‘A Penny for Your Thoughts’ by Matt Hayward and Robert Ford – Review

Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book, not in exchange for an honest review, but I’m doing it anyway. 

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All photos provided by Robert Ford.

Excerpt-

‘After kicking aside a pair of underwear large enough to fit a hippo with glandular problems, that’s when I spotted the tree. The jagged trunk still smoked from lightning, and as the wind changed direction, sour air attacked my nostrils. I pressed my sleeve to my face as I jogged on over. The lone pine sat by the water’s edge, shredded by the gods. A still-flaming branch sizzled on the riverbank. But strangest of all was the crater of blackened earth by the roots. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say a tiny meteor had struck. Roots jutted from the scorched soil like tentacles, and I peeked below at the thing buried in the dirt. Rainwater rolled down the filthy glass. A jar.

My first thought turned to drugs. Could someone have buried paraphernalia for a pickup? Would that attract lightning?

Then (as stupid as it sounds) I thought: silver. Did we have a millionaire Lowback hillbilly hiding treasures outside of town? Parole officer be damned – my hands itched to find out.

I scanned the woods for hikers before hunkering down and pawing at the muck. The dirt came free in globs, gathering beneath my nails, but I soon shimmied my hands around the glass and pulled. The object popped free and I went bassakwards as the thing shot through the air, thumped the soggy ground and rolled as I scrambled to my feet and my treasure barreled toward the tributary.

“Motherfuck!”

I bolted and snatched the jar just as it started down the bank to the catfish. Then I caught my breath.

I took inventory of the woods and once more. Only the sparrows and catfish knew my whereabouts, and the hissing rain cloaked my labored breathing. I hobbled to the shelter of a canopy, squatting back-against-bark as I rolled that cold jar about my open palms.

A seamed glass cookie jar – the very thing Pop used as a swear pot when I was growing up. Sometimes I think he cussed just to give me pocket money, the kinda man he was. “Fuck, fuck, shit, cock, fuck, and there’s your candy. Go on up to the store and grab me some tobacco while you’re at it. Like magic.”

“Like magic,” I mumbled, and popped the lid before peering inside.

I expected a rank smell, maybe from a dead animal some psychotic child had shoved inside, but all I found was paper. Lots of paper. My brow creased. I wiped my hand on my jeans before slipping in two fingers and snatching a piece. Then I pulled a tiny, ripped scroll free and found myself surprised at the weight. Someone had shredded a notebook page before rolling the sections into tight little scrolls. The years only strengthened that fold, and once I unraveled a piece, I placed it on my knee and held it open. There lay a single penny taped next to handwriting..

“The fuck is goin’ on here?”

 


 

‘A Penny For Your Thoughts’ is available to pre-order at the links below and will be released on 1st June 2019 for your reading pleasure. 

 

Synopsis

Joe, a recovering addict fresh out of jail, finds a jar of penny buried beneath a tree, each old and wrapped in the wish of a young child. At first they amuse him, but he soon realises that the wishes he reads come true – no matter what they are. As he and his friends, new and old, try to figure out how to use the wishes to their advantage they find that everything has a price – and it’s never just a penny.

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‘A Penny For Your Thoughts’ is a novel that explores addiction, debt, greed, and secrets that refused to stay buried. It pulls the reader into a fantasy that we’ve all explored at some point – what would you wish for? Except, this novel also forces us to consider the downside – the cost of the wish. Everything has a price, it all just depends on whether we’re willing to pay it or not, and when the wish is really good, we don’t even ask what that price is. Joe and his friends go through all of these and bring the reader with them, funny, gruesome, haunting and all the while steadily increasing in dread.

Joe as a protagonist brings this story to life. Joe has a past, he isn’t necessarily a bad guy, but he isn’t a ‘good guy’ either. He isn’t the hero of this his story or any story really. His drug addiction serves as a mirror for our own addiction to our wants, our own selfishness, and our need for instant gratification at no cost – and as we all no, nothing is ever really free.

As this is the first co-authored novel that I have ever read, I was a little apprehensive about it, imagining that two writers together, particularly if I was to write with someone else, would find it challenging to merge their styles. But Ford and Hayward manage to do just that and form a cohesive narrative. At no point do I remember being pulled out thinking that I’d switched to something that felt like a different writer, a different story, a different protagonist.

