Book Review: Tales from High Hallack, Volume 2: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton


Title: Tales from High Hallack, Volume 2: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton

Publisher: Premier Digital Publishing

Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal

Release Date: May 20th 2014

Rating: 5/5

An interesting collection of short stories and a few poems of the late Andre Norton.

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this volume of short stories, and realized I have never read anything by this prolific Author. While short stories collections are usually not my favorite subject to conquer, her stories, are as engaging and complete as any fantasy or paranormal novel out there. Her characters are filled with depth, the individual plots are engaging and are neither weight down with too much background story, nor lacking in detail, which is a difficult feast in the realm of smaller space.

The love for fantasy oozes through each individual short, some traditional, some are not. My favorite two stories are unlike each other.

The first story “Swamp Dweller” is a more traditional fantasy story, that is engaging and fast paced, while the other favorite is called “The Silent One” and has a paranormal feel to it and set in a contemporary surrounding. Both stories have women strong women at their center, which was also a surprise to me, considering that some of these stories have been written during a time, where damsel in distress stories where more common then not.

This book is the second volume of the Tales from High Hallack, and after reading it, I will have to add volume One to my collection as well.

Stories That Drive Me Crazy

Today, Daily Prompt asked us what habits/acts drive us crazy. Related to books and movies I have a short list of turn offs, which  make me walk away from a book, a TV show or a movie.

1. Weak female characters.
The damsel in distress thing is over and done with. Women do not need a man to defend themselves, let’s stop telling these stories of male saviors who are the hero of the weak female. While we all can use someone to lean on, it does not always have to be the woman who does the leaning. Stop it already.

2. Spin-offs
Do we really need another NCIS spin off? It only worked for Star Trek, and Buffy/Angel. Everyone else should stay away from spin-offs unless they are either written by Joss Whedon, or have a really special story to tell. Most likely they won’t. I am not holding my breath.

3. First person present tense stories
Please don’t, just don’t. Just because “Fifty Shades of Grey” did it, doesn’t mean anyone should.

4. Horror for the sake of guts and gore.
Horror stories, ala Stephen King or the earlier works of Dean Koontz, told a story alongside the scary bits and pieces. That tension is good, really good. But horror with no deep developed plot, that makes us like the characters, and has some dialogue besides screaming and moaning, I will turn off. I want to be entertained. Not just shocked.

5. Bed hopping
Sex is all good, it belongs into stories, some stories, but it has to be believable. Romance novels are often times culprits in bedding the characters too fast, or too many times, just to be explicit. Tell us the story, include sex, but don’t make it the stuff that breaks the flow of the plot.

Enough ranting. What type of stories drive you crazy?

Book Review: Snow Queen by Linda Wisdom


Title: Snow Queen

Author: Linda Wisdom

Genre: Traditional Romance

Publisher: Joyride Books

Release Date: July 8, 2012

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A traditional romance with passion, but without explicitness of so many current contemporary romance fiction. Linda Wisdom created a tension filled tale of a woman raised by a tyrannic Grandfather, falling in love with a best selling Author, who is known for his womanizing ways.

I am by all means not prude, but it was refreshing to read a romance that did not interrupt the flow of the story, to add the details of lovemaking, often miss-placed or rushed in some contemporary novels of this type. The tension between the two main characters was just as effective and emotional without it.

Linda Wisdom allowed both characters to develop depth, and provides just enough back story on both to make their reactions to each situation and to each other believable, therefore providing real conflict, and believable friction. While the ending of the novel seemed a little rushed, even if understandably so, the rest of the books pace was thought through and convincing.

A charming book for a lazy weekend.



Betrayal – A Flash Fiction


While he entered the dark abyss of the rows of prison cells, I entered the dark abyss of despair.
Yes, he deserved to be behind bars, I was still mad at him for that, for betraying me and the kids.

How could he embezzle the money from those poor people to fill his own bank account?
Into a private bank account I had no knowledge about? What was he trying to do? How deep did this madness of his go?

Too many questions that where unanswered, but I really did not care. All I wanted to do, was pull the covers over my head and pretend the world away.Pretend that he was coming home in a few hours, late at night, as usual.

Nothing would ever be the same.

I glanced around the empty and silent brownstone. At least we would not have to move. Shelley had to move after her husband was caught stealing from his own brothers company. She had no money of her own.

I was lucky.

I was wealthy in my own right.

But what did all the wealth in the world mean, when the one I loved had been living a lie, lying to everyone, including, me, the one person whom he always said he trusted?

