Friday 12 January 2024

BOOK FEATURE: Master of Rods and Strings by Jason Marc Harris


 Jealous of the attention lavished upon the puppetry talents of his dear sister—and tormented by visions of her torture at the hands of the mysterious Uncle Pavan who recruited her for his arcane school—Elias is determined to learn the true nature of occult puppetry, no matter the hideous costs, in order to exact vengeance.

BUY LINKS  ->  Crystal Lake Publishing     Amazon


I will not deny that I have always been fascinated with puppets.

Perhaps because I was born on a farm in Saint Siméon, a forgotten town west of Valence in southern France named after the patron saint of puppets. Despite the frequent puppet shows many families considered themselves extraordinarily lucky if a child were accepted into the Lycée Avancé des Marionettes to study such puppetry—not all were enthusiastic.

Neither my father, Patrick Clermont, nor my mother, Anne Belleau, ever bought me a puppet.

I sulked over this injustice. At the age of four, I could only watch my sister, Sonja, play with Angélique, a fairy marionette with long red hair that our Uncle Pavan had bought her.

Occasionally, when she noticed me moping, Sonja would let me pull at the strings. Although I could get Angélique to do a flopping walk, I never could make her glide so gracefully as my sister did. Sonja’s twirling flourishes of thumbs and rippling fingers gave Angélique life.

“Such talent, such polish.” Uncle Pavan rubbed his large thumbs together as he watched Angélique slide amid potted wisteria and marigolds in the garden, flow through the open patio door, and float inside up to the doll’s house to join Sonja.

Sonja played at Angélique’s strings like a harp by whose invisible sounds the marionette bobbed with buoyant grace, almost hovering at times as if her silky azure wings could truly fly.

Uncle Pavan’s own prowess at puppetry was marvelous. Some townsfolk whispered he could literally bring puppets to life. He took a dedicated interest in Sonja’s future. That is why I have so few memories of her. She left for the advanced arts of puppetry.

I was left alone.

I longed to play with Sonja as we had on brighter days of jumping on piles of bronzing autumn leaves or racing through lavender fields with the spring winds—chasing harvest mice and Swallowtail butterflies dipping amid the yellow cowslips. We’d jump and then crouch down between stalks of shuddering wheat or corn. When I brooded and stroked Sebastian, our silky-furred black cat, who had also been the playmate of Sonja, I decided that if I showed myself particularly adept at puppets like my sister, then I would be reunited with her.


Jason Marc Harris teaches creative writing, folklore, and literature, and is the Creative Writing Coordinator at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.

He graduated with a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Washington, and an MFA in fiction from Bowling Green State University, where he served as Fiction Editor of Mid-American Review.

Creative work in journals such as Apex and Abyss, Arroyo Literary Review, Marvels and Tales, Midwestern Gothic, Psychopomp Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and Writing Texas

His novella of weird horror Master of Rods and Strings was included in the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Award® Reading List for 2021 and will be republished by Crystal Lake Publishing in 2024.

Find the author online at his website:

Sunday 7 January 2024

What happened to my ideas in 2023 - part 3

 A few thoughts on future ideas (Part 3 of 3)

In my last two posts I mentioned how I get (most) my ideas and how I dealt with them in 2023. This post will deal with how I deal with the 'future todo' ideas, and my thoughts for capturing the new ideas that will sprout in 2024.

I have reverted to using a Bullet Journal again, my way. No colourful drawings or fancy layouts, just the basic structure to get the myriad of things done. And the 'future todo' ideas were the perfect items to add to the Future Log. so that I don't forget about them, but more importantly find the right time to implement them.

My Future Log for 2024 is not a long list, but with more ideas popping up, the list will invariably grow as the year progresses.

So how to capture my new ideas in 2024?

About two years ago I made a lapbook with two folders inside. But I have not used the lapbook for anything, so I dug it out and removed one of the folder things; it has two pockets inside and which gave me the idea.

My 2024 handmade journal (left), with the folder and booklet (right)

The folder will be my bookmark, and I can fit a repurposed booklet I kept from an old Daphne's Diary into one of the pockets. I made my journal for this year but forgot to add a bookmark ribbon, so the folder is useful for that too. 

I have not used the booklet yet, mostly because my thoughts have been occupied with organising my studio and home office, and working on a few projects already in process.

