Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: A Change of Mind and Other Stories by Nick Wilford

Get your e-copy on amazon now here! 
Last month, author and friend, Nick Wilford, released his contemporary speculative fiction book, A Change of Mind and Other Stories. This book was a wonderful read, and I'm so glad I had a chance read it and brag about it. It consists of consists of a novella, four short stories and one flash fiction piece--four of which were previously published in Writer's Muse Magazine

At just around 100 pages, this book is a great choice for a quick and intriguing summer read. In the first story, A Change of Mind, we meet Reuben. He works in an office where he's bullied at every turn and can't even get a date let alone summon the courage to ask a girl out.  It makes you ache to read about his sad state because I swear in life we all have a sullen side to ourselves.

Anyway, Ruben decides to meet with a quasi-brain surgeon to help him rewire some brain parts in a bizarre cutting-edge procedure. Now, how many times have you thought about changing something about yourself or the way you think? Too often, huh? Well, Reuben can't stand himself any longer and decides to undergo the procedure. What he gets is mind blowing change. I won't tell you what happened, but it's suspenseful and reminded me of a modern version of The Twilight Zone Show. Remember how strange those episodes were? Or what about Steven King's Quitters, Inc. about the smoker who tried to quit? After finishing the novella and the other stores, I was left with twilight zone vibe and that's a great feeling for someone like me who truly enjoys those classic stories. Wilford is a fantastic writer who knows how to draw in a reader!

If you're a fan of dark, short stories with an edge, than you'll enjoy A Change of Mind and Other Stories. Get your e-copy on amazon now here!   Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter or Goodreads.

Sounds like a good one to pick up for the summer, huh? Yup, it sure is!

Mina Burrows

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest!

It's the Blood, Boobs, and Carnage Blogfest hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner. For this blogfest, we're posting about about a movie, television show, book, or all three that falls into any of these categories.

Okay, I've decided to pick a movie, television show and book the comes to mind when I think of each category.

Blood, Boobs & Carnage: I immediately thought of Tarantino's "The Bride" played by Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill series. Does that include all three or what? Yup!  


Then I thought about Tomb Raider's Lara Croft. For a video game character, turned movie blockbuster, she epitomizes blood, boobs and carnage, huh? You know it!

The Walking Dead has all three as well, but mostly blood and carnage. When I mention carnage because it can get bloody as hell. Last season had some of the worst death and destruction caused by many of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse including the living and the dead. For those that aren't familiar, this past season dealt with zombies, cannibals, isolated societies and Carol. Carol, was my choice for blood and carnage because she is just BAD ASS!

Those are my picks! Man that was fun. Did you participate in the challenge? If not, see the links here and take a gander!

Have a great week!

Mina Burrows

Friday, May 8, 2015

2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge Reflections

I'm posting my A-Z Challenge reflections a bit behind schedule.  I didn't want to miss the chance though.  The idea of the post is to reflect about your the overall challenge and discuss what you liked and didn't like.  Overall I enjoyed writing about the penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era.  (Hey, if you missed any of my posts, please click here.)  I learned a ton about the literature in the 1800's and however bad the writing was considered back then, there were many wonderful and iconic pieces of literature created.  And some like The Demon Barber and more have stood the test of time.  Interestingly, the cheap printing methods opened up the lit flood gates to the masses, providing mid to lower classes access to exciting, affordable stories.  When you think about the vast majority of changes the publishing industry has endured over the last few years with the surge of e-publishing, the comparisons between then and now are eerily similar.  

My dislikes for this year's A-Z challenge really came down the time management.  I would have preferred to spend more time visiting and reading my author/blogger friends than writing all the content.  I know that sounds utterly ridiculous, but I think next year I may create another challenge or team that visits the blogs and then highlights the best content every week.  This way I can participate in the process, but spend more time visiting and supporting others, especially folks that are new to the challenge.

Lastly, I want to say a special shout out to the late great Tina Downey at Life is Good. We miss you Tina! God bless!

Those are my thoughts for this year!  I've been participating since the beginning and I'm proud I finished it, but WOW was it tough!  What about you?  Did you have any thoughts on how you'll take on next year's challenge?

Mina Burrows

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A-Z: Y is for The Yorkshire Witch and Z is for Edward Zane Carroll Judson

I'm posting for the letter Y and Z for the A-Z Challenge.  For the letter Y, I'm featuring Mary Bateman, the Yorkshire Witch and for the letter Z, Edward Zane Carroll Judson a.k.a. Ned Buntline.

