Active Voices-An Interview with Aaron H. Miner

COVER-KINDLE-MARKETINGA look back to the past many times can be a refreshing thing. In the case of indie author, Aaron H. Miner, it’s an educationally entertaining journey as highlighted in his novel, Rosaria of Venice: Book One of the Renaissance of Rosaria Adalberto.  

While the title is a mouthful, it, and the novel itself is well worth the effort as Miner combines the spirit of the Italian Renaissance with the energy of Steampunk…  All coupled along with a generous mixture of strong characterisation for a protagonist who ends up embodying the struggle of both the classic and modern heroine.

But, as is fitting for an author whose work is about the Renaissance, Miner’s wit and insight isn’t limited just to the written word.

As an author, entrepreneur,  film and animation professional and all-around creative, his experiences and achievements hold a lot of wisdom for anybody who wants to find an avenue for their expression. His discussion of his time as a student at Sunnyvale, CA’s Cogswell College is a fascinating hotbed of information for those who are seeking to get into the professional side of creativity. And his personal path to getting published is required listening for anybody who has made the decision to be an author.

But why am I delaying your pleasure? Now, it’s time for you to listen for yourself…



kickstarter01From the Author’s Website: Aaron M. Miner is a writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur living in Sunnyvale, CA. He is the founder of indie animation company Studio Kenaz LLC and its publishing arm, Gebobooks Publishing.

In 2012, he directed the promotional music video “Falling in Flames” for the comic book and concept album Yumiko: Curse of the Merch Girl, and is presently finishing his degree in Animation Production Management at Cogswell College. He has written several short stories, but Rosaria of Venice is his first novel.

His full bio and blog can be found on his website at

The Story Continues

Rosaria’s trials do not end with Rosaria of Venice. In this age of revolutions, both radical new technologies and dark ideologies promise to change the world forever. Ambitious and talented as she is, Rosaria inevitably becomes entrenched in this battle for the soul of an era.

The Renaissance of Rosaria Adalberto  continues in The Sin of Prometheus, to be released in 2015.


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theshivasysndrome-large-2 (1)Be prepared…. Alan Joshua’s THE SHIVA SYNDROME isn’t a thriller in the typical sense. And that’s a good thing.

 The novel, Joshua’s fiction debut, certainly spares no expense in raising the stakes as the protagonist, former Special Forces operative Beau Walker, and his compatriots deal with the unexplained vanishing of a central Russian territory into a man-made black hole singularity. But frankly, that’s the least their problems as the book untangles the winding web of new horizon technologies such as tailored genetics and nanotechnology while also exploring such concepts as parapsychology and Jungian ideals of motivation.

 Joshua puts the question to his readers: What if we achieve an ability to create in ourselves a superhuman level of power but we don’t understand anything about our own motivations in doing so? Worthy fodder for a SF thriller that’s not afraid of the big questions of writers past.

 THE SHIVA SYNDROME sets its standards high and keeps them there throughout the course of the novel. It has a cinematic quality to the narrative, requiring the reader to balance the advancement of the tension with engaging debates about life, the universe and everything. While making for some tough sledding in the early portion of the book, you’ll see the fruits in the latter half of the novel as the story, and the world, really begin to burn.

Joshua rewards the reader with a return to intelligent speculative fiction writing in the vein of Crighton, Rollins and Cussler. Ambition, in this case, is made of sterner stuff and in the end and you’ll find yourself pondering the ponderables while also dying to find out what’s next. A most promising effort by an author to watch.

Long time fans of the old WRITER’S BLOCK feature will be please to see a return to the interview format of years past with this link up from DarkMedia Online. Smart, sharp and multi-talented, Joshua’s  following take on SF, psychology and Shakespeare will make your delving into his super-normal world a pleasure.


But now’s the time to listen for yourself….

