Book Review “Supernatural Causes, Episode One: Going Viral”

Supernatural Causes, Episode One: Going Viral

Published and distributed by Engen Books, St. John’s, NL.

Digital Release: April 2017

Copyright 2017 Amanda Labonté

Free to read: Click here


In the serial novel “Supernatural Causes, Episode One: Going Viral,” author Amanda Labonté welcomes readers to New Port, ground zero for the war on drugs. Actually, that doesn’t matter as much as Liesel Andrews would have her friends and family believe. No, this is the landing place of vampires, witches, and werewolves after they fled from Europe long ago. Liesel is a pre-med student who discovers that she may also be living in ground zero for a new Superbug, one that affects the supernatural residents who have always been immune to common illness.

While I am not the most avid vampire/werewolf fantasy reader, I found myself impressed with Labonté’s take on these creatures of the night. First of all, allow me to also preface this review by stating that I will be calling this a Vampire Fantasy. While the novel may expand, the viewpoint of episode one is mostly within the genre of Vampire Fantasy. I would be interested in some expansion on the werewolf culture and the witches as well, but only time will tell as more episodes are released. Labonté appears to be running with the original myth behind vampires. At first, I admired the title of the book for its clever play on the phrase “natural causes,” in medical speech. Her use of the plague origin story, however, is a far more brilliant choice. What appears to be a mere background history is actually acting as a lead into the oncoming danger. A passing explanation of vampire origin plants the impressions gained from talk of the dangerous epidemic which is forever seeded in societal consciousness. So when the almighty creatures who grew from the horrors of the plague are finally brought down by a new affliction, the reader can quickly feel as though the whole world could be in danger.

Furthermore, the opening of the novel is directly in line with the entire genre of medical fiction, giving no hesitance to the choice of title. The beginning is a superb hook, ushering readers into the midst of the emergency room action. While it is always important to begin with a proficient hook, when working with the serial format, it is absolutely paramount. Labonté harnesses not only medical suspense but mixes it directly with elements of the fantasy genre, intriguing readers and guiding them into the heart of this unique world order.

Readers follow Liesel from the supposed outer reaches of a world, which her gift made her an observer of, to the very center of underworld society. While she initially appears to be just another unimportant member of support in this unique society, she is soon convinced to delve through the hierarchy and investigate as a diagnostician. Through each clue revealed, it becomes clear that she may very well be the most important bridge between all underworlders. One wonders how long it will take her to see her importance and take up the mantle of hero?

Vampire Fantasy carries a set of particular themes to be fulfilled. For instance, the view an author chooses to explore with regards to the underworld. Vampires are members of what is essentially the monsters of the night. Thus, a story may not always speak of them from a position of sympathy. Indeed, the first vampire stories were historically unsympathetic. Like a Van Helsing interpretation, vampires were only depicted as repulsive. They were the epitome of evil; mindless killing machines without room for personality. However, “Supernatural Causes” follows the popular modern day approach, telling the story through Liesel’s sympathetic interpretation of the nightmare folk. The fact that she is their doctor immediately humanizes them. Suddenly, the immortal god-like underworlders are brought closer to our human experience, thus giving the reader a chance to understand them easier. Furthermore, it allows the reader to unconsciously disregard much of the foreign and monstrous aspects that could otherwise focus on terror and the unknown which would steer the story into Horror. Therefore, readers can be sympathetic to Christophe and the Lieutenants, as well as the werewolves. Fear comes easily, not for their monstrous existence, but for their survival and their comfort. Labonté is tapping into the contemporary approach in which Vampire Fantasy becomes more about understanding and relating to the struggles of those who are different. What was once a simplistic trope is made more intriguing and dramatic as seen in similar monster stories as the comic turned television show IZombie or The Santa Clarita Diet1. Morality is evolved to include an openness for what is alien.

Another common genre expectation in Vampire Fantasy is the presence of violence. There has always been violence attached to vampires. Whether they are mindless killing machines, or “vegetarians,” their existence is inherently violent. They depend on feeding through biting and drinking blood or a form of life energy. “Supernatural Causes,” while remaining loyal to the basics of vampires, presents a potentially more evolved process. Vampires are far more integrated into human society expected. They can appear in the daylight, although they risk severe sunburn. A choice which reinforces aspects far less detached from their human origin. The feeding process is shown to be a sexual act or at least a process mixed with sexual pleasure. This is alluded to, in part, by the jealousy of Christophe’s partner, Jenna. Since Labonté’s vampires are not cold blooded, the reactions behind attraction and excitement are believable. Further assisting the suspension of disbelief is how they have taken to, and advantage of, the contemporary pastime of clubbing and hooking up. This is a great show of integration.

