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


Review: Whispered Echoes - by Paul F. Olson

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Admittedly, I have heard of Paul F. Olson, but up until now, I can't say I've read any of his work.  I can happily say I've now corrected that omission. Whispered Echoes is a wonderful collection of old and new.

One bit of writerly advice I hear again and again is to write what you know. Well, Paul F. Olson knows that part of Michigan called the Upper Peninsula, the part of the state that's surrounded by three of the great lakes.

The first two-thirds of this collection is made up of some of the author's earliest short stories, presented in the order in which they were written.  The last third is the writer's newest novella, Bloodybones.

The title of this collection, Whispered Echoes, was meant to evoke long-lost voices from the past, but as I read the stories I noticed the word whisper, in one form or another, popping up again and again.  I can't say it was in every story, I wasn't paying that much attention, but it certainly had a presence throughout.

The Visitor - A terrific opening to a solid collection.  It's Fall in the Upper Peninsula, but...

...there is something about the season that is not quite right. Something that hasn’t been quite right, in fact, since Kent Barclay began coming into town each October first, taking a room at Elvira Martin’s boarding house, and leaving again during the first week of November.

Over the years Kent became known as "the jinx."  Things just seemed to happen when he was in town.

From A Dreamless Sleep Awakened - The kids have played in the cave as long as there have been kids to do so. But his time something has awoken.

The Forever Bird - Old friends and magic birds and a bit of weed lead to a tragic night.

Homecoming - A disturbing story of a fifteen-year-old in a roadside dive.

"Do you make a habit of serving alcohol to fifteen-year-olds?”“Hey, bud, take a look around. On a night like this, I’d serve my five-year-old nephew."

They Came From The Suburbs - Years before the walking dead, there were the quiet ones.

Through The Storm - I loved this story, the storm, the unknown, the blistering pace all combine for great storytelling.

The More Things Change - This quote pretty much sums up a rather bizarre tale...

A bear rode by on a big Harley. We waved. The bear gave us the finger.

Guides - A story of coming to terms with your destiny.

Getting Back - A wonderfully charming ghost story

Faith And Henry Gustafson - There comes a time when it's no longer safe to put your faith in others.

Down The Valley Wild - An incredibly sad story of Don Stewart confronting his past.

Bloodybones - This new novella begins with a story written by David Mahon...

 I wrote the pages a few months ago at the suggestion of a friend, who said the process could help me understand what happened to Amy Brackett, the light of my life, who vanished suddenly on a stormy Saturday afternoon last October.

This is a very effective ghost story and the stuff of legends.

One of the things I really enjoyed throughout the older stories were the pieces long lost to time, like buying a roll of Certs...listening to Seger on the tape deck...Gooden can outpitch everyone...my transistor radio and I'm sure there were others I missed.

Each story in the collection is its own microcosm of life in the Upper Peninsula with a bit of the weird thrown in to spice things up.  Reading the stories in Whispered Echoes was like eating potato chips, impossible to stop at just one.

Recommended.

Whispered Echoes is available from Crystal Lake Publishing in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.  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 - Paul F. Olson has been a professional writer and editor for 35 years. His first novel, Night Prophets, was published in 1989.  In the late 1980s, he published and edited "Horrorstruck: The World of Dark Fantasy," a trade magazine for horror fans and professionals. With the late David B. Silva, he created the award-winning newsletter "Hellnotes," which he and Silva edited together for five years.  After spending nearly two decades as a small-town newspaper editor, he has returned to a full-time focus on fiction. He currently lives in Brimley, Michigan, not far from the shores of Lake Superior.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review: Blood Dawn - by Jason Bovberg - The conclusion to the Blood Saga trilogy

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Blood Dawn, the final story in Jason Bovberg's Blood Saga trilogy is a bittersweet tale filled with new ideas and strong female characters.

Felicia and Nicole have found something special in Fort Collins, Colorado...