I have one pet peeve about this novel that’s irrelevant to most people but I’m going to share it anyway! It’s completely only a thing that would get under my skin, and only recently as I’ve learned that this is a thing – the currency in prisons (American prisons at least) is no longer cigarettes, but ramen instant noodles. As I’ve heard in many documentaries (‘Brooklyn 99’ and ‘To Make A Murderer’) and various forms of journalism, smokes are largely banned and instead, as it’s easy to cook and something everyone and use, ramen noodles are now the currency that prisoners use to barter and stash away. We can all be glad that less people are smoking I guess.

 

About the Authors:

Matt Hayward

Matt Hayward is an Irish horror writer and musician from Wicklow with numerous publications under his belt and a Bram Stoker Award nomination. You can find my review of his short story collection ‘Brain Dead Blues’ here. He is currently working on another co-authored novel with Brian Smith and can be found on Twitter @MattHaywardIRE or at his website sundancecrow.com

 

Robert Ford

Robert Ford is an American author with myriad publications under his belt such as his novel ‘The Compound‘ and his short story collection ‘The God Beneath My Garden‘. He also has several screenplays floating around Hollywood that you may see in time. Ford can be found on Twitter @bobford

 

 

Links to Pre-order and review (ALWAYS REVIEW!)

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Goodreads

 

How do you feel about wish fulfillment stories? What would you use your wishes for if you found a mysterious jar of pennies buried beneath a tree? Are we all too addicted to instant gratification? Let me know down below!

 

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact! And don’t forget to follow for more reviews and musings on writing. 

‘A Step Away’ By G Randy Kasten – Review

Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Three friends, Brianna, Sean, and Robert, happen across a body buried in their neighborhood. Because a police investigation might reveal that the trio is connected to a stolen motor, and that Sean’s mother was having a relationship with a neighbor, the three friends decide they must solve the apparent murder before contacting authorities. In the process, they sneak into a house, befriend a vigilant neighbor with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and develop a friendship with a kind, older man. Brianna becomes convinced that clues point to Sean’s father and realizes their detective work is doing more harm than good. She makes tough choices that affect families and friendships.a step away cover

Book Extract:


Right below the pipe, a human hand and wrist poked out from the dirt, its flesh partly rotted away. The fingers pointed at us.

I let out a panicked yell identical to Robert’s but stood frozen. A hot, prickly feeling crawled up my back as Sean shouted to Robert. “You okay, Robber?” When Robert murmured a response, Sean scrambled down to the creek. “Cover it up!” he demanded as he went, pointing at me. “Cover it back up!”

“We can’t just…” I started.

“Cover it up!” Sean was bending over, one hand on Robert’s shoulder. “Just do it!” I shoveled dirt and leaves at the void, breathing as little as possible and only glancing occasionally at the rotted appendage sticking out at me. Each scoop of crumbly soil slid back down, so finally I started stomping on it to get it to stay, right on top of the hand. I felt as if I was pressing down on something evil. Trying to keep it back. After a minute, Sean stood next to me working with Robert’s abandoned shovel. With his head turned away from the hole, he didn’t help much. Robert sat where he was, letting out little wails every now and then. It wasn’t a sound like the pain of a sprained ankle or something. It was more like the desperate moans of someone who’d forgotten how to talk.

Once we managed to get the hand covered, we scrambled down the bank, grabbed Robert by his arms, then half carried him and the tools back to the workshop we’d taken over from Sean’s dad. After breathing the rotten stench of the creek, I barely noticed Robert’s smell and couldn’t get that image of the decaying hand out of my mind. We set Robert down in one of the beaten-up old armchairs we’d dragged in there, then sank down ourselves, panting. The hot prickly feeling was still crawling all over me. Sean and I looked at each other for a few seconds, then away. Robert stared at the floor. I’d never seen a real skeleton — or a dead body – before. The tuna sandwich I’d eaten an hour earlier seemed to be on a climb back up. I imagined the scene once we called the sheriff; Sean’s parents would arrive home to a flock of cop cars in the driveway. Maybe there’d be a coroner’s van. They’d love driving into that mess.

Then things went from bad to worse. Sean leaned forward and pointed one finger at me and one at Robert. “We can’t tell anyone about this.” Robert peered out from under the layer of the coarse black hair fallen in front of his eyes.

“But Sean, somebody buried a body.”

“We know that, Robert,” Sean snapped. His nasty scowl reminded me of his father. “But nobody else is going to know that.”

“Why not?” that high voice again.