Another example of the violence which is often present in this genre of fantasy is the clash between vampires and werewolves. Not unlike a deep-seeded history of distaste and violence known between countless groups such as the Irish and the English or Israelis and Palestinians. Taking the main danger of the story, the threat from a universal sickness could serve as a common ground to help end the conflict between these historical rivals. At least for a time.

This episode came to the table with some moments to chuckle or smirk, and it definitely made it easy to get into some of the scenes, striking a balance between being too short and forgettable, and becoming too lengthy, descriptive and boring. Instead, it kept me coming back to read more. Another must-have with serialized fiction is to end on a high note. This was the home run for “Supernatural Causes.” Labonté’s scene reveals an understanding of what serials require for continued readership and success. Just when we get comfortable, the world is blown wide open! At the very point of climatic conflict, where the potential for war is literally a foot away, new truths topple the aggression into frantic suspense.

The one overall drawback that stands out about this work is that it requires further proofreading. Perhaps, as an editor, I may be a little more discerning than most. However, this is without a doubt, a growing distraction for readers. Even more so, when it comes to ebooks, the current audience can be turned off from a series if it presents too many errors. From a cursory investigation, “Supernatural Causes” does not appear to have been worked over by an editor. No credit is given on the front matter or copyright.2 One might guess the manuscript went through fewer hands because it was a free episode. However, the fact that this is an introduction, the force of the story can be diminished by what is, mostly, frequent typos. By all means, this episode being the first means it required a lot of care. I know it is no easy feat to even compose and publish a work, but today’s readers are so jaded and therefore quicker to cut ties with a story than in previous eras. In order to not only maintain attention but to grow it further, I would recommend the hand of at least a proofreader.

I would recommend “Supernatural Causes” to almost any adult who enjoys fantasy or, like me, holds some curiosity toward it. While a little soft on the medicine, it’s enough to satisfy appetites of fans who come from that side of the genre. I actually feel that it might even be better if the reader is not a hardcore Vampire Fantasy reader or if they are, that they are the type who can be objective and analytical toward each new story.

Now I must await the next installment set to release June 15th.


  1. It appears I am more of a modern zombie buff than a vampire one
  2. Historically, editors are not credited or named in fiction. 

Music for Fiction: Zoë Keating

Ever since renaming my blog in line with the true recipe of my writing experience, the two portions of truth to my soul, I have mentioned how music directs my writing as well as my life. So I figured it was time to share some of the music and artists who inspire me and my work. I thought this would also be a great way to share awesome music with fellow authors to help them find good writing tempo.

Today I want to share the work of a Cello player who I am a fan of. I love the Cello. Sometimes it can be hard to find a variety of music beyond the classics or derivatives thereof. Classics are great, but innovation is the lifeblood of all creativity. It is the mark of a true and genius composer.

a3871109355_16I found Zoë’s music last year when I was struggling personally. Her album, One Cello X 16: Natoma, took the lead down an inspi-rational path for a story which became like a life raft to me. As such, I incorporated her entire album as the intro to the project’s playlist, entitled Veil’s Trinity.

Music is storytelling. The brilliant part about music is its enduring nature and its versatility. One day it leads me through a pastoral tale, journeying through the countryside and revealing peaceful days of a character’s youth. On another day it is telling of the march to rearmament for a nation, and the steps to mythical wars. Another day it leads through a gentle love story of poetic and intellectual passion.

Zoë is a hard working, ardent, and award-winning musician of curiosity and intellect. Here’s a piece of her bio page to give you a sense of what I mean:

Cellist and composer Zoë Keating is a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, creating intricate, haunting and compelling music. Zoë is known for both her use of technology – which she uses to sample her cello onstage – and for her DIY approach, releasing her music online without the help of a record label.

That is badass. Striking out and making it her own. I find that worthy of admiration. The admiration is not just for her approach, though. Listen to her music and you will know. Indeed, the tones are haunting, but not in the spooky sense. Rather, it is the effect of masterful composition, made to move the soul. You hear her heart, her attitude, and her passion for her craft and life through each layered chord. Each song is a steady build up, telling a tale we can muse over with the reprising compositions entitled Legions. Beginning with War, moving through the middle track, entitled The Sun Will Set, picking up with the Legions reprised in Reverie, and then ending with Aftermath. This album progresses and (allow me to suggest) reads like a novel.

