Shutter Speed – A Review


“Evil Doesn’t Burn…”

Shutter Speed cover

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Burned, scarred, and left for dead, Jimmy Tasker is running from everyone.

The blaze changed him—changed the way his brain fires—and left someone else in his head with him. Someone who wants to kill for fun.

He changes his name, buries his past, starts a new life…and disappears.

Years later, four friends from the city are hard up. Steve needs work, Gil’s jumpy, Peter is struggling, and Cal’s an addict. So they plan a robbery. Steve backs out, but the other three go through with it and botch the job, resulting in the death of Lauren Westerbrook.

Ronan Westerbrook has a hidden past, a love of photography…and a fondness for flame.

Ronan’s revenge for his wife’s death culminates in a bloodbath—and unleashes Jimmy, who was there all along, tormented by nightmares of atrocities he has no idea if he truly committed.

Steve is trying to build a respectable life, but now Jimmy has one last piece of unfinished business…the only witness who can identify him.

Shutter Speed_promo

My Review: 

Shutter Speed is a cleverly written story of Jimmy, a bullied little boy, who just wants to be left alone to take pictures–the only thing that gives him happiness. Eventually, that little boy grows up and into a twisted version of himself, a warped human hiding in plain sight.

But his facade of normalcy is ripped away one night, revealing that Jimmy is no longer someone who can be pushed around. He pushes back now, and stabs, and tears…

There are a few scenes of “Yikes!”, but I wouldn’t call this horror; it’s a thriller and a well executed one.

Check out the book trailer for Shutter Speed.


Mark Taylor crash landed on planet earth in 1975. Then he started writing. He writes macabre, dark, stories, with a brooding style. He has enjoyed releases of both novel and short story collection alike.

Some of Mark’s work is about kittens and daisies. Just not very much.

Some say he is a product of his environment, others, a product of his own imagination.

Whichever it is he works happily, portraying dark existences on this planet and others. He relays his fears and doubts on his characters, so always has a smile. If Mark is real, as some say he is, you might find him in England.




Containment: A Thanksgiving Interview

Now that I live in the UK, you might think I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

You’re right, I don’t. Well, not really. This year, I’ll be introducing my UK family to a few treats from the American South via a lovely lunch on Sunday that will also have some traditional British fare.


Homemade biscuits. Always a favorite in my household…on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, however, I hope to be finishing up with NaNoWriMo. So I won’t be around too much until I’ve got that badge in my hand. Er…on my desktop.

Anyway, I did an interview with the fantastic Lincoln Farish recently. Lincoln interviewed me about my dark fantasy novella Containment and it’s my honor to share it with you. Hope you’ll give it a read and maybe leave me comment. Even if you’re too busy right now, bookmark it for later.

So, enjoy your families and your friends.  Be thankful for what you have. Today and every day.

Happy Writing!





The Marked Hosts – A Review

Back in August, I featured Auden Johnson and her book release, The Marked Hosts on the blog. As promised, I am posting a review of the dark fantasy/sword and sorcery novel. (Again, I’m late in doing so. No excuses, just the post. Okay, one. I’ve been playing catch up for a few months.)

Contessa Torain is an alien warrior of Noble birth tasked with the duty of meditator: she has to talk the humans out of blowing up her world solely because of a few rogues. Not an easy task and after five years, she’s almost ready for war herself as it might be simpler than getting people to listen. I could understand her frustration and her desire to just be done with what seems to be a fruitless task.

I found it interesting to have a non-human point of view character, especially one that comes from an alien race not-too-keen on humans. (Okay, so they usually devour human souls, but hey… that was then. Now they have Vith, fabricated liquid souls that are just as delicious.) She’s tough, efficient, and takes public transportation.

She saves the life of a child while on the subway (Some readers may find the scene of a child being beaten and thrown around a subway car difficult to read.) only to find out he has a secret that makes him not fully human. Even so, she reluctantly takes him in, determined to find out what and who he is.


Cover art for The Marked Hosts.

World-building is an enormous part of writing, especially in the fantasy and sword & sorcery genres. Johnson pays attention to the details in the worlds she creates, designing a powerful, yet flawed, ruling class along with a race of dragon-like protectors who have their own agenda.

Contessa truly changes during the course of the book, becoming a more sympathetic character. Her experiences with the child and the destruction of her icy world, Devortus, finally pierce her tough exterior and she knows she has to have help to continue. I liked that she wasn’t drawn to be all-powerful and able to do everything on her own, even though she tried to. It made me root for her even more and gave me the chance to spend time with some of the other quirky characters. Saving the world was truly a family affair in this book.

