Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss

5 of 5 Stars      Review copy

Good news, if you missed out on the limited edition publication of The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss, Random House/Hydra will be releasing it in both paperback and e-book formats this June.

"The Halloween Children are everywhere and they know our fears" - written in black marker on a bench outside the Stillbrook apartments.

From a survivor..."When did you realize something wasn't right that Halloween night?"  After a long pause.  "When I discovered that so many of my neighbors were dead."

The story is primarily told through the eyes of Harris and Lynn Naylor, parents of Mattie, their son, and daughter, Amber.  A couple with distinctly different parenting styles creating an interesting dichotomy as Harris favors Mattie and Lynn favors Amber.

Harris works as a handyman at the Stillbrook Apartments where his boss has just decided to cancel the complex's traditional Halloween party.

The Halloween Children is suitably creepy and scary with voices in the walls, a dead body that just disappears, and a story by Amber Naylor, as told to her Mother, called, "The Bad Place."

I found this Halloween treat to be delightfully disturbing and along the way, there are some wonderfully gruesome surprises.

Again, look for The Halloween Children on June 13, 2017, in both paperback and e-book formats, from Random House/Hydra.

From the author's bios...

Brian James Freeman - Brian sold his first short story when he was fourteen years old and his first novel when he was twenty-four. His novels, novellas, short stories, essays, and interviews have been published by Warner Books, Cemetery Dance Publications, Borderlands Press, Book-of-the-Month Club, Leisure, and many others.  Brian lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, two cats, and two German Shorthaired Pointers. More books are on the way.

Norman Prentiss - Norman is the author of Odd Adventures with Your Other Father (A Kindle Scout Selection), and he won the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Invisible Fences, published by Cemetery Dance.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Cemetery Dance Select: Tim Waggoner

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Cemetery Dance Publications has come up with the idea of asking some of their favorite authors to hand pick a few of their favorite short stories for inclusion in this new series.  CD also asked each author to provide their reasons for including each story and included those reasons in the afterword.

If the Tim Waggoner edition of this new venture is any indication this series should be around for quite some time.

Tim's three selections begin with his first published work...

Mr. Punch - Do you remember Punch and Judy?  If not, Google it, I'll be here when you get back. The opening line of this short is one of the best I've read in a while...

Mr. Punch swung the bat one more time, just to be sure Judy was dead, then stepped back to admire his handiwork.

Mr. Punch is a very clever story of both the violence of a Punch and Judy show and its influence on one young man.

The Tongue Is the Sweetest Meat - is a wonderfully complex tale complete with hanging out with the dead and a trip back in time, and blood, plenty of blood.

Tom was surprised to find himself relaxing and even humming along with the music, as if they were out for a simple night drive instead of traveling through a nightmarish landscape from one of Satan's wet dreams.

The Great Ocean of Truth - features an unusual writing style that even Tim finds hard to describe, but it certainly works for the story.

If entropy always increased you reasoned, then anything anyone did, no matter how constructive it seemed, only helped to hasten the process of breaking the universe down into nothing.  And there wasn't anything anyone could do about it.

A story about life and fighting back against entropy.

I can honestly say I have never been disappointed by one of Waggoner's works.  The only complaint I have about Cemetery Dance Select: Tim Waggoner is that it was only three stories, but that's the way this series works.  It's a quick read and a great way to get to know Tim Waggoner.

Recommended.

Cemetery Dance Select: Tim Waggoner is currently available as an e-book from, let me guess, Cemetery Dance Publications.

From the author's bio - Tim Waggoner is the published author of over thirty novels and three collections of short stories.  He writes original fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins.   He’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award, and his fiction has received numerous Honorable Mentions in volumes of Best Horror of the Year.  In 2016, the Horror Writers Association honored him with the Mentor of the Year Award.  In addition to writing, Tim is also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College.










Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City by Amy Grech

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I wanted to like Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City, I actually wanted to love it, but this one just didn't live up to expectations.  I  was surprised since a number of my friends and other reviewers gave this collection rather high marks.

The book begins with the longer title story called, Rage and Redemption In Alphabet City.  Blue Balls - most of us know what they are, but it also happens to be the name of a drink Trevor finds young Ruby consuming in a bar in the East Village.  The story is steeped in sexual tension and climaxes much the way such a tale would be expected to end.  In addition to Blue Ball, the other chapter titles include Marooned, Whodunit, Candy Apple Red, You're So Vain, and Fright Night.

.38 Special - An intense story of a cheating wife and Russian Roulette.

Cold Comfort - More bad decisions being made in an East Village bar.  This time a married man has a fling with a possessive woman and needs to have his wife, an NYC police officer, get him out of a jam.

Prevention - Two brothers who are decidedly different.  A story which sheds light on the age-old issue of nature vs. nurture.

Hoi Polloi Cannoli - My favorite title of the collection.  A tale of...

...the Big Kahuna's Feast, a veritable cornucopia of decadent delights, where any food and drink participants desire can be had for four glorious hours.  Not a minute more, not a minute less, just the right amount of time for the Chosen to taste tantalizing tidbits and relish the experience to the fullest. The Gathering has several firm rules designed to discourage constant chaos.  With that in mind, Big Kahuna decrees the following: The moment the Golden Tickets fall from a secret compartment above the stage and drift downward, swaying this way and that, each and every Villager must stop where they stand and raise their hands. They are only allowed to use their arms and hands to reach for a Golden Ticket, no hitting, punching, scratching, or slapping other Villagers will be tolerated...

In many ways, this story was reminiscent of The Hunger Games as one of the characters states...

"Whether the odds are in her favor."

A sly nod to the popular series.  As much as I liked this story, it was so predictable.  I saw the twist coming from miles away.

While the stories themselves are OK, I didn't find any of them compelling.  On top of that was the large number of error that should have been caught in proofreading.  Any book that's been out for more than a year should not have these types of errors.  I'm not going to list them all, but a few include this like "Daddy bits his lower lip." (bites), "I'd rather not to bring my work home with me." (drop to), and "She blow more smoke rings in Trevor's face." (blew). There were many more, but you get my point.  Writers, remember, spell-check is no substitute for a good proofreader.

I likely would have given the collection four stars if it wasn't for the above.

The author, Amy Grech, is an incredibly nice person, dedicated to her craft, and passionate about the genre.  Part of the blame here must lie with the publisher, New Pulp Press and this line in their submissions policy, "Your work should be fully edited in the sense that you have done all that is necessary and possible to make you work polished, literate and error free."  The least they could contribute would be a proofreader, especially since they said: "...make you work polished..." on their own website.

If an occasional lapse in grammar doesn't bother you, then I recommend this collection.

Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City is published by New Pulp Press and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Amy Grech has sold over 100 stories and poems to various anthologies and magazines.  She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Guest post from author Amy Gerch, the author of Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City

Look for my review of this collection of hardcore crime drama tomorrow, but for now, enjoy this guest post from author Amy Gretch...  

The Origins of Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City


I’ve lived in New York City for 21 years now. When I first moved to NYC from Long Island, it was a much darker place than it is today. Back then, certain neighborhoods, like Alphabet City and Hell’s Kitchen were covered in graffiti and had a reputation for being dangerous sections of the city, where crime ran rampant. These were not places where young, single women had any business being, but one of my good friends lived in Hell’s Kitchen, so I got a taste of that section of NYC on a regular basis, saw the crime firsthand, albeit from a safe distance, witnessed junkies desperate for a fix and got a sense that desperation bred contempt. I envisioned Alphabet City to be the same way, but much to my surprise when I went there to explore in the early 2000s, there was no graffiti to be seen, condos dominated virtually every street corner and self-absorbed hipsters replaced junkies, a crime-haven no more…