They talk about school, and they talk about books and music, and—again—they laugh at the odd coincidence that they each have a 17-year-old brother named David. They talk about goofy childhood memories and longtime friends back home, and they talk about sex and marijuana, and they talk about past boyfriends and girlfriends, how one notion led to the other.

If you've read books one and two, you know about the alien invasion that's taking place.   We've seen how type O-negative blood is the key to saving those turned by the aliens. When the worst happens to Felicia, she is immediately treated and becomes a pivotal part of the plan to defeat the alien threat for good.

Bovberg is adept at building suspense slowly without dragging things out too much and when Felicia is turned we get a unique perspective from her distinctive voice.

The inner struggle within Felicia is so well conceived and clearly written...

The fact that it happened makes her feel at once violated as if raped and altered. Because she has retained this … this clairvoyance, this telepathy.

There were some times where the story did seem to drag a bit, but it is certainly a solid conclusion to one of the most original trilogies in recent memory.

Recommended.  Although you could read Blood Dawn as a standalone novel, I strongly suggest reading the entire series.

Blood Dawn is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  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 - Jason Bovberg is the author of the Blood trilogy—Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn—as well as The Naked Dame, a throwback pulp noir novel. He is editor/publisher of Dark Highway Press and he lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife Barb and his daughters Harper and Sophie.

Guest Post: Jason Bovberg the author of the Blood trilogy

Today we have a dramatic guest post from the author of the Blood trilogy, Jason Bovberg.

Blood Catharsis
By Jason Bovberg

So, it turns out I authored an entire horror trilogy—the Blood saga, encompassing Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn—before I realized I had written the entire thing as a metaphor for my battle with cancer thirty years ago.

How dense am I?

It’s true: Not long after I typed “The End” on Blood Dawn, the final chapter, I started to reflect on the series as a whole. I felt a sense of accomplishment, sure, and I knew that the series grew stronger as it went along. I also felt that I’d done the characters justice and sent them off properly. Not a bad collection of thoughts after finishing a whacko, blood-drenched horror trilogy! But I also realized something else as I sat there reflecting: The word Blood in all three of my titles—and particularly in Draw Blood—means more than the plot device it springs from. Much more than that, it harkens back to my days of oncology and chemotherapy, a painful time in my life that I now understand will remain a part of me until I kick.

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Shellshocked, I absorbed the diagnosis numbly and lived through it day by day, attending my freshman college courses, gradually becoming a writer. Meanwhile, I was enduring brutal blood and radiation treatments that played hell with my body, leaving me with all kinds of enduring scars. And yet I was young and immortal. I knew the cancer wouldn’t kill me. It might maim me, it might hobble me, but it wouldn’t kill me. That optimism got me through it, and when I was finally declared cured, I tried to shove it all behind me, wanting—needing—the whole experience to be a part of my past. Part of a different me.

Easier said than done. But it worked for years, despite daily reminders that it had happened. Things like hair loss and reduced lung capacity and other heinous internal stuff.

But anyway.

Guess who else is 19? My main character Rachel.

Yeah, I just recently made that connection. She’s a young woman who awakens to unspeakable horror and runs—also shellshocked—through what remains of her world, yearning for answers, grasping at what matters most, relying on those around her for support. She’s innocent, and she’s new to the horrors of the world, and she’s reckless. But she faces it. Strong. Resilient. She makes mistakes, but she also finds the “hero” inside her. And I’m not spoiling much when I tell you that the ending of her story is a happy one. (She lives.)

I used to say that Clive Barker’s Books of Blood was an inspiration for the title of my saga, but now I know that’s not entirely true. Yes, Barker’s books were influential around the time I was going through my cancer episode, but the word Blood suddenly has a more visceral meaning that I had tamped down over the years. Shortly after finishing that final volume, I stared at my three covers side by side, all emblazoned with that word, and the connection was obvious. Coming to this realization was akin to the first time I watched The Sixth Sense—that goosebump-raising moment of “Gaaah!”