"Mary Bateman, the Yorkshire Witch"

The penny dreadful, Mary Bateman the Yorkshire Witch, was written by Thomas Peckett Prest in 1840.  Under the direction of Edward Loyd, Prest endeavored to write bloody tales, often creating storylines from news headlines.  Mary Bateman (1768 – 20 March 1809) was an English con artist who would steal and pretend she had supernatural powers to deceive her marks.  She befriended a husband and wife ( William and Rebecca Perigo) who believed in her abilities.  They paid her a substantial amount of money for her magical potions, spells and such.  Rebecca eventually died eating pudding laced with poison.  Her husband grew suspicious and contacted authorities which led to Mary's arrest.  Mary denied any wrongdoing, but the authorities found poison and other incriminating items in her belongings.  She was sentenced to death by hanging in March 1809.  Afterwards, "her body was put on public display with strips of her skin being sold as magic charm to ward off evil spirits."  Ack!.  That's just gross.  You can read more information about Mary here.  Anyway, there are no known copies of the penny dreadful, Prest created based on that original story which is really too bad.  I suspect with his talent for flair and romance, there might have been a riveting read on our hands.

"Edward Zane Carroll Judson"

Since there is little on penny dreadfuls that begin with the letter Z, I focused on an author from the U.S. who wrote serials.  Edward Zane Carroll Judson was an American, using the pen name Ned Buntline, who wrote serials such as The King of the Sea. A tale of the fearless and free and The Virgin Bride. A romance and more.   Ned had a seasoned background in the Navy and military and later roamed the Wild West with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill.  This author led an amazing life to say the least.  He produced Wild West shows with Buffalo Bill and  Texas Jack Omohundro and even claimed he nicknamed "Buffalo Bill" for the hero of his serial novel Buffalo Bill, the King of the Border Men, published in the New York Weekly" in 1869. "Ned Buntline was an American publisher, journalist, writer, and publicist."  I was able to find most of my information about Edward Zane Carroll Judson here, but this image of him hanging with Buffalo Bill is perhaps my favorite.

Not too bad for Y & Z.   Anyway, that's a wrap!  I'm off this weekend to spend time reading the blog posts of other folks since I've been remiss this last week.  Enjoy your weekend!

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A-Z: X is for eXtra Penny Dreadfuls

The letter for today for the A-Z Challenge is the letter X.  Well, this one as you can imagine is a difficult letter to source.  In order to make the most of this challenge for my readers, I decided to source more penny dreadfuls and post where everyone could find them free.  I'm using the letter X for eXtra penny dreadfuls.  Please enjoy these exceptional serials

George W. M. Reynolds' The Mysteries of London

Overview: George W. M. Reynolds' The Mysteries of London is a sprawling tableau, seeking to depict life as Reynolds saw it in mid-Victorian London and expose what he viewed as gross injustice toward the poor. He wide range of tales included a clergyman as the main character and hump-backed dwarves, harridans and grave-robbers [who] groped past against a background of workhouses, jails, execution yards, thieves' kitchens and cemeteries.

Get your Free copy here via Gutenberg.

William Harrison Ainsworth's The Lancashire Witches

The serial which was later published as a novel is based on the true story of the Pendle witches, who were executed in 1612 for causing harm by witchcraft. It is considered one of the major English novels on witchcraft.

Get your Free copy here via

William Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard

Overview: A celebrated thief is the un-worthy hero of this early dramatic romance.

Get your #Free copy of Jack Sheppard via

William Harrison Ainsworth's Auriol: The Elixir of Life 

Overview:  On the night of the 1st of March, 1800, and at a late hour, a man, wrapped in a large horseman's cloak, and of strange and sinister appearance, entered an old deserted house in the neighbourhood of Stepney-green. He was tall, carried himself very erect, and seemed in the full vigour of early manhood; but his features had a worn and ghastly look, as if bearing the stamp of long-indulged and frightful excesses, while his dark gleaming eyes gave him an expression almost diabolical.