Allan-BFrom the Author’s Website: As a native Philadelphian, Alan Joshua has the appropriate fondness for soft pretzels and cheesesteaks. He is married, has two grown children, and lives in the suburbs. He is currently a practicing Clinical Psychologist.
Always curious about  the unknowns of human experience, he is fascinated with creativity and paranormal abilities. This led to his involvement with Psychology and research into Parapsychology. Unsurprisingly, he is a science fiction fan and has been influenced by such writers as Asimov, Bradbury, Crichton, Heinlein, Serling, and the extraordinary genius of Phillip K. Dick.


Hear the entire Active Voices interview @

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Fear of a Wack Planet: Talking with Bret Alexander Sweet

worldSometimes in life, good things DO come to those who wait….

This is the case with the following conversation with author/ educator/ entrepreneur Bret Alexander Sweet. The best conversation in the three year history of the Writer’s Block feature was a July sitdown with Bret that covered topics far and wide, not the least of which is his super imaginative fantasy, sci-fi novel, Among the Veils.

Sadly, that interview was lost to the evils of the digital age as a glitch in the recording 524800_152754964873008_918248003_nerased two hours of passion, insight and good humor. But, in crisis, there can be opportunity as the conversation was so good, we decided to get together again… And potentially, again and again, as Bret has insight and contacts all over the spectrum. Thus, we have our humble offering which currently has been enshrined as Fear of Wack Planet.

Recorded in Sept, this edition gives the final roundup to this year’s summer blockbusters, the battle between Marvel/Disney and Warners Bros./DC in the movie field, the state of Black Cosplayers and why you never start a statement with Stan Lee’s name…

Different, controversial and provocative, Bret makes the grade all over the map. Lucky for me, this is just more of the same excellence I’ve been lucky to hear for several months now.

 Lucky for you, it’s time to listen for yourself….






basheadshotFrom the Author’s Website:  Bret Alexander Sweet was born in San Francisco, California. He was raised between Oakland and Sacramento, settling in San Francisco in 1997. Bret graduated from Berkeley High School in 1995. He is the son of prominent Bay Area civil rights attorney and social entrepreneur, Clifford Charles Sweet.

Bret combined his passion for music and entrepreneurship at a young age by earning himself an internship at PolyGram Group Distribution’s San Francisco office in the summer of 1995. Three months later he was an artist development rep focusing on the company’s urban division associated with Island Def Jam artists. He left PolyGram shortly after the merger to focus more on his college career at San Francisco State University and open his own label. Throughout his studies, Bret invested his time working in various community development organizations as well as running his own independent record label, House Kemetic Suns. Although House Kemetic Suns never reached platinum status with its artists, Bret had established the first online music distribution channel when he was 19; 6 years before Steve Jobs would bring iTunes to market.

In 2002, Bret began teaching entrepreneurship to youth and young adults from under-developed communities. In 2003, he signed on as Lead Entrepreneurship Instructor at BUILD, a non-profit organization in Menlo Park that uses entrepreneurship as vehicle for college admission for first generation students. In 2004, Bret was awarded Certified Teacher of the Year by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. In fall of 2007,

Bret retired from teaching to pursue his life long dream of an MBA at the University of San Francisco. In 2008, Bret began certifying new cohorts of future NFTE instructor as a NFTE CETI (Certified Entrepreneurship Teacher Instructor). Bret graduated from the University of San Francisco in May 2009 with his Master’s of Business Administration with a dual emphasis in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. In December 2008, he received the USF School of Management’s Dean Circle Scholarship for exemplary service in his community.

In 2007, Bret founded the Dualism Group which is early stage venture capitalism firm and consulting arm geared toward helping underserved entrepreneurs launch and expand their companies in order to bring jobs to lower income communities. One of his clients is Robert Simpson of Back A Yard Corporation which led to Bret being instrumental in the founding of Coconuts Palo Alto and the expansion of Back A Yard into San Jose. In addition he established his own property management firm called Sweet Rentality which creates tech innovations for the property rental market.

