Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume Five - Edited by Brian James Freeman

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

During the month of October 2017, Brian James Freeman and the folks at Hydra, have gotten together to present a total of twenty-five Halloween tales of horror from twenty-five of the best genre writers working today.  Every Tuesday during October there was a new volume in the Halloween Carnival anthology series.

Volume Five concludes the series with five tales of Halloween horror.  The fun begins with...

Devil's Night by Richard Chizmar - "Tonight was Devils's Night.  A night for mischief as my father used to say."  A love triangle and a murder.  I've read this short before.  A great "What would you do?" mystery.

The Last Dare by Lisa Tuttle - The Tower House was both foreboding and forbidden.  All the more reason to visit on Halloween.

The Halloween Bleed (A Dr. Sibley Curiosity) by Norman Prentiss - "What if Halloween...bleeds into other days?  It doesn't matter when a story is written, or when you read it.  What matters is that it has an effect on you.  It casts a spell." A well-crafted tale with a delightful twist.

Swing by Kevin Quigley - "Love is strange and death is an aphrodisiac." 

Port Pie Hat by Peter Straub - The novella in this collection is another I've read before, but it also happens to be one of the best Halloween horror stories I've ever read. Hat is a Jazz musician and when a fan tries to conduct an interview he hears the horrifying story of a Halloween night in the 'the Backs."

Definitely recommended and somewhat sad to see this series come to a close.

Halloween Carnival Volume Five is published by Hydra, a division of Random House, and is available as an ebook.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: The Truants - by Lee Markham

4of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Truants is Lee Markham's debut novel and in some ways, it shows.

I admit I had a love-hate relationship with this book.  It was a bit esoteric for me and the author had an annoying habit of just listing the character's actions.  For example...

She looks at him, and shakes her head.  Then she pulls the sheet up and over his face, hangs the notes back on the end of the bed and pads out of the room.  The door swishes quietly closed behind her.  And the boy sits up.  The sheet falls away and his eyes open.  They are pale.  Blue irises.  They'd been brown, like his skin, when he died.  But now they are pale, as is his skin without blood.  He has changed.

The writing style aside there is much to like in The Truants.  Without ever mentioning vampires, the author manages to tell the story of the last of their kind who, a week apart, end things on the same park bench by staying out in the sun.  But, due to unforeseen circumstances, they are doomed to begin again.

And he dies.  For just a moment, he dies, and he submits, and he gives himself to me.  This feral little rat-child kneels before me and prays for my grace.  I give it to him.  Then I open our eyes.  And we rise.

Overall, The Truants, is decidedly different, in a good way.  Twisted, and filled with some remarkable imagery, and a creep factor that is exceptionally high.

Recommended.

The Truants is published by The Overlook Press and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Lee Markham is the founder of the children’s publishing house Chestnut Tree Tales and No Man, an independent publishing house. He has previously worked as a brand content developer, and he has written articles for magazines including Admap and Brand Strategy. The Truants is his debut novel.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Movie review: Happy Death Day

4 of 5 Stars

Tree Gelbman is a blissfully self-centered collegian who wakes up on her birthday in the bed of a student named Carter. As the morning goes on, Tree gets the eerie feeling that she's experienced the events of this day before. When a masked killer suddenly takes her life in a brutal attack, she once again magically wakes up in Carter's dorm room unharmed. Now, the frightened young woman must relive the same day over and over until she figures out who murdered her.

Happy Death Day is like Groundhog Day on acid and much more fun than I expected it to be.  Jessica Rothe is a pleasure to watch as she attempts to unravel the truth about who is trying to kill her.  It's not who you think and although it's a horror movie, it's not all that scary.

Release date: October 13, 2017 (USA)
Director: Christopher B. Landon
Budget: 4.8 million USD
Producer: Jason Blum
Screenplay: Scott Lobdell

In it's first two weeks out the film has a worldwide gross of  more than 56-million dollars.  Not in the mega-movie arena, but it's certainly a success considering the modest budget under 5-Million.

If you haven't seen this one yet, it's certainly worth a look.

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume Four - Ed. by Brian James Freeman

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

During the month of October 2017, Brian James Freeman and the folks at Hydra, have gotten together to present a total of twenty-five Halloween tales of horror from twenty-five of the best genre writers working today.  Every Tuesday during October there will be a new volume in the Halloween Carnival anthology series.

Volume Four is my least favorite so far this series but it's still worth your time this Halloween reading season.

The Mannequin Challenge by Kealan Patrick Burke - A Twilight Zone kind of story about an office Halloween party and a rather bizarre mannequin challenge. There were sixteen people in all, every one of them in costume, every one of them playing statues."  All except Theo, late to the party, no costume, and his reaction is perfect.

Across the Tracks by Ray Garton - Sometimes you have to cross the tracks to find a better neighborhood for trick-or-treating.  "That was another benefit of crossing the tracks on Halloween.  There were frequent parties underway in the houses they visited, and a lot of hot moms wore slutty costumes.  It was a great opportunity for eleven and twelve-year-old boys to catch a glimpse of some thighs and cleavage that were not on a screen."  What Kenny, Sam, and JayJay stumble upon at one such house was certainly an eye-opener.

The Halloween Tree by Bev Vincent -  My favorite story in this collection.  Trick or treating with friends and a scary old tree. "On Halloween night they'd have to walk beneath it and that was freaking Luke out."

Pumpkin Eater by C. A. Suleman - An interesting story about how couples grow apart over the years.

When the Leaves Fall by Paul Melniczek - This collection's novella is about a terror which slowly consumes a town and they way one young man deals with it as a kid and then as an adult.  There is some lovely prose in this story.  "Leaves had begun their slow patient glide to death weeks ago and now September was just a recent memory, as October wrapped the landscape in its dusky arms and stole its life, peeling apart the summer flowers and snatching up the burnt orange and yellow leaves, pulling them to the ground where they dried into husks and shriveled away."

I may have been a bit disappointed in this set of Halloween tales, but I'm still looking forward to Volume Five to close out the series.

Halloween Carnival Volume Four is published by Hydra, a division of Random House, and is available as an ebook.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: Indigo by ten of the most respected genre writers working today

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I found Indigo to be overall satisfying, but it was certainly not without its faults.

Indigo features the talents of great genre writers like Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James Moore, and Mark Morris. However, with these many strong writers, each bringing their own voice to the story, there were times when, as a reader, it seemed the tale would be going in one direction and suddenly, would change dramatically as a new writer took the reins.  There was also a lot of repetition and I would have liked a little less exposition and more story.

Indigo is conceptually strong with the lead character, Nora, using shadows to move from location to another and having the power to use those same shadows as weapons.  I loved the early action as she all but obliterated the local chapter of The Children of Phonos, a worldwide black magic cult. and I thought 'Finally a superhero who gets the job done."  But then things took a turn and we got dragged down into a morass of self-doubt and self-discovery that caused the story to drag on for a long time.

The negatives aside, there is real depth to be found in Indigo. It was certainly a revelation when Nora finds out everything she believed about herself to be a lie.

Somehow she had taken the stories of a bunch of superheroes, twisted them, and adopted them for herself.

I'm glad I read Indigo, but I can't readily recommend this one.  Of course, your experience may vary and with this many talented writers there really is something for everyone.

Indigo is published by St. Martin's Press and is available in hardcover, e-book and audio formats.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Monochromes and Other Stories - by Matt Bechtel

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Some people just see the world differently. Matt Bechtel is one of those people. - James A. Moore.

After reading this collection I'd have to agree with that assessment. Matt has an eye for detail and is masterful at shedding a unique light on the otherwise mundane.

This sixteen story collection begins with the title tale Monochromes the story of individuals who see the world in different colors, or in this singular case, in black and white or better yet, in shades of grey.

