High Stakes

Listen up fiction lovers! Series editor Tabatha Hanly here, and today on the Fiction Reboot we have a very special treat: the release of the first Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles novel High Stakes by our very own Dr. Brandy Schillace!

high-stakes-frontcoverNormally these types of features would include some background on the author, maybe why she chose to write in Young Adult Fiction or why her novels focus on the intersections of myth, medicine, fantasy, and reality, but in this case I think we regular readers probably have all of those answers, and while the fascinating Dr. Schillace might be worth talking about some more, it’s more fun to get to the book right away (but here’s some Brandy-centric info for the curious).

For many of you, this is a long-awaited event- having read the first chapter here on the blog, you want her to hurry up and give us the rest already! And now she has! Available in bookstores today, High Stakes offers all the thrills, chills, and awkward teenage spills of a young not-a-vampire dealing with something much more terrifying than drinking blood: girls.

“I’m not a vampire,” insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy?

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can’t help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he’s had it up to here with doctors, diseases and dishonesty. After all, Jake’s father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years… particularly that part about drinking blood.
In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and be-spectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn’t bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the “unofficial” details of Jake’s disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia’s seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart–in more ways than one?

Speaking as one of the privileged few to have read an early edition of High Stakes, I promise it’s engrossing, entertaining, and unexpected, besides, it’s got a pun right in the title, what more could you ask for? (you know…because of the vampires… stakes… nevermind). As always, Brandy’s skill with smooth, witty, debonair characters… that’s a lie– Jake trips over his own tongue and his own head, but don’t worry, that’s even better than if he were funny on purpose. But whether it’s the protagonist himself, his clever little sister Lizzy (little sisters are always the smartest) or the fuzzy academic aunt (whose absent-mindedness may hit a little close to home for some), or even the sultry graduate student (someone has to give us a good name!), someone in The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles will leave you pestering Brandy for the sequel which will be coming out shortly after High Stakes!

Friday Fiction Feature: Wishing you a creepy Christmas!


We wish you a creepy Christmas, we wish you a creepy Christmas, we wish you a creepy Christmas and a Spooky New Year!

These days, Christmas tales primarily consist in the campy and cute. A Christmas Story, National Lampoon, saccharine sweet TV releases, cartoons, and short versions of blockbuster kids movies (like Shrek’s Christmas, for instance): we ring in the holidays with comedic pathos. This, however, was not always the case.

Victorian England prepared for the season by reading ghost stories. That’s right. It’s not just for Halloween; people would cozy around open fires, sip mulled wine, and prepare to be scared out of their wits. A Christmas Carol might be the most famous Christmas ghost story, but it certainly isn’t the only one. In Hemingford Grey, England, they still carry on the tradition; this year, the Nunkie Theatre Company read the stories of MR James by candlelight in the manor house’s frosty attic. So for a moment, let us step away from the plastic tinsel, noise and bustle of a commercial season and instead seek the creature comfort of good friends, good spirits, and tales of terror and intrigue.

You should start with the classics, I think: Charles Dickens, MR James, E. A. Poe… But I wouldn’t want you to miss any new possibilities. This is the Friday Feature after all! Below you will find the latest collection of fun, care of Tabatha Hanly, research assistant extraordinaire. Creepy Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!


A lovely story of a happy and cheerful Christmas…and then the real story begins in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw

“The Turn of the Screw” is an intense psychological tale of terror. It begins in an old house on Christmas Eve. It is the story of a Governess who comes to live with and take care of two young children. The Governess loves her new position in charge of the young children, however she is soon disturbed when she begins to see ghosts.

More Christmas spirit, with some unquiet spirits in Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped BoxAging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it. The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.

Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura, #1)For a more normal turn, we bring you Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, a story of a bored and whiny teenager who so does not want to work with his brother slaughtering zombies… what a drag.

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

Now more teenagers (because what makes Christmas spirit like soulless teenagers), in Another Faust by Daniel Nayeri, Dina Nayeri, Katherine Kellgren. Another Faust (Another, #1)One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish – only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and
elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary “gifts.”
But as the students claw their way up – reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty – they suffer side-effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary reimagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.

The Last WerewolfIt is important to remember those less fortunate at this holiday spirit, like Jake, the last of an endangered species in Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf.

“Then she opened her mouth to scream–and recognised me. It was what I’d been waiting for. She froze. She looked into my eyes. She said, “It’s you.”
Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you–and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.
Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide–even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.
Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend–mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century–a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

Dracula in LoveAnd last but not least, is a lovely holiday love story (just don’t tell Johnathan). Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

In this wonderfully transporting novel, award-winning author Karen Essex turns a timeless classic inside out, spinning a haunting, erotic, and suspenseful story of eternal love and possession.
From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Dracula’s eternal muse, Mina Murray, vividly recounts the intimate details of what really transpired between her and the Count—the joys and terrors of a passionate affair that has linked them through the centuries, and her rebellion against her own frightening preternatural powers.
Mina’s version of this gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into Victorian England’s dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and asylum chambers, revealing the dark secrets and mysteries locked within. Time falls away as she is swept into a mythical journey far beyond mortal comprehension, where she must finally make the decision she has been avoiding for almost a millennium.
Bram Stoker’s classic novel offered one side of the story, in which Mina had no past and bore no responsibility for the unfolding events. Now, for the first time, the truth of Mina’s personal voyage, and of vampirism itself, is revealed. What this flesh and blood woman has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than the Victorians could have expressed or perhaps even have imagined.

Fiction Reboot: Scary Stories, just in time for Halloween

Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot–and the week of Halloween!

I love Halloween. I should; I’m a Gothic literature/medicine professor, and it’s the one time of year when no one questions why I hang out in cemeteries.

There are, however, unforeseen perks to being known as the local Gothic-go-to. For instance, the Winona Daily News (in collaboration with the Bookshelf bookstore) began a series of “scary stories” to celebrate the holiday–and I was asked not only to submit a tale but also to do the illustrations. The first story, “Ghost Pine Lake,” is mine. The others are from local Winonans, and even some of my students! How could I resist?

Ghost Pine Lake

So–if you need a bit of Halloweekend reading, may I suggest tuning in? (Some links are not yet live–to be released!)

Night Owl
The Doll
Fear of the Dark
Burnt Pizza
The Halloween Protector