What sort of novel? That is up to you.

Furthermore, she is an activist and advocate for patients, and simplification of medical insurance, especially with regards to cancer.

Granted, at times, I am someone who cannot bear excessive repetition. Sometimes this album is too much to handle. One has to be in the right mindset/mood. That doesn’t have to be a drawback for an album, though. If you’re particular with your tunes, these songs can at least be proper music to have playing in the background to assist in concentration.

Whether it’s SciFi space stations, Viking longships, or noir cityscapes, music enriches my fiction. Music ignites the power of the inner mind, if you let it.


Close your eyes.

What do you see?

You can acquaint yourself with Zoë through her website:

New Chapter Release

The next chapter is available in time for the Victoria Day weekend. I will be going away with my family for a few days. Naturally, I’m taking along some reading, some notebooks, and freshly filled pens to get some work and some imaginings down. Hope everyone else enjoys the weekend.

Kinetic 2

Click here to enjoy the latest chapter.

Conventions and Publishing


I attended Scifi on the Rock last weekend. It was brilliant as always. While I have been battling mental illness over the last year or so, writing has been the one part of my life that has remained and actually acted as an anchor for me. Literature is me. At the very least, I know that. So this year I came to Scifi with my energy directed mostly into my passion.

Scifi on the Rock has become a wonderful supporter of writers and genre publishing in NL over the last few years. I know that is due to a number of reasons and people, which I won’t speculate on right now. Perhaps it was inadvertent, but Scifi really is the bastion for the growing community of genre writers here. I never expected to find something like that on The Rock, but I am very thankful it is here. The community is becoming far more solid after many years existing in whispers and the danger of strange looks. A chat with Maple Tree Designs reminded me of how not-so-far-away we are from those days.

This year Scifi had up to TEN panels and workshops around writers and writing. Two of these panels were even based out of their largest room. Furthermore, the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador had a table and participated this year. They joined in on panels with Engen Books. This made me an infinitely prouder member of the alliance. It is beyond pleasing to me to see them making some roads to bringing more options where genre fiction is concerned. I had some lovely chats at their table and was impressed with the hopes to kick-start some new directions. I know from speaking with other con attendees that seeing WANL listed was a draw for them. I applaud the alliance for their initiative and involvement. I hope all who attended and worked their table found it beneficial. I also hope that they will return next year. It’s a great opportunity for both the con and WANL.

Engen books continued their relationship with Scifi by releasing a new short story compilation. Their panels, as well as the relationships they foster among and between authors, serve as trusted bridges after all these years. Congratulations on ten years, Engen! They have really had a surge in the market over the last couple of years. So keep your eye on them because greater things are sure to come.

Members of the Romancing the Rock group were also present this year. At least, that’s where I knew them from first.  JJ King and Candace Osmond took the leap with their lovely and very cool works on sale at their shared table. I hope that in the future they might host some panels. Both of them are very sweet and knowledgeable. I will never forget how empowered, capable, and supported I felt at the Romancing the Rock Expo. ROMANCING-THE-ROCKThe Romancers, each and every one of them, to me, are the best and most welcoming group of writers. You’ll never know how much you all mean to so many people. Candace and JJ are experienced writers with endless information that they are happy to share and discuss.   I was so pleased to get a chance to speak with them. By hanging around with them I also got to run into Kate Robbins who is also rather brilliant.

I was delighted to finally meet Amanda Labonté who has been a twitter buddy of mine for some time. We had some great chats and I hope we can find a time to hang out again. Talking to fellow writers is an indescribable experience. For all my anxieties, it felt completely natural to speak with each and every writer. As Amanda and I agreed, it’s nice to talk to another person who can talk about people who don’t exist in the physical realm and not give you weird looks for it.

Amanda’s free Serial


There was talking to editors too! Erin Vance and I hit it off, talking about editing in NL and the uncharted path through education and continued skill-building. I really enjoyed just chatting about school and work, as well as comparing notes on editing process and experience.  See her personal editing site here.

I’m sure he is probably too humble to agree, but I still like to say that Scott Bartlett is the champion of spec/genre fiction in NL. He is also a hero of indie/self-publishing. I am always proud of him, and proud to know him. He’s a success, now living the dream of being a full-time writer. Although it probably doesn’t always feel like a dream, and it is a lot of hard work. He is definitely important in the writing community of NL. Watching Scott’s growth over the years has been inspirational. As always, he’s very supportive of his fellow writers and happy to share his knowledge, as well as amaze us with the worlds he has created. Always a pleasure to speak with him.