A pivotal moment in Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City occurs in the lead novella when Ruby Fuji invites Dr. Trevor Braeburn, an Eye Doctor back to her apartment in Alphabet City after meeting him in a bar, knowing hardly anything about him. A potent cocktail of overwhelming lust, coupled with lax inhibitions leads to poor judgment on Ruby’s part, with tragic consequences for the young girl. There’s Rage and Redemption to be had in Alphabet City once her older sister, Gia and Mr. Fuji discover the culprit and take matters into their own hands. You might say the Eye Doctor set his sights on the wrong girl…


I felt very uneasy after writing that scene, especially because Ruby has unknowingly made herself vulnerable to the lethal whims of a proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. I don’t scare very easily, so it’s very rare for me to create a moment that strikes a nerve and lingers.


As a single woman living in New York City, one of my worst fears is that I’ll meet a guy at a local bar who is handsome, smart and after too many Margaritas, invite him back to my place, only to discover after we’ve hooked up, that he has a gun or a knife and intends to kill me. Luckily, all the guys I’ve dated have been pretty sane so far…


It’s an extremely dangerous, impulsive thing for a single woman to do, invite a stranger back to her apartment for a good time. And yet, thousands of single women do so every night in the Naked City. Some people might say these women are being reckless, setting themselves up for a fatal encounter. How much does she really know about him? Sure, she might know what he does for a living, where he grew up when his Birthday is, but she has no way of knowing if he’s a psychopath intent on doing her harm until the macabre deed unfolds.


Amy Grech has sold over 100 stories to various anthologies and magazines including Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Dead Harvest, Detectives of the Fantastic, Volume II, Expiration Date, Fear on Demand, Fright Mare, Funeral Party 2, InhumanMagazine, Needle Magazine, Reel Dark, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, Space & Time, Tales from The Lake Vol. 3, The Horror Within, Under the Bed, and many others. New Pulp Press published her book of noir stories, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City.  She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers who lives in Brooklyn.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Becoming - by Glenn Rolfe

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If you're a fan of B-Movie monster madness as I am, don't even bother reading the rest of the review.  Just get the book and toss it on top of your TBR pile or list depending on whether you read physical books or digital versions.

Greg Hickey and his girlfriend are spending time down by the water when Greg finds something unusual in the water.  Next thing you know, Greg is gone.  You see, there is something lurking beneath the waters of Jade Lake in the otherwise quiet town of Avalon, Maine.  Something that's been dormant for many years, but isn't anymore.

The action starts right away in Becoming...

The thing was human-like, but yet far from it, and let its mesmerizing glowing eyes come back from their deep depths.  Its slick tentacles slithered around his head, pried between his lips, and shoved their way deep inside.

I loved Michele's fascination with Veronica Mars and how she would repeatedly ask herself, "What would Veronica do?"  I also enjoyed how the craziest man in town, Russ James, may have a better idea about what's going on than the authorities.

Rolfe is sharp with a turn of phrase...

She was light, maybe a couple of crackers over a hundred pounds.

It all combines to produce an imaginative story with a wonderfully high body count.  Can anyone from Avalon survive what lies beneath Jade lake?

Highly recommended.

There's also a Bonus Novella included with Becoming.  It happens to be the first piece I ever read by Glenn and it's called Boom Town.  I gave this story 4 of 5 stars.

The fact that Boom Town is dedicated to Art Bell and George Noory should tell you all you need to know about this fun little romp into the world of the unknown.

Reminiscent of the great old-time creature features, Boom Town is quite inventive and at times disgusting as such a story should be.

It's the perfect companion piece to Becoming, so when you finish the title story catch your breath and then check out Boom Town.

Get both tales now for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

A guest post from Glenn Rolfe - The author of Becoming

Look for my review of Becoming tomorrow, but for now here's Glenn Rolfe


“Lake-Effect”

Lake-effect:  a meteorological phenomenon in which warm moist air rising from a body of water mixes with cold dry air overhead resulting in precipitation especially downwind —usually hyphenated when used attributively.