And how in the world, am I going to explain what happened to the kids, when I don’t even understand?

The lock on the front door make its rattling noise, and the heavy entrance, made space for the concerned look of my teenage daughter arriving home from school.
I raised above the blankets.

“Mom, is it true? Is what they are saying in the news true?”
I nodded silently, not trusting my voice, wrapping her in my arms with a fierceness that pierced through the darkness inside my heart.

Courage To Finish


It takes courage to write a novel. It also to takes courage to push through writing when you think everything you wrote is the bottom of the most rotten scum, the literary world has ever seen. Sometimes it takes courage to just sit in front of the computer and stare at the empty page in front of you, and create.

Most of all, it takes courage to push through to those words we writers all long for, the words we want to write upon the manuscripts closing, the finished product ready in our hands, to be send out in the world like a child leaving home. “The End”.

So many project though, never reach the stage of completion. Too many of us are listening to our inner voices, speaking, no shouting at us, that our words are not good enough. Some find distractions the welcome excuse for exploiting the possibilities of allowing the entirety of the project come to fruit.

No matter what the excuse we give, or by which name we call the culprit, it boils down to fear. This fear we need to overcome to succeed, in order to not sell ourselves short, and be one of these people whom at old age talk of regret.

I had patients like that, sharing their stories of what they wish they would have done, pointing to boxes and drawers of stories and manuscripts in varies stages of completion, but never been given the proper allowing to grow. Or even to fail.

It is better to have tried, and failed, then to have never tried.

So, with this, I will give you and myself the permission and the courage to finish our stories and put them out there, fail or not, at least we have done it. And who knows, maybe the one step, that one leap of courage to finish will open up a wide world of wonders we might never have dared to dream about before.

We are the dreamers, those with the courage to dream up worlds, to entertain, enchant, embracing all that it means to be human (or alien, or superhero, or dragon).

May we all have the courage to finish.

Taking Control – Character’s Choices Shape Stories, Not Fate

One of the purposes of a great story, is to show that one has control over ones own destiny.

The choices the character makes, especially in the midst of despair, and disorder, shapes his or her live within the story. Harry Potter could have chosen to stay at his uncle’s house. Wolverine could have chosen to accept the fate of all mutants eradicated. The Avengers could have chosen to continue to fight each other, leaving the world to deal with the destruction of a force, no one else but them could defeat.

Instead these characters, as many others, took fate into their own hands. They chose to rise up against an enemy, or against the odds, or against their own fears. But they did take charge, and the results of the story is different because of it.

The story of our lives in no different in that respect. What we choose to do in the moments of despair, or the moments of joy, shapes our destiny, sometimes dramatically. Like any good story, our own story is made out of overcoming stumbling blocks, many of which are our own making. Those moments make us stronger, they make us the hero of our own book.


Hear No Evil – See No Evil – A Flash Fiction

Light In The Dark Swan Print so pretty
Light In The Dark Swan available on Zazzle

“He was such a nice guy!”, Grandma uttered.
“I would have never thought he would have done such a thing, always so friendly to everyone”, my aunt gasped.
“He was so polite, helpful too. There has to be a mistake.”, Grandpa answered, shaking his head.
“Oh stop it, everyone!” I pounded my fist onto  the coffee table, my voice echoing through the small living room. There was no way I could continue participating in these charades.
“Stop pretending you did not see the bruises on Mrs. Nellie’s neck, Mom. And you Grandpa, you rushed us into the house, when Mr. Nellie shoved his son so hard,  he fell up the stairs, ’cause he was not moving fast enough.”
My face was red with anger, my sight ablaze, as I gazed at my family who had gathered in our living room after the news broke, and the police cleared our street.

The news that our next door neighbor beat his wife to death, shot his son, and then had turned the gun on himself.

“Why does everyone pretended everything was okay? Why did you look away? If you would have said something, maybe Matt would be going to the Prom next month. Instead, we are going to his funeral. And his Mom deserved better, ” my voice wavered slightly, as I thought of the shy woman, who had smiled at me every morning.

My father stood up, and motioning toward me. “Danielle, honey…”
“Don’t honey me, Dad.”, I hissed.
I turned around, the dazed stares of my family burning into my back.


Copyright Claudia H. Blanton 2014

This post is a Daily Prompt post, asking about memories. Memories can deceive us, often we remember that which we want to see, and not always the reality as it presented itself.


