Today's Author Spotlight is author April A. Taylor! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: August 3rd, 2021 Amazon |  Goodre...

Today's Author Spotlight is author April A. Taylor!

Read on for the full interview.

Publication date: August 3rd, 2021

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? *

Evil Eye is a classic slasher with a modern twist. 

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

Evil Eye was inspired by three things: I Call Upon Thee by Ania Ahlborn and the movies Halloween (1978) and Crawl (2019). 

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

For the most part, I knew who the characters were and would be. There were a few surprises, though.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

My first published novel went through so many rewrites that I almost ruined it. Now, as long as the story works, I go with it. 

Do you read your book reviews? What do you consider "good" /"bad"?

I read professional reviews and the first 10 or so fan reviews. After that, I let it be whatever it's going to be. As far as good and bad reviews, I don't tend to look at them like that. As long as the person actually read the book, their feedback is valid, at least for them. 

What led you to start writing?

I've been writing since grade school. I don't remember there being any one thing that led me to writing. It simply felt natural, like breathing air. 

What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?

I've been a fan of the horror genre ever since I saw Michael Jackson's Thriller video at the age of six. I write in other genres sometimes, but I always end up putting in at least a hint of horror. 

What is one of your favorite words? OR Is there a word you find yourself using too often?

My favorite word is blustery. Unfortunately, it hasn't fit into most of my books.

What are you currently reading?

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth 

What are a couple of your favorite movies to kick back with to relax?

I love watching horror movies. Everything from Midsommar to Halloween (
1978) is fair game!

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

Haunted mansion! 

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?

You don't have to write every single day to be a good author. In fact, taking time off is a critical part of the writing process. 

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I do! Isnashi is a creature feature set in the Brazilian rainforest. 

April A. Taylor is an award-winning, multi-genre author. Her latest novel, Evil Eye: A Slasher Story, introduces readers to characters they'll love to root for, along with two they can hate. Her previous horror books include Sinkhole and The Haunting of Cabin Green. April has also written the Alexa Bentley Paranormal Mysteries Series, the thriller Corvo Hollows, and the Midnight Myths and Fairy Tales Series. She's a proud member of the Horror Writers Association. Visit her online at  

April, thank you so much for being a guest on Cats Luv Coffee Book Reviews!

   Publication date: February 25th, 2020 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads The highwayman brought his hand up and ran his fingers through the bea...


Publication date: February 25th, 2020

The highwayman brought his hand up and ran his fingers through the beard. 'Where do we go from here?' he asked the Bundy-ish reflection. Sooner or later, the monster would have to be fed." 

Having abstained from killing for almost a year, the Highwayman is coming unglued. 

Unsure if the FBI is watching, Lance Belanger spends his days and nights in a paranoid malaise, longing to kill again. Meanwhile, in Bucharest, Romania, an Interpol raid leads to clues and a witness who can identify the Highwayman. Armed with new evidence, newly promoted SAC FBI Agent, Dave Maxwell heads for Bucharest, as his team of investigators redeploys their investigation on their original suspect, Lance Belanger. It would appear, the net is closing. 

But the Highwayman has other ideas. 

Just after dusk, outside of Pittsburgh, four strangers exit a service van and perpetrate the mass murder of four families in their suburban homes. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to connect the killings to Highwayman, and when they raid Belanger’s properties, they are left a parting gift. 

Another murder and a message for Maxwell from the Highwayman himself. 

Come and find me! 

The killing ramps up, Maxwell leads a posse of investigators across two states, north to Canada to try and thwart the Highwayman in his endgame, that involves kidnapping, mass murder, and betrayal. 

The predator is now the prey. 

But can they stop him before he disappears for good?

Read now

I always approach a piece like this with the same thought.

Wasn’t Stephen King available? 

Mr. King is too busy to tell you how to do it, so here I am, M.J. Preston, about to give you the goods on writing and what it means to be successful. Get ready for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am not a guru; nobody has beat down my door, offering me to teach a Masterclass. But along the way, I have learned a thing or two about the craft, so here are some essential survival tips.