“That body where it is, it’s not by accident.” Sean turned to me, “Brianna, you know why we can’t tell anyone.” Like he was pleading with me. “You know.”A Step Away


 

‘A Step Away’ is a YA Thriller about a group of friends finding a body in their neighbourhood and the unraveling threads of deception, family ties, and the disillusion of youth.

 

Following the thoughtful Brianna, you’re pulled onto an average street in an average town – there just happens to be a body slowly rotting by the creek with no clues as to who buried it or why. The trio face obstacles with their closed off families – Brianna struggling to connect with her selfish and greedy father, Robert still struggling with the tragic of his dad whichwis connected to Brianna’s father and his mother’s new boyfriend, and Sean is burdened with the knowledge of his mother’s affair and the need to protect her secrets. But did she have something to do with the dead body in the dirt? Or was it the man she cheated with?

‘A Step Away’ has mystery, plenty of depth, and the camaraderie you want from kids. I was expecting much more darkness to the story as we are dealing with a dead body here, but the darkness is kept at bay by the hijinks the kids get up to in order to bargain their way through the strange question they’ve set for themselves. Other than the body clawing at the back of their minds every few chapters, this would be much more of your average coming of age story. Brianna realising that her father is not the inspiring man she wanted him to be, and Sean struggling with his family’s secrets and silence, there’s a lot more underneath that isn’t explored that could have added much more colour to the plot.

But that’s coming at it from an adult point of view, from a teenager’s perspective I think ‘A Step Away‘ is a great YA Thriller with the right mix of darkness, mystery and adolescent hangups. Brianna is a the perfect character to have the point of view from as she’s the only girl in the group and sees things that the boys don’t. I have a theory that she may even have a ‘not so strictly’ heterosexual angle there as well, and if that is the case it’s a nod without being explicit which in this case is fine as the kids romantic interests are not central to the plot.

Kasten does a great job of writing adolescent kids and the anxieties and contradictory confidence they have. Sean is an apt example of the pushy friend everyone had who always got their way. And poor Robert is the submissive friend who just wants to avoid their bullying brother.  A solid YA novel that explores what it’s like to share a dark secret with your friends and put the morals you’ve been taught on the back burner.

 

One to put on the shelf, and I’d imagine a teen coming back to read this one, peeling back a layer each time.

 

 

About the Author:

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After some childhood acting and living in England for a year, I graduated from Reed College, then attended law school. As a litigator in California and Washington State for thirty years, I learned a great deal about what people really want, and also how humor helps in tough situations. Writing remains my main interest. I am the author of Just Trust Me: Finding the Truth in the World of Spin (Quest Books, 2011), a book about discerning truth from appearances. My young adult novel, A Step Away, will be published by Black Rose in 2019. I have also written a couple of short plays, which were performed at a local theatre in Marin County, CA. The Ribbons Agency is a nearly completed satirical book about the arduous task of securing a literary agent. On a more serious note, I am working on a non fiction book that presents a unique, logical reason to believe that greater international peace is inevitable. A resident of San Francisco’s east bay for most of my life, I have lived along Hood Canal (a fjord and part of Puget Sound) in Washington State for the past three years. I’m still adapting to the weather, though it keeps me inside and productive most of the year. When not writing, I’m enjoying the outdoors or playing improvisational piano. G. Kasten

 

Links to ‘A Step Away’ (ALWAYS LEAVE REVIEWS!):

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

 

Review organized by: R&R Book Tours

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What do you think of YA Thriller? Do you think there should be more dark fiction out there aimed at teens? Let me know down below!

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact! And don’t forget to follow for more reviews and musings on writing. 

‘Without Hesitation’ by Talia Jager – Blog Tour (Free Book and Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Woul you like a free book?! Of course you would! To celebrate the newly released ’Painted Skies (Beyond Earth: Book Two)‘ by Talia Jager, the first book in this series is available for free download! Read all about Without Hesitation, download your free copy, and enter the amazing giveaway at the end of this post!

The 1st book in the Beyond Earth Sci-Fi series by author Talia Jager, ‘Without Hesitation’ has been repping the LGBT flag in the adventure aisle since June of last year. Now that book 2, ‘Painted Skies‘ is out, you need to get your hands on the first one FOR FREE to get the full scoop on this interstellar adventure. And read to the bottom to be in with the chance of winning a free copy of ‘Painted Skiestoo!

