Book Review: The Laws of Nature by Ashley Franz Holzmann

About the Book:

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There is a dark side to human nature that neither can be wished away nor completely mitigated. Ashley Holzmann details just several of these “Laws of Nature” before taking his readers on a journey through the bizarre, the terrifying, and, ultimately, the disturbingly real truths that underlie much of modern American life.

Ashley makes his debut into the horror genre with “The Stump,” a story about an afternoon trot through the woods that quickly becomes a blood bath–and, much as it does for that story’s creature, the scent of fear will only lure veteran horror readers further through the forest. A teenager’s vanity will likely cause his town to be consumed by a roaming swarm of insects that burst forth from his acne-riddled skin in “White Heads;” entire populations vanish into the void of the Alaskan tundra in “Glass Houses;” and superiority takes the form of a murdering, sadistic woman in “Lady Macbeth.”

But Ashley’s best retellings focus less on gore and adrenaline and instead take human psychology as their medium, as demonstrated in “Plastic Glasses,” where readers are brought into a world of disturbing personality and mental disorders. Ashley’s work abounds with stories in this vein, stories which grab a hold of a common failing–such as marital friction in “Hush,” or American male frustration in “Orpheus’s Lot”–and take it to an extreme that is nevertheless not inconceivable for most people.

Coming from the mind of a man who has experienced more than his fair share of humanity, “The Laws of Nature” is, at its finest, a description of universal emotions of loss, nostalgia, anxiety, and soul-penetrating terror. Ashley’s stories elicit empathy from his readers and draw them into worlds where they both acknowledge and cuddle with their fears and which leave them, ultimately, more human.

My Thoughts:

Stemming from real life experiences to stories of fiction, this anthology of short stories explores the human psych and the genre of horror. The stories are diverse and the author focuses on fear as one of the main points of many of his stories. It is difficult to pick up or pin-point any one story as they are all similar and different in many ways. The author writes in an abstract style, sometimes seeming to be impersonal. Many of the stories are in first person and the rest a narration. Murder, hate, suicide, fear, life and finally the human psych are some of the topics explored through the stories.

The author will force the reader to think and experience each of the feelings through the stories and inspire them to think. There is so much food for thought and introspection. As a result of reading this anthology, the reader will come away affected, but much more human, stemming from a realization of sorts. It is difficult to describe this as it will differ from person to person, but it is clear that the reader will experience a vast number of emotions in this collection of stories.

Read this for a rare and interesting experience.

Book Review: Granjy’s Eyes by Matt McAvoy

About the Book:

Granjy's Eyes

Meet Ollie.
Well-educated and spoilt – a rich kid, fun-loving party-goer and brutal sociopath. Ruthlessly arrogant Ollie takes what he wants, when he wants it. But Ollie’s going to learn, the hard way, that for every action there’s a consequence, and for every bounty a price.

Because living with Granjy isn’t the bed of roses he thought it was going to be; the blind old lady sees everything – sees him – and most of all sees the monster he is becoming. It was she that made him rotten-to-the-core, and now his payment is due – Ollie will tear apart his own dark soul, and Granjy will teach him new meaning of the word ‘remorse’.

My Thoughts:

I come away with mixed feelings after reading this book. At the end, I just gave a sigh of relief that it is over. Some parts of the book had me cringing in horror and wonder at the kind of things the protagonist gets up to. More than that, it amazed me to read about his justification and rationalization of various events.

Our protagonist lives with his grandmother for a good number of years after being kicked out of his parents house. The dynamics between Ollie and his grandmother is weird enough to raise eyebrows, but is well portrayed in the book. However, it is sad that even though Granjy knew everything about Ollie, she didn’t have the mental strength to stand up to him and put him right, and in the end it cost her dearly.

Ollie is a self-absorbed, money minded and materialistic human being, used to getting his own way and not being accountable for anything he did. This is re-enforced when his grandmother always stands up for him and seems to always see the good in him. This particular relationship and Ollie’s ideas will be severely tested later on in the story. The author’s style of writing is quite different and it took me some time to get into the book. It feels abrupt and there seems to be a lack of flow between chapters. This isn’t that much of a problem since the plot seems to flow on in a clear direction.