A man in a tweed jacket walked out of the men’s room shaking his hands dry; clearly, they were out of paper towels. Half way across the restaurant, he succumbed and dried them on his pants. The waitress counted down her cash drawer in preparation of shift break, muttering numbers to herself as she tapped away at an old adding machine with a roll of printing paper. Two teenage girls gossiped over root beer floats at the counter, giggling madly as they sucked ice cream through straws into their braces-filled mouths.

Such attention to detail.

I'm not going to comment on every story within this debut from Matt, but for me, some of the highlights include...

Tele-Serve

You know, it's only a matter of time until this is the reality for every company you call.

Welcome to Tele-Serve, the state’s Unemployment Benefits payment by telephone service! To use this system in English, please press one.” *BOOP*

One of my favorites in this all too brief collection is the NECON inspired story After Hours...

...three bestselling authors charged by us, knocking me back and into Anna, who was perched on the top rail. One was female. All three were naked.

Of course the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Then there's the brilliantly disgusting The Beginning of the End and the wonderfully imaginative Before Parachutes.

“Someday,” he promised the boy, “when I shuffle off this earth, I’m leaving you the ol’ bag o’ bolts.” Then he kissed the plane’s propeller. He always kissed his plane after he insulted it in public, like most men do their wives.

Another of my favorites is Last Man Standing. To the best of my knowledge competitive standing is not a thing. Only from the mind of Matt Bechtel. There's a good deal of heart to be found in Tears of a Clown and the charming A Man Walks Into a Bar. As I read this collection, I found Matt to the a master of the "What if?"story. In this instance, "What if" every joke about walking into a bar all showed up in the same establishment. Why didn't I think of that.

In Night of the Living Dead a man, once dead, has a night to live...

I'm going to drink concoctions that not even a mad scientist would whip up at his home bar. I'll mix whiskey with milk and toothpaste, vodka and Goldschläger with grape Shasta, luke-warm, day-old coffee with a shot of Everclear. I’ll rate them by how foul they taste when I puke them back up. The one that makes me vomit through my eye sockets wins.

Love that description.

Take the truism that a body will completely replace all cells every seven years, add a man with an obsessive-compulsive disorder into the mix and follow to its logical conclusion and you'll have A New Man.

And then there's the final tale or should that be tail? Cozzy's Question about an alley cat faced with the most important question.

You’ve been asked a very important question, Cozzy — THE question, the most important question ever asked. And the voice won’t stop until you give it an answer.” Oh really? And what question is that? “Do you want the world to end?”

“And that’s it,” he finished for her. “The end of everything, all of it, in the blink of an eye. The Apocalypse, Armageddon, Ragnarok, or whatever you want to call it — the end of all life on earth. Because you say so.”

By far, my favorite tale is this “Twilight Zone”-esque story which actually made me tear up for a moment.

Monochromes and Other Stories is a richly diverse debut collection from an author to watch. My highest recommendation.

Monochromes and Other Stories is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Haverhill House Publishing Company.  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 - Matt Bechtel was born just south of Detroit, Michigan (cursing him as a Lions fan), into a mostly-Irish family of dreamers and writers as opposed to the pharmaceutical or construction giants that share his surname.  As such, he has spent most of his years making questionable life decisions and enjoying the results.  Mentored by their late founder Bob Booth, he serves on both the Executive Committee of the Northeastern Writers’ Convention (a.k.a. Camp Necon) and as a partner in the Necon E-Books digital publishing company.  His writing tends towards dark humor/satire and has been compared to Ray Bradbury and Cormac McCarthy. Matt currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume Three - Ed. by Brian James Freeman


4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

During the month of October 2017, Brian James Freeman and the folks at Hydra, have gotten together to present a total of twenty-five Halloween tales of horror from twenty-five of the best genre writers working today.  Every Tuesday during October there will be a new volume in the Halloween Carnival anthology series.

Volume three is a solid entry in this series and is well worth your time this Halloween reading season.

The Way Lost by Kelley Armstrong - A delightfully disturbing story with a killer opening line.  "Every Halloween, one child in Franklin lost his way and never came home."  The truth makes this tale even more chilling.

Calavera by Kate Maruyama - A Calavera is a representation of a human skull used in the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Trish makes one of these skulls to honor her friend Jasmine, but not everyone is happy about her decision.

The Devil's Due by Michael McBride - A wonderfully horrifying story of an annual sacrifice a town has been making ever since its inception and how one man defies the ritual and the consequences that follow.  Great storytelling.

A Thousand Rooms of Darkness by Taylor Grant - A terrifically imaginative and original story of a woman who suffers from phasmophobia (a fear of ghosts) and samhainophobia (a fear of Halloween).  The truth is even more frightening.  My favorite story in this collection.

The Last Night of October by Greg Chapman - Greg is an Australian artist and Horror writer, who grew up in a world without Halloween.  It's true, in Australia, Halloween just never caught on. No trick-or-treating, no costumes, no Halloween.  But, Greg's a horror writer and since Halloween is nearly synonymous with Horror, he's done his homework and the result is this gem of a novella about events that took place and continue to take place on The Last Night of October.


Recommended and looking forward to Volume Four in the series.

Halloween Carnival Volume Three is published by Hydra, a division of Random House, and is available as an ebook.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume Two - Ed. by Brian James Freeman

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

During the month of October 2017, Brian James Freeman and the folks at Hydra, have gotten together to present a total of twenty-five Halloween tales of horror from twenty-five of the best genre writers working today.  Every Tuesday during October there will be a new volume in the Halloween Carnival anthology series.

Volume one was a top-notch set of four shorts and a novella and while the second book is not quite as strong.  It's still worth your time this Halloween reading season.

Halloween Carnival Volume Two begins and ends with novella length stories with three shorts in between.  The fun starts with..

Mr. Dark's Carnival by Glen Hirshberg - This novella's been published before, including an ultra-limited hardcover edition from Earthling Publications, which became the first of many Halloween limited edition books.  Is it possible that Mr. Dark's Carnival—the inspiration for all our Halloween festivities, the most celebrated attraction or event in the history of Clarkston, Montana—never really existed.  if you've never read Mr. Dark's Carnival, you're in for a treat.  The best story in this volume.

The Facts In the Case of My Sister by Lee Thomas - The horrors of spousal abuse told in this story of a brother's unwavering love for his sister.

Mischief Night by Holly Newstein - In Pennsylvania, the night before Halloween is known as Mischief Night. Kids play harmless but annoying pranks, like throwing toilet paper into trees, soaping windows, and egging cars.  Occasionally lines are crossed, and what was annoying becomes malicious.  Sometimes even deadly...like what happens when a group of boys decide to prank Mr. Worrall, the assistant principal.

The Ghost Maker by Del James - What happens when a mob hit-man goes to a Halloween party.

The Pumpkin Boy by Al Sarrantonio - Al Sarrantonio is one of my favorite Halloween storytellers. I love his stories set in his fictional Orangefield which is where he takes us for this novella of child abduction and the Pumpkin Boy.  The Pumpkin Boy had a bright orange pumpkin head with cold night steam puffing out of the eyes, nose and mouth cutouts, and a body consisting of a bright metal barrel chest and jointed legs and arms that looked like stainless steel rails.

Recommended and already looking forward to Volume Three.

Halloween Carnival Volume Two is published by Hydra, a division of Random House, and is available as an ebook.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Review: Halloween Carnival Volume One - Ed by Brian James Freeman

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Over the course of  October 2017, Brian James Freeman and the folks at Hydra have gotten together to present a total of twenty-five Halloween tales of horror from twenty-five of the best genre writers working today.  Every Tuesday during October there will be a new volume in the Halloween Carnival anthology series.

If the rest of the series is as strong as volume one, readers are in for a treat.