Johnson is clever in her choices with The Marked Hosts. There is evidence of the Medieval feudal system and high fantasy–magicians and sentient swords–along with modern day technology and attitude. The characters had skin tones that ran the gamut of pale to deepest brown, and provided a variety and diversity that wasn’t cloaked in a human guise, which I found refreshing and enjoyable.


Strange: A Dark and Surreal Collection – A Review

blog tour banner

Strange: A Dark and Surreal Collection is the latest release from author of the macabre, Mark Taylor. This collection of six stories blends horror with surrealism to create the unexplained, the unbelievable and the shocking.


Mark Taylor’s Strange is a collection of six. Six tales of woe, six tales of terror, six layers of hate. But more, so much more, they are the answers in the darkness, the shades no longer grey…or are they?

Within the trials of Networking and the totalitarian Total Entertainment are the terrifying consequences of technology, and Eternal Light sees the world extinct. Inside and Elizabeth toy with the mind, and that just leaves Dead Game where you might like what you find.

Come, come and visit…come and play…where we are all a little…Strange.

Win a free copy of Strange: A Dark and Surreal Collection below: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want my thoughts first?

Taylor writes these surreal stories with confidence, something I believe is necessary for an offbeat tale to work for a reader. I could feel the main point of view character’s confusion in each story, sense their disorientation, and the WTF reactions were exactly right.

“Eternal Light” is a stunning piece of writing that shows the beauty in fear and the terror in isolation, all wrapped up in a modern mythology style tale.

“Inside” takes mad scientist to a new level detailing an experiment gone wrong…or did it go according to plan?

Fatty, greasy food is on the menu in “Dead Game”, but that’s not what’s going to kill you.

I love a totalitarian society and as such, “Total Entertainment” was my favorite of the collection. Mix sci-fi with horror and I’m there…with bells on. Taylor has created a world where your job is everything, if you lose it,  you’re nothing. Then, you become the entertainment.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an excerpt from Strange, from Total Entertainment” specifically, for your enjoyment.



“Welcome to the Consternation Lounge.”

The calm, soothing voice of the Company echoed along the corridor as the door slid open silently. Massi looked to the ceiling as he listened to it. It was supposed to be a woman, but it was a machine. You could tell.

On the other side of the door a woman waited. She was real, he surmised. She was wearing a slim close-fitting trouser suit, her blond hair tied in a tight bunch at the back of her head. “Mr. Rubens?” She asked, smiling pleasantly, but she knew exactly who he was.

“Yes.” He returned the smile.

“Is this your first time?” The woman stepped forward and held out her hand to show him the way. She couldn’t touch him. That wasn’t allowed. Massi nodded and let her guide him. She led him across the shiny metal floor of the suite—perfectly smooth—his bare feet padding on the warm surface, to the single reclined booth. “There’s nothing to worry about. Have you experienced any of Absorption Entertainment’s catalogue?”

He eyed the booth nervously. “Yeah. ‘Bout two years back I tried one of the Darcy line. The booth looked different to this though.”

“Yes,” the woman nodded, “with each scenario the expected physical reaction is different. Darcy is a much mellower journey.”

“So, what will happen this time?”

“Oh, there really is nothing to worry about.” She gestured to the seat in the booth, “Please. I’ll set up the Experience.”

Massi pushed his doubts aside and slid into the booth, sitting back. This was too expensive to change your mind at the last minute. And besides, it was Absorption Entertainment. The last entertainment company left.

“Now,” she said, “as you have done this before do you want me to run through the procedures?” When he shook his head she continued. “When the play begins your vision will be altered, but not be too disoriented by it. If the last time you rented an Experience was two years ago, you should notice the wonder of the new Integrated Cerebral Platform,” She looked him in the eyes—she was attractive enough that he could have been aroused by her doing so, but she was staring deep beyond his face—looking into him.

“How long will it last?” he asked.

“Around two hours.” She smiled and tilted her head to the side like an air stewardess pandering to a frightened flier.

Then she was gone.

Massi had blinked from one reality to another.

The area smelled wretched. He couldn’t tell when or where he was, but the soft ground was covered in slicks of oil and grime. It looked like the pictures he had seen from the war. From within the darkness came a shuffling of feet…a mutter…followed by several moans.

The woman watched Massi’s vitals as he sank into The Experience, his fingers curling unconsciously around the arms of the booth. She slipped her hand into the Communications Imprint Device, the CIm-Dev, and interfaced with AI. “Client Rubens 4071 is in play.” A holographic countdown coagulated into being above Massi’s twitching body. It read 01:58:15.

She would return when his story was finished.

Win a free copy of Strange: A Dark and Surreal Collection below: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

"My beautiful picture." A quote from the author.

“My beautiful picture.” A quote from the author.

