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There’s a number of famous paranormal investigator duos with some truly great chemistry and banter – Mulder and Scully, Sam and Dean, Ryan and Shane, Geralt and Jaskier – and now Ronan and Byron from Improbable Press’ latest novel by author G.V. Pearce, Strangest Day So Far.

What’s it all about?

“A close encounter with a surface-to-air-missile is going to ruin anyone’s day.”

And so begins the story of one of the strangest days in Major Ronan Cox’s life, though it’s hardly going to be his last.  When Ronan’s helicopter is shot down in a war zone over Iraq, he certainly doesn’t expect to survive, let alone land on a jar containing a naked, winged man made of flames that offers him three wishes.  A wish to survive is logical enough when you’re already dying. A wish for the survival of everyone else is a no-brainer too. His last wish though – “I don’t want to be broken anymore,” – that one’s going to be the game changer.

Half a world away, Ronan’s going to awaken in a hospital in Washington D.C. next to a man who will irrevocably alter the course of his life.  Ronan’s new roommate, one Byron Slain, aka Benjamin Williams- who has the ink of a Hell’s Angel, the humor of a 12 year-old boy, the psychic powers of an X-man and the body of an Adonis- is plagued by his own supernatural being problems.  Despite an immediate almost epoch-making connection between the two men, the werewolf outside their hospital room door isn’t going to give them much time to question how they ended up together.

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These two characters, thrown together by fate, and little bit of mystical intervention, will find their opposites attracting in more ways than one; Ronan with his nebulous otherworldly past experiences and Byron with his powers and habit of attracting both supernatural beings and metaphysical trouble.

Aren’t you forgetting something?

Usually this is the part in the review where I go, this book has some great LGBTQ representation but it’s definitely not a love story.  This time though I’m happy to inform you this book absolutely IS a love story! Along with being a horror, comedy, and urban fantasy.  Ronan and Byron aren’t just partners in supernatural shenanigans, they’re also lovers who get to try to work through all those new relationship jitters while helping cryptids sort out their problems and maybe thwarting a few evil spirits along the way.

Imagine two kids from different horror movies who managed to grow into functioning adults but never had a chance to deal with their childhood traumas.  They can relate, sympathize, and most importantly, believe each other’s struggles. Which really makes them perfect together.

Bloody hearts for everybody!

A fireside chat with author G.V. Pearce 

Pictured here – Byron’s summer house.

Your first book, Ghost Story, a modern day Sherlockian mystery, also had elements of the supernatural. What is it about the supernatural that you enjoy writing so much?

I enjoy looking at the world through different lenses, and the supernatural provides a kaleidoscope of viewpoints. It’s fun to consider the mundane through the eyes of something amazing, things often turn out to not be so ordinary after all. I have to admit that the world building possibilities are another major draw for me as a writer, there are a lot of preconceived ‘rules’ about ghosts, werewolves, vampires, etc but there’s no spook police to make me stick to those rules. What if everything you thought you knew about the supernatural was wrong? Or just good advertising? 

I feel like there’s an overlying theme of healing in your book: not just for Ronan and Byron, but for the supernatural entities they met as well.  Is that something that’s going to continue to be important in future Eldritch Roads stories? 

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Absolutely. There are many kinds of healing, and not all of them are about going back to exactly how things used to be. Healing is just another form of growth. So much media around the supernatural is about how terrible it is – vampirism is a curse, ghosts have unfinished business, monsters only do harmful things. Why? Not all humans are awful, not all dogs bite – so why should every ghost be stuck moping around for a hundred years?  

What kind of books, music, or movies gave you inspiration for your book?

Where to start? One of my first loves as a child was the old black&white Addams Family and Munsters shows (I’m not that old, they were on TV a lot). They were strange, but they didn’t care because they loved each other and they knew that being strange was fun.

As an adult there has been so many influences, but I have keep going back to artists who can have fun with the unusual – directors like John Carpenter and Guillermo Del Toro whose love of their genres comes through in every frame; or writers like Terry Pratchett and Tad Williams who aren’t afraid to twist tropes into new forms. 