 Bret @:



Jason Malcolm Stewart is an author, journalist and media professional who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His short fiction has appeared in the Pulp Empire Series, Heroes of Mars, Twisted Tales, Temptation Magazine as well as on the Smoke and Mirrors podcast. His non-fiction Quicklet on a variety of topics can be found at

Jason also writes a regular television column and book reviews for, movie reviews for and about the NFL for His novel “The Eyes of the Stars” is now available from Double-Dragon Press in ebook and paperback. His non-fiction collection of horror film essays , “Look Back in Horror,” is also available now at

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The 7/7 challenge begins!

atom-age-vampire1Hello fellow ghouls, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve hopped on this blog forum, but since I’ve been recruited to lend a hand with the 7/7 Goodreads blog challenge by my fellow author, the most excellent Sandy Saidak.

I will not be found wanting!

The full story from Sandy’s blog is as follows:

“C.P. Lesley, a writer and member of Goodreads, recruited me for this blog challenge. I agreed—well, frankly, because it sounded like fun. The rules are simple: post seven lines from p. 7 (or 77) of my work in progress; thank C.P. for inviting me with a link back to her blog; and talk seven other writers into participating by posting seven lines from the appropriate pages of their works in progress, thanking/linking to me, posting the challenge rules, and finding seven other authors to carry on the chain.   Like a chain letter, but more fun!  (And one that might introduce a lot of people to good books they might not otherwise discover.)”

So with humility I submit this segment from page 7 of my under construction prequel to “The Eyes of the Stars,” currently titled “The Omega Silence.”  In the excerpt, my heroine, Shiloh is far from home and thinking about making friends:

“The weather-hardened guard at the post gave her ID documents a deep, lengthy look before turning his eyes to meet Shiloh’s.

Something in his gaze made her shudder as they momentarily locked eyes. There was intensity showing through them. An intensity that let Shiloh know that he’d better mind her P’s and Q’s while out here.

She decided late in the process that she should break the tension with a smile. It wasn’t returned. With an angry wave, the solider sent them on their way

Well that was no good, thought Shiloh with an internal sigh. Five seconds here and already everyone thinks I’m a schemel.”

Much thanks to my fellow authors who are doing this challenge. And like always, remember everyday to tell a scary story or six.



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The Three Faces of Fear/Black Sabbath

Searching for a sound circa 1969

Imagine it if you will, my fellow ghouls. It’s a typically smoggy, nasty August day in the industrial suburb of Aston, Birmingham UK circa 1969. You are one of four local, knock-around guys who have done the typical late-teens thing and formed a band. You’ve gotten some gigs. You’ve got a look. You’ve even developed a thunderous, down-shifted, distortion-heavy type of sound which is loud enough to be heard over the din of the warring skinheads and leather longhairs who frequent your shows.

But the problem is… The name of your band is Earth. EARTH. It makes you sound like a bunch of rejects from a production of Hair. Worst of all, there’s another band with the same damn name! This simply won’t do. You’re sitting around wondering what to about this hideous turn of events. You drink a lot of beer.

Your bass guitar player and lyricist, who has spent the better part of the last year delving into the occult fiction of Dennis Wheatley, looks out the soot smeared windows of your practice hall towards the local movie theater. There he sees the marquee title for Mario Bava’s influential 1963 color triumph, I Tre Volti Della Paura (translated: The Three Faces of Fear) which some AIP censor in his wisdom has decided to call Black Sabbath. Dark gears turn in his mind. Soon you have a song. And a name. And a uniquely strange connection to one of the classics in the history of horror.

Original Italian Promo

The Three Faces of Fear was Bava’s first, full attempt at a Technicolor process film. After his black-and-white masterpieces, Three Faces partners Bava’s eye for detail with a number bizarrely arranged color worlds. Shot by Ubaldo Terzaro, (who would become a Bava family favorite) the film lives up to its billing by giving the viewer three, distinct vignettes dealing with terror.