So I will have to see how it is going to work. To be honest, it will work if I use it. How successful I found the new process, will be the question to answer this coming year.

Until next time!

💜🇿🇦 Linzé

PS: Keep an eye out for another book feature coming this week!

Sunday 31 December 2023

What happened to my ideas in 2023 - part 2

 The good, the bad and the delayed (Part 2 of 3)

Last week I mentioned that I went through my journal of 2023 and found 44 ideas I had - to write, paint or draw, or generally improve my creative life. This week I want to tell you what happened to those ideas.

Abstract portrait, gouache paint, multicolour, Linzé Brandon, artist
Some ideas happen when I am playing in a
sketchbook. I used gouache for this one.

I am sure that you are like me, hoping that every idea we have will be a great one, but reality tells a different story. Some ideas should be discarded, others tried out to see if they could lead somewhere, and then there are the ideas for which the time is simply not right. And this last group of ideas can sometimes make us impatient even though we know full well that bad timing can be as bad as a terrible decision.

From my list of ideas, the business ideas definitely fell into this last category. There are things I have to do first before I can implement these ideas, so they are on a future to-do list.

I also found an idea I wrote down without adding any details of what I had in mind. Why I did that escapes me, so that one is a bust. That will teach me. LOL!

As for the rest:

* Three ideas were not used. These were for art projects that I did finish, but I didn't use the idea I wrote down in my journal.

* Twenty-three ideas were implemented. These were a mix of art and writing. That makes it 52% of the list, and not bad I would say.

* The remaining 17 ideas ended up as follows: 

- For future implementation: 5

- Rethink (maybe not such good ideas?): 6

- On my todo list right now (for doing in the next 4 to 8 weeks): 6

In Part 3 I will expand more on how I handle future todo's and share a few thoughts for capturing those journal ideas in 2024.

Until next time!

💜🇿🇦 Linzé

Sunday 24 December 2023

What happened to my ideas in 2023 - part 1

There were more ideas than I thought (Part 1 of 3)

Over the years I have found that ideas for creative projects often happened while I was writing down my thoughts in my journal. If I didn't do something with the ideas, they were “lost” because I don't read past entries in my journals.

This year I had a plan: I would mark the idea in the text with a symbol (I chose a smiley face) and also record the page numbers in front of my journal so I could find them later on.

The inside cover pages of my 2023 journal

Most of the time ideas related to a book I was busy with were incorporated into the story within a few days because they were part of a story close to finishing. But they were not the only ideas. Then I had a brainwave: maybe I should check out my list and see what happened to these ideas I had this year.

A few surprises popped up:

1. There were more smiley faces than I had page numbers on my list. This meant that I was so into the flow of writing down the idea that I forgot to add the page number to my list.

2. While working throught the list, I also found ideas where I didn't add a smily face. Since I mentioned that I don't reread my journals, how could I know there were more ideas? The names of characters caught my eye. Since I don't use the names of actual people I know in my stories, it wasn't hard to figure out that I was “thinking” about a scene in a book.

3. I even had a few ideas related to my business. The ideas themselves didn't surprise me, but that they came to me while I was writing about non-business things was the surprise.

I am not going to give away my ideas, but I thought to summarise the number and types of ideas I had.

1. Book ideas - ideas for a new story: 3

2. Book ideas - ideas for scenes in stories already in process: 14

3. Books - cover ideas: 3

4. Art ideas for new/finishing paintings: 9

5. Art ideas for experimenting: 3

6. Art practice ideas to learn/master a new skill or technique: 2

7. Writing/journal organising ideas: 3

8. Organising ideas - studio and home office: 1

9. Bookbinding and other book art/craft ideas: 1

10. Business ideas: 2

11. Other: 3

TOTAL: 44 😳

In Part 2 I will expand on what happened with these ideas.

Until next time!


Friday 1 December 2023

Book Feature: DEAD LETTERS: EPISODES OF EPISTOLARY HORROR edited by Jacob Steven Mohr

DEAD LETTERS: EPISODES OF EPISTOLARY HORROR features 21 all-original stories from authors like Ai Jiang, Gordon B. White, and Gemma Files, all in epistolary format. That means: stories told in emails, letters, texts, podcast transcripts, and the like.