Strange Candy by Robert McCammon - Wow.  What a wonderful way to open this anthology.  A strange piece of candy from the Halloween "loot," eaten without thought, leads to a series of out of body experiences.  Not dissimilar to Dickens' ghosts in A Christmas Carol.  A charming story from start to finish.  ...I didn't want to die, but...still...it was just a piece of candy, shaped like a hand.  What was the big deal?

The Rage of Achilles or When Mockingbirds Sing by Kevin Lucia - One of Kevin's Clifton Heights stories.  This one takes place on Halloween and features the customary twist.  Horrifying.  Tragic. Real. Gut-wrenching.

Demon Air by John R. Little - Mom never admitted it, but Halle always knew she was named after Halloween.  Halle finds herself on a plane to Australia in search of her roots after learning she was adopted and taking one of those DNA Ancestry tests and finding out she was 60% Australian Aborigine.  All of that takes a backseat when the Diamond Air flight she's on crosses the International Dateline.  It's Halloween and suddenly she's in the middle of a nightmare where the flight crew is trying to get her to bob for apples...  He brought the green bowl toward her,  and she could see the water sloshing.  When she looked down, she saw that the water was tan-colored and had patches of fuzz floating on it.  The apples were rotten.  Not just a little.  They were mostly brown patches with worms squirming in and out.  There were so many worms that she couldn't see any spot on any of the apples that was clear. 

La Hacienda de los Muertos by Lisa Morton - The filming of a Mexican horror movie at the site of a real-life haunting.  LaLlorona was once an earthly woman who fell in love with a man and had two children with him.  The man betrayed her.  So she killed the two children by drowning them, then herself in the Tecpan river...now her spirit supposedly wanders the banks of the river, looking for living human children she can claim as her own.

#MakeHalloweenScaryAgain by Mark Allen Gunnells - This set of stories wraps up with a novella about a small town that becomes gripped in fear after local horror writer, Dustin Davis, posts on his Facebook page about how Halloween is no longer the scary holiday he associated with his youth #Make HalloweenScaryAgain.  When a serial killer takes Dustin up on his challenge, all hell breaks loose.  The following flyers start appearing all over town.  I WILL RESTORE ALL HALLOWS' EVE TO ITS RIGHTFUL SACRED POSITION WHEN I'M DONE PEOPLE WILL REVERE THE HOLIDAY AGAIN ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT I WILL PICK ONE HOUSE IN TOWN AMONG THOSE NOT DECORATED FOR THE SEASON AND EVERYONE INSIDE WILL BE KILLED THIS A PROMISE #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain

Every story delivers in his own way.  I hope subsequent volumes in the series are just as creepy.  If you love a good Halloween scare half as much as I do, start reading today.

Halloween Carnival Volume One is published by Hydra, a division of Random House, and is available as an ebook.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review: Carnacki - The Edinburgh Townhouse and Other Stories by William Meikle

5 of 5 Stars   Review copy

Thomas Carnacki is a fictional occult detective created by English fantasy writer William Hope Hodgson. Carnacki was the protagonist of a series of six short stories published between 1910 and 1912. These stories were printed together as Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder in 1913.

Somewhere along the way, William Meikle picked up the torch and continued the tradition begun by Hodgson more than a century ago.  Carnacki - The Edinburgh Townhouse is Meikle's third such collection.

The basic formula for these stories hasn't changed in over a hundred years, yet the stories are fresh as anything being written today.

The Photographer's Friend - The tale of a studio photographer with an unusual problem.  An image which appears in all of the photos he takes, potentially destroying his livelihood.  ...a bloated, gray form, almost the size of a soccer ball and hunched like a squat curmudgeonly toad, which was there in every photograph...

Fins In the Fog - The story of a shark with revenge on its mind.  Featuring Captain Gault, a pirate, of sorts, who is being chased by a shark, even on land.

The Cheyne Walk Infestation - One of Carnacki's dinner parties is attacked by creepy crawly thingies.

An Unexpected Delivery - Thomas Carnacki is questioned by Scotland Yard in the death of his old friend George Edwards as a cursed locket comes into his possession.

A Sticky Wicket - I love the title of this tale of a problem at a local cricket club where the home team seems to be at a mysterious disadvantage.

The King's Treasure - A King's treasure and a curse to boot as Carnacki's friend and pirate, Captain Gault, is once again over his head with the occult.  "Aye," Gault replied.  "Every time we try to make a dive.  I've got blasted air giving out, lines getting fouled, anchors not taking grip on the sea bed, and suits springing mystery leaks; Any one of them I'd be able to shrug off as a minor problem, but all of them at once?  It's too much to be mere happenstance.'

Mr. Churchill's Surprise - One of my favorite tales in this collection.  One of Carnacki's infrequent encounters with Winston Churchill.  What you are about to see is the best kept secret in the country at the moment, and we must ensure it remains that way.  Apart from my chaps on guard here, there's only ten people know of it, and you are the tenth.

The Edinburgh Townhouse - A delightful tale of a haunted townhouse with a touch of romance.

A Night In the Storeroom - What lurks in the storeroom beneath the British Museum Library?  "There was another grunt, louder than ever, and a shuffle, followed by a high screech as crates were roughly shoved aside as if they were empty."

Into the Light - Winston Churchill once again calls upon the services of Thomas Carnacki. In this tale we learn that summoning a demon is one thing and controlling it is quite another.

I greatly enjoyed the storytelling which often takes place after a nice meal with friends and retiring to the library for drinks and smokes.  The style is not dissimilar to that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, even though the tales themselves are decidedly different.

Now I'm going to have to go back and read Meikle's previous Carnacki collections, Carnacki Heaven and Hell and Carnacki: The Watcher At the Gate.

Carnacki: The Edinburgh Townhouse and Other Stories in both paperback and ebook formats.

From the author's bio - William Meike is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles, and icebergs for company and when he's not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar and dreams of fortune and glory.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: Cthulhu Blues A SPECTRA Files novel - by Douglas Wynne

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Cthulhu Blues is a fitting conclusion to the SPECTRA Files series which began in 2015 with Red Equinox and continued last year with Black January.  I'm going to miss Becca Philips and Jason Brooks as they battle the cosmic horrors found in the Lovecraftian mythos.  I'll even miss Becca's dog Django.

The latest story begins with Becca having checked herself into the Psych Center at UMASS, Tewksbury, to be monitored while she slept.  Her symptoms, singing in her sleep and a recurring nightmare at 3:33 every morning.  In addition, mirrors are showing a link to another world.

A cyclone of eels revolved in the water below the mirror's surface, coalescing in a pattern resembling a woman turning in a pirouette, trailing scarves of black flesh.  A chill coursed through Becca's skin just as warmth ran down the inside of her leg and urine puddled at her feet.

There are a number of children around the country who also have been singing in their sleep and they've been collected by a mysterious minstrel to form A choir of the Voice, an instrument played by the ocean..."They're going to raise Cthulhu."

Can Becca save the children and stop this catastrophe from occurring or will she join the choir?

Filled with twists and the Lovecraftian vibe these SPECTRA Files stories are known for.

Cthulhu Blues works well as a standalone novel, but I certainly recommend reading all three books in the series.

Cthulhu Blues is available in both paperback and e-book formats from JournalStone.

From the author's bio. Douglas Wynne wrote his first dark fantasy novel at the age of fifteen but has never found the courage to take it down from the attic and read it. After a long detour through music school, rock bands, and recording studios, he came full circle back to fiction writing and is recently the author of five novels: The Devil of Echo Lake, Steel Breeze, and the SPECTRA Files trilogy (Red Equinox, Black January, and Cthulhu Blues). He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and son and a houseful of animals.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Blanky - by Kealan Patrick Burke

5 of 5 Stars

I love the tag line on the cover of Kealan Patrick Burkes new novella, Blanky.  

The gift that keeps on living.

And then there's the opening line.  One that immediately draws the reader into the story.