Get your #Free copy via Amazon.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon 's Lady Audley's Secret

Lady Audley's Secret was first published as a serial in the mid 1800's.  Here is an overview of the story.  Lady Audley's Secret (1862) was one of the most widely read novels in the Victorian period. It exemplifies "sensation fiction" in featuring a beautiful criminal heroine, an amateur detective, blackmail, arson, violence, and plenty of suspenseful action. To its contemporary readers, it also offered the thrill of uncovering blackmail and criminal violence within the homes of the upper class. The novel makes trenchant critiques of Victorian gender roles and social stereotypes, and it creates significant sympathy for the heroine, despite her criminal acts, as she suffers from the injustices of the "marriage market" and rebels against them. 

Get your #Free copy via Amazon here.

Have you had a change to read any of these?  I haven't, but I can promise there are a few here I'll be adding to my TBR pile.

Have a fantastic day!

Mina Burrows

Monday, April 27, 2015

A-Z: W is for Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

We're in the final stretch of the A-Z Challenge.  Yahoo!  The letter for today is W and I'm featuring, George Reynold's penny dreadful, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf.   Earlier in the A-Z Challenge, I blogged about Reynolds and mentioned some of his accomplishments including Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf.  Today, I wanted to go into more detail about the penny dreadful and how important it's story was to the Gothic genre.

"Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf"

Like Varney the Vampire or Feast of Blood, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, is a classic piece of Gothic literature.  Aside from the pack with the devil, many werewolf characteristics we use today originated from this serial.  For example, Reynold's story was the one of the first English literature that mentions of a man transforming into a wolf-like creature.

From the back cover of Penny Dreadful Multipack Volume 1, (a book of the original penny dreadfuls with images) the series "is set in the sixteenth century and begins with a recently abandoned old man waiting in vain for his granddaughter to return and care for him as a storm rages in the ancient forest surrounding his isolated cottage. To his surprise, a stranger appears and offers him something he cannot refuse: beauty and youth. But it comes with a price as he must also suffer the curse of the werewolf. Love, violence, and intrigue are all weaved around Fernand Wagner as he struggles to balance being a human and a murderous animal. As things become more out of hand and uncontrollable, the secret he has been trying to hide may just have to come forth and be faced by all involved, including his beloved Nisida."

Where can I get a copy of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf ?

I found my FREE copy of George Reynold's penny dreadful, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf via Gutenberg ebooks.  Enjoy!

Have a great day!

Mina Burrows

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A-Z: U is for The Union Jack & V is for Varney the Vampire

The letters I'm posting for today is U & V for the A-Z Challenge. U is for The Union Jack and V is for Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood.

"The Union Jack"

The Union Jack was another half-penny dreadful created by Alfred Harmsworth in 1894.  In his quest to rid the market of penny dreadfuls, Harmsworth published serials like The Union Jack, offering readers morally cleaner stories with better writing.  In his first serial, he published an editorial statement, promising  his half-penny's featured "...No tales of boys rifling their employers' cash-boxes and making off to foreign lands, or other such highly immoral fiction products."  His strategy worked, of course, as the rise of the half-penny dreadfuls did end the penny dreadful era.  That might seem a bit depressing, but perhaps the violent trend had run it's course with the general public?  The Union Jack had a very successful run of over 35 years, hosting top characters from the penny dreadful era like Sexton Blake.  

I wasn't able to find an ecopy of this publication which seem strange.  There were a fair amount of original copies being sold online, but nothing in e-format.  Sorry. :(

"Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood"

Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood, was a penny dreadfrul written in 1845-47 by the duo goth writing team, James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Preskett Prest.  The serial is about a "exploits of a deathless creature with an insatiable appetite for blood."  And like many of these goth novels, there are a band of heroes wanted to track and kill the beast.

Varney gave birth to how many of us view vampires today with key characteristics such as "fangs, leaves two puncture wounds on the necks of his victims, has hypnotic powers, and has superhuman strength"  Vampires with their brooding and self-loathing seem to be a favorite pastimes with iconic vampire literature, right?  Did you know it originated from ol' Varney.  Even though many people today aren't that familiar with him, he was the first in a long line of "sympathetic vampires."  The ones we're more familiar with are Dark Shadow's Barnabas Collins, Anne Rice's Louis de Pointe du Lac, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel, and Charlaine Harris' Bill Compton.

Where can I get a copy of Varney the Vampire?

A copy of the Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood can be found at Gutenberg.

Wow!  We're getting close the end of A-Z.  You guys having fun yet?

Mina Burrows