A video game walkthrough harbors a sinister secret. A grieving sister’s letters cross the barrier between alive and dead (and alive again). A chain of frightening emails is the only evidence a young woman ever existed. And a series of journals follow a dwindling wagon train marching straight into Hell—or someplace worse.

Haunted podcast transcripts. Blood soaked police reports. Bewildering court findings.

Brace yourself for Dead Letters, an anthology that resurrects the chilling power of epistolary fiction—where ordinary documents become hidden records of our darkest fantasies and bleakest nightmares.

Across 21 all-original tales from talents like Gemma Files, Ai Jiang, Gordon B. White, J.A.W. McCarthy, and Red Lagoe, and curated with precision by Jacob Steven Mohr, Dead Letters: Episodes of Epistolary Horror serves up a prolonged sojourn into the macabre—and promises to haunt your sleepless nights.

EXCERPT (from "The Parthas UFO Incident" by T.T. Madden")

Dear scientists,

At first we thought it to be nothing more than a prank. Children from around town would mention something in the sky, a dark shape moving through the night. There have been strange things out in the desert, and even so, we thought little of it. 
And then they started mentioning the men. Some people may think we’re hicks, living out here in the desert, but there’s no place in the world where parents won’t pay attention when their children say a strange man tried to talk to them.

The paper has pictures of all of them, what they arrived in and the men themselves. It looks like a pyramid hovering in the sky. Like an invisible hand lifting one of those Ancient Egyptian structures, except this one is all black. Black as the night. 

The pictures of the men are different. There’s always two of them, and they’re always together. People say they see them out in the desert think they’re lost hikers, a duo who always disappear when people get close. At first, some of us were starting to think a new urban legend was happening right before our eyes. Like the ghost girl who leaves her sweater in your car.

But then something turned.

For the past several weeks, this presence around Parthas has menaced us. I do not know what caused their attitudes to change. Perhaps it was the fireworks. Perhaps they interpreted them as an attack. Since the Fourth of July, the number of car crashes and abandoned vehicles on the highway has gone up exponentially. People driving along the highway say the shapes in the sky follow them. Not engaging, just following. Watching. They say they pass the two men over and over again, standing on the shoulder, eternal hitchhikers begging for a ride that’s never coming.

I know what you must think, that I’m just repeating stories I’ve heard. That people out here in the middle of the desert have nothing better to do than spin tales. No. I’ve seen these things myself, the pyramids and the men, lurking in the sky, in the desert, just outside the trailer park. Always at night. Like they’re waiting for something. Some signal for them to finally come in.

This is the Nevada desert. There is so, so much open sky. There’s no place they can’t see us.

Please. Please send someone.


Jacob Steven Mohr does not believe in human consciousness; his works emerge as though from the ether, fully formed and fully ominous.

Selections of these can be observed in Cosmic Horror Monthly, Shortwave Magazine, Chthonic Matter Quarterly, Weird Horror Magazine, and The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 15.

He exists in Columbus OH.

Follow him everywhere @jacobstevenmohr

Book Feature: PRIME PREY - The Protectors by Linzé Brandon (Book 6 in the Nations of Peace series)

Buy link


Click the cover!


EXCERPT (from Chapter 3)

If you become pregnant, will you allow me to provide for the child?

She felt her eyes widen. The tone of his voice, even in her mind, was pleading. She tilted her head sideways as she thought about this. Did he want a baby? In her experience with friends and family, human or otherwise, the males were not usually the ones who wanted children.

Are you serious?

He nodded. In any way you need. Money included.

She frowned slightly as they got out of the cooling water. She wasn’t exactly poor, but babies had more needs than she might be prepared for. She rubbed her forehead for a moment. Was she considering having this man’s baby?

She lifted her eyes back to his. He was deadly serious. Not only did she see it in his eyes, but she also felt it in his mind. He was promised to another woman, but he would not relinquish his responsibilities. On some level, she was sure he wanted her to have his baby. It made no sense. They had barely been introduced, to say nothing of knowing each other. How could he know what kind of mother she would be? To his child, no less. Shivering from a sudden chill, she felt him take the towel and wrap it securely around her before carrying her back to bed.

If it wasn’t that her thoughts were otherwise occupied, she would have protested; she did have a perfectly working pair of legs, after all.