To make a million dollars writing, the first thing you’ll need is four million dollars. That’s cover advertising, flights, book signing tours, giveaways, your agent, publicist, and of course, you’ll need a kick-ass book too.  But if you haven’t got four million bucks, here are a few tips.

Tip # 1

The truth is that there is no advice I can offer as a writer of either horror or crime-thriller that will make a new writer’s life any more or less successful. If there was, I’d be charging admission, commission, and royalties. 

Tip # 2 

Success doesn’t depend on tremendous advances from publishers and movie options. Nor is it being the darling of the writing world. True success can be found in the story you write and how readers react. You write a novel, hope it finds an audience, and there you have it. There is no magic formula, no technology, App, or Masterclass that will turn you into the next Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, or James Patterson’s ghostwriter.

Tip # 3

I recently corresponded with a successful author to wish him good luck on a newly launched book. He thanked me and stated that he believed we make our good luck. Tempted to ask him if he had a particular formula for luck-making, I did not. That is because my interpretation of this author’s luck was to follow the path of his career. His luck-making was to keep writing, keep moving, one story to story, novel to novel, because not only do you give an audience a buffet of different tales and characters from which to choose, you also get better with every word you write. If people dig your stuff, they’ll keep reading it, and that’s how you make your luck. But that isn’t all. Stay humble. Embrace your readership and appreciate them for taking the time out of their lives to read your work, whether your audience is one or twenty-five million. 

That is what this writer has done. That is his formula for good luck. 

Tip # 4

I believe to be a good writer, you must always be an observer of the human condition. Personally, I am a voyeur who doesn’t peek in your window. Instead, I catch glimpses, take mental notes, and store them in that battered filing cabinet in the back of my brain. If you are the target of this voyeurism, I may have a piece of you in that filing cabinet. Things in those files might include your mannerisms, accent, tempo, tone, and how your eyes light up with a smile or darken with a frown. You don’t know it, but I might be inside your head looking out through your eyes, putting myself in your place because I am always taking an inventory. Sometimes unconsciously. Maybe you have a limp? A limp? Hmmm. What could I do with that? 

His limp was a ruse, a wolf moving among the sheep. The street was a chaotic bloodbath. Bodies everywhere. Buildings in the rubble. The limping man moved briskly. And for a good reason. The second bomb hadn’t gone off yet.

Are you thinking about that second bomb? I know I am, and like you, I’m not even sure where and why the first bomb went off. But the muse brings gifts, and with that, I begin to build a world with characters and backdrops. And yes, I’m dropping little hints of upcoming work, but I’m also laying it out for you. That’s how this writing gig is. If you’re here for the movie options, accolades, and red-carpet treatment, you are here for the wrong reasons.

If you’re here to tell stories, show us what you got.

M.J. Preston

   To my neighbors, I am a quiet and assuming guy who works blue-collar. What they don't know is that I also write dark speculative fiction. My work has been printed all over the world. I have four novels on the market and a fifth and sixth in production. My short fiction is available with numerous pubs, including magazines and anthologies.

I have my own writing style but would say I was influenced by authors like Robert R. McCammon, Joe R. Lansdale, and John Sandford.

Publication date: July 20th 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Claire, gifted with the ability to see through time, predicts a horrific disas...

Publication date: July 20th 2021

Claire, gifted with the ability to see through time, predicts a horrific disaster to drastically change the world five years from now. "Dark times" isn't enough to describe what will happen, but it accurately describes the present for the specialist investigators Maria, Nikki and the twins known as Alex.

A serial killer wielding magic appears to return from the grave. A man-made monster runs rampant through the streets. People across the country fall into comas. An influx of drugs threatens to shift the power of the city's underbelly. Maria and her group find themselves somehow involved with the threats to the city's fragile peace, where beliefs will be tested, friendships lost - and that's only if they're lucky enough.

When all is said and done, the survivors will know the answer to an age-old question: does the end justify the means?.

