RETRO READS: Within the Shadows

Hi all!  Welcome to Retro Reads, where I talk about my favorite books that were published at least ten years ago. You can still find most of them online, though sometimes they have been re-released with a different cover and/or title. I will let you know if a book is out of print or otherwise unavailable.

Brandon Massey
Publication year: 2005
Out of print/available used


I have been a longtime Brandon Massey fan, ever since I reviewed his first commercially published book, Dark Corner. I met Brandon in person at Book Expo America in 2005, where I received my autographed copy. He has provided good writing advice over the years (thx, Brandon!), even as he has successfully adapted to the ever-changing publishing landscape.

Within the Shadows is Massey’s third book and the story of Andrew, a successful writer in the Atlanta area who becomes involved with a beautiful woman, Mika. Mika, however, turns out to be a stalker on a whole ‘nother level, aided by seemingly unlimited funds and a Grand Canyon-sized sense of entitlement. While trying to fend off Mika’s increasingly unwanted advances, Andrew also tries to rekindle his relationship with his estranged father, Raymond, which had taken an unexpected nosedive after both were involved in a car accident in rural Georgia. Unbeknownst to Andrew, Raymond was compelled to cause the accident and his secrecy ends up getting a few folks killed…and Andrew may be next.

Massey continues his recurring theme  of strained father/son relations, which is present in most of his books. He also spins on the “sins of the father” trope in Within the Shadows. Massey utilizes the supernatural in a way that taps into that part of us that we as people don’t like to acknowledge: the knee-jerk denial of the otherworld. The strong secondary characters of Eric, Andrew’s best friend and Carmen, Andrew’s not-so-unrequited love, help round out the story. While Mika’s character can be too over-the-top at times, it ends up working within the context of the greater story. Perhaps the best part of the book is realizing Raymond’s part in this whole mess and how it both harms and heals his relationship with Andrew.

Within the Shadows won’t keep you up at night, but it will provide some thrills and chills.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Genealogy Black Hole

This past weekend was a wash, work-wise (so much for progress on the next Bastille novel *sigh*). Why? Because I decided to trace my family tree.

My grandmother has been ill lately and, since she is my last surviving grandparent, I decided that it might be a good idea to gather her anecdotal rosebuds while I may.

[sidebar: why is that we never realize the importance of ancestral history until after the ancestors are gone? *sigh*]

I was aided and abetted by a friend and sorority sister, who is a genealogical maven. She is the one that turned me on to Family Search (which is run free of charge by the Church of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons), as well as GEDMatch. I learned about GEDCOM files, and discovered WikiTree. I also learned how to upload my DNA results (courtesy of 23 and Me) and find another layer of ancestral matching. And of course, everyone knows about Ancestry, which provided a better venue for me to build my family tree.  They also do DNA testing, and I may consider doing theirs as well in the future.

As you can see, genealogy has a tendency to suck you in, like a black hole. Every time I find a tidbit of information (a birthdate, a birthplace, etc), it leads to another bit of information…and another…and another…till I look up and realize it’s after 1 a.m. and I need to go to sleep. But after I check just one more name…

Anyway, at last count I have over 208 names on my family tree so far. I will have to pony up the subscription fee to Ancestry in order to do more digging, but I’ve made a nice bit of progress via the free records and internet searches. I am hitting a wall going back 4-5 generations, though: records were very spotty and while currently available records indicate that all of my ancestors on both sides, so far, were free blacks (with some Native American and African thrown in), it is entirely possible that there was some slavery somewhere–especially on my father’s side, which originated in coastal South Carolina, near Charleston, which was a known slave port (and those records were not very detailed, if kept at all).

And let’s not get into spelling of names; given the strong Southern dialect, the way a name is pronounced, and the way it’s actually spelled, can be two totally different things. And it’s not like correct spelling was a high priority back in my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ times.

Not to mention, back in the day, it was not uncommon for cousins to marry cousins, and certain first names were very popular (e.g. William, Joseph, George, Anna/Annie, Marie). My grandmother told me that on her and my late grandfather’s sides of the family, the surnames  were the names of plantation owners; hence the plethora of people with those names in their native areas of Georgia during the 1800s and 1900s. And, if we’re getting into the Native American side, well…those records weren’t that great, either. I also discovered that one of my great-great-great-great grandmothers, on my mother’s side, most likely was born in Barbados (via a baptism record)…yeah, good luck with trying to track those records any further. Although I wouldn’t mind taking a trip to Barbados…for research purposes, of course. 😉

The record wall may be a good thing. I have to get on the good foot, since this novel isn’t going to write itself in time for a January/February release. But maybe I have time to check one more name…

Thanks for stopping by.