Author Bio:

Mark Taylor’s debut novel crash landed on planet earth in 2013. Its dark brooding style benchmarked his writing and has led to further releases of novel and short story collection alike. While most of Mark’s work is macabre, occasion has it that he will write about kittens and daisies. Just not very often. Some say he is a product of his environment, others, a product of his own imagination.

Camille and the Bears of Beisa: Drafnel – A Review

Back in August, I featured Simone Salmon and her book release, Camille and the Bears of Beisa: Drafnel on the blog. As promised, I am posting a review of the paranormal fantasy novel. (About time, I know. It’s been a hectic few months.)

Camille is an incredibly relatable character. Within a few paragraphs, I felt like I knew her personally, and I understood her motivations throughout the book. Although I can’t say I agreed with them all. She’s educated, modern, and I could picture happy hour with her would be a riot. She’s a young woman, who has an off and on again lover (what are the kids calling that these days?) but isn’t necessarily interested in committing full time right now as she has other things going on.

She finds herself drawn to a strange man she glimpses as she is moving into a new apartment with a few friends. Weird, disturbing things begin to happen, forcing her to contact her Grandmother and eventually make choices about herself, her family, and her future.

Cover for Camille and the Bears of Beisa.

Cover for Camille and the Bears of Beisa: Drafnel.

But is she really making these choices?  Or is she following a pre-destined path carved out for her by her ancestors and her progeny?

Salmon is able to seamlessly weave modern day Brooklyn, 20th Century Jamaica, and the fictional, futuristic Narvinia into a fascinating time-leaping read. Camille’s grandmother’s story was so engrossing that I almost wanted her to be the heroine of the story.

In Camille, there is Caribbean folklore, shapeshifters, and multiple villains to hate. I found the book unpredictable, clever, and well-executed. Most of all, I loved that Salmon doesn’t pull any punches with what she puts her characters through, and she doesn’t talk down to the reader, either. You know you’re reading an epic fantasy. Her word choice is crisp and the voices are distinct. As I mentioned in the feature, the book has several urban settings, a matriarchal society, and a female protagonist of African descent, which I’d love to see more of.

A definite recommended read.

Chat With Me This Sunday!

I’m honored to announce that Blerd Book Club’s October Book of the Month is my short story collection, Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror! Squee!!!

Spook lights books

I’ll be chatting about the collection on Twitter this Sunday at 3 CST. My inspirations, my inclusion of the Gullah language and Geechee culture, and conjure magics. Even if you haven’t read it yet, stop by and say hello. Or better yet, pick up a copy here first.

The Blerd Book Club is many minds wrapped around a good book. It is a book club for blerds, nerds, bleeks, and geeks to discuss, review, and reflect on the books they love. Find out more about Blerd Book Club (and maybe join!) on Goodreads here.

Join the Blerd Book Club on Goodreads!

Join the Blerd Book Club on Goodreads!

Join me on Sunday, November 1 at 3pm CST (4pm EST) as I chat with Thelonious Legend and Constance Burris about Spook Lights. If you’d like to join the discussion, or ask me questions about the book, use #BlerdBookClub on Twitter.

Support Books By and About Strong Women

The publishing game can be a challenging one, especially for indie publishers. I’ve had work published with several independent publishers over the years, and many of them–for various reasons–are no longer in existence.

One company that is doing it right is Spider Road Press, an indie publishing company with a mission to publish and promote literature by and about strong women. (Don’t worry guys; you don’t have to be a female writer to be published with Spider Road, but you do need to write strong female characters.)

Founded in 2013, in Houston, Texas, Spider Road also focuses on publishing fiction about women from diverse backgrounds. To make things even better, they donate 5% of the proceeds from our book sales to women’s shelters and veteran’s groups.

But as I mentioned, the publishing game can be tough, especially when it comes to funding for indies. Many times income from sales doesn’t always cover all of the press’ needs. So Spider Road has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to fuel their 2016 projects, which include a novella collection and a flash fiction contest. But there are only seven more days to contribute.

Cover for "In The Questions", the poetry collection which features my poem "Prescription Refill".   It's available only by supporting Spider Road Press' fundraising project.

Cover for “In The Questions”, the poetry collection which features my poem “Prescription Refill”.

One of the prizes you can choose for donating is a copy of the poetry collection, In The Questions, available only by supporting this Indiegogo campaign.  Enjoy poems by established poets such as Shae Savoy, Catherine Edmunds, Andrea Barbosa & Teresa Mei Chuc, as well as emerging poets such as Karen Marinaccio, Eileen Brunetto, Melissa Algood and Gay Yellen.

Some other nifty prizes are an exclusive, personalized portrait by artist Genevieve H. Smith, one of the artists featured in In the Questions and an editorial consult with Spider Road’s editor-in-chief to make your short story the best that it can be.

Any amount helps. You can read more about Spider Road Press and donate to their Indiegogo campaign here.