Read now

Hey! I’m F.M. Mayhem!
I come from Australia, love metal music, my favourite author is Charlotte Brontë, I like to sleep a lot.
And now for the stuff you might actually be interested in! I love writing, specifically stories that I’d want to personally read.

My favourite genre to write is Fantasy, mostly because you get to create the world and laws from scratch.

Even within the fantasy genre, I tend to focus my work towards Dark Fantasy, bringing the evil and twisted to the front for all kinds of fun!

You’ll probably begin to see pretty quickly how my stories are more character driven than not, which probably speaks to my influences more than anything. Maybe I’ll disclose those influences one day.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find my works in paperback, but you should be able to find them at your favourite ebook stores.  

Publication date: July 9th 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads A young couple's weekend foray into the woods turns into a night of unimagi...

Publication date: July 9th 2021

A young couple's weekend foray into the woods turns into a night of unimaginable terror…

When Jacob, a Princeton PhD student with an insatiable hunger for fame and fortune, convinces his best friend, Caleb, to shoot a documentary on the Jersey Devil for their DeBunkers YouTube Channel, the boys persuade their girlfriends, Hannah and Blake, to join them on a weekend getaway. The following morning, the group sets out for the Pine Barrens in search of the folk legend, bringing with them camping gear and recording equipment.

Upon their arrival, Jacob receives a text message from GenX-82, an anonymous member of a local film crew who had shot footage of the Jersey Devil six months prior. In exchange for an interview, GenX agrees to take them to the Blue Hole, the site where the entity was last seen. However, halfway through their hike, Caleb is seriously injured, and the group loses contact with the outside world.

With tension mounting as the night sets in, Jacob's trek through the Barrens soon becomes a descent into madness…

Read now

Joseph grew up in a small town off the coast of southern Maine. He holds a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from Georgetown University. He currently resides in the Bay Area.  

Here is this month's roundup of anticipated horror releases!  ( If you plan on purchasing any of the books on this page, it would be awe...

Here is this month's roundup of anticipated horror releases! 

(If you plan on purchasing any of the books on this page, it would be awesome if you’d use the affiliate links. This helps to support the blog and doesn’t cost you a thing. Thanks!)

 Transmuted (Rewind or Die #30) by Eve Harms

Publication date: July 15th, 2021

Her doctor is giving her the body of his dreams...and her nightmares. Isa is a micro-celebrity who rarely shows her face, and can’t wait to have it expertly ripped off and rearranged to look more feminine. When a successful fundraiser makes her gender affirming surgery possible, she’s overjoyed—until she has to give up all her money to save her dying father.

Crushed by gender dysphoria and the pressure of disappointing her fans who paid for a new face, she answers a sketchy ad seeking transgender women for a free, experimental feminization treatment. The grotesquely flawless Dr. Skurm has gruesome methods, but he gets unbelievable results, and Isa is finally feeling comfortable in her skin. She even gains the courage to ask out her crush: an alluring and disfigured alchemy-obsessed artist named Rayna.

But Isa’s body won’t stop changing, and she’s going from super model to super mutant. She has to discover the secret behind her metamorphosis—before the changes are irreversible, and she’s an unwanted freak forever.

TRANSMUTED is an outrageous and unapologetically queer body horror tale that will leave you gasping, giggling, and gagging for more. Experience the freaky thrills of TRANSMUTED today!

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

Publication date: June 20th, 2021
Links: Amazon | Goodreads

A masterful, heart-palpitating novel of small-town horror and psychological dread from a Bram Stoker nominee.

Aaron Decker's life changes one December morning when his wife Allison is killed. Haunted by her absence--and her ghost--Aaron goes through her belongings, where he finds a receipt for a motel room in another part of the country. Piloted by grief and an increasing sense of curiosity, Aaron embarks on a journey to discover what Allison had been doing in the weeks prior to her death.

Yet Aaron is unprepared to discover the dark secrets Allison kept, the death and horror that make up the tapestry of her hidden life. And with each dark secret revealed, Aaron becomes more and more consumed by his obsession to learn the terrifying truth about the woman who had been his wife, even if it puts his own life at risk.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Publication date: July 20th, 2021
Links: Amazon | Goodreads

A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers

Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.