The Telephone (starring Michele Mercier) is the first offering, a psycho thriller involving not just warring lesbian lovers, but also a jealous husband straight out of the can with revenge on his mind. The last, The Drop of Water (with Jacqueline Pierreux) has a sticky fingered nurse getting the turnabout from one of her dead patients. But it’s the middle section, The Wurdalak, which makes the film a classic as it contains the last, great performance of horror film mainstay Boris Karloff.

Karloff had slid into relative obscurity by the 60’s but Bava’s craft pulls one more great performance from the black-and-white veteran. Playing an Eastern-European, recently-undead vampire, Karloff returns to his family homestead to wreak havoc its terrorized survivors. The aged star pulls of some chilling moments as he systematically takes the lives of those who were closest to him. The final scene between the wandering stranger (played by Mark Damon) and Karloff’s now-undead daughter prefigures the sickening trend towards supernatural romance that now dominates our bookstands. (Excuse me. I think I threw up in my mouth a little.)

Three Faces gives Bava a chance to stretch his story-telling muscles while paying tribute to such Asian masters as Kurasowa. According to legend, Quentin Tarantino in his video store clerk days saw Three Faces and decided that he would use the multi-story format to tell a story of his own one day. But I digress from our original digression…

Our Birmingham lads in later days (cira 2008)

So, did Mario Bava invent Heavy Metal (for better or worse)? Well, as far as anybody has determined, Il Maestro never knew about the influence his little movie had on the music world (and on crazed parents who have been shouting “Turn-that-crap-down!” for forty years). As for our beer-drinking bandmates, no one can recall if they actually saw the movie. C’mon, that was a LOT of lost brain cells ago.

Let’s hope that if the rumored upcoming film bio of a certain nonsense-muttering, reality-show starring, leading singing Prince of Darkness comes to fruition that the director is savvy enough to throw some metal-horns Mario’s way. (Sharon, are you listening?)

(Thanks to Martin Popoff and his excellent musical biography Doom Let Loose for helping to set the historical mood for this review.)

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RETRO Reviews: The Serpent and the Rainbow

In the beginning Ghouls, there was the Zoumbie. The legendary flesh-and-blood inspiration for our modern cinematic motif , creeping through the jungles of Haiti and other Caribbean islands, bringing terror and destruction to those not wise enough to avoid the paths of voodoo. Then in 1932, Hollywood came a’ knocking and our beloved star left his sun kissed isle to star alongside Bela Lugosi in the black-and-white classic White Zombie. And for a while, our hero held sway in the imagination of filmmakers wanting to explore the exotic religious practices of Western and Central Africa. He had regular work in those days, showing up in such forgotten gems as Voodoo Man (1944) and the Plague of the Zombies (1966).

Then came George Romero. And like a lot things in the 60’s, there was a changing of the guard.

White Zombie Restored Edition (2006)

The Zombie (non-magical) became the king of the block and our hero was forced back into semi-obscurity, sitting around the house, downing bottle-after-bottle of Red Stripe, waiting for his next close up. Thankfully for him, Wes Craven came along. And with him, a movie idea from a “real-life” account from Harvard researcher Wade Davis called The Serpent and the Rainbow.

Set in 1980’s Haiti, our hero (played by Bill Pullman) is a biologist/ anthropologist /chemist (the script is never sure which) who comes to the island nation in order to find the ancient powder used by voodoo masters to put their victims into a state of living death. For Pullman’s trouble, he is kicked, beaten, buried alive and has a nail driven through his scrotum. But for his tribulations, he manages to do something thought impossible. Bring the undead back to life a second time.

Released in Feb. 1988, Serpent took advantage of Hollywood’s renewed interest in voodoo during the end of that decade. The previous year had seen modest hits for such voodoo themed movies as the Believers and Angel Heart. Craven, at the height of his powers and popularity, dove into the trend by giving us the most “naturalistic” zombie movie possible.