You say you can't imagine what it must be like to lose a child.
Let me make it easy for you.
It's the beginning of the end of your world.

What follows is a story I'd compare to having a rug ripped out from under your feet, again and again, as a baby blanket picked up at a flea market seemingly goes on a killing spree.

In addition to being a great story-teller, Kealan Patrick Burke, is a true word craftsman filling his story with gems like these.

The light through the partially open blinds was, like me, feeble and gray.

I stayed at the bar until the choice was removed and the drinks stopped coming.

Red and yellow leaves tussled across the grass that was one rain shy of needing a haircut.

Blanky effectively blurs the line between grief and insanity and is a read I would definitely recommend.

Blanky is currently available 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.

Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, Kealan Patrick Burke is the author of five novels, over a hundred short stories, six collections, and editor of four anthologies. In 2004, he was honored with the Bram Stoker Award for his novella, Turtle Boy.  Kealan also designs covers for print and digital books through his company Elderlamon Design.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Ugly Little Things - by Todd Keilsing

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Earlier this year, I read Todd Keisling's novella, The Final Reconciliation. It's still one of my favorite reads from 2017.  Ugly Little Things is Keisling's first collection and if you didn't get to read The Final Reconciliation, I've got good news on a couple of counts. Not only is his new book a chance to be introduced to his work through ten of his shorter pieces, but it also includes his critically acclaimed novella.

A Man In Your Garden - Ever see something out of the corner of your eye and then question whether it was really there?  Take that premise, add a delightfully creepy twist and you have A Man In Your Garden.  And one of my favorite lines in the entire book.  ...you tell yourself it was your imagination, a phantom conjured from the tomb of sleep, given life by the bourbon soaking into your liver.

Show Me Where the Waters Fill Your Grave - A well-constructed and bittersweet tale of never-ending love with a healthy dose of horror.

Radio Free Nowhere - A road trip, a radio dead zone, the song of a siren...and oh, the horror.

The Otherland Express - A terrific story with a Twilight Zone vibe.  I'm a genuine Nobody.  I help all the other Nobodies get from here to there, and sometimes I find Nobodies who don't realize they're Nobodies.  Sometimes, I find people who want to become Nobodies just like the rest of us.

Saving Granny from the Devil - A totally enjoyable story about choices.  One that shows the man in black in a new light.

The Darkness Between Dead Stars - A mission to Mars, a single volunteer, a familiar trope with a fresh look.

Human Resources - Lovecraftian mythos in the age of technology and one of the best opening lines I've read this year.  It is with deep regret and sorrow that I must bid you farewell.  Effective immediately, I am resigning from my duties as HR manager on account of having just murdered my assistant and misleading others at the company.

House of Nettle and Thorn - A story with mutant plant girls.  Whats not to like?

When Karen Met Her Mountain - Is it ironic that I'm reading a story about Karen meeting her mountain at the same time I met a mountain of my own? In a single week, I nearly had a kidney transplant, but the kidney was damaged and we had to pass, I fell down a flight of stairs, and was hospitalized with Congestive Heart Failure. The following week I began dialysis.  As Karen Singleton's Daddy would say, "...sometimes things just happen and there's nothin' to be done about it...when there's a mountain in your way, you either climb other it, or you find a way around it.  There ain't no in-between."

The Harbinger - Some people are afraid of clowns, for me, it's dolls.  In this short, Keisling takes a familiar trope and delivers an effectively scary tale.

The Final Reconciliation - In this novella Todd Keisling introduces readers to the fictional heavy metal band The Yellow Kings.  It's been years since that fateful show at a small L.A. nightclub.  Miles Hargrove and his producer are interviewing Aidan Cross, looking for the true story of their one and only performance of The Final Reconciliation.

Todd Keisling is a wonderful story-teller.  As I read the diverse tales in Ugly Little Things I found the only common thread to be the horror.  It's there in every story, and I couldn't wait to see where the author would take me next.

Ugly Little Things is available from Crystal Lake Publishing  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.

Todd Keisling is the author of A Life Transparent, The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the critically-acclaimed novella, The Final Reconciliation. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania with his wife, son, and a trio of unruly cats.







Guest post: Who Made Who? - by Author Todd Keisling

Who Made Who?


I was a weird kid.

While most five-year-olds in the late 80s probably spent their free time watching He-Man and G.I. Joe, I had a different obsession: Horror films. You can blame my mother for that. After my parents divorced, Mom and I lived with my great-grandmother for a few years, and during that time, Mom worked days and went to school at night. My granny could only keep me occupied for so many hours before winding down herself, and since we couldn’t afford daycare, Mom turned to the next best thing: a VCR.

My grandmother worked part-time at our small town’s only video rental place—Showtime Video, it was called—so we had access to hundreds of rentals at a discount. Every week, Mom would rent a batch of films. Some for herself and some for me. Some of my earliest memories are from that time, sitting in front of Granny’s old console television, watching Labyrinth, Return to Oz, and Maximum Overdrive.

I know. One of those things is not like the others. Let me explain.

In her defense, I’m not sure Mom really expected me to watch all of the movies she rented for me. She probably figured I’d get bored with them or fall asleep before I could finish them. As you might imagine, the exact opposite happened. When I finished my movies, I started watching hers. Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th were part of my VHS diet. Out of all of them, though, two favorites emerged: Maximum Overdrive and Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.

Looking back, I’m not sure what it was about them that captured my imagination so much. Maximum Overdrive is a terrible film (what I’d call a good “Bad” movie), but it has that Green Goblin truck, and it has some hilarious moments (the Ice Cream truck, the lawnmower, the vending machine at the baseball park). I say hilarious because, to a five-year-old, those scenes aren’t particularly scary. They’re inanimate objects coming to life—just like in the cartoons I also watched—but with a lot more bad language and AC/DC providing the soundtrack.

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn is a far better film—one of my all-time favorites, in fact—driven by bizarre effects, over-the-top acting by the amazing Bruce Campbell, and a batshit-crazy storyline about the Necronomicon, demon resurrection, MacGyver-like resourcefulness, and time travel. The film also has its own share of (intentional) hilarity and slapstick, from Bruce Campbell getting blasted in the face by a geyser of blood to fighting off his possessed hand. While most kids in elementary school had their heroes like Batman and Superman, I admired the guy who was willing to cut off his own hand and replace it with a chainsaw in order to fight evil. I wanted to be Ash Williams for Halloween; instead, I was a vampire.

When I say these films were my favorites, I mean I was obsessed with them. I watched them every day. Every time Mom went back to Showtime Video, I asked her to rent them again. And again. And again. There was a point where Mom had rented them so many times that it would’ve been cheaper for her to just buy the movies—which weren’t cheap back then. So, she had a friend copy both films onto a blank VHS cassette—along with a film of her choosing, which happened to be Dirty Dancing.

That personalized VHS cassette was one of my most prized possessions. I carried it with me everywhere. Whenever I went to my dad’s place for the weekend, I brought that cassette with me and subjected him to its insanity. Needless to say, Mom didn’t get to watch Dirty Dancing very much. In fact, that whole section of the cassette was nearly ruined from my constant fast-forwarding from Maximum Overdrive to Evil Dead 2.

As you might imagine, there were effects to this constant exposure to horror from an early age. My childhood drawings involved monsters and heroes. I made up stories about fighting evil. I tucked my hand into my sleeve and replaced it with a toy weapon which I used to fight off twisted creatures from the abyss. Sometimes I donned an old cape I’d worn at Halloween and hunted these monsters in Granny’s backyard. I was cautious of semi-trucks, ice cream trucks, lawnmowers, and chainsaws. And somehow, I had memorized the lyrics to “Hells Bells” before completing elementary school. I knew the word “fuck” was a powerful one, having blurted out “fuck face” in front of Granny one afternoon that earned me both a sore behind and an awkward conversation with my mother later that day.