And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.

This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Publication date: July 27th, 2021

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range--five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents' deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Publication date: July 13th, 2021

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who's left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she's not alone. For more than a decade she's been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette's worst fears are realized--someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

Read now

Inheriting Her Ghosts by S.H. Cooper

Publication date: July 9th, 2021

Inheritance often comes with strings attached, but rarely are they as tangled as those hanging over High Hearth.

When Eudora Fellowes learns she's the sole heir of her estranged great-aunt's seaside manor, she believes it will be the peaceful escape she's longed for. What awaits, however, is a dark legacy shrouded in half a century of secrets, and it doesn't take long before Eudora realizes she's not the only one to call High Hearth home. 

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

Publication date: July 13th, 2021
Links: AmazonGoodreads

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win. 

Today's Author Spotlight is author Jon O'Bergh! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: June 14th, 2021 Amazon |  Goodrea...

Today's Author Spotlight is author Jon O'Bergh!

Read on for the full interview.

Publication date: June 14th, 2021

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

Weaving together supernatural legends from Ireland, Nigeria, and China, Shockadelica follows two friends who must confront their own fears while fighting an evil, existential threat. With a dash of humor and horror, the story explores prejudice, conspiracy theories, and things that aren't what they appear to be. Two horror podcasters—drag artist Kendall Akande and best friend Jenna Chen—share a passion for art, fashion, and horror. When they learn their Victorian-era apartment building might be haunted, they see an opportunity for an entertaining podcast episode. But as they investigate further with the help of their quirky neighbors, they uncover something far more sinister.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

All manner of things in the horror universe inspired the story. The title is borrowed from Prince's song "Shockadelica." Gemma Files' novel "Experimental Film" gave me the idea for the Toronto setting and inclusion of folk horror. The way Grady Hendrix opened each chapter of "We Sold Our Souls" with a media excerpt influenced my structure. Books in the Freezer gave me the concept of two horror podcasters. Rue Morgue magazine gave me the idea for a character whose arms are covered with tattoos of serial killers.

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

It's a combination of both, and some start out more concrete than others. Take the characters in Shockadelica, for example. I knew Rooney would be the type of person who is enmeshed in a world of lies. She adopts different personas as easily as she changes outfits and makes a living with fake testimonials. That was clearly laid out when I started, and little changed as I wrote. Jenna, on the other hand, started with less detailed traits. I just knew she would be unconventional and fearless. The details then developed organically through the process of writing out the scenes, especially her anxiety about her grandmother's dementia and her jealousy when Kendall begins hanging out more with Lilith.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

I strongly identified with Kendall. He has a lot of empathy toward others. Even though he doesn't tolerate BS and is self-assured, he still suffers moments of self-doubt. His past hangs over him. Society's judgmental prejudices hang over him. Panic attacks and nightmares bedevil him. You think you've escaped those things, but they periodically emerge like the monster under the bed and try to drag you down. I really identify with that.

What was more important to you when you were writing: character development or plot?

How can you choose? Character is what motivates a reader to be interested in a story, but plot is what gives the story meaning.

In your opinion what makes a good story?

Complex characters--because people are complex. A certain amount of ambiguity--because that corresponds to our experience of the world. That's why writers like Paul Tremblay appeal to me so much. I like to imagine what a character would do in real life, without falling back on cliches or implausible actions.

Do you read your book reviews? What do you consider "good" /"bad"?

I do, because sometimes I learn useful things from what reviewers write, even if my story didn't strongly appeal to them. Tweeting and linking to reviews also helps promote the work. I've never come across someone who is a "bad" reviewer. Often it boils down to a matter of taste, because not everything is going to appeal to everybody. I have encountered a couple of instances where a reviewer misjudged or misrepresented something. I don't worry about that if it's one item in passing, but an entire review filled with misrepresentations would constitute a bad review.

What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?