 

Synopsis:

Without Hesitation is set a thousand years in the future. Earth has become a wasteland. Humans traveled into space to colonize other suitable planets. Labels and stereotypes are a thing of the past and gender and sexual identity are as fluid as love as humans strive to survive. Here we meet Everleigh, the commander of her ship named Nirvana. She is under the control of an evil madman, Caspar, who keeps her family captive. He sends her to Valinor to abduct the Empress Akacia. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Akacia’s beauty and when the Empress fights back, Everleigh realizes she has met her match.

You can add ‘Without Hesitation’ to your Goodreads and I’ve just started a Goodreads account myself, why not add me here

 

*Available for FREE Download Right Now!*

Get your free copy of ‘Without Hesitation’ through these links:

Amazon

Apple

B&N

Google

Kobo

Smashwords

 

 

About the Author

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Talia is no stranger to labels and judgment. She has slowly been developing her voice for those who need help speaking up. She believes that someday labels will be a thing of the past, that sexuality will be fluid, love will be love, and mental illness will be handled with love and care. Talia is an author with fifteen books published including: Damaged: Natalie’s Story, Teagan’s Story: Her Battle With Epilepsy, If I Die Young, Secret Bloodline, Lost and Found, The Gifted Teens Series, The Between Worlds Series and The Beyond Earth Series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking red rocks or sitting on the beach with a Kindle in her hands and her toes in the ocean.

 

Author Links:

To find out more about Talia Jager and her writing you can catch her at the following links:

Website, Blogspot, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Pinterest, Instagram, & Goodreads.

And check out some of her Tweets below.

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Excerpt from ‘Without Hesitation’:

Limbs lashed at my legs and arms as I ran through the trees, toward the light. Hugging the shadows, I wove through the forest until I came to the clearing. A female around my age in a black protective suit stood there checking some kind of device in her hand.

She was beautiful. Her hair was just as long as mine, but was dark, smooth, and straight and framed her oval face perfectly. Her bright, golden eyes scanned her surroundings. She turned slowly revealing an animal print tattoo that trailed from the back of her neck, down her right shoulder, and her arm all the way to her pinky finger. I took half a step toward her before common sense drew me up short. I had been hiding for a reason. I had no idea whether she was friend or foe. It was dangerous to go charging out there, even if the girl seemed to be alone.

The stranger was facing me again. Her eyes landed near where I was hidden.

Could she see me?

She smirked and, said, “I know someone is out there. Save me the hunt and I’ll spare your life.”

Somehow I doubted she spoke the truth.

I hunkered down, daring her to find me. I was ready for her.

Slowly, carefully, she picked her way through the underbrush and made her way toward me. She knew I was here, but she didn’t know exactly where. Remembering how important it was that I not die, I couldn’t take any chances. As soon as she was close enough, I struck.

Just before my arm made contact, she shifted her weight and spun, stepping out of the way. She threw a punch, which I dodged easily, but then she continued to come at me and I blocked her over and over, until I made a misstep. While I was stumbling, she caught my cheek with her elbow then landed another blow to my belly. I countered, slamming my hand onto the bridge of her nose sending her backward. She stumbled but caught herself.

I launched myself at her, drove my body into hers, knocking her to the ground. We both fell in a tangle of limbs. She rolled, putting distance between us, and we both jumped back to our feet.

When she sprung forward again. I twisted, my back protesting the movement, just enough to get out of the way. We exchanged quite a few blows before she finally clocked me one good time in the face then followed that up with a kick in the ribs that stole my breath. I collapsed to the ground grabbing my side. Not wasting a second, I swept her with my foot, hooking my leg around hers, and yanking back with all my might. Her bright eyes widened as she went down, landing on her back. I jumped on top of her and pinned her to the ground. Now that I was up close I saw that there were two more tattoos on the left side of her neck: an arrow with two Xs in the middle, and another simple symbol next to it.

“Who are you?” I demanded.

No answer, though her eyes were wide with excitement—like she was enjoying this.

My heart thudded roughly against my chest. “How did you get here?”

Again, she didn’t answer.

Using her legs, she bucked up, throwing me onto my hands and knees. She kicked me down and sat on my back.

“What do you want?” I asked, face to the ground.

“Looking for you, Empress Sparks. I have to say I’m surprised to have found you so easily.”

 

 

And now time for the Giveaway Details:

By clicking the link below you could be in with a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate, unfortunately only if you live in North America, but, for international readers, you could be in with the chance to get your hands on a digital copy of the 2nd book in the Beyond Earth series ‘Painted Skies‘.

GIVE ME FREE STUFF!

 

 

Thank you to the R&R for organising the tour.

