Version

Amazon Links for The Loudest Actions

Kindle Version


November 17, 2016 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , | 3 Comments

SpecMusicMuse—Review of Night of the Living Inflatable Love Dolls by J. H. Glaze

lovedollcoverFrom the very moment I read the title I knew I was in for something weird and campy. But would I love it or hate it?

Night of the Living Inflatable Love Dolls is like your typical zombie apocalypse story except the “zombies” are blow-up dolls, dildos, and other sex toys that are brought to life by an experimental chemical weapon designed by the military. Sheriff Wilson must marshal the townsfolk against the onslaught all while trying to protect his daughter, Lana, and her boyfriend.

The story runs like your usual story about survival during a zombie apocalypse. And in that, there is not much in the way of surprises. Let me be clear, there are scenes that happen in sudden and unexpected ways, but they remain the kind of tropes you would expect in the subgenre. However, Glaze takes the oddball concept of the story and runs with it, leaving puns and scenes that will make you laugh your ass off. And, well, the victims exploding from the black gooey substance being projected out of the dolls and sex toys is both gory and…..a brilliant running pun.

I found myself loving the story, even if I was sometimes cheering on the dolls. While not a masterpiece, it is still a fun and entertaining story that will appeal to any reader who has a morbid and perverted sense of humor. Or any sense of humor.

November 5, 2016 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse—Review of The Bone Sword by Walter Rhein

Walter Rhein’s The Bone Sword mixes the grittiness of sword & sorcery with the miraculous wonder common in heroic fantasy, and he does so in a smooth way. While the main protagonist is clearly a good guy, he’s still rough around the edges and willing to do what it takes to win, both in sword fighting and in strategy.

Jasmine, however, ends up stealing the show and actually is the character whose shoulders the fate of an entire kingdom resides on. Her character growth, more than any other character’s, was what kept me reading. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about her brother, Noah. He felt more “tacked on,” and I had a difficult time feeling any sympathy for him, even during the torture scene. I felt he needed a little bit more personality to him.

The villains, with the exception of one, were primarily archetypes; however, I still found them interesting. I’ve never had problems with authors using archetypes, especially when said archetypes work within the context of the story being told. And Rhein uses the archetypes well in his attempt to display the problems inherent in a feudalistic civilization, where a small handful of people often have far too much power over the rest.

Overall, The Bone Sword is a fun, compelling read with just the right kind of pace for such a tale.


Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to Excalibur along with a few instrumentals by Epica.

January 17, 2015 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse Double-Whammy—Review of Olde School + Interview w/Selah Janel

Today I have the honor of starting off the Olde School Virtual Tour by giving you a review of Olde School and an interview with the author, Selah Janel. Enjoy! 🙂


OldeSchoolCoverFinal_650X433SpecMusicMuse Review—Olde School by Selah Janel

Fairy tales meet modernization in Olde School by Selah Janel. One of the most interesting aspects to this book, is that the main protagonists are trolls. One specific troll, Paddlelump, is a bit of a pushover, which isn’t a very trolly thing to be.

Janel does a great job blending old and new into her world while also paying homage to the fairy tales that the history of Kingdom City is based on. She also does a great job in blending campy humor with serious character development and even delves into the horrific in a few scenes. The plot contains many twists, but are weaved seamlessly into each other in a way the reader never has to worry about getting lost.

I enjoyed reading Olde School so much that I nearly forgot that I was reviewing it. The story pulled me in and refused to let me leave.

Oh, and a troll’s gonna troll. 😉

Best to read while listeing to: The soundtrack to Schreck mixed with some classic R&B, and a tad bit of theme music from the Mirkwood scenes in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.


Interview with Selah JanelSelahJanel-smaller


Tell the readers a little bit about you.

First off, thanks for having me on, Scott! I’m so happy to be here!

I consider myself a fairly typical, albeit quirky, Middle American gal with a huge imagination. I’ve worked in a lot of different fields in the theatre and entertainment industry: I’ve been on stage here and there, studied voice for about ten years, been a puppeteer, done theatre admin work, and I’ve been involved in costumes in various forms for about 14 years now.

