Sunday, October 15, 2017

Author Spotlight: Alexandrea Weis

New Orleans. Voodoo. Curses. Ghosts. It's October, dear readers. Creepiness real and imagined abounds with the season, and who's to say which stirs us more? Worry not, though -- we're no fools, and we're duly renown for being protective of our precious patrons. We're the first to concede some creepiness is to be avoided by the wise, and far be it from us to unleash such upon you. But, there is other creepiness. Delicious macabre. Tasty spooky. The eerie stuff that keeps you up late into the dark, cold night because the fear is something you invited to share the warm, orange glow in front of your crackling fireplace. That genus of creepiness is a valued guest who's both entertaining and mesmerizing. When it knocks at your door, or scratches your window, you usher it in, breathless in anticipation of the thrills and chills it brings to your rapidly beating heart.

Creating compelling stories stories full of the fear that fascinates is a specialty of today's esteemed guest, who has so graciously agreed to submit herself to the daunting glare of the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight. As an advanced practice registered nurse, her mastery of the corporeal is profound. She was born and reared in New Orleans, so she's steeped in in the myth, legend and lore of America's most haunted city. She was raised in the motion picture industry, imbuing in her from a tender age appreciation of the art of spinning spellbinding imagery to whisk you where she wants you to be. She is also a permitted and certified wildlife rehabber, rescuing orphaned and injured wildlife, so she brings too to her craft a tender heart of gold. She is Alexandrea Weis, and we're very pleased to present her to you here, in our humble confines.

Weis visits us today with a fresh copy of her brand new novel, titled Damned: A Magnus Blackwell Novel (Book 1). The book tells the tale of Lexie Arden and her fiancé, Will Bennet. The couple have acquired a old, neglected island mansion called Altmover Manor, determined to restore it and make it their home. But the abandoned mansion's previous occupant, though a man dead over a century named Magnus Blackwell, hasn't completely surrendered his dominion over the property. Blackwell is drawn to Lexie. He senses the young woman's supernatural gift, and he wants to exploit it for his own ends.

New Orleans. Voodoo. Curses. Ghosts. With these things pulsing in her veins, it doesn't seem Weis should be scared of being strapped to a hard wooden chair in our grim guest quarters, under the blistering blast of our unforgiving klieg light array. We see now, she's not. Very well. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and tell why you choose them.

Weis:    My non-fiction preference would be easy. Mary Renault's The Nature of Alexander. I am a huge Alexander the Great fan. Fiction would be a bit more difficult and would probably be A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I love that story, and of course, it has ghosts.

Gazala:    Your newest book is an excellent and gripping paranormal tale titled, Damned: A Magnus Blackwell Novel (Book 1). The story follows the spine-chilling adventures and ominous discoveries of a young couple trying to make a home in an old mansion not yet surrendered by its long-dead previous possessor. As the woman, Lexie, explores her new surroundings, she unearths terrifying secrets from the specter's dark and twisted past. Compelled to learn all she can about the mansion's former owner, Lexie becomes immersed in a world of voodoo, curses, and the whereabouts of a mysterious dragon cane. I've read Damned. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Damned, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Weis:    Wow! First, thank you for that. I am thrilled you enjoyed the book. And why I think readers should indulge in my story is because it involves all things spooky and delicious about a place dear to my heart--my hometown of New Orleans. If you can't experience the city firsthand, then read this story and experience it through Lexie's eyes. I grew up in the French Quarter with all manner of the strange and spooky around me. I tried to bring that home in Damned, along with the unique flavor that is New Orleans.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Weis:    Books are a means to awaken the imagination and give it a voice. For the writer and reader, books take you away and open your mind. As long as imagination is nurtured, our souls continue to grow.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Weis:    I so agree. There are no rules for writing, only grammar. Every new hit book coming out on the market shows that. Fifty Shades of Grey would never have been considered a groundbreaker, but it was. It broke all the rules. When writing never follow the rules, break them. Be your own writer; not someone else's.

Gazala:    You'll pardon me -- it's well past midnight and a diaphanous, rakish man is beating on my door with the head of a strange dragon cane. While I go see what he wants, ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Weis:    Question: Why do I write? Answer: I have worked as a nurse, earned a Ph.D., and taught at the university level, but never in all my medical experience did I feel like I was using all of my brain. When I write, I do, and it makes me feel whole.

You can feel it, can't you? Halloween's lurking in the close shadows, watching you, and waiting. Who better to help you prepare for sight and frights of All Hallows' Eve than tonight's acclaimed Spotlight Author? Recall she confided to us, "I grew up in the French Quarter with all manner of the strange and spooky around me." She's a subject matter expert on matters particularly requiring her expertise this shuddersome time of year. Delve for yourself. You're see we're right, and you'll thank us for the tip. It's easy to do, so quick and painless. Steel yourself, gather your courage, and click here to snatch your copy of Damned right now from Amazon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Oil Falls From Titan's Skies

Our oil prices skyrocket and plunge, and conspiracies abound. But Saturn’s lifeless moon Titan has hundreds of times more natural gas and other liquid hydrocarbons than all known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth. Hydrocarbons fall from Titan’s sky.