Click the name below to learn more about what they do!

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R&R Book Tours

 

Have you grabbed your free copy of ‘Without Hesitation’ yet? Have you read any other great Sci-Fi stories recently? What would you like to see more of in Science Fiction today?

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!

 

Why It’s Okay That I’ve Never Won NaNoWriMo, and How Netflix Stole My Idea

So, it’s that time of year again – NaNoWriMo 2018! Or, as my boyfriend thinks it’s called, WriterReeno. Currently at the end of the 6th day and as is my custom, I am yet to hit my daily word count. According to my average I’ll be done some time in February next year so… let’s look forward to that! But I’m fine with not hitting the word count for a number of reasons and despite all this talk about ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo and all the merchandise they sell so you can prove it – it’s not actually about winning.

What is NaNoWriMo?

For anyone who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual event that stands for National Novel Writing Month and it runs for the thirty days of November. In those thirty days, the general idea is to write 1,667 words every single day to arrive at 50,000 on the last day – which is the generally accepted minimum number that a piece of fiction needs to reach in order to be classed as a novel. The site includes pep talks from famous writers, a community globally and also local write-in events where you can meet writers in your area, and a lot of the money raised through donations and merchandise sales goes to fund programs for young writers. Simples!


My Own Experience With NaNoWriMo

The site is great in that your account keeps all your stats and you can track your progress over the years. When I joined in 2015, I’d had a novel in my head for years already and NaNoWriMo was exactly what I needed. I had the story, the plot the characters, beginning, middle, and end – I just couldn’t force myself to get it down on paper. Using Nano, I wrote my first 27,000 words in one month. It was incredible to me. Not only did I get more written than I had ever done before, but it also proved to me that the story was actually big enough to stretch a novel, that the story was deep enough to carry right through to the end. And now, in 2018, that novel is fully drafted, almost edited, and I will soon be sending it out to query. I didn’t get the 50k but I still feel like I won.

My next attempt was 2016. I only logged in recently and discovered that I had apparently written another 20k of something I didn’t recall in the slightest. It only hit me the other day that I had had a lightning strike of an idea, an idea so unique it was going to take the fiction world by storm. I was going to be an overnight billionaire to rival Stephen King and all I had to do was get it all worked out. EXCEPT… I wrote this in November 2016 and any Netflix enthusiast will tell you that December of 2016 was the release of a new, and unique series called ‘The OA’. That was my idea, I shit you not. I had never heard of it, my idea was that a girl who had been missing showed back up suddenly, wouldn’t tell anyone where she had been, wanted to go back where she had been and she had numbers all over her body? Why the numbers? That was how many times she had been killed by her sick science experiment captor and brought back to life of course! Fucking heart broken I was and this is exactly why you shouldn’t hang around with ideas – YOU WILL REGRET IT!

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Roll on February 2019!

My current NaNoWriMo project, as seen above, is a new idea that recently hit me so if it shows up on Netflix next month I’m just gonna walk into the sea and call it a day. It’s only the bare bones of a story so I don’t expect to get anywhere near 50k but it’s the first big chunk that really tells you whether it’s even worth spending time on. And if it turns out to be a short story instead – still worth it!

 

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I have so many notebooks I really wish I could read my own handwriting.

Why NaNoWriMo Gets So Much Sh*t Every Year

There are people out there just looking for things to complain about. People who have to find something wrong with everything, people who see a ray of sunshine and instead of basking in it, tell you they’re blinded and UV rays give you cancer. And every year there are tweets and posts and blogs written on why NaNoWriMo is a waste of time or why you’ll only produce crap during November if you sign up for it. Some of these people may have good intentions but a lot of them are elitist and ‘traditional’ writers who think that isolating yourself and slogging away for months at a time is the only pure way to write.


Set Your Own Goals

It’s not too late to sign up, but if you want to wait til next year just remember to see it as an exercise, as something that will help you get words on paper. Use it as a tool, whether it’s the looming deadline, the daily reminders, or the community that helps you along – you can use all of these things to meet your own goal. Screw the 50k if that’s not what you want! You can use NaNoWriMo to edit a collection of short stories or fill up your repertoire of poetry if you want. It is what you make of it. Even if you only write 100 words, that’s still 100 more than if you didn’t start!

So, don’t shit on things that other people are enjoying just because you don’t want to participate. Let people do their own thing, and you worry about your own. And yes, before you ask, writing this was totally procrastination from hitting my NaNoWriMo word count – deal with it!

 

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