As a writer, I have an ongoing love affair with ideas, and I consider myself a very curious personality – I love learning, and I love talking to people and finding out what their experiences are and how they relate to or differ than mine. I’m also a big defender of speculative fiction and curious about how gender roles are portrayed and perceived within them.

I love crafting and dabbling in art forms that may not be my forte, that I can just do for fun. I’m an unrepentant geek – I love graphic novels, books of all types, fairy and folk tales…and I am a HUGE music fan. I studied classical voice and musical theatre, but I LOVE classic rock, glam rock, hard rock, and I probably know way too much about it for my own good. I don’t get into everything, but what I do like I tend to be a big walking, geeky Wikipedia for.

How did you come up with the idea for Olde School?

I may or may not have been frustrated at someone I was around at the time. I tend to be very proactive and forward momentum, and the other parties were most definitely the opposite. It originally started as a short story to vent my frustration and experiment with a few concepts, like technology in a fantasy world. The scenes that were there from the beginning were the first Trip Trap sequence, and the first few Nobody scenes.

For some reason, it never occurred to me to paint myself as a put-upon princess or heroine. From the get-go I was just “ugh, this makes me feel like a troll…” and I began to wonder about what would happen if a Cinderella or other put-upon heroine was actually a conniving wreck. I’ve learned I have a very different concept of what a princess is than most people. When I hear the word I don’t think a tragic heroine or an entitled person – I think of a girl who may have power, who may have hard circumstances for some reason, but also has a lot of personal potential and can go out and have adventures. I got intrigued with playing with how people perceive fairy tale heroines, and Nobody spiraled out of control from there.

I couldn’t find a good ending for the story, so I put it away for years until I began submitting a lot of short fiction in earnest. It spiraled into a novella, then a novel, but I still couldn’t find an ending that felt right. When Seventh Star approached me for a series idea, I realized that the reason I couldn’t end it was because it was bigger than a book.

The other thing that was there from the beginning was the modern tech and pop culture in a fantasy setting. It kind of surprised me that I hadn’t read much done with that idea, so I just decided to go for it, to see what would happen if this fairy tale society modernized and treated the “old stories” the same way we did: either as legends based in history or based in fiction. Originally I wasn’t planning on making magic as big of an element as it was, but when I started remembering elements of international Cinderella-type stories that I loved, I suddenly realized how much fairy tale magic is like Lovecraftian horror. I mean, think of it! In a real-world setting, if an animal starts talking to you and wants you to kill it so its skeleton can help you, or if a tree starts giving you advice…that’s not normal in any setting, I don’t care what kind of fantasy world you live in – that is some pretty mind-bending stuff. The concept of the Olde Ones developed almost immediately from that thought process.


What gave you the idea for the character, Paddlelump? And how’d you come up with that name?

Hand_9X7_Illustration1Let me warn you, Paddlelump is one of two characters in the book that had a long evolution, so you may want to strap yourself in for this answer.

Names are a funny thing with me. I tend to either really fret about them, or I just assign one. A lot of the names in Olde School came so naturally, they just sort of appeared and I never really felt the need to change them. Paddlelump, though, is a subtle tribute to one of my favorite series. I wanted his name to flow more as opposed to Ippick and Uljah, who are more snarky and crass. I really love The Chronicles of Narnia – I grew up with the British versions on TV and I read the series as a teen. The Silver Chair blew my mind. I hadn’t realized how dark the series got until that book, and I loved the elements of travel and little mini-adventures that fed into the main goal. They’re staples of fantasy, but I hadn’t really noticed them as themes until reading that book. I love the character of Puddleglum the marshwiggle, and that name has always stuck with me. Padd had a few variations of his name, but all were in tribute to Puddleglum in some form.