I've always been interested in horror. Fear is such a primal emotion, and it can motivate you to make positive changes or to lash out at the world. I'm interested in how people process fear differently, and I infuse that into my characters. I also appreciate how horror often reflects cultural anxieties, or anxieties about death and the body.

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?

Perhaps because I'm also a musician, I find music distracting while I'm trying to write. But I love to link music with my stories. Shockadelica includes a musician named the Bone Man who writes dark songs. His album of horror-themed songs is available at Spotify, iTunes, and the usual places. In between writing bouts, I would listen to these songs. The lyrics often amplify themes from the novel, in songs like "The Beast Within," "Frankenstein Monster," and "Box of Bones."

What are a couple of your favorite movies to kick back with to relax?

My husband and I like to watch things over and over, and we quote lines to each other all the time. I never tire of watching "The Muse." Albert Brooks, who also wrote and directed the movie, plays a beleaguered screenwriter who has lost his edge and engages the services of a mythic Greek muse played by Sharon Stone. The film's sense of humor is so perfect, mildly skewering Hollywood gullibility and pretensions. For something with a touch of horror, I like the filmed stage version of "Sweeney Todd." It manages to blend humor, horror, and pathos. The closing song makes the hairs stand up on my arm.

Which animal would you say is your spirit animal and why?

A black cat. I grew up with black cats. They're often misunderstood and maligned, which I can appreciate as a gay man!

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

A cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures. I would be too scared to live in a haunted house. It would be fun to visit, maybe spend one night, but my state of mind would be much better in a cottage. Ghosts and supernatural creatures both make an appearance in Shockadelica, and after experiencing both, I think Kendall would agree with me.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

I'm on Twitter at

Thanks so much for participating in the Author Spotlight! Anything you'd like to add?

Support bloggers like Cats Luv Coffee. Subscribe, follow, re-tweet, share with friends. We need them!

Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who appreciates a good scare. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, O’Bergh came up with the idea for his first novel, The Shatter Point, after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published five books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles. His supernatural short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines. After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now resides with his husband in Toronto.

Jon, thank you so much for being a guest on Cats Luv Coffee Book Reviews!

Publication date: April 8th 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads L ong ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with ...

Publication date: April 8th 2021

Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with the Mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren's grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren's freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.

When I first read the blurb for All The Murmuring Bones, I thought "Gothic mermaids? Yes, please." However, the story that I got did not line up with the story I was expecting. There are three separate plotlines throughout. There's the history of the O'Malley family, the mystery of  Miren O'Malley's parentage, and last—but certainly, not least—a dash of the fantasy and the deal struck with the Mer. We get a taste of the former and the latter in the beginning as a third-person narrator matter-of-factly tells us just where the O'Malley's came from and where they have now landed. Generations of O'Malley's have had children and sacrificed them in exchange for wealth. 

"One for the house, one for the church, and one for the sea."

A once prosperous and highly regarded family, they now are down to Miren and her grandmother Aoife in a dilapidated shell of the once rich estate. Expected now to marry a very cruel man to rescue the estate, Miren yearns for her freedom and for answers and sets off to find them.
I'll admit I found the pacing a bit odd. The prologue immediately draws you in with its fairytale feel, then abruptly drops you into Miren's life where nothing is really happening. There are drips and drops of fantasy elements in the beginning like corpsewights seen by Miren on the way to town and a cursed blanket. Those elements kept me turning pages for more but honestly felt disconnected from the story. You almost forget at times the world-building isn't simply historical until the author casually mentions trolls or some other mythical creature.  Instead of immersing me into the story, these bits brought me out of it instead since I'd forgotten that this world had magic. 

Another unfortunate flaw is while the story is very character-driven, I didn't care enough for Miren to be interested in her escape and life on the road and almost DNF'd more than once. When the reader is supposed to care about the journey and less about the destination, it's difficult when the character is dull as dishwater. I wanted to see character growth but it never reached the pinnacle I expected.

There's no denying the gothic elements. There are not one but two decaying manors. Family secrets around every turn. There is beautiful prose throughout and some fantastic imagery. The author excels at lush descriptive language. There are so many moments of fairytale goodness but it's interspersed throughout and doesn't feel cohesive. However, the second half of the novel completely changed and has an entirely different feel. It's dark and enchanting and satisfied my dark fairytale-loving soul. 