If there is a baby,” she started quietly as he lay beside her, holding her close, “I will tell you, and then we can decide what to do.”

Thank you,” he replied.

He watched her drift to sleep and looked at his timepiece. He had to leave. It was not how he had planned to spend the first day with his soul-mate, but he had no choice. Prince Wolfgang was scheduled to travel to Zo’en today on family business, and he had to accompany him, being his chief bodyguard and his oldest cousin. Wolfe, as he preferred to be called, trusted very few people with his security, and Jarod was the only one he allowed to travel with him on family business.

Loathe to wake her, but he would feel like a jerk to just leave without at least saying goodbye. He got dressed and then gently shook her awake.

It’s time,” he said when she opened her eyes and looked at him.

I have a solar address, so you can reach me anywhere, anytime. I saved it in your contact list on your handheld.” He held up the tiny hand-sized computer he had found on her bedside table.

He touched her cheek one more time, running his thumb over her lips. “Will you be all right?”

She tried to smile but gave up. This was all they had or were going to be. Slowly sitting up, clutching the towel as a shield to her chest, she nodded. “I will be just fine.”

The sudden wariness in her eyes told him that lingering would not make it better. “Remember. Any time. Anything,” he said, with a last tender kiss on her cheek. He got to his feet and left the room. A few moments later, she heard the front door close quietly. He had obviously walked here since she didn’t hear a vehicle.

Lying back against her pillows, she wondered if they had been insane to do this when they both knew there could never be any future for them.

Lying in bed all day would not solve or change anything, so she got up and went to her closet to pick something to wear. The inside of the door had a full-length mirror, and a slight shimmer on her chest caught her eye.

Turning to fully face the mirror, she dropped the towel. She ran her hand quickly over her skin, removing the magic glamour hiding her body markings. Born from a Hunter and a Life-Giver, her body markings reflected both bloodlines. Then she frowned.

Oh, shit.”


About Linzé Brandon

Author picture of Linzé Brandon

Linzé Brandon is the pen name of Lizette de Vries-Venter. She is a self-employed consultant and specialist engineer, author and artist. Living a creative life is what makes her happy and she loves to share her knowledge in both art and engineering.

She does, however, leave the teaching of story writing to others.

Linzé is the author of fiction and non-fiction books.

Saturday 7 October 2023

Painting with a limited palette - a review of Roman Szmal watercolour paints

Hello creative friend!

If you are taking part in Inktober2023, then you are doing something fun and creative and I hope you enjoy every moment. My Inktober drawings this year are not as detailed as you might have seen in the past, because I have a full plate and my time is particularly limited this October. And one of those tasks is the following review. If you have used this brand of watercolours,nlet me know what you think about these paints in the comments.

I couldn't afford a large number of colours, so I limited my purchase to the following colours: Gamboge (hue), Green gold, Magenta, and Payne's Grey.

The swatches and more info I wrote in pencil

I swatched them on Royal & Langnickel 300gsm CP watercolour postcards, then did a painting from one of my own photographs on Pontentate 100% 300gsm cotton paper, also CP.

I mixed the colours to see what would
happen - there were a a few surprises :)

I did the painting with only these four colours, and then added white and black ink to finish the painting.

Painting with only 4 colours

My impressions:

1. The Payne's Grey was sticky when I removed the pans from their packaging. The other colours were solid, so I thought to give it a day or so. It is now dry like the others. Perhaps it was still not dry before it was shipped.

2. The colours are intense, especially the Payne's Grey. It is do dark that it obscured the black line I drew for the swatches to see their translucency. It is a cool grey, but it is hard to see the blue tone even when highly diluted. But once mixed with the Gamboge, the resulting green left no doubt on that score.

3. I like the paints, and found them easy to activate, mix, and paint with. Once my budget allow it, I will definitely get some more colours.

PS: I put the Roman Szmal colours into the same palette I made for the tube watercolours I own from three other brands.

Final result

If you live in South Africa, you can buy them from Artsavingsclub, as I did.

Until next time!

🇿🇦💜 Linzé

BOOK FEATURE: Master of Rods and Strings by Jason Marc Harris

SYNOPSIS   Jealous of the attention lavished upon the puppetry talents of his dear sister—and tormented by visions of her torture at the han...