Catching Up

Well a bunch of stuff happened recently and of course I didn’t post about it. But as part of my new plan to organize my life better, I’m going to start blogging once a week. I’m even writing it on my calender!

So what did you miss?

Well first of all, I finished reading and reviewing the ARC of Hard Spell that I won from Angry Robot Books. Good, fun read!

Stan Markowski is a detective in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Like many normal detectives he has a partner, drives an unmarked car, and carries a gun. A gun loaded with silver bullets blessed by a priest. Okay maybe that’s where the similarities end. You see, Detective Markowski works in the Occult Crime Unit. Not that such a thing is unusual these days. After all, the undead are people too. And werewolves and witches have the same rights as everyone else, it’s just their cases sometimes need to be handled a bit…differently.

When an ancient magical tome is stolen, different is just what the town of Scranton gets. A serial killer is on the loose! A serial killer who just happens to be offing vampires. Are the two crimes related? Could the thief possibly be trying to revive some great evil and end the world as we know it using the missing book?

The facts point to probably, but the supernatural community is scared, and the answers to Stan’s questions seem harder to find than a witch at Christmas mass. And while tracking vampire killers, demon summoners, possessed women, and radical cult members is in the job description, generally Stan isn’t called on to do all of them at once. But with the help of his new partner Karl and a shady-looking gentleman named Vollman, Stan attempts to unwind the mystery and stop the killer before he (or she) can accomplish their evil task. Hopefully without getting himself killed in the process.

* * * * * * * * * *

Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis is the first book in the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series. Its first person narrative follows Detective Stan Markowski as he and his partner Karl Renfer try to solve a series of gruesome murders.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book as I knew nothing about it until I received it in the mail (I won it in a contest done by the publisher, Angry Robot Books). The back blurb reminded me of the old cop series my sister and I used to watch on TV growing up and the story itself did not disappoint.

The setting for the story is an alternate version of present day. In the book’s altered history, supernatural elements from Europe (i.e. werewolves, vampires, and ghouls) were brought back to the States after World War II. While initially despised, supernaturals, or supes, were eventually granted equal rights with humans during the American Civil Rights movement. Now supes are everywhere, and just like humans some are law-abiding citizens and some are, well, less law-abiding.

Stan Markowski is the typical hard-boiled detective whose job is working on cases where either the suspect or the victim is a supe. He’s good at his job and bad at dealing with his family. He has skeletons in his closet, but is trying to do the right things in life. He’s not a super-genius but he is very streetwise and always knows when he’s in over his head, even if it’s too late to do anything about it. And in this world were goblins do meth and True Blood is a documentary, Stan is just trying to keep his town safe and do his best to keep his partner and himself alive one more night.

This was a really fun story to read. It wasn’t very deep and if you ever seriously watched cop shows on TV there won’t be a lot of surprises. But the whole concept of a world where you call 911 in case of emergency and 666 in case of a supernatural emergency is just cool in my mind. My favorite thing about this story is its flavor. Unlike some of the other urban fantasy I’ve read, this is a place where otherworldly things are no longer mystical and seeing a werewolf at the grocery store is something that most people take for granted. Overall it was an interesting take on the genre and fun read if you like cop/detective serials. And for myself, I will definitely be picking up book two!

Hard Spell is due out in the US on July 26th and is available now in the UK and in ebook format. The sequel, Evil Dark, will be available in April 2012.

For disclosure purposes, I won an ARC copy of Hard Spell from the publisher in a giveaway contest, but chose to review it on my own. Winning the book did not influence my opinion in this review.

What else? Oh!

I did a guest post on Amy Saunders’ (@amy_saunders on Twitter) blog Amy & The Pen, about how writing changes the way you read. It was the first time I ever guest blogged for someone, and it was a lot of fun! You can see the blog post here. 🙂

Also there’s a lot of stuff going on at Fantasy-Faction! There’s a new writing challenge for July, which I may or may not have posted about already. This month’s theme is freedom.



We have a bunch of entries so far. I’m still trying to decided what I want to write. I will probably end up rushing around on the last day trying to get something together again. I’m not very good at planning ahead (see the needing to get organized bit above).

There is also a new writing group on the forums called the 500 Word Club. Basically you pledge to write 500 words a day of your novel starting on August 1st. If you can keep it up for the whole year, then next summer you will have a completed your first draft! Here’s the article our esteemed Overlord wrote up about it. And here is the thread where we will be egging each other on!

And last but not least, the site owner Marc Aplin (Overlord on Fantasy-Faction and @FantasyFaction on Twitter) has finally announced the soon to be implemented site overhaul! Lots of cool things coming including a podcast, YouTube site, and a Fantasy-Faction anthology! There are also two new members of the Fantasy-Faction staff: Paul Wiseall (@PaulWiseall on Twitter) who will be helping Marc run the site and create new content (such as the podcast) and myself (Autumn2May almost everywhere) who will be the new assistant-editor! We are all very excited about the new things to come and are very happy with how the website has grown in only the last 8 months. Hopefully it will continue to grow and we will be able to bring you even more awesome fantasy content!

Hmm…I thought there was one more thing…

Oh yeah! I won another book in a Twitter contest! I will soon be receiving Sam Sykes’ (@SamSykesSwears on Twitter) Tome of the Undergates in the mail, which has been getting rave reviews on Fantasy-Faction! I can’t wait to read it!

That’s it for now. Promise I’ll have another post up next week, which hopefully will include a review of Shadow Fox by Ashley Barnard (@wckdwriter on Twitter)!

Happy Writing! 🙂

Fine Art Print by irenesuchocki
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