For Strangest Day So Far there was a very eclectic soundtrack. If you’d like to get an idea of how the book feels in my head, check out ‘Black No. One’ by Type O Negative, ‘Ghost Story’ by Charming Disaster, and ‘The Logical Song’ by Supertramp. 

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Without giving too much away, where are the boys going to be headed next?

Like myself, Ronan grew up in the UK & Ireland, and although he’s travelled with the army, it can be hard to translate the sheer size of the United States into the sort of distances we’re used to on our little islands. Which is to say that I think he’s going to be underestimating how long they’ll be on the road for, or where they’ll end up along the way. Byron will make sure they stop for waffles regularly though. Perhaps at that diner that just appeared on the road up ahead. Was that always there?

Do you have any tips for other horror writers that are looking to get their own original works published?

Have fun with your stories. Experiment to find what you really love so that telling your stories can be a joy. Even if they’re terrifying stories. Share your stories with others so you can find your people, your audience who will love the specific stories you have to tell. There are a lot of routes to publishing, but there are even more ways to get your stories to readers. Having an audience behind you can open doors you never knew existed.

Final Girl Thoughts

A great big thank you to both Improbable Press and author G.V. Pearce for allowing me to enjoy such a fantastic book a little early.  My only complaint, I have to wait for the next book to find out even more about these captivating and hilarious characters!  Strangest Day So Far (An Eldritch Roads Novel) is available now for pre-order on the Improbable Press website and available everywhere starting January 31, 2021.  Five out of five Cathulu. I can not wait to read the next one.

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Maeve Fly: A Horror Novel Review

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The evils lurking Los Angeles are unveiled in CJ Leede’s 2023 debut novel, Maeve Fly. The novel is a gruesome love letter and ode to Los Angeles and horror icons, centering on the titular character, Maeve Fly. She is, in short, a Disney Princess and serial killer.

Below the Depths of Anaheim

By day, Maeve Fly works as a princess in “the park.” It is is never named, but obviously Disneyland as depicted by Maeve’s vibrant descriptions of the princesses, furry costumed animals, and movie-themed rides. She plays a Scandinavian princess (Elsa) and genuinely loves the job and her coworker, Kate. In her personal life, Maeve tends to her sick, comatose grandmother, former starlet Tallulah, and her grandmother’s cat.

A stock photo of Los Angeles

Maeve has an ordinary personal life, including going out with Kate and takes biweekly, afternoon trips to a Tiki bar in which she, a man who may or may not be Johnny Depp, and the bartender are the only patrons. Her interests include the macabre and all things horror and Los Angeles history, her love for the city a central theme throughout the novel. When Maeve meets Kate’s brother, Gideon, Maeve’s sense of self unravels.

Mirroring Fiction

The problem with Maeve’s sense of self, however, is that she has no idea who she really is. She adopts the personalities of literary characters, from Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground narrator to those in James, Kant and Milton novels.

Maeve is selfish, antagonistic, and very selective of the people she lets in her life. She is an unreliable narrator with an unpredictable temper and ultraviolent tendencies.

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Leede’s prose and writing of Maeve invites a new narrative to the genre. Maeve is persistent in her disgust with how often villains need a tragic backstory as excuse for their monstrous behavior, especially when the villains are women. Leede dismantles that trope and provides Maeve with no reason for her treacherous behavior. It is simply who Maeve is.

An Ode to Horror

Maeve Fly is everything I love in a horror story. It is an unpredictable slasher with comedy and heart. Leede has displayed her talent for writing horror. She has created a story that pays its dues to the genre’s long iconic history — one example is the references to Pyscho or American Psycho — but is wholly unique in it’s own form. From captivating dialogue to visceral depictions of horror history and Los Angeles’ sites, like the La Brea Tar Pits, the novel sucks you in until the very last, bone chilling sentence.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Mister Magic

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Released in August of last year, Mister Magic is written by author Kiersten White. And I’m going to give you the warning that I wish I’d have had when I started reading it.

This book deals largely with the systemic issues prevalent in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While there are no overt discussions or descriptions of child abuse, I would argue that it’s alluded to.