Paddlelump as a character came from several places. I loved the idea of writing a fantasy where the main character wasn’t human, but still well-developed. I’d seen hints of supporting characters of that nature in things like Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tale series, but I really wanted to see how far I could go with it. I like trolls, and I thought it would be interesting to have a likeable one, one who really hadn’t gotten the hang of being a troll. However, it’s important to me that he’s more than a gimmick. He has to carry the book and the series, so there has to be more to him than being “nice.”

Paddlelump was probably how I felt about life around the time I started writing this in 2006. We both look younger than we are, people sometimes think we’re both a target and suckers, and I was in a position in life where it felt like everything was happening at once. Just every little thing felt like a personal offense, I couldn’t get on top of it, and it was overwhelming. Actually, when I pulled the story out for the second time in 2011, I had just gotten out of a similar place, but had grown to be able to deal with things better.

As the story turned into the book, though, I realized that I’d matured in ways that Paddlelump hadn’t. I’m a little more realistic and cautious at times because I’ve been burned, and he’s still willing to give people fourth and fifth chances, even if he knows better. We both don’t like conflict, but he runs from it more than I do. He’s wishy washy where I’ve become proactive, and he tends to embrace his innocence a little too much at times, using a lot of his personality as an excuse. This made for an interesting first half of the book, but by the last fourth it became a problem. It was hard to see him as something more than a likeable guy that I wanted to either hug or punch in the face because he didn’t move forward or stand up for himself. I didn’t want him to be so static. It became hard to resolve how he could defeat some of the larger-than-life challenges in the book, and I very much wanted him to be the one coming out ahead so he could grow and continue to evolve into a heroic character in later books.

I was attempting to redo the last fourth of the book to fix those issues when either someone sent me a link or I stumbled upon a link of Tom Hiddleston talking about Shakespeare at Comic Con. At this point I hadn’t seen any of the Marvel movies and I only knew of him as some guy who was supposed to be great as Loki. I tend to dig my heels in when everyone around me recommends something that becomes really popular really fast (especially when I ask how the story is and they all start gushing about the dudes in it. I mean, it’s a modern world and I’m not against a little well-meaning male objectification, but I’d actually like to know what a film is about).

His discussion in the link was about Cymbeline, which I’d used speeches from when I’d auditioned for schools ages ago. I was actually working on Olde School’s edits while listening to this – I’d taken to listening to interviews and British comedies instead of music to try to get a dialect and speech rhythm for the world down – and something made me pause. Not enough to really have an aha moment or something, but I realized he was way more insightful than I’d assumed. On a whim, I started looking up interviews, because I realized his voice had this really pleasant, yet interesting quality. It’s pleasing without being too neutral, and there’s a good hint of strength and flexibility to it. I really needed all the help I could get with Padd at that point, and it clicked that as a voice, I could picture my troll lead sounding like that. (And this is the point where all of his fans put my face up on a target…)

Long story short, I discovered that Tom Hiddleston is an incredibly articulate actor and insightful, multi-faceted person. I’m drawn to actors and artists like that, and I realized that I was doing to him what a lot of people in my book do to Paddlelump: I was selling him totally short because everyone around me gushed about how he was such a “cute, nice guy” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I feel like there has to be better description for good people than nice. A lot of things are nice. Kitties are nice. Sandwiches are nice. Artistically styled doorknobs are nice. I would not lump a person into the same category as a doorknob or sandwich).

I realized that Paddlelump might present this good-guy image, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not intellect there, or compassion, or an inner strength that can be developed. It wasn’t about taking him from zero to hero in one book – it was about showing that he has the potential to be a hero, just as we all do. Although I will never, ever live this down from any of my friends ever, in a convolute way Tom Hiddleston really helped the character of Paddlelump click for me, from his inner potential down to the voice. While I’m not one for avatars, I will say this is where my theatre training saved me – by having learned how to recognize what traits Padd was lacking and by recognizing them through another person’s performance, it made his character so much better.