Will High Quality Shows Be Cancelled? How Air Time Can Hurt New Shows


This season brought many high quality television shows – some new, some old. In the war for ratings however, air time has become a mayor downfall for some.

Monday nights are dominated by two shows with an devoted audience: The Following on Fox, and The Blacklist on NBC.

Tuesday nights are in the tight hands of NCIS, and it’s spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles.

Any other television show running at the same time, then these rating giants has no chance, specifically new shows like Monday nights gem “Intelligence” and Tuesday Nights Marvel creation “Agents of Shield”.

Both shows are well worth watching. Intelligence in particular brings a inovative story line, in combination with great acting and witty dialogue. Lost behind the drama, that I consider one of the best shows on television in recent years, “The Blacklist”, it has barely a chance to gain ground. Add to this, that another very well written show with cult like following, “Castle”, airs also in the same time slot, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Which will most likely mean the end of a great show, before it even had a chance to gain any ground.

“Agents of Shield” has an advantage in this war, that is waging on Tuesday night. There is only one show in the same time slot, the unbeatable “NCIS”, and it has the pull of the large name Marvel, and a large movie franchise behind them. This show will be a lot harder to write off, then “Intelligence”, with no backing of such kind.

What I do not understand is, that for Thursday and Friday nights, no large name shows are in air, exept reality shows, and game shows that would stand aside to any good drama, mixed with a few mediocre comedies.

Maybe the executives behind the scenes, who keep on trying to feed us more and more versions of singing competitions, rather then allow good story telling to shine, will find a way to change the time slot of these two shows, and give them another chance. It would be a shame to destroy another good show, because of scheduling mistakes.

Book Review: “Dazed” by Kim Karr


Title: Dazed

Publisher: Penguin Group

Release Date: April 1st 2014

Rating: 1/5 stars

I was not familiar with Kim Karr’s writing style before I picked up her novella, and I apparently have not missed anything. The book is written in first person, which I am already not very fond of, with very few exceptions (see my review on “Beneath The Veil”, which is brilliant), this book is also written in present tense, an unusual choice.

Because of its uniqueness, I wanted to give the novella a chance. After all, being different can be interesting. In this case I was wrong.

The premise of the story is interesting. Jagger Kennedy, a famous model moves to L.A. after a messy break up, and connects with another person with similar background, and they fall in love. It promises to get messy, when Jagger’s ex is cast in the same movie, both of them are staring in.
A story with potential. A potential that is never fully realized.

The dialogue between the characters is boring, and the plot painful. It had the feel like I was following around people, I could neither connect with, nor like. Writing this novella in third person, and/or past tense would not have helped the story along either. Half way through I was still waiting for something interesting to happen, or at least hoped for a steamy sex scene, which would be a relief at this point, but no such luck. When they main characters finally find themselves in each others arms, the description of the love making is just as as painful as the rest of the book, a turn off, rather then a turn on.
If there is one thing that I can say that is good about this book, it is that it is short.

After completing this novella, I am sure I will not pick up another book by Kim Karr. And I will not recommend it to anyone.

Three Reasons I Love NBC’s “The Blacklist”


3 Reasons I love NBC’s “The Blacklist”, and you should too!

1. The Story
Fast paced, leaving me breathless with many twists and turns, combined with multlayered plot lines that makes me want more, The Blacklist had me from the start. There are no dull moments, the story is always on the move and constantly expanding in ways not always expected. A good show should not be predictable. This one is not. It is dark, it is sometimes not pretty, but it is engaging and mesmerizing.

2. The Characters
Each major character has depth and is wonderfully cast, greatly portrayed by veterans such as James Spader, as “Red” (whom I can hardly wait to see in the new Avengers as Ultron), and Herry Lennix, as Harold Cooper( he got my attention in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse) and people I have not seen as often, like Megan Boone, who plays Elizabeth Keen, with a convincing emotional fullness, that made me a fan.

3. The Bad Guys
Blacklist has the potential for a variety of “bad guys”, with all different types of sociopathic tendencies, and takes fully advantage of that possibility. From the more macabre “The Stewmaker” to the revenge seeking “The Judge”, the range of available villains is large, and leads to unexpected confrontations, which in turn call for unexpected tactics to “collect” them. Gore is confined to the necessity, so is violence, the depth of the drama lying in the psychological aspects of the hunt, and the questions that arise on every turn.

In it’s completeness, The Blacklist is one of the best television dramas of all times. Unique, fast, intriguing and well written, it is a ride that should be savored like a fine wine, one episode at a time.