The characters are interesting and developed to some extent, though there could have been some more depth given to Ollie. There are many incidents that are not even described enough but are mentioned quite extensively, seemingly to make the reader imagine additional details by themselves. The author maintains the pace of the story and the atmosphere quite well. The story moves at a steady pace, the destination becoming clearer and clearer as we progress, with a climactic ending that I am sure no-one will see coming.

A decent pick-me up for those who enjoy psychological thrillers which also touch upon horror.

Inkitt – app launch for Android

I was asked by the Inkitt team to promote the app on it’s release date (which is today!) and spread the word. Read further to know all about it!

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THE INKITT APP BRINGS THOUSANDS OF NOVELS BY INDIE AUTHORS TO ANDROID

Inkitt empowers readers and publishers to discover world’s next best sellers

BERLIN, JANUARY 7, 2017: Inkitt, the world’s first readers and data-driven book publishing house is introducing an Android app for phones and tablets, globally available from today.

Inkitt’s iOS app became available back in November and was well received by users: The app was not only featured on the US App Store but also on numerous other App Stores around the world, as well as on the front page of Product Hunt, ranking in the top 10 in Tech.

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Inkitt for iOS featured as a top Books app in the US App Store

Following the warm welcome by the iOS community, and in order to meet the demand of their own fast growing user base, Inkitt is now bringing their digital library with thousands of novels by emerging authors to Android devices.

“It was a great reward to see Inkitt featured as a top app in numerous App Stores around the world and receive such great feedback from users” says Inkitt’s Founder and CEO, Ali Albazaz. “Readers were really excited about the iOS app but kept asking when we’re launching on Android too. We heard them, worked really hard and today we’re bringing Inkitt to Android devices. All readers will now be able to discover tomorrow’s bestsellers on the go and read great novels by upcoming authors wherever they are.”

Inkitt for Android – 4 key features:

  • Access to thousands of novels from all fiction genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, drama, action, adventure, YA and more
  • Personalized reading suggestions: hand-picked novels based on a reader’s favorite fiction genres

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  • Customizable look to match user preferences (e.g. font size, color combinations)

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  • Online/Offline: readers can save novels to their offline library to access them anytime

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Beyond being a platform connecting aspiring authors with book lovers, Inkitt’s mission is to become the world’s fairest publishing house: Its in-house developed algorithm analyzes reading behavior to determine the potential of a novel to become the next bestseller. Using this unique data-driven approach, Inkitt wants to ensure that great works by new and talented writers never again stay in the dark.

Since July, Inkitt has published 7 novels: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia (Fantasy), Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan (YA Romance), I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben (YA Romance Mystery), Esper Files by Egan Brass (SciFi) and Caged by Onaiza Khan (Psychological Thriller),  King’s Lament by Lilia Blanc (Fantasy Romance) and Three Fat Singletons by J.M. Bartholomew (Humor Romance), six of which became bestsellers on Amazon.

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Inkitt for Android will be available to download on Google Play from the 7th of January 2017

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About Inkitt

On the surface, Inkitt (www.inkitt.com) is a platform where aspiring writers can share their novels and inquisitive readers can unearth fresh content. But under the hood, we are democratizing publishing: The Inkitt algorithm analyzes reading behavior to predict future bestsellers. In other words: if readers love it, Inkitt publishes it.

MEDIA CONTACT

marvin@inkitt.com

Smiling Exercises, and other stories: A collection of flash fiction by Dan Malakin

About the Book:

Smiling Exercises, and other stories: A collection of flash fiction

An apocalypse of fish.

The politics of holding open an office door.

A man wakes to find a secret vagina in his armpit.

All this and more in SMILING EXERCISES, AND OTHER STORIES!

Each story is 1000 words or less, perfect to start the day/end the day/enjoy on the toilet/put off that suicide for another three minutes.