If you want character-driven fiction, you'll probably love the journey with Miren. If you are reading this expecting a whole lot of mermaid fantasy action, I think you'll be disappointed. It's also touted as a very feminist novel but it almost goes to the other side. Men are vilified or disregarded, including a later romance for Miren. This is one of those reads that you'll feel strongly about. You're either going to love it or be bored to tears. 

Today's Author Spotlight is author Payne Schanski! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: March 16th, 2021 Amazon |  Goodre...

Today's Author Spotlight is author Payne Schanski!

Read on for the full interview.

Publication date: March 16th, 2021

For fifteen-year-old JB, life couldn't get much worse.

He's been grounded for six months after making a huge mistake that's ruined his reputation, and now his life consists of going to school and coming straight home: no more basketball games or adventures with his friends. The word "fun" seems to have been erased from his life, and he's lost all hope-that is, until he hears about a legendary abandoned house in a secluded area called Five Mile Creek, buried deep within the forests of Northern Michigan. The house is known by the locals to be haunted. Curious and fearless, JB rallies an unpredictable group of misfits to make a journey to the house one cold February night-even though he knows he's on the brink of making the same life-altering mistake again. However, what the amateur ghost hunters encounter is far from anything they could have imagined, and all of them are there for reasons of their own, and with a lot at stake. For JB, solving this mystery means facing the decisions that continue to haunt his soul.

Containing echoes of classic '80s films such as Stand by Me and The Breakfast Club, The Ghost of Five Mile Creek is, at its heart, an unflinching and authentic take on growing up. While wrestling with the always brewing inner storm of adolescence, the characters-all on the edge of adulthood, with childhood's idealism slipping from their respective grasps-crave greater answers about the mysteries of life and death, and about who they are as they form their own identities and images. At the heart of this funny, insightful, and profound book are several core questions: Should we allow our pasts to haunt us? Can the harsh reality of death bring any clarity on how we wish to live our lives? And lastly, are all mistakes truly "mistakes," or do they hold something deeper than shame?...

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

'Ghost' is my first YA novel, and at its heart, I consider it just a true and authentic take on a fifteen-year-old boy trying to navigate high school--figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. JB has been punished for an entire school year for some mistakes he made over the summer, but when he hears some of his classmates talking about this legendary 'haunted' house and planning an excursion to it, he can't help himself from wanting to go.

Along the way, I wanted JB to face a bit of a reckoning with the decisions he made to put him in his current predicament. I made sure to put him in position to face people from his past one-on-one and see whether he's grown at all (along with one from his future--though he doesn't know that yet).

The odd crew is out trying to unravel the mysteries behind the abandoned house, but at a certain point in the night, their interactions with each other become more important, and the 'ghost' takes a bit of a backseat. In many ways, I consider it something of a cross between "The Breakfast Club" and "Stand By Me" for that reason.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

Part of it is from my own experiences growing up in Northern Michigan; another large part is from my years working with middle school and high school students in a youth enrichment program.

Observing adolescence when you're not the one going through it is endlessly interesting--for instance, the fragile social dynamics, the constant swirl of rumors and how hard it can be to sort out the truth. One thing that I think is universal at that age is making countless mistakes, but ultimately just wanting to do well, find your place, and make someone proud of you.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

Jennie, because she starts off as such a side character, but becomes more and more influential as the night goes on. She is little bit older than the boys and in a different social orbit than them. She's able to get away with certain things too, which puts them in awe of her to an extent early on. Jennie turns out to be a far different person than the main character expects, and I think readers will enjoy building both respect and sympathy for her as the story progresses.

Do you have any writing superstitions?

Most of my best ideas come while I'm shooting hoops by myself. The quiet repetition and peace of just playing a game that I love for no reason besides enjoyment turns that act into a creative space for me. You'll even see that aspect hit the page as basketball is a happy place that the character JB adopts as well and where he feels most calm and at home.