I’m sure all the parents out there are probably cringing and wagging their fingers, but don’t misunderstand my point. I’m not writing this to throw my mom under the bus (or a semi-truck, for that matter). Quite the contrary, in fact. Mom recognized my affinity for these gruesome subjects very early on, and she saw what they did for my creativity. Most parents these days would probably try to curb such influences, but I’m grateful that my mother didn’t. My obsession with horror defined me in a lot of ways, and I have her to thank for that.

Life is kind of funny in the way it sets up so many parallels and intersections. Things you didn’t know were related later reveal themselves to be intricately entwined. Maximum Overdrive and Evil Dead 2 are perfect examples. Most of the horror aficionados probably know what I’m referring to, and I ask for their patience while I explain for the uninitiated.

Several years ago, I learned that Maximum Overdrive was Stephen King’s directorial debut, based on his short story, “Trucks.” Although Mr. King needs no introduction, it’s worth mentioning that several years prior to its release, he provided a quote for an upcoming horror film by a bunch of no-name filmmakers from Michigan. That film was the first Evil Dead, and the filmmakers were Sam, Ted, and Ivan Raimi. Years later, while directing Maximum Overdrive, King would lend some of his crew to those same filmmakers to help out with the filming of Evil Dead 2.

Of course, Mom was also an avid reader. She always had novels by King and Koontz on her nightstand.

If we’re keeping score, that’s a lot of Stephen King in my young life. Some might call that kismet. King fans might also call it ka.

My point is, when I look back on my early years and try to examine what put me on this path to being a horror writer, I always go back to those days at Granny’s house. Those days when I camped out in front of her old console television, watching Emilio Estevez fire a rocket into an oncoming truck while shouting, “Adios, motherfucker!” Those lazy afternoons when I recited the demon resurrection passages along with Professor Raymond Knowby, “Nos-feratos, amantos, Kanda.”

These days, whenever I hear Brian Johnson sing “Who Made Who?”, I have to smile because I know
the answer to that question. I mean, isn’t it obvious?
                                                                                                                             
TODD KEISLING is the author of A Life Transparent, The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the critically-acclaimed novella, The Final Reconciliation. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania with his wife, son, and a trio of unruly cats.

Website: www.toddkeisling.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/todd.keisling/
Twitter: @todd_keisling
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toddkeisling/

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: The Noctuary: Pandemonium - by Greg Chapman

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy


I first read The Noctuary more than five years ago, so I was happy that Greg Chapman decided to incorporate the original novella in this new, longer, work based on his own source material.

It all starts when writer, Simon Ryan, begins conversing with his muse who reveals himself as Meknok, the thing in his dreams. Meknok offers Simon a rather unique opportunity.  To rewrite his own history.  Wow.  What a concept?  How many of us would love to put pen to paper and thereby change our lives for the better? More money, a better job, a more loving companion.  Sounds simple, but the reality is so much more complex.

In Pandemonium Simon Ryan has gone missing until one day a manuscript, purportedly written by the awol writer, shows up at the office of his former Psychiatrist, Dr. Desmond Carter.

As a result, the Doctor's life is about to change, and not for the better, as all hell breaks loose.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Pandemonium as follows...

1  -  The capital of Hell in Milton's Paradise Lost
2  -  The infernal regions :  hell the demons of Pandemonium
3  -  Not capitalized :  a wild uproar :  tumult Pandemonium erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.

After reading The Noctuary: Pandemonium it seems as if Chapman managed to roll all three of those definitions into one.

If you're tired of the same old horror story, add this one to your watch list and pick it up when it becomes available this November.

The Noctuary: Pandemonium will be published by Bloodshot Books.

From the author's bio - Greg Chapman is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated® and Australian Shadows Award-nominated author of Hollow House and the author of five novellas. His second novel, The Noctuary: Pandemonium, the sequel to his acclaimed 2011 novella, will be published by Bloodshot Books in late 2017.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Guest post: Greg Chapman: A few words on "Words"

Words

“Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Words have real power over me.

My life is defined by them.

Every day I write hundreds of words; not all of them are fiction (I work in public relations for a university), but I know how they can have an incredible amount of power over people’s perceptions of reality.

Think about how many thousands of words you are exposed to each day; by reading the newspaper, or scrolling through social media. The impact they can have upon your mental state is astounding. A half a dozen simple words can cheer you up or infuriate you. What about a 600-year-old Constitution, or a Bible? Do they confine or release you? The only thing for certain is that words define us all.

My latest novel, Pandemonium, the sequel to my 2011 novella, The Noctuary, is about the power of words, in particular, the words penned by one of the characters, an author named Simon Ryan. Ryan is a “dark scribe”, a soul chosen by a group of Dark Muses, to rewrite human lives to fulfill the Muses need to damn every living soul.

When I started to write Pandemonium I knew I wanted to push the boundaries of my original story and explore the very nature of words and how they can corrupt. All religion and philosophy is rooted in words and myth, with people first telling each other stories in darkened caves tens of thousands of years ago. Language and story are what separates us from all other species, but where did language come from?

This idea – and the philosophy of “good and evil” has always fascinated me. What if language was the root of all evil, or allowed us to “comprehend” the darkness within ourselves? This is all deep psychological stuff, hence the decision to make the central character in Pandemonium a psychiatrist. Through Dr. Desmond Carter – the psychiatrist who first treated Simon’s psychological scars – I explore these notions and retell The Noctuary all over again.

If you could retell your story, would you? If you could right a wrong, or undo a tragedy with the flick of a pen, would you? If you looked deep within yourself what would you find there? How much darkness might you find there? Where did it come from?

Even now, as you read these words, you are asking yourself these questions, influencing your thoughts.

What power do words have over you?
                                                                                                                                               
From the author's bio - Greg Chapman is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated® and Australian Shadows Award-nominated author of Hollow House and the author of five novellas. His second novel, The Noctuary: Pandemonium, the sequel to his acclaimed 2011 novella, will be published by Bloodshot Books in late 2017.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Ring of Fire - by Robert Ford

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

There are some writers I wish were getting more attention. Writers who have paid their dues and put out quality work, again and again, but still seem to remain in the background, underappreciated.  Robert Ford is one such writer.

Last year he published a novella called The Last Firefly of Summer, a bittersweet "story of first love, true love, the love where you would do absolutely anything for the other person. Anything."  One of my favorite novellas of 2016.

This year he offers up something completely different, as he returns to the world of Samson Gallows featured in his 2012 novella, Samson and Denial.  In Ring of Fire, Robert starts with an eloquent, if profanity laced, rant against infomercials, the medical industry, the media, and Gatlin, KY.  Not for the easily offended.

Here's a snippet describing the effects of the local meth trade in Gatlin, KY...

One guy smoked up and dragged his wife down to the train tracks, behind his farmhouse. Tied her up right to the rails, Dudley Do Right style. 'Course the train through Calverton stopped running years ago.  She spent the night getting bit by skeeters and when morning came she had some awful rope burns and looked like she had a bad case of the measles but was otherwise all right.

If you're looking for a rip-snortin' good time, pick up this quick read and follow the misadventures of one man just trying to get through a very bad day.

One more example of what you're in for...

I hustled into the drive and passed the first brown trailer on my left.  That's where the landlord, Betsy Aus, presided–and believe you me, she was some piece of work.  Late sixties and gardening braless in a tank top every afternoon when it was warm out.  Shorts cut to high heaven and her body the shape and condition of an overcooked apple dumpling. Gravity had certainly had a battle with Betsy's body and won.  It appeared as if two ferrets were sleeping inside her tank top.

Ring of Fire is difficult to pigeonhole into a specific genre but funny as hell and a damn good time. My only complaint is the story was way too short.  I would have loved to have read more.