So either oil can be formed via inorganic geological processes, or, Titan supported enough life eons ago to make oil rain. Read the award-winning international thriller "Blood of the Moon," and you won’t be so quick to dismiss the former.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: Sound Man, by Glyn Johns

Legendary rock producer Glyn John's memoir, Sound Man, is a good book, but it could have been much better. It's full of interesting stories about some of popular music's giants from the 60's, 70's and into the 80's (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Who, Eagles, Steve Miller Band, Wings, and the Clash are just some of the artists whose recordings Johns engineered or produced). Most of the stories lack much depth, though, and the whole book needs the touch of a skilled editor. In other words, ironically enough, this book could have used a good producer. Still, for fans of Johns' work and the artists he collaborated with during a crucial era in popular music, Sound Man is worth reading.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: The Devil and Philosophy: The Nature of His Game, ed. by Robert Arp

Thirty-five philosophers of varying diabolic inclination gather under editor Robert Arp's direction to opine on whether the devil exists, and if so, what might be his objectives. The 35 thinkers spin short and usually entertaining ruminations exploring deviltry's long reach into history, religion, literature and the arts. The scattershot result likely won't change a reader's mind about what Satan's up to if he's actually around, but the book's a breezy, interesting read written with forked tongues planted firmly in leathery cheeks. (Note: Readers desiring a weightier and very amusing contemplation of Lucifer's curriculum vitae and future plans will enjoy Jeremy Leven's 1982 novel, "Satan, His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S.")

Book Review: Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts

There are few, if any, people about whom more books have been written than Napoleon Bonaparte. Given the man's appropriately lauded sociopolitical and legal achievements contrasted against the nearly unimaginable brutality of the wars bearing his name, unsurprisingly Napoleon's myriad biographers are divided between admirers and detractors, the latter outnumbering the former. However, Andrew Roberts' book, Napoleon: A Life, places the author firmly among Napoleon's devotees. The linchpin of this book, as stated on its jacket, is that Roberts "take[s] advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon's thirty-three thousand surviving letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation." Roberts interweaves his subject's vast written commentary covering the entire spectrum from mundane to meaningful against the backdrop of Napoleon's improbable rise and meteoric collapse as militarist and politician in a short life that still resonates loudly in our world today. Roberts paints the end of Napoleon's career as attributable less to a clearly flawed character than to trusting the wrong people and fighting the wrong battles badly. ("When Waterloo is war-gamed, France usually wins," says a footnote on page 766.) Either way, the result reduced Napoleon from Emperor of France and ruler of nearly all Europe to Britain's lonely prisoner, left to die an outcast on a barren, isolated volcanic rock in the South Atlantic, light years from Paris.

Book Review: The Ghost Hunter, by Hans Holzer

The technology-laden art of ghost-hunting commonly practiced today (evidenced by the scads of popular ghost-hunting shows currently haunting your cable television for all the 26 weeks on either side of Halloween) is based largely on an extravagant array of exotic gadgets calibrated to detect the piercing of our earthly veil by ethereal forces otherwise immeasurable dispassionately. This "objective" approach was first widely championed and documented by Briton Harry Price in his 1940 tome, The Most Haunted House in England, a classic in the field examining the haunting of Borley Rectory in Essex. But there are more ways than one to confront a wraith, as celebrated American spirit chaser Hans Holzer demonstrates in his seminal 1963 (reprinted in new editions in 2005 and 2014) work, The Ghost Hunter. Rather than depend on cold engineering's electronic or mechanical fruits like Price and most phantom finders currently on TV, Holzer's methodology relies on selecting deft and trustworthy psychic mediums to accompany him on investigations of locations squatted by specters along America's northeast coast. Once ensconced in a haunted location, Holzer's medium-du-jour allows herself to be commandeered by the wronged spirit so the latter can speak the grievances that compel it to wreak eerie havoc. The book's collection of reports is mostly entertaining, sometimes enlightening, and Holzer's interventions usually (but not always) lead to the elimination of spooky doings once the living appropriately address the ghosts' gripes. Holzer's book teaches it may be folly to assume people's quest for fairness in love and war is constrained by mortal borders, and that a good medium gives any fancy contraption a run for its money in tracking ghosts.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review: Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders, by Robert Tallant

There are as many ways to learn a city as there are people interested in learning it. Surely there's no substitute for learning a place than being there. But if circumstances conspire to prevent being there, the next best thing is reading about it, and a great way to learn about a grand old city is to steep yourself in a fascinating collection exploring some of the most (in)famous murders ever to darken its stormy history. Robert Tallant's "Ready to Hang" is just such a collection. Each of the seven well-written stories in this book reveals no less about how New Orleans has evolved from past to present than it does about the victims and victimizers it chronicles. Perhaps the most widely known of the sinister killers in Tallant's book is the person (or persons?) known as the Axman, whose enduring macabre allure lead to his recent resurrection in a pivotal role on the hit television series "American Horror Story: Coven." Notwithstanding the Axman's considerable legend in the annals of unsolved serial murder, not even his gruesome story outshines the other half-dozen true tales in this book. Did you know the Mafia first sharpened its American hooks in New Orleans? You will, and you'll learn why the practice of "decorating the lamp posts" did much to drive the Mafia out of New Orleans into friendlier digs in New York. Tallant's skill with words and phrases, combined with his meticulous research and attention to detail, makes "Ready to Hang" an absorbing and worthwhile read that is nothing less than a bloodstained love letter to the city where he lived his entire life.