What are you currently reading?

I'm currently rereading 'Down and Out In Paris and London' by George Orwell, whle waiting on a fresh Amazon book order to arrive. Haven't been able to start any of these yet, but here is the upcoming list:
The Great Santini, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Burmese Days

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?

Not with this book necessarily, but definitely for the next two that I've been working on. I would go for a week or two at a time, just playing the same five or six songs while I wrote, to the point where those artists even have an influence on how the story itself develops.

Artists I had on repeat at various times: Suede, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, J. Cole, M83, Oasis, Mariah Carey, The Stone Roses, probably others that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

Despite the contents of 'The Ghost of Five Mile Creek', I'd still probably go with the fairytale creatures--not the evil ones though.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

Yes, I have an Instagram account that's still very much in its infancy. I'll post about books that I'm currently reading, things that I'm writing, share (brag about...?) little victories along the way, show things that inspire me or my work. Readers are definitely encouraged to interact with me; I'm always excited to give book recommendations to people based on their personalities and interests.

Follow me @payneschanski_writer and introduce yourself!

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I have two more books in the JB series that are on their way. 'Ghost' has a strange position in that I wrote it first, but it's actually the middle book of a three part series. I wasn't necessarily trying to be 'experimental' or doing some sort of Star Wars style chronology... it was just the first plot that I was able to fully form so I ran with it!

Payne Schanski has worked as an educator, coach, and mentor for middle school and high school students over the past decade. Working closely with these students has meant revisiting the fears, insecurities, and mistakes that make adolescence the turbulent learning experience that it is. These observations, as well as the author’s own experiences growing up in Northern Michigan, inspired him to write The Ghost of Five Mile Creek, his debut novel. The Ghost of Five Mile Creek is the middle book of a three-part series, along with the soon-to-be released Blue Houses on the Peninsula and Redemption Summer. His other writing includes humor pieces featured at 'The Toast' and 'Slackjaw' and as a Detroit Lions blogger for 'SideLion Report'. After eight years living in Boston, Schanski recently moved back to Northern Michigan with his wife, Cathy AuGuste Schanski. He enjoys playing tennis and basketball in his free time. 

Payne, thank you so much for being a guest on Cats Luv Coffee Book Reviews!

Publication date: June 9th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads N ot all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse. When Amelia turned 12, she be...

Publication date: June 9th, 2021

Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.

When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.

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Body horror and the female body
by Melissa Eskue ousley

I love stories where magic comes with a price. I was thinking about that concept as I wrote
Constellations of Scars, which is about a girl who grows pearls under her skin. A gift like that would be both a blessing and a curse. You could sell the pearls and become wealthy, but the act of growing the pearls would take a toll. It would be painful and leave your skin marred by scars. It would also be a dangerous gift, because if the wrong people found out about it, they might exploit you to enrich themselves.

I paired Amelia’s gift of growing pearls with her menstrual cycle because it seemed logical to link the phenomenon to hormones and a monthly occurrence. To stay true to the story, I needed to describe the process of growing pearls in a way that was both magical and realistic, that gave a sense of the pain and horror that a person would experience if they had to go through that every month.

But how much horror is too much? There’s a fine line between evoking horror and keeping readers engaged, and pushing that boundary so far the reader becomes disgusted and is turned off by the story. That line is subjective. Every reader has different limits when it comes to horror.

On the other hand, the human experience—growing older, dealing with illness, wrestling with one’s own mortality—is full of horror. In the end, that’s what Constellations of Scars is about: what it means to be human. Amelia’s experience, and the experiences of some of the other characters in the story who have physical oddities, may be different than that of most human beings, but suffering is universal. We all know what it’s like to experience pain and hardship. In that sense, horror is a shared experience.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, two charming cats, and a piranha. Her suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, is set in Seaside, and won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. Her young adult novel, Sunset Empire, debuted in a bestselling boxed set. Her short stories have been included in Rain Magazine, The North Coast Squid, and various anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found volunteering for her local wildlife center, caring for injured owls and hawks.

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