This collection includes two stories shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, as well as others first published by Litro, decomP, Word Riot, Mad Swirl, Cricket Online Review, Everyday Fiction, Metazen, Space Squid, nthposition and many more great magazines!

My Thoughts:

This is perhaps one among three or maybe four books that I have read that is in this style of writing. I was swept away by the concept of flash fiction and the stories. They are indeed short and to the point. The entire plot is put out there in 1000 words or less and it is simply amazing. It’s quite difficult to write stories this short and convey the entire message.

Many of the stories are thought provoking, some are horrifying and some will just bring a smile to the face. The stories will bring a myriad of emotions into the mind of the reader. This book is a quick read, but it can also be read slowly, one story a day or however is convenient. The author has a brilliant way of writing and sometimes the reader will need to pause and think about what they have read.

The author has mastered the art of crafting and delivering these thought provoking, everyday events turned into short stories which are a delight to read. There are many a story that I am sure the reader will be able to relate to. This is definitely worth picking up!

In conversation with Ashley Holzmann

We have had the pleasure of chatting with Ashley Holzmann. He is the author of a horror anthology titled The Laws of Nature.

Blurb:

There is a dark side to human nature that neither can be wished away nor completely mitigated. Ashley Holzmann details just several of these “Laws of Nature” before taking his readers on a journey through the bizarre, the terrifying, and, ultimately, the disturbingly real truths that underlie much of modern American life.

The book is available on Amazon, as well as most digital platforms:

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Here is what Ashley has to say:

  • Tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies?

Man. That’s a long answer. I love a lot of things. Comics, history books, literature, playing soccer, grappling, film. It’s a long list. I enjoy drawing and I wish I had kept up with that more growing up. I’m not terrible, but I’m far from a master. I used to be totally addicted to TV and video games and Halo 2 and Golden Eye 64 consumed my life as much as Final Fantasy games used to. I like camping and backpacking. I still volunteer at Boy Scout troops when I can because I like helping kids find their way in life.

I enjoy traveling and the Army and growing up as an Air Force brat has given me the opportunity to really see the world. I work out almost every day and I really hate running. The day I leave the Army is the last day I ever go for a run. I had to learn Korean for work, so I have to study that pretty regularly. I’ve been slacking lately and I really want to get more involved in the language.

  • What inspired you to start writing?

I took an unusual path toward becoming an a published author. I’m used to draw comics for fun in middle school and high school, but that never went anywhere. I spent high school working toward college and I was one of those high achieving kids in high school. Varsity soccer team captain, Boy Scouts—that type of stuff. It took me two years with a detour to the University of Central Florida, but I was accepted to West Point and began that adventure in 2005.

It was at West Point that the universe aligned for me creatively. I did silly videos in my free time and started to write creative stuff. I did it in my free time, but didn’t take it that seriously. After all, I was training to be an Army officer.

While at the academy, I met Tony Formica, the man who is now my editor and one of my closest friends. He would help me edit my academic papers at the academy. He would destroy me, but also explain why he was doing it and I learned really well that way.

Then graduation came and I was on Active Duty. I went to Oklahoma and then off to South Korea and I put all of the creative stuff on pause. A few years go by and the story keeps rolling along until I found /r/nosleep on Reddit. I started posting there and it was a challenge. I’m a man who can’t give up on a challenge. If someone tells me something is impossible, I want to do the impossible. If I’m told I can’t do something, that fuels me. And if I post a story on a website that relies on the random user to upvote that story and prove my worth… well, I can’t resist the challenge.

As far as who and how it all exactly happened. I’m not sure if there was a person or something that specifically inspired me. I grew up being creative. Writing was a natural step for me.

  • What is your favorite genre and book?

I enjoy good writing more than the genre of the book. I’ll read anything if I think it’ll be interesting. I read a lot of books for professional development purposes. Stuff about the military, or my branch, books about history and leadership. I also read a lot of books about writing and anything I can that will help me to publish my stuff. I enjoy teaching myself things. I’ve read a few books recently about logo design and font/typeface.