Last summer, I was at the lake I take my kids to. I was staring out at the water and all the people swimming around, and thought, “what if we were being drawn here?” Simple question, right?  Here in Maine, most of our lakes are in small towns that you must drive to. There are always locals, usually a tiny population, and it’s those people I focused on in my new novel, BECOMING. I set the story in Maine and after school is back in session. If you’ve been here in September and October, you know it’s no longer beach weather. So the summer folks stay home, and the lake reverts back to being sole possession of the locals.

I love lady of the water stories. John Everson’s Siren is one that comes to mind that I really enjoyed. I didn’t quite go the full siren of the sea here though, I went more “creature” in the depths (which may have a bit of Lovecraft happening). The folks of Avalon, Maine are being drawn into Jade Lake and then returning to town to tell others how great it is.  Okay, so they might be acting a bit off when they come back, but I’m telling you, swimming in a Maine lake in October does things to you. It’s just not a good idea.

The story is also very much about family and community. The relationships that make or break us, that mold us into the people we will…well, become. There is strain, there’s neglect, there’s loyalty, there’s compassion, and for one Clint Truman, there is torment. I’ve almost always lived in small towns, and I’m never amazed at the wonder, the strength, or the horror that is happening all around me at any given moment. We keep many of our own monsters.

Becoming started out as a land monster story, but after scrapping the original manuscript, I found myself thinking about that lake idea. I started over and found myself caught up in one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended or what would become (I know, I can’t help it) of my rural cast. In the end, I felt swallowed by the story, and when I was spit out, I knew it was more than I ever imagined it would be. I couldn’t be a happier writer.

If you like small-town horror, water monsters, stories steeped in paranoia and mystery, I invite you to come visit Avalon. Maybe take a quick swim while you’re here.  You won’t just like what you become.

Cheers!

-GR

Praise for Becoming

“Old-fashioned creature feature…Becoming is raw horror.” – The Haunted Reading Room

“Classic horror. Original and entertaining.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine

Becoming shows that Rolfe is indeed, becoming a force to be reckoned with. Back in the day when John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King, were getting started in their horror writing careers, this was the type of story they would write and I would want to read.” – Horror Novel Reviews

Becoming is a creepy horror tale with depth. Rolfe proves he's a master of capturing the essence of small towns--how communities come together, for good or ill. Claustrophobic!”  - J.H. Moncrieff, author of City of Ghosts and Monster In Our Wake.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fairy Lights - by Edward Lorn

4 of 5 Stars

It's difficult to describe this novella from writer Edward Lorn. But, I will say this about his most recent effort.  Fairy Lights is at once magical and yet brutally real.  Hypersexual and ultra violent and at times reminiscent of Jack Ketchum's groundbreaking novel Open Season.

Lorn certainly has a way with words. and I found myself smiling more than once with his use of the English language.  Stuff like...

She came like a broken water main. and Bobs was the asinine nickname Mom had created for Bobby, as if his two-syllable name was far too much for her single syllable brain.

The conversation between fifteen-year-old Tony and his mother on the subject of masturbation was chillingly authentic and terribly funny.

Fairy Lights is at times violently disturbing and actually cringeworthy, but occasionally the story would slow to a crawl and there were a few loose ends that left me in the dark as a reader.

A word of warning.  Some of Lorn's characters are offensive to a fault, so if you're thin skinned beware.

Overall, I enjoyed the writer's irreverent style and would readily recommend this novella, despite its flaws.

Fairy Lights is available as an e-book from Darkfuse publishers.

From the author's bio - Edward Lorn is a reader, writer and content creator.  He's been writing for fun since the age of six, and writing professionally sin 2011.  Edward lives in the southeast United States with his wife and two children.  He is currently working on his next novel.