Heather Reilly was brilliant in both her panels. Sometimes I forget that she is the same lady who is dressed as a cool pirate. I enjoy how she plays in-character at cons. I was blown away when I got her full story. She wears so many hats (beyond the pirate’s). She is incredibly accomplished! I also found her perspective to be unique with regards to finding one’s audience. As a teacher, she has a lot of experience and knowledge with approaching your audience and interacting with your readership. I’d like to get a chance to chat with her in-depth in the future. I have to admit, it must be very cool to be in her class and know that she is an author. I wish I’d had a teacher like her when I was in school.

Another great workshop I attended was the early morning Speculative Fiction Write-In. It was the first thing on Sunday morning, so naturally, it drew a smaller than usual crowd. The intimacy was nice, though. Since it was upstairs away from the main events it was also a nice, quiet breather. I have always found short stories to be impossible. I simply couldn’t write them. The things I wrote always turned into novels or even epic series length. However, there are so many more avenues with regards to short stories and I have yearned to partake. We did some writing prompts and chatted throughout the workshop. In the midst of it all, it dawned on me, there had been a story I had struggled to outline completely as a novel. Perhaps it wasn’t in need of time to ferment. Maybe it was better suited to being a short story. Then it occurred to me that it may even be a good piece to submit to Engen’s next short story compilation!

Click for more info. on Engen’s Call for Short Stories

The workshop was run by con regular Jennifer Konieczny. Her husband, Andrew, was in attendance as well. The fun part about going to conventions is that you eventually get to know the people that go to the same things you do. You learn that you share similar interests and all sorts of avenues can open up. I got a lot out of this workshop, far more than the resting time-out I had been expecting. It opened a new door for me, helped me to get to know some more writers and publishing buffs, and gave me some short stories to complete.


Charles O’Keefe ran the last panel/workshop of the weekend. I managed to speak with him briefly at his table. We also discussed short stories. I admitted to him that I was in awe of anyone who could manage to create a short story, and he was happy to explain his views and process to me. He helped to set the stage for my personal breakthrough with short stories by assuaging my fears and issues with my stiff definition of what a short story ought to be.


Card I shared of my free-to-read series

His panel was also a great place for meeting fellow writers and writing enthusiasts. By this point in the weekend, we recognized each other from all the other panels and events we had attended together and exchanged backgrounds and stories. With a little friendliness, you can discover writers that have yet to sell from tables. I met a young woman who was about to launch her first novel online in a couple weeks (which reminds me, I have to search it out). I’ll definitely post about it here once I find it available. Again, I was excited and inspired to meet someone at this stage of the journey.


Charles presented a very warm and welcoming panel to those who write but are standing off from going further, or are deterred by the obstacles. I think it would have been beneficial to more folks earlier in the convention. I hope his presentation is made more available by being earlier at another con. I understand it’s a lot of work to organize the schedules and someone has to close out the weekend.

Click for my editing service

Overall, Scifi on the Rock did another wonderful job. Their work in supporting and helping the local authors, as well as welcoming such a large representation for genre fiction, in my opinion, makes them a champion of the community. I look forward to seeing the relationship grow and have hope for such future growth. I hear ‘word that other conventions in the province are beginning to add more weight to the literary side of fandom as well. I can’t wait to see where the community goes from here. It definitely gives me hope that I never expected to find when I returned from Toronto several years back.

Reader Gift: Ch 1.5 Infinity

Good day.


(One of the cards I distributed at Scifi on the Rock)


While I am still completing my con wrap-up post, I wanted to let you know of another update.

Last night Telekinetic was updated with an extra tale that fits in just after Chapter 1 of Kinetic. It’s a bit of behind the scenes on what happened some time after the testing along with extra background on the family. It edges right up against the real secrets in the family. Can you guess?

Click here to read.

Thank you all for your continued interest, comments and votes. If you enjoy reading Kinetic, and exploring the world of Super Hero Stories through Telekinetic, be sure to share it with friends!



Did you know I’m a fan of tabletop gaming? I’ve participated in Dungeons and dragons in college and with my lifelong friends. I also played dungeon world with my friends when we did a regular board games night for a year. Now we play Ryuutama on Roll20 since we all live in different countries.

I’ve participated in Dungeons and Dragons in college and with my lifelong friends. I also played Dungeon World with my friends when we did a regular board games night for a year. Now we play Ryuutama on Roll20 since we live in different countries.

This is a sketch from our last game. My hunter Yve, plotting to destroy all Neko Goblins. No mercy, Yve.