When it comes to other stuff. I really like Poe, Twain, Hemingway, Vonnegut and Palahniuk. I don’t really know what my favorite book is. I enjoy a lot of books and I don’t have a lot of favorites. Maybe The Killer Angels.

  • Who is your favorite author?

I’m not a very consistent person with regards to this. I’m a fan of Poe and like his ability to be technical in his prose. But I don’t believe I was really influenced by him. And I believe that influences are an important subject to broach for any writer.

  • Which is the best part of writing a story?

Finishing the last edits. There are so many moments when I’m writing a story and I can feel the points I’m trying to make and I can see how imperfect the whole thing is. Switching sentences around and reading the first draft over and over again feels like I’m putting together a puzzle. I want it all to fit together. For each line to matter and be in its place. I don’t feel comfortable with a story until I know it’s been to my editor a few rounds. Once it finally comes back for the fourth time and I know its done. That’s when I can let myself feel the wave of relief over the story.

  • How much inspiration did you draw from your life or the lives of others around you?

I draw inspiration from everything. From life—memories; from my experiences and the people I’ve met on my adventures. Hemingway used to talk about living a life worth writing about. I really believe in that.

  • What inspired you to write a horror anthology?

Once I had a couple of stories on /r/nosleep I decided that I would write one a week. That I would use the concept of saturation to get people to notice me. It worked and I ended up posting a few months worth of stories. After awhile I had enough to put together along with about ten that I hadn’t let anyone read. I sent 30 stories to my editor, Tony, and what returned was about 20 stories that made the cut.

Once I finished the first book I realized I wanted to keep doing this. So I will.

  • Tell us a little about your book.

I completed the first draft in about four months. Then I did around five self-edits before sending it to my test readers and then to Tony a few times. I used a second editor for a final polish. The whole experience took me about a year. The cover doesn’t look like it, but it took me weeks to complete.

The stories are mostly psychological in nature and concentrate on modern American life. The things we think are normal, the aspects of our lives that we don’t really consider. Some stories are more personal than others. Some are just ideas I had. Some are based off of an emotion I’ve felt before.

  • If you had to pick one of your stories, which would be your favorite and why?

From this book? I have three stories that I really enjoyed writing. I wrote a variety of stories that ranged. But the stories that I really enjoy writing are less horror and more about the loss and empty feeling we sometimes have in our lives. I don’t know why it makes me feel depth in my life, but it does. So I write about those feelings. The story Plastic Glasses was written based off of the first sentence, which came to me while driving to work and listening to a Korean CD in my truck. The story Crying Numbers was a reason for me to write about all of the books my wife and I read when she was pregnant with our first son. My favorite story, if I had to pick one, would be the last story, called Cold Static. I don’t remember where the idea came from. It probably came to me in the shower. If I rewrite any of the short stories into a novel, it would be that story.

  • What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t think the stories impact me in any direct way. I see them as puzzles. I once saw an interview with Jodie Foster about Taxi Driver. When everyone asked her about the violence she said she didn’t see the violence. She saw the pyrotechnics and the technical aspect of all of the practical effects.

  • How much do you relate to the characters or incidents in your story?

I try to concentrate more on empathy than on me being a representation of each of my characters. I let events become exaggerated and I let characters be more than they are. I want the reader to have the connection more than me.

  • Who among the characters you created do you like the most and why?

This is and will always be an issue with me. I don’t think I have a favorite. Maybe one day I will. I have favorite types of things in my life, but I just can’t pick one. I don’t have a favorite color. I have a favorite band and favorite movie, but even with those I have more or less a top ten list of stuff that shuffles.

  • What message would you like to share with your readers?

Thanks for reading and thanks for wanting to learn more about me. I’m on Facebook and stuff as As For Class. I’m always down to chat.

As far as advice or any other special type of message. If you have a dream, figure out how to make it happen and make it happen.

Readers can check out Ashley’s site and connect with him via the following social media:

https://twitter.com/AsForClass

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If any of you have come across his books or read them, please feel free to drop a comment or just generally let us know what you think of this interview.