I noticed a few “Easter eggs” in the story. Bull_6X9_Illustration2

I’m glad you did! I really love to include as many little details as possible, and it made sense to throw in a lot of little fairy tale tidbits. As a reader, I love it when authors do that. I feel like I’m in some little club when I catch details like that. I don’t often do it in my short fiction, but in my longer work, I love throwing in Easter eggs. I want people to be able to read a book more than once and catch something new each time.

There are a ton of Cinderella-type story references in this book: the trolls, to some of the characters, to the forest, to the walnuts, and I could go on and on. That being said, there are a lot of other little asides. Things like The Magic Porridge Pot fast food place, a lot of the swears the characters mutter, references to different horror movie franchises – I figured that if I was going to base a world on a fairy/folktale society, I might as well go all the way.

It was also important to me to add in the appendix at the end so that people knew it wasn’t all me – these stories are way bigger than I am – and that they would know where to look for some of this stuff if they were curious and heard of them before. While I can’t reference all the little asides, I was careful to disclaim the biggest ones.

For people who specifically know me, too, there are even deeper Easter eggs – references to Labyrinth (one of my favorite fantasy movies) are there, there’s a very garbled allusion to Hamlet, there’s a reference to an episode of one of my favorite TV shows growing up. I definitely embrace what I love, and while I strive to be original, I like paying homage to the things that have made me who I am. I’ve had readers, family, and friends contact me, asking if certain things were on purpose, or if they’d caught everything yet. I definitely challenge people to read the book and see how many hidden tidbits they can find!

Has music ever been a part of your daily writing routine, or inspired a story or scene?

Oh, definitely. This was one of the few books where I had trouble coming up with music that blended well with the story (I edited it to big band, Swing, and American standards), but I love writing to music. I have eclectic tastes, but when writing I usually do a lot of instrumentals, both classical and more modern. I love David Garrett a lot, I like David Bowie’s instrumental work, that sort of thing. In terms of character building, I love stuff like Sixx: A.M. and G Tom Mac. With books like In the Red, which is currently out of print, it was so much about rock n’ roll that I constantly wrote to bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Motley Crue. On the other hand, I’ve been working on plotting out a gritty post-apocalyptic story, and the thing that helps me write it best is boy band music. I’m probably the only person who listens to Backstreet Boys and NKOTB while thinking about killing zombies, but there you go. I’ve gotten back into listening to the radio more, and I like those stations that play random stuff, so it keeps things fun and interesting. I never know when some random tune will give me an idea.


So where on the Internet can Selah Janel be found?

I haunt a few places these days. You can usually find me at…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Books by Selah Janel | Reviews of Selah’s Books |


Any future projects in the works?

I just re-released Mooner, a historical vampire story, through Mocha Memoir press on e-book, and I’m teaming up with Fortress Publishing later this year to do an issue based around my fiction. I’ve got a few things reserved for future anthologies, too. In terms of other stuff, I’m polishing In the Red, the rock n’ roll urban fantasy/fairy tale novel to shop that again, and I want to finish up a short novel that’s a mash up of the horror and chick lit genres. Beyond that, I’ve got a few half-written manuscripts that I want to develop into some short novels or novellas, and they all deal with folklore elements, but use them to explore some really deep emotional issues that people go through.

And, of course, there’s always Kingdom City! The plan is to do a collection of shorts that explain the tales of the lost dreamers in this first book a little better, and then get crackin’ on book two!


Author: Selah Janel

Featured Book Release

Olde School

Book One Kingdom City Chronicles

May 26 to June 1, 2014



About the Author: Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination and a love of story since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Learning to read and being encouraged by those around her only made things worse. Her work ranges from e-books to traditional print, and she prefers to write every genre at once rather than choose just one. The stories “Holly and Ivy”, “The Other Man”, and “Mooner” are available online through Mocha Memoirs Press. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery, The Grotesquerie, and the short story collection Lost in the Shadows, co-written with S.H. Roddey. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.


Catch up with her thoughts and projects at



Book Synopsis Olde School: Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.


Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.


Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians


Olde School if Book One of The Kingdom City Chronicles



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Tour Schedule and Activities

May 26        SpecMusicMuse                                      Review/Interview
May 26        Vampires, Witches, and me oh my!      Guest Post
May 27        Alexx Momcat’s Gateway Book Blog      Character Post
May 27        Watch Play Read                                    Review
May 28        Fantastical Adventures in the Paper Realm     Review
May 28        Sheila Deeth Blog                                     Character Post
May 28        Close Encounters with the Night Kind      Review
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May 31      I Smell Sheep                                             Character Post
June 1       Seers, Seraphs, Immortals and More!        Interview


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May 26, 2014 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review – The Exile’s Violin by R.S. Hunter

17608563I’ll admit it: the most I know about Steampunk is the movie Wild Wild West, the anime Steamboy, and the video game Final Fantasy VI. There was also that whole Sons of Ether tradition in the tabletop RPG, Mage: The Ascension. So I was quite intrigued at the idea of reviewing my first Steampunk novel.

R.S. Hunter’s setting for The Exile’s Violin is richly detailed. Mostly a fantasy setting filled with steam-powered cars, dirigibles, and other gadgets; it also has a real world feel to it. The main character, Jacquie Renairre, is not just merely kickass but believably so.

In a lot of ways, the story struck me as a Steampunk version of Indiana Jones meets Adventures of Sherlock Holmes—action, intrigue, and mystery all rolled up inside a clever and well-developed world. Even better, Hunter manages to reveal that world piece by piece with imaginative detail without ever once bogging down the story’s pace.

Read this story. Even if it’s the last story you read this year. For you will love reading The Exile’s Violin from first page to last.

Best to read while listening to: any Indiana Jones or Sherlock Holmes soundtrack. The Prodigy and various other techno bands.

August 13, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | 3 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review—Dark Shala by Cathy Benedetto

DarkShalaCoverExotic settings? Check. Heroic characters? Check. Big war? Check.

Everything you’d expect from an epic fantasy can be found in Dark Shala by Cathy Benedetto, the second book of the Shala Trilogy. The Shala are a tall race of powerful dark skinned warriors who possess a telepathic bond with large cats they call fels. As a vast army invades their lands, just as had been prophesied, the Shala come to the aid of the native humans.

In this second installment, their leader, Tahjeen, and his Shala escort human refugees through an ancient network of underground tunnels. But they soon find themselves being hunted by Shala exiles that practice dark magic, or “Dark Shala,” who have sided with the invaders for a chance at revenge.

Benedetto has created an interesting mix of lovable characters as well as a world and story worthy of the genre. She knows how to keep a reader turning those pages long after they should be going to bed.

I found the prologue to be unnecessary since it was merely a recap of the previous book, and the information it provided was nothing that didn’t later pop up in the story itself, whether through dialogue or exposition. Those types of prologues are neither required and can be quite irksome. But aside from that, the story was an enjoyable read.

Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to Avatar.

May 21, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review—The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy

The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy is reminiscent of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe only darker. The protagonist, Robbie Lake, finds himself dealing with family problems combined with getting fired from his job as an editor for Cipher Mill Publishing House, when he discovers a magical box after breaking into his old workplace. The box transports him to another world, one he had visited before when he was a child. And, of course, an adventure ensues, but one that threatens to ruin his life in the real world as the box proves to be a two-way portal. Unfortunately, the residents of the magical world don’t want him to leave, and are willing to do anything to make him stay.

For reasons that I won’t go into, so as to avoid spoilers, I had trouble liking Robbie. He makes the right choices in the end, but only after he’s faced with losing everything. The whole entire time, I couldn’t help but think, “Well, you got yourself into this mess, dummy.” His almost childish irresponsibility made it difficult to sympathize with him.

TheManintheBoxCoverOnce in a while I ran into some clunky sentence structures, but fortunately those were rare occasions. While the casual reader probably won’t notice half of them, people like me, editor-brained, will flinch once or twice.