In the interest of full disclosure, White lets us know in the acknowledgments that she was raised Mormon and is not anymore. I was also raised Mormon and am not anymore. And this book wrecked me.

The story

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Our story begins with a young woman named Val. She’s been living with her father on an off-the-grid farm for most of her life.

When he dies, a mysterious stranger shows up at his funeral. This man, named Marcus, seems to know her right away. She knows him as well, though she doesn’t seem to remember why.

Eventually, he explains that she was on a children’s TV show called Mister Magic. A show that she has no memory of at all.

And this makes sense because there is little to no evidence online that the show exists. There are no clips, no scripts, no cast lists. It’s as if the show vanished entirely when the last episode aired.

Oh, and during that last episode, a kid probably died.

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Desperate to remember her childhood and maybe even reconnect with her mother, Val leaves with her former cast mates for a reunion and podcast taping.

As the Circle of Friends reforms, fans of the show online rejoice. If the cast is getting back together, it must mean Mister Magic is coming back.

And that’s exactly what the mysterious creators have in mind.

What worked

This book shows a world that is all but impossible to describe from the outside. Long before I realized this book was an allegory for Mormonism, I was catching signs. It felt familiar.

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Everyone was a little too nice. Everyone seemed to be holding back a little. Everyone seemed eager to do things for other people, almost like they felt like they had to justify their presence.

I also appreciated that we talked about child abuse without talking about child abuse. Through the book, we learn that one member of the cast, Kitty, is missing. Her disappearance heralded the end of the show, but no one wanted to talk about what happened to her.

This, I thought, was a subtle and brilliant way to talk about abuse without having to go into upsetting details. And in not adding these details, White leaves us to invent them ourselves. Which is always worse.

Sometimes it’s the notes you don’t play that make the biggest impression.

To that same end, there is no real gore in this book. No charred bodies, no blood. No gruesome scenes at all. But I feel like that was intentional. I’ll also point out that in reading other reviews for the book, I noticed that others criticized the character for being rather bland and one-dimensional. Both of those things are likely on purpose, and part of proving a point.

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In the book, each character remembers Mister Magic pulling them back. He taught them the habit of dulling themselves down. Don’t paint in such a wild manner. Don’t shout so loud. Don’t stray too far.

Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t be different.

In the end, Mister Magic managed to do exactly what the very best horror does. It took a real horror that most people do not experience and turned it into a metaphor that everyone can understand. And it doesn’t have to be just former Latter Day Saints members. All survivors of religious abuse will see themselves in this. But we’ll also see all the other lost children, trapped with Mister Magic, and realize we are not alone.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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If you’re a fan of my work, please check out my latest story, Nova, on Paper Beats World. New chapters launch every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Book Reviews

Monastery Series 7: a Book Review

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Hello again dear readers. Today we are looking at yet another instalment of Monastery. Once again, I’ll be eating my words. Every time I think the story can’t get any crazier, it does and you’ll understand why soon enough. Without further ado, let’s go!

Plot

We start with quite a tension point in the story (then again, it is always tense nowadays). Rocky’s been abducted and the gang is at a loss for words or motivation, all except Thomas, that is. At this point, all they want is to get Rocky back, even if it means abandoning the search for truth. I can appreciate how Thomas is now a foil not only to those hiding secrets but also to his cousins. Without him, there is no story as far as I’m concerned. However, there were some moments where even I thought he could’ve been a bit more tactful around others’ emotions.

We also see that at least for the time being, Rocky is safe. His POV is so well done I wanted to pull him out of the page and give him a big cuddle. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s yet another collateral damage of the family’s mess. 

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Speaking of mess, Cassandra and Francis reach a fascinating opposing point. She’s concerned Francis is showing no remorse over killing George Turner, or over killing an innocent dog. Could Albert please ask around if there is a special circle of hell for people like him? It’s interesting how Cassandra, no matter how messed up she is, still has some sense of right or wrong. As for Francis, someone needs to take that gun off him ASAP as he’s all too happy using it.