At the end of Ring of Fire there's an excerpt from The Last Firefly of Summer,  I recommend you skip the excerpt and go buy that novella as well.  Although decidedly different I believe you'll enjoy both of these works from Robert Ford, a name worth remembering.

Ring of Fire is available in both paperback and 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 - Robert Ford writes stories that are always focused on the characters, first and foremost. Anything else just happens to be happening. "If I can write a story that makes the reader feel—laugh, or cry, or get angry or upset—if I can write an engaging story that involves the reader and hits them emotionally, then, and only then, have I done my job."

Previous works include The Last Firefly of Summer, The Compound, and Samson and Denial. Robert currently lives in central Pennsylvania.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Those Who Follow - by Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason (The Sisters of Slaughter)

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Twin sisters, Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason made quite a splash last year with their novel, Mayan Blue.  Now, the Sisters of Slaughter, as they are collective known, are back with a new novel called Those Who Follow.

Celia is a bit of a vagabond who is known to lose a day or a few days here and there thanks to her flask and the assortment of pills which were her constant companions.

There's no doubt her confusion contributed to her circumstance in the desert...

Scrambling from her hiding spot, she fled, cursing her limbs that seemed atrophied with fear.  A walking nightmare came bearing down on her with ungodly speed. The sound of the massive hound's paws tearing the dusty earth beneath it was second only to the thunderous pounding of her pulse in her ears.  The distance was closed in a matter of seconds and, as it leapt, she was flooded with defeat.

She awoke a captive in a church with a number of other women, each with a number carved into their forehead representing the year they were taken, the oldest was sixty-eight, Celia was fourteen.

Miles and worlds away lies Casey who is in an asylum and awakens with the number fourteen engraved on her forehead.  What does it all mean, who is the mysterious man who would be god holding these women captive in an abandoned church?

Those Who Follow features other dimensions and the ability to travel from one to another.  It also has one of the most bloodthirsty, villainous characters I've seen in quite some time.

It took me a bit to really embrace the story the sisters of slaughter were presenting here, but once I got up to speed I totally enjoyed the ride.

A dark, violent, and challenging tale which horror fans are sure to embrace.

Those Who Follow is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Bloodshot Books. 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 authors' bio - Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason.are twin sisters from Arizona.  They have been dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter. They write horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: Congregations of the Dead (A Griffin and Price Novel) - by James A. Moore & Charles R. Rutledge

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Congregations of the Dead is the second collaboration in the Griffin and Price series written by James A.Moore & Charles R. Rutledge. The first being  Blind Shadows.  You often hear that it's not necessary to read the first book in a series and it's rarely true, but Congregations of the Dead really does work well as a standalone novel.

The central characters throughout the book are Sheriff Carl Price and Private Investigator Wade Griffin.  At the beginning of the book, the Blackbourne family (a pre-human race whom the Cherokee tribes of Georgia called "the Moon-Eyed ones") was up to its old tricks, trying to summon one of the outer gods to Earth.  Led by the family matriarch, Siobhan.  Thankfully, things did not go well.

The summoning had failed and the outer god had fallen back into the void, taking Siobhan with him.

But, wait.  There's more.

There's the story about a cretin called Tadpole who cozies up to single moms with young daughters and eventually sells the daughters into sex slavery.  Price and Griffin put an end to his shenanigans post haste.

But here's the big story. There's a pastor who's come to town by the name of Reverend Lazarus Cotton.  He's been holding outdoor revivals and seems to be tied to the disappearance of another young girl.

What Price and Griffin uncover may lead to their demise, unless they get help from a most unlikely source.

"'We might have to do something slightly illegal.'  'And wouldn't that be a shame?  Me being the Sheriff and all.' 'Scandalous.' 'I'll pick you up in half an hour, Wade. 'I'll be ready.'"

Imaginative, filled with wonderfully rich, fully- drawn characters.  Great pacing.  Terrific action scenes.  The story finds the heroes combating dark forces on multiple fronts.  And Jonathan Crowley, my favorite James A. Moore character, even has a cameo.

Here, the writers paint a perfect picture of Betty, a waitress at the Rabbit Hutch Diner...

The woman was in her fifties and looked like a long-time anorexic, but that was just the way she was built.  Her hair was exactly the color of red that comes from generic hair dye and her makeup brought to mind a few of the clowns he's seen the last time he went to the circus - not a comforting thought as he absolutely hated clowns - but aside from the artificial attempts to look twenty years younger she was a sweet lady.

Congregations of the Dead is great fun and I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series, A Hell Within.

Congregations of the Dead (A Griffin and Price Novel) is published by Cohesion Press and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the Authors' bios...

James A. Moore is the award winning author of over twenty novels, thrillers, dark fantasy and horror alike.  The author cut his teeth in the industry writing for Marvel Comics and authoring over twenty roleplaying supplement
s for White Wolf Games.  He is currently at work on several additional projects.

Charles R. Rutledge - After a couple of decades teaching karate, writing comic books, and spending way too much time reading mysteries, SF, horror, and assorted other genres of fiction,  decided it was time to actually turn out some fiction of his own. Charles is the co-author of three books in the Griffin and Price Urban Fantasy/Horror series, Blind Shadows, Congregations of the Dead, and the forthcoming A Hell Within, all written with James A.Moore.  A lifelong resident of Georgia, Charles lives in the Atlanta area where he is currently hard at work on other writing projects. He does have a cat, but writers always mention their cats so there you go.



Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: An Angel Fallen: A Supernatural Horror Novella - by Andy Graham

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

An Angel Fallen features two of the most unlikable, irredeemable characters in best buds Michael and Raph, and yet there is something special about this novella.

Raph likes to maim and kill neighborhood pets and Michael just goes along to watch, making him just a culpable in my eyes.

Raph and Mike were planning their next adventure which included poisoning the neighbor's dog and breaking its legs when something came tumbling out of the sky.

One might expect an angel to help this misguided duo to see the error of their ways, but that certainly wouldn't be much fun.

There are a couple of nice twists in Andy Graham's novella which makes it worth your time and money.  The writing style borders on poetic (I'm not a fan), but the story is good and redemption is not for everybody.

An Angel Fallen is currently available as an e-book.

From the author's bio - Andy Graham is a British author currently living in the Czech Republic who has two main collections of books: The Lords of Misrule is a series of dystopian political thrillers set in an alternate world based on life in 21st century EU/ US.  He also has an expanding collection of creepy reads that explore the darker side of life, death, and the undead. Outside of reading and writing, Andy is a musician, qualified osteopath, seasoned insomniac, and father to two young kids who have too much energy to let him grow old gracefully.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Guest Post: Andy Graham - Author of An Angel Fallen on the matter of Self Publishing

Self-publishing’s dirty little secret.

Andy Graham

An Angel Fallen blog tour.

Want to know the dirty little secret in the self-publishing world?

Not everyone succeeds.

That’s it. Not exactly life-shattering news, but read on...

This dirty word of failure is obviously not limited to self-publishing. It applies across the board, from artists to software startups, but seeing as this is a blog for a book site, let me stick to the world of authors.

There are a lot of people selling the dream of ‘anyone can be an author’. Some are more scrupulous than others. In many respects, due to the onset of online publishing and the rapid advances in technology, the idea that anyone can be a self-published author if they have a keyboard and a router has never been truer.

The obvious downside to this is that there are a lot of people chasing the same dream, often using the same ideas and ‘tactics’ to try and get readers’ attention. This means the market place is flooded with books. Some are great. Some less so. Therefore, just like night needs day, left needs right, and Mother Abagail needs Randall Flagg (guess what book I’m reading at the moment!), you won’t get successful authors without unsuccessful ones. The former can’t exist without the latter. Stephen King (AKA The Man and a big hint to my earlier question) wouldn’t be a bestselling author if only his books existed. He would just be The Author.