On the plus side, Toy shows a remarkable skill with dialogue and character interaction, and maintains the story’s narrative flow, providing all the information the reader needs without having to sacrifice pacing.

In the end, it’s a good book to have around when you’ve already read your first picks and need to pass some time. But I expect, over time, Andrew Toy will become a recognizable name among the small press community.

Best to read while listening to: nothing specific comes to mind; maybe something Narnia-ish but darker. Or “Man in the Box” by Alice In Chains?


The Damn Disclaimer is over to the right –>

May 14, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review – Remnants of Life: Legends of Darkness by Georgia L. Jones

Samantha dies in a car crash only to find herself in a new body, as a vampire, but not your typical blood-sucking monster, but as Samoda, a spiritform warrior serving Nuem. While discovering the wonders of her new life, she struggles with the memories of her former life and the loved ones she left behind, and all while having to put a stop to an evil monster bent on world domination—and reconciling her newfound passions for her bonded hotty vamp soulmate, Drake.

While Legends of Darkness, the first novel in the Remnants of Life series, would likely be classified as a paranormal romance (even though it’s official genre is Urban Fantasy, the lines tend to blur with those two subgenres), there’s plenty of action, drama, and intrigue as well. As far as the romance elements go, I’ll admit that I’m not an avid romance reader. However, I do know that romantic tension is the name of the game for that genre; therefore, I’ll consider the fact that I spent almost half the book wanting to shout “OMG! Will you two just freakin’ do it already!” to mean that the romance elements between Samoda and Drake are a rip-roaring success. There were enough complications and twists to keep things interesting but not so much as to leave me confused.

The first-person POV, however, felt jarring. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because the protagonist, Samoda, did way too much thinking (wow, did I just say that?). Then there was one chapter where everything was suddenly inside the head of one of the antagonists. That threw me off temporarily, but then I got over it. (“OMG! When the hell are they gonna’ do it!” *turnpageturnpageturnpage*)

I’ve never been a big fan of the Twilight-ish “vamps are now good” craze, but I do tolerate them much more than the “Christian! TM!” alternatives (which amounted to little more than promoting Nephilim breeding—you’d think folks never read the Old Testament anymore). And this one was a little less Twilight-ish than most (and also involving a character who is of age—oh wait, Twilight was set in the Midwest, so nevermind). And besides, Vlad Tepes features in the plot, so any poking at my usual pet peeves is easily forgiven.

And it had dragons. Dragons are always a plus.

And combat. And blood. And gore. And (finally!) sex.

Everything a growing boy needs.

And still growing…

And growing….

OMG! I think I have a vampire fetish….

Best to read while listening to: a little Classic Rock, a dash of epic fantasy soundtracks (especially for the big battles), and…nah, screw the Twilight soundtrack.

And now to end this review with the following disclosure, thanks to those idiots at the FTC, which I shall officially dub as the I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO WRITE THIS BS IN MY BLOG POSTS segment:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

November 23, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Spirit of Fire Blog Tour

For Immediate Release

May 25, 2012

48 Date Blog Tour Announced and Cover Art Unveiled for Stephen Zimmer’s Spirit of Fire

Seventh Star Press is proud to unveil the cover art and illustrations created by award-winning artist Matthew Perry for Spirit of Fire, Book Three of the epic fantasy Fires in Eden Series by award-winning author Stephen Zimmer, as well as announce the dates and sites for the 48 day Spirit of Fire Blog Tour.  A pre-order window for a limited edition hardcover is also open in advance of the book’s official release.

(Illustrations by Matthew Perry from the first edition of Spirit of Fire)
The Spirit of Fire Blog Tour is being hosted by Babs Book Bistro, and will feature 50 events over 48 days, beginning May 29th  and running through July 14th. The tour will feature a number of activities, including reviews, video, interviews, podcasts, guest blog posts, and contests/giveaways.