Shot on location around Hispaniola in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Serpent still stands as a glorious, although slower-paced, exploration of the Haitian “voodoo” culture. Freaky undead doings abound, making for some killer scenes. Zombie hands in pea soup, crazy chicks eating glass, a corpse-bride with a python tongue and the topper of an undead Paul Warfield pulling off his own head to throw it at a freshly risen Bill Pullman (one of my personal favorite horror moments of the 80’s). And while it wasn’t a big hit for Craven, it’s remembered fondly by many fans, despite its over-the-top ending.

So, given the weird real-life zombies we’ve seen in Florida, Maryland and Canada, let’s raise a toast to the old-school cousin of today’s shamblers and his momentary comeback. (That reminds me of a joke: How can you tell you’re being chased by a Caribbean Zombie? Easy! You’ll see his dead-locks! (Insert groan…))


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RETRO Reviews-The Whip and the Body

By J. Malcolm Stewart

Dalia Lavia in “The Whip and the Body”

Since we only hurt the ones we love, Fellow Ghouls, it’s fitting that our next review takes a look at Mario Bava’s La Frusta e il Corpo, (translation: The Whip and the Body). Tonight’s subject reminds me of words said by that great American poet, Clubber Lang; “My prediction is…pain.” And the pain is there for everyone to see in this long-lost 1963 classic.

Christopher Lee in “The Whip and the Body”

Before its restoration in 2007, Bava-lunatics had spent years dealing with inferior copies of this neglected masterwork. (How did all those pieces of hair used get into the projector anyway? Did someone have a paid position like Key Grip or something?) After flirting with the twin subjects of obsession and sadomasochism in earlier films, Il Maestro takes the gloves off in what might have been the most haunting (and controversial) film of his career. Along with one of the most celebrated figures in horror history.

Starring Christopher Lee (who had already rocketed to stardom in the English Hammer films) as the detestable Kurt and Israeli scream queen Daliah Lavi as Nevenka, La Frusta sets the stage with Lee’s Kurt coming home as a sinister prodigal son, seemingly ready to make peace with his younger brother (played by Tony Kendall) after years away. Ignoring the fact that he previously left a dead lover in his wake, our lovable villain seems hell-bent on returning to his place in the family and resuming his affair with Nevenka, not caring that she is now the bride of his before-mentioned brother.

Funeral still with German-language title

Making matters worse is the way that the affair resumes between Kurt and Nevenka. Let’s just say that… Kurt doesn’t believe in saying it with flowers. After a harrowing beach rendezvous between the two, Kurt ends up getting shanked like an extra from OZ. Despite the fact there’s a murderer in the house, Kurt’s death seems to bring a sigh of relief to everyone involved. (Believe me, Ghouls; you’ve got problems when the Klan shows up to be to be pallbearers at your funeral.)

Christopher Lee in action (German titles)

However, Kurt’s death proves a mere stepping stone into a story fraught with the presence of love, ghosts and madness. Bava never puts on the breaks on as the twisted affair between Kurt and Nevenka becomes more and more intense. Few audiences outside of Italy or France ever saw the uncut version of this film. The scourging scenes between the forbidden lovers, at the time, had maximum shock value. And the implied orgasm of Nevenka during one of Kurt’s assaults sent the frenzy against the film into overdrive. English language versions of the film cut all the direct and implied scenes dealing with sadomasochism. The many translations of the film’s title in English avoided even mentioning of the subject. American audiences were subjected to a confusing mess of a film titled Night is the Phantom (?) which had been fully subjected to the censor’s snip. Bava seemed to sense the flood of criticism that would be coming his way by releasing the English version of the film under the pseudonym of John M. Old. Not that it fooled many people.

Original Italian Release Poster

Nearly fifty years later, La Frusta is seen as ground breaker, a genre film that didn’t just bend boundaries, but shattered them. Many critics believe it softened the ground for Luis Buñuel’s 1967 sensation Belle de Jour which dealt with some of the same taboo subject matter (Keep your eyes peeled, Bava-heads, for  Buñuel’s homage to “Whip” in his film ). Lee and Lavi both highlight it as an exceptional performance in their early careers. And given the excellent restored version that’s now available, you now have a front row seat for this classic without all that pesky hair in the way.


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