So why do some people fail?

Ha! If I could sell guaranteed success, Donald Trump would be my butler and tweeting this blog 140 characters at a time! Covfefe, he would!

But, here’s my take.

It could be simply because the book isn’t good enough. I’ve read some books, both traditional and self-published, that have made me want to drown my kindle. A lot of those books also have rave

reviews. I’m hoping that’s just a matter of different tastes rather than scammy practices such as paying for reviews.

Maybe the author is not working enough.

Maybe the author’s not working at all.

Maybe the author is only writing. Writing a book is hard; promoting it is harder.

Maybe the writer fails to hit the public mood.

Is it because there are too many people trying to do the same thing?

Maybe Jeff Bezos has heard you dissing the mighty ‘Zon! No, not really. (Hi Jeff! If you’re reading this, love what you’ve done with Amazon. Orange has always been my favourite colour.)

Or is it just that the author’s advertising skills aren’t great? Let’s be honest, so much success is down to advertising skills rather than anything else. Before you start grumbling, I’m not saying that makes one’s success any less valid, nor that it applies to everyone who is doing well. All I am saying is that advertising and marketing are essential parts of any business.

It is the author’s job to deal with the above, and if he or she doesn’t address these to the best of their ability, then they are responsible for their own lack of success.

(There’s that word ‘success’ again. At times, for me, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel, at times it’s the light filtering down from the surface of the pond as I try and slip the concrete slippers off my feet.)

But, a successful author can only be a successful author with an audience and this is where you come in, dear reader.

How?

Simple.

If you like an author, please do something to demonstrate that.

Let’s go old-skool to start: Tell the author you liked their work. Message them through their social media page or contact page on

their website (we’ve all got them). Having someone take the time out to actually drop us a line is fantastic.

Tell a friend. It costs nothing to tell someone about a good book, and word of mouth is still the best form of advertising.

Share/tweet/forward a post you see on social media.

‘Like’ the book/author. That said, my own view on this is that likes and hearts and so on don’t actually make a big difference to the world. They feel nice, add a bit of weight to the post but change very little.

Feeling inspired? Write a short post on social media.

Leave a review. They help. Honestly. I know you’ve probably heard this time and time again, but they really do make a difference. Reviews don’t need to be long, “Great book” would be fine if it is a great book.

Finally, buy a book. In many ways, this is the most obvious. In some respects, it isn’t. With the ‘freemium’ model of Internet marketing, it occasionally gets forgotten that authors need to sell books to survive. A lot of indie authors keep their books at a very low price (a lot less than you’d pay for a pint in a pub) so the cost to a potential reader is minimal. I understand that money is an issue for many people, but without sales, artists will eventually have to stop being artists and be something else.

Not everyone succeeds. That’s old news. But if you like an author (artist, musician, review site etc.), please consider taking a little time out of your day or even a little money out of your wallet (shh... this is the thing the advertising gurus tell marketing muppets like me that ‘we’re not allowed to say’) to demonstrate your support for that artist. Failing that, I’ll take a ‘like’. :-)

Thank you for reading.
                                                                                                                                             
From the author's bio - Andy Graham is a British author currently living in the Czech Republic who will now stop talking about himself in the third person because it's odd. I have two main collections of books: The Lords of Misrule is a series of dystopian political thrillers set in an alternate world based on life in 21st century EU/ US. I also have an expanding collection of creepy reads that explore the darker side of life, death, and the undead. There are a few unfinished stories rattling around in my hard-drive and some unstarted ones knocking around in my head. They range from disposable airport fiction and YA sci fi to grimdark epics, but they will have to wait their turn. (Unfortunately for my wife, who is waiting for me to write something 'nice', preferably with sparkly vampires.) Outside of reading and writing, I'm a musician, qualified osteopath, seasoned insomniac, and father to two young kids who have too much energy to let me grow old gracefully.

You can find me online at www.andygrahamauthor.com (where you can claim a free book), twitter - @andygraham2001 and FB - andy graham author.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Come To Dust - by Bracken MacLeod

5 of 5 Stars  Review copy

Last year, I got to read Bracken MacLeod's Stranded, sixteen crew members of the Arctic Promise who become ice bound under strange circumstances. If you haven't read it, you should. It's one of 2016's better reads.

Bracken's new release, Come To Dust, is even better.  Children die.  It's horrible when it happens, but we read about or hear about such tragedy every day.

Bracken beautifully captures the grief of laying a child to rest...

Although green AstroTurf had been draped down to cover the bare earth sides of the hole, there was no imaginable way to disguise the fact that they were lowering a child into a grave. There was nothing loud enough to dispel the silence of a dead child.

Mitch LeRoux is taking steps to get his life back on track after a stint in prison. He's not just doing it for himself, but also for his niece, Sophie, who's been his ward ever since his sister took off with her drummer boyfriend.

I'm pretty sure you can see that things are not going to go well for Mitch, but that's not what Come To Dust is about.

The story unfolds at a blistering pace. I won't reveal all of its secrets.  Those are best discovered in the process of reading the book, which I hope you'll do.

This is a powerful story with highs and lows and more than a few surprises.  In many ways, Come To Dust is about second chances.  It also shines a light on ignorance, and fear of those who are different. Very much a tale of and for the times in which we live.

Highly recommended.

Come To Dust is published by Trepidatio Publishing, a division of Journalstone, and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Bracken MacLeod is the author of the novels Mountain Home and Stranded. His short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including LampLight, ThugLit, and Splatterpunk, and has been collected in 13 Views of the Suicide Woods. He lives outside of Boston with his wife and son, where he is at work on his next novel.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: Bone White - by Ronald Malfi

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." - William Shakespeare

When Joe Mallory, from up on Durham Rd, walked into Tabby White's luncheonette no one expected the announcement he was about to make.

"They're all dead, and I killed 'em.  But I'm done now."

Eight victims over a five-year period.

...the old man was one cherry short of an ice cream sundae, Jill Ryerson's father had been fond of saying.

Dread's Hand, Alaska is a town with a history, a town that could be considered cursed.

There were bad places on earth—dark spots, like bruises—and...Dread's Hand was one of them. 

When Paul Gallo heard the news out of Dread's Hand, it caught his attention right away. After all, that was the name of the town where his twin brother Danny disappeared a year ago.

When you pick up a Ronald Malfi novel you know you are in the hands of a capable writer and there's a remarkable story to be told.

Those woods are haunted by the devil himself, his aunt Lin had told him and his brothers.  A man walks in there, he stands a chance of being touched by the devil. And that man, he goes sour. His mind rots. He becomes a vessel for evil, a vehicle for the devil.

In no time at all the reader is immersed in a great story as Malfi paints a picture of words with the finesse of a great artist.

Expect the unexpected in this great Summer read.  I can strongly recommend this book be placed at the top of your TBR list.

Published by Kensington Books Bone White is will be available on July 25th in paperback, e-book, and audio CD formats.

From the author's bio - Ronald Malfi is an award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He's also a Bram Stoker Award nominee. Most recognized for his haunting, literary style, and memorable characters, Malfi's dark fiction has gained acceptance among readers of all genres. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife, Debra, and their two daughters.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: The Devil's Colony - by Bill Schweigart - The final book in the Fatal Folklore Trilogy

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I love stories set in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey.  I have a special affinity for stories of the Jersey Devil. However, this particular tale deals with a different kind of devil.

Välkommen.

Lance Whelan and his friend Danny learned about this place...

...on the white power message boards, the conspiracy sites, the doomsday blogs.

It was a haven for like-minded individuals and the young men were intrigued by one word more than any other...family.

The Devil's Colony is book three in the Fatal Folklore Trilogy. First, in The Beast of Barcroft, it was what looked like a series of unconnected animal attacks in a suburb of Arlington, Va.  A year later, in Northwoods, a strange creature in the waters of Lake Superior. Now, something that ties them all together is happening in The Devil's Colony.