Spirit of Fire is the third title in the Fires in Eden Series, following Crown of Vengeance and Dream of Legends.  Also associated with the epic fantasy series is a growing collection of short stories, the Chronicles of Ave, that have been released on eBook and are part of the Seventh Star Singles catalog.

In Spirit of Fire, a maelstrom of war engulfs lands resisting the designs of the Unifier to bring about a new order, of a kind that has never existed within Ave.  Battered by a massive invasion force from Gallea, the tribal people of the Five Realms and their Midragardan allies are being driven eastward, towards the sea, while the Saxan lines are wearing down ever thinner on the Plains of Athelney.

Time is running out quickly, as an ancient creature of legend soars through the skies with a brave young Saxan.   They carry the desperate hopes of two realms sorely beset by a voracious enemy.

Diabolic entities conduct a great hunt, as a malignant darkness deepens across all of Ave.  Exiles from another world must gain refuge, or find themselves ensnared by the long reach of the Unifier.  The very nature of creation itself stands in the balance.

It is a time when the honor and fortitude of many are put to the test, and terrible prices are paid for resisting great evils.  It is also a time of awakening for many, old and young alike, some of whom may yet discover the spirit of fire that lies within.

The third installment in the Fires in Eden series, Spirit of Fire is richly imagined epic fantasy with a diverse ensemble of characters that offers a new world to explore for readers who enjoy large-scale tales along the likes of George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Spirit of Fire will be released in softcover and eBook versions during the first week of June.  The novel is now available for pre-order in a beautiful hardcover edition that is strictly limited to 75 copies.

The limited hardcover edition will be signed and numbered by Stephen Zimmer and includes a bonus illustration from Matthew Perry not included in other editions.  It will be accompanied by an assortment of collectibles, including a set of glossy art cards, bookmarks, and magnets.  The limited edition hardcovers will also be bundled with the eBook version (provided as a direct ePub file for users with Nooks, iPads, or Sony eReaders, and gifted as a Kindle file for Kindle users).  Those interested in securing one of the 75 limited hardcovers can place a pre-order at:

The Spirit of Fire Blog Tour Dates and Participants Are As Follows:

May 29  Fantasy Book Review

May 30  Ginger Nuts of Horror

May 31  Mom Cat’s Gateway Book Blog

June 1   Splash of Our Worlds

June 2   Soliloquy

June 3   Ritesh Kala’s Book Review

June 4   Jess Resides Here

June 5   Reading Away the Days

June 6   Vilutheril Reviews

June 7   A Daydreamer’s Thoughts

June 8  Red Headed Bookworm

June 9   Lisa’s World of Books

June 10  Kentucky Geek Girl

June 11  Goatfairy Review Blog

June 12  Book and Movie Dimension Blog

June 13  Full Moon Bites

June 14  Stuck in Books

June 15  The Independent Review

June 15  Alchemy of Scrawl

June 16  Watch Play Read

June 17  A Book Vacation

June 18  Eva’s Sanctuary

June 19  That Book Place Blog

June 20  Edi’s Book Lighthouse

June 21  SpecMusicMuse

June 22  Once Upon a Time

June 23  Azure Dwarf Horde of Sci-Fi & Fantasy

June 24  Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action

June 25  Eden Road Blog

June 25  Ali’s Bookshelf (live podcast)

June 26  Workaday Reads

June 27  Bookishly Me

June 28  Earth’s Book Nook

June 29  Darlene’s Book Nook

June 30  The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

July 1     Evie Bookish

July 2     Urban Fantasy Reviews

July 3     The Cabin Goddess

July 4     TheSci-Fi Guys Book Review

July 5     The Speculative Salon

July 6     Ali’s Bookshelf

July 7     Bunnys Review

July 8     Bee’s Knees Reviews

July 9     In the Dark of Night with James Tuck

July 10   Edin Road Radio (live podcast)

July 11   A Few Words

July 12    Bab’s Book Bistro

July 13   Alchemy of Scrawl  (live podcast)

July 14    Babs Book Bistro (live podcast)

June 20, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , | Leave a comment