As we all predicted, the Nicole-David-Fred love triangle finally blew up, and boy, how did it. Erica goes full-on scorned woman and drugs Nicole. She then parades her in the middle of Monastery for everyone to see in a wedding dress. Threatening to pour acid on her face is just an added touch to the terror.

Although this turns out to be just a mind game on Erica’s part, we get some insightful character revelations. Nicole’s reasoning for toying with the two guys becomes more understandable, although I still cannot excuse it (and I’m speaking as someone who actually likes Elena Gilbert). I think she could use some therapy to sort out the trauma inflicted by her dad’s affair. At this stage of her life, she shouldn’t end up with either guy. David is also at fault and I think he should work on making it up to Fred. If he and Nicole sail off into the sunset now, it would leave a bad taste in a lot of reader’s mouths. Then again, if Fred does decide to take her back, it would be his choice. Something tells me this ordeal is far from over. 

We end series seven of Monastery with Thomas receiving yet another blow when his dad betrays him and destroys all the progress of their investigation. So much for trusting family, or authorities for that matter. What is going to happen now?

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Overall thoughts

I said a lot of my thoughts while discussing the plot of the episode. As usual, Monastery is full of of drama, mystery, and outright terrifying things to keep us on our toes. The one plot thread I am holding in my hand just waiting to see where it leads me is Madam Witch. Her very fairytale-like deal with Cassandra implies she owes her one of the grandkids. Not to mention the implication that Henry has some kind of special powers. I can’t wait to see how that ties into what happened to Albert. The next part can’t come out soon enough!  5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

More thoughts from the author:

1. Something I talked about before in another article about Monastery a little but something that I picked up on in this episode. Cassandra, although definitely not perfect, still seems to uphold some kind of morality within her. Such as how horrified she is when Francis doesn’t feel bad that he killed George. Was this something you considered when writing these characters, someone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty but still has some kind of empathy vs someone who doesn’t?

Absolutely – that is my favourite type of character! Who doesn’t love an anti-hero with a grey moral compass, but a moral compass nevertheless? Cassandra is capable of the most atrocious acts, but she always has her family’s best interest at heart – or what her idea of their “best interest” should be.

Interestingly enough, we’re slowly learning how Francis is the result of Cassandra being the way she is, and he himself certainly blames her for much. Francis only has his own interest at heart… yet he killed George because of what the old creep had said about Cassandra! Again, grey area.

2. The whole Erica scene is genius on many levels. I actually got a couple of questions in regards to it. One – were you always going to pull the whole ‘none of the torture devices were real’ trick on the readers to toy with their emotions or were you thinking of doing it for real but backed out? Two – I thought the way the town’s residents acted was very fitting of the story and of modern society. What was your intention with having seemingly everyone witness the ordeal?

Funny, I cannot remember whether that mini-twist was always part of the equation, but I concluded that I didn’t want Erica to be hated or irredeemable – I wanted to make it more about the lesson being learned than the payback.

As for the townspeople witnessing the whole thing, there were three reasons I did it: a) the satire, because, has mentioned in previous Q&As, Monastery is a satire of small-town life, and we all know small-town folks love a good scandal; b) the humour, as I went all out in making an over-the-top situation even more over-the-top; and c) plot convenience because, as that all goes down, Francis is shooting up the Keane house and I didn’t actually want any neighbours to know and call the cops as it wouldn’t serve his arc… at this point.

3. The one storyline that I’m still wondering as to how it will tie into everything is Madam Witch and the whole first-born son hints that are very fairytale-like. Are we meant to take it as an allusion to the paranormal in this story (such as the seances they had in the previous episode) and that more is coming? As it is not outright stated since the murder mystery is the forefront with the town not really caring there’s a werewolf roaming around.

There will be a paranormal twist to the murder mystery and how it’s covered up, I promise – after all, one mustn’t forget that Cassandra owes Madam Witch – but we don’t know what she owes her for.

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As for the werewolf, hmm… Been a while since he’s made an appearance, has it not? Wouldn’t it be a darn shame if one of our protagonists came face-to-face with him in the next episode?

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