All the usual suspects are back for the conclusion to the trilogy.  Lindsay Clark and Ben McKelvie, their leader and world-renowned cryptozoologist Richard Severance.  The banter between Severance and his pilot, Erica Cheung, was always fun to read.  Then there's the marksman and muscle of the operation, Davis Holland, and Richard's longtime friend Alex Standingcloud.

On the other side of the fence is Richard's one-time friend and now adversary Henry Drexler and his followers.

A white supremacy conclave, monsters, a dollop of H.P. Lovecraft. What more could you ask for? Mounting suspense with just the right amount of humor.  It did take more than fifty-percent of the book to get to the weird, but once we got there it was intense.  In the conclusion to this trilogy, no one is safe.  There were several moments when I just had to sit back and say, "I can't believe that just happened."

With multiple twists and turns and a wild conclusion that requires a total suspension of your disbelief, The Devil's Colony is certainly entertaining.

Although The Devil's Colony could be read as a standalone novel, it really works best if you've read the other books first.

Recommended.

Published by Hydra, and imprint of Random House LLC, The Devil's Colony, is currently available in e-book format only.

From the author's bio - Bill Schweigart is a former Coast Guard officer who drew from his experiences at sea to write the taut nautical thriller, Slipping the Cable. He's spent the last five years working on the Fatal Folklore Trilogy.  Bill currently lives in Arlington, VA with his wife and daughter, who along with their monstrous Newfoundland and mischievous kitten, provide him with all the adventure he can handle.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Guest Post: Never Trust a Unicorn - by Bill Schweigart, author of the Fatal Folklore Trilogy

Never Trust a Unicorn

I have a confession to make: I’m a fraud.

Before I get to that, I first need to thank the Fantastic Frank Michaels Errington for taking a devil’s holiday and inviting me to hijack his blog. Do what you like, he said. Promote your new novel, The Devil’s Colony, he said. I was touched and honored and excited, then those feelings began to curdle into a familiar sensation: but they’ll know I’m a fraud.

In general, I believe most of us grown-ups feel like frauds. We go around adulting in our big boy or big girl pants, occasionally looking over our shoulders and thinking at any moment the real grown-ups are going to show up and call us out. If you are so confident and self-assured that you sashay through life without such doubts, then congratulations: you are a unicorn. Or the President of the United States. At present, I don’t believe in either of those things and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t trust them.

No, I’m not talking about being an everyday charlatan. This is much more specific to you, Frank’s faithful readers. The first time I realized I was a horror writer was when my agent urged her Twitter followers “to welcome horror writer @billschweigart to the team.” I was shocked. Until that moment, I honestly hadn’t realized I was one. The Beast of Barcroft was my second novel—my first was a thriller about the Coast Guard—so at that point, exactly half of my output horror. Or a “supernatural thriller,” as I imagined it.

But there it was on Twitter, so it had to be true. I thought, “I’m a horror writer? But…but…but I’m squeamish.”

Here’s a semi-spoiler free example: there was a scene in The Beast of Barcroft when my main character Ben McKelvie is visited by a shapeshifting creature that’s been stalking him. His back yard’s motion sensor lights flare and Ben peers through the window to find a wolf staring up at him with glowing eyes. I wrote the scene and thought, “Not bad.” Afterward, as I went adulting into my day, I envisioned that, instead of a wolf, the shapeshifter visited Ben in the form of its last kill, one of Ben’s neighbors. I envisioned the shapeshifter standing there in the guise of his friend, naked, the gore of its latest victim still slathered on his jaw and matted in his chest hair. Ben and the creature’s eyes meet, and the man lifts his head and sniffs as if testing the air between them.

I shuddered, totally creeping myself out. My first thought, incredibly, was, “You can’t do that!” Then a cold, whispery voice hissed You must. I feel like a sham because this horror stuff didn’t come naturally at first. I’m much more comfortable writing the banter between my cryptid-hunting characters. There’s Ben (kind of a dick but trying), Lindsay (a zoologist and as stalwart as Ben is a buffoon), Alex (an embattled professor of Native American Studies), Davis (a special operations veteran and the only one remotely qualified to fight anything, let alone monsters), and Richard

Severance (the cocky-as-hell billionaire cryptozoologist who causes as many problems as he solves). I could write these characters zinging each other in a diner for 300 pages. It’s the murder-y bits I struggle with.

But I rewrote that scene and I’m sure as hell glad I did. With every book, I push myself to keep raising the stakes. In The Beast of Barcroft, the aforementioned shapeshifter slays the residents of a suburban Washington, D.C. neighborhood like a hot knife through butter. Think folklore as a weapon. In Northwoods, the team deploys to the Minnesota woods when they learn of something terrible crossing the border from nightmare into reality. Think folklore as an invasive species.

In The Devil’s Colony, the team faces their deadliest challenge yet. In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a man named Henry Drexler operates a private compound called Välkommen, which is Swedish for “welcome.” Indeed, Drexler welcomes all visitors—so long as they’re racists, neo-Nazis, or otherwise in cahoots with the alt-right. But Drexler is no mere Hitler wannabe. Once he was Severance’s mentor, and his research may well have summoned a monster to the Pine Barrens. Think folklore as a weapon of mass destruction. To find out the truth, Ben and Lindsay must enter the camp incognito. There, under the watchful eyes of Drexler’s bodyguards and sociopathic son, they will learn that that, sometimes, the greatest monster is man.

The Devil's Colony is the final installment of my Fatal Folklore Trilogy, and I assure you, it’s the darkest yet. And to continue the shameless plugging, on July 25, “The Expedition,” a short story set in the same universe will be featured in Volume 7 of Dark Screams, Penguin Random House's horror anthology. I hope you’ll check both out. I poured a lot of soul into my Fatal Folklore Trilogy. I believe in these novels, their characters, their struggles, and relationships. Even if I didn’t always believe in myself. And like good horror, I believe it speaks to the times—and the fears—we’re living in.

But I have another confession to make: a strange thing has been happening recently. I thought finishing the terrifying adventures of Ben and company would exorcise that cold, whispery voice in my head. But it’s still there. And I’m afraid it’s getting louder. Every time I pass a copse of trees, it says Wouldn’t this make a wonderful home for some fanged menace? Every time I pass a dark alley or lonesome field, it says What a lovely place to set a murder.

And I’ve stopped equivocating when people ask what I write. Yes, there’s a lot of humor. Yes, there’s heart. And yes, there’s—gasp—romance. But no, they’re not supernatural thrillers.

“They’re horror,” I say, a gleam in my eye.
                                                                                                                                       
Bill Schweigart revives a bit of forgotten lore from the shadow of Washington, D.C. for his chilling thriller, The Beast of Barcroft which finds a devilish creature stalking the residents of Arlington. Publishers Weekly says "Readers who appreciate a B-movie sensibility, affable characters, and a sense of fun along with their scares will find much to enjoy." Its sequel, Northwoods, follows Ben McKelvie and Lindsay Clark as they travel to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to investigate sightings of a new and terrifying cryptozoological threat. The Devil's Colony, the final novel in the trilogy, will be available July 11, 2017. Bill is a former Coast Guard officer who drew from his experiences at sea to write the taut nautical thriller, Slipping the Cable. Bill currently lives in Arlington, VA with his wife and daughter, who along with their monstrous Newfoundland and mischievous kitten, provide him with all the adventure he can handle.

The Devil's Colony: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/553209/the-devils-colony-by-bill-schweigart/9780399180347

Dark Screams: Volume 7: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/554539/dark-screams-volume-seven-by-edited-by-brian-james-freeman-and-richard-chizmar/9780399181948

Fatal Folklore Trilogy: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/TLG/the-fatal-folklore-trilogya