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Never Ceese by Sue Dent (2005 Journey StoneCreations, LLC.  Read more about the author and the book here.

     First, some fun and facts:

     When my office received this book, a handsome hardcover from Journey Stone Creations, and it found its way to my hands, I looked it over thoroughly and sent author Sue Dent an email confirming its receipt.  On an odd note, the wolf on its cover was exactly the same wolf on my computer screen's wallpaper, and I held one up to the other amused.  I'd been made aware of Sue's existence

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(All reviews copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by Nicholas Grabowsky and Diverse Media, all rights reserved.   All book cover images are owned by their respective owners and used by permission.)

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 while browsing through that vast social bird's nest called Myspace, we corresponded a few times, and here I have her novel as a result.  I was particularly drawn to it because it boasted traditional Protestant Christian-inclined values and overtones so much so that even Christian book stores should welcome it.  And it's a horror novel, in essence.  About vampires and werewolves.

     Well, well.

     Back during what would become my last years of preaching and active church-going worship, I originally set out to complete my first horror novel as a Christian allegory.  And I wasn't the only one doing it.  Nowadays, though I've never since then and to this day was inclined to check out what's going on in anything peddled as Christian/Suspense/Supernatural or even stepped into a Christian book store (that I recall), I'm aware of some good writing in itself going on there.  The current trend of Last Days apocalyptic fiction is at an all-time high, that I know, and in spite of entire communities banning Harry Potter from libraries, C.S. Lewis-type fantasies seem to have become an increasingly popular trend also in that market.

     But enough of that, and my sudden editorial lapse by no means suggests Never Ceese is churchy.  Yes, the storyline carries with it a cover-to-cover essence of biblical morality and overall themes of redemption through want and sacrifice, and there is absolutely nothing about its content that I can imagine would incline parents to object to their young teens reading it.  I think parents and teens alike would be utterly thrilled to read it, which brings us now to the basics without beating around the bush any further.

     I simply can't give Sue Dent enough praise for this work.  I truly adored it.  It read like the work of a master storyteller, its narrative virtually flawless.  At first it seemed like it was going to be a period piece,  and throughout that portion of the book it was atmospheric and foreboding. 

     The approach Dent takes is that werewolves and vampires are essentially human beings carrying a curse which strips them of almost any hope of redemption, salvation, and most of the popular basic rules regarding their nature apply, save that vampires themselves are undead in predominant lore.  Ceese, or Cecilia, has the werewolf curse and has been wandering the earth in wolf form for a few hundred years or so because of it.  She is summoned by an aging friend who lives in an isolated English castle whose resident vampire, Richard, has cared for her for a long time.  Fearful of the knowledge that if he should feed on a human being his curse would be absolute, he instead feeds on the blood of the goats of local herdsmen or blood he purchases off the internet.  Before she dies, the friend sends Ceese and Richard to New York in pursuit of a possible cure for their curses via stem cell research, where an evil university professor awaits their arrival in an obsessive search for the power of eternal life.

     This is Sue Dent's first work, and I am very proud of her.  Very imaginative, stylistic, and highly entertaining, she excels without compromise to personal belief and the learned expertise it takes to write so well.  I highly recommend it, and I can't recommend it enough.

    

     Several months after 9/11, a single star dropped from the sky and must've hit R.J. Cavender clear smack on the noggin, invoking the desires which festered in his mind to probe the internet for others of the literary like-minded and consequently put together a network from which he grew in stature.  The resulting afterbirth of this inevitably led to the formation of a group of talented horror fiction writers

Incubus/ Succubus by L.A. Nantz (2006)  Read more about the author & book here.

 

     I have to start by saying that this was the first technically unpublished work I accepted for review at the time of submission, and as much as I dislike reading a work of such length on my computer screen, I was moved to place it on my reading schedule forthwith and nonetheless.  It's from a currently unknown author, and this is his first bonafide novel-length work.  Now, after reading it, my overall impression is that it

is quite ambitious, and that author L.A. Nantz took time visualizing the characters and situations which, on paper, are quite vivid.

     There are two major characters here, one a vampiric "incubus" and the other moreso a succubus then anything else, and throughout the novel we read of their individual exploits and misadventures that are altogether raw, gritty, sexual, and harshly gut-wrenching exploitive.  It is choc full of great morbid vision and story-driven circumstance.

     However, (and now comes the part where Nantz should pay careful observation):

     Never, ever, send to a reviewer a manuscript in this condition, half-baked and not personally perfected.  It was so incredibly grammatically flawed that it was difficult to read and enjoy.  I'm a very patient reader when it plays into my understanding of its author, but.....man, this story is Nantz's baby, quite obviously, and he's spent so much time on it so far, he has to push himself further in its perfection.  My advice to others and him:  refuse to be satisfied with your work until it is virtually flawless.  Incubus/Succubus drips imagery from a mind not yet disciplined in the craft, but I tell you, Nantz has got the knack.  But a work such as this has got to be shaped and rounded like the work of art that it is, even if it takes going over again and again until your fingers bleed from writing and correcting, proofing, and going over it again until you yourself can't see any flaws and hand it over to an editor who catches what you can't.  I think Incubus/Succubus is worth it, worth the time.  In this industry, in order to be heard, you must turn yourself into your greatest critic.

     I say this lovingly, because I was that way long ago.  I think all of us were, and harsh criticism forges us into greatness through time.  A better presentation makes all the difference, but if Nantz presses on with what is clearly his passion, he'll be  enjoying the fruits of his work soon enough, and we'll all be enjoying that uncompromising, sweetly horrifying vision of his that is so inspired by a talent we should hope to devour with all the abandon our genre implores.

Horror Library Vol. I chief editor R.J. Cavender (2006 Cutting Block Press)  Read more about the book and its authors here.

crowned "The Terrible Twelve" by R.J., an innovative web presence, and the entity/anthology that was to become +The Horror Library+.  Not long afterwards, its first published volume chanced to fall under my scrutiny.

     With the contributions of 30 authors, some of whose works outside of this collection I've truly admired, and superb editors, I'd say this volume is essential for any personal horror library.  It presents examples of some of the best damn talent out in the field today, based on these tales alone in my opinion, some talent that currently has yet to be discovered by the industry as a whole but well deserves to be, as well as some currently making their marks in horror literature as I write this.

     This anthology, I might add, comes in handy on that camping trip where you have to read at least one good scary story around the fire.  Just close your eyes, open the book and point.  And there you have one.