Clive Barker is famous for dabbling in what he calls “body horror”—and that is a concept that I definitely explored in my Blood trilogy, albeit unconsciously, through the prism of my experience. The monsters in my novels are wrenched-back monstrosities, humans who have been painfully inhabited by a malevolent presence, wreaking havoc on their tissues, bones, and organs. They are gasping, crooked, and increasingly deformed, and above all they are infected. And it is discovered that these afflicted “monsters” can be turned back to humanity with a “blood cure.”

Stop me when this sounds familiar!

Since coming to these multi-layered realizations, I’ve pondered the power of the subconscious mind and marveled at how the Blood saga poured out of me—a full-on, multifaceted metaphor for my experience, utterly beyond my awareness. I even have a character in Rachel’s past who went through her own cancer ordeal (and lost)! I don’t think of my realization as a blindness, or a cluelessness, but rather a revelation for how much my cancer episode has defined my persona. The truth is, no matter how much I want it to be otherwise, cancer is an integral piece of who I am. It was folly to try to bury the past.

So, I’m left studying the weight of this revelation. Thirty years after my own cancer diagnosis, I have put the final touches on a saga all about the aftermath of my diagnosis. Like it or not, the Blood saga has been a far more personal work than I understood while writing it—a reminder that our experiences, good or bad, remain a part of us for the long haul, and even if we don’t feed them any conscious energy, they’ll be there waiting, feeding off our darker parts.

As you read Blood Red, you can sense the innocence of the protagonist—the shocked recoil and the desperation as she faces a terror entirely new to her. Denial and despair give way to fearlessness. In Draw Blood, Rachel is humbled by her experiences but comes to term with her new reality—in essence, beginning to grow up. And in Blood Dawn—an even more appropriate title, now that I see if for what it is!—she comes of age, overcoming her inner and outer challenges. From the pit of darkness, she rises to find her future bright.
                                                                                                                                             
If you’re interested in checking out the Blood saga, it can be ordered in paperback from your favorite local bookstore, and from Amazon at the following link: https://www.amazon.com/Jason-Bovberg/e/B00JJ36NNW. Check out my website at www.jasonbovberg.com. Follow me on Amazon at https://www.facebook.com/jasonbovberg.author/.                                                                                                                                              Jason Bovberg is the author of the BLOOD trilogy--Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn--as well as The Naked Dame, a throwback pulp noir novel. He is editor/publisher of Dark Highway Press and he lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife Barb and his daughters Harper and Sophie.



Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Lucifer's Star - by C.T. Phipps & Michael Suttkus

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Words I never expected to be typing.  I just read an epic space opera and I absolutely loved it.   So much so I can't wait to return to the world created by C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus in Lucifer's Star.

Cassius Mass the Fire Count. The Colonel-Count of Analathas. The Butcher of Kolthas.  Awarded the highest honor his country had to give...the Lucifer’s Star.

Lucifer's Star is filled with cybernetics, bioroids, and clones  Oh, my. They are all very much the norm, that being said there are still prejudices.  It's a time after the war and being on the losing side sucks.  Cassius is hiding in plain site on board the Melampus.

Just when I think I should no longer stray from my chosen genre of horror along comes this truly great read.  Admittedly I don't have anything to compare this too but it is a solid story with great characters. Cassius Mass is suitably flawed with the mindset of a Han Solo without being a copy and he's certainly not afraid of firing first.

Lucifer's Star is filled with pithy words of wisdom like...

War was always beautiful from a distance, full of glory and promises of epic heroism. 

Lasting peace is a lie told to children. Peace is simply a measure of time between wars. 

...space seemed to have brought out the worst in humanity. 

People don’t give a shit about freedom as long as their bellies are full and there’s something good on the holo.

And...

The bigger the lie, the more people would believe it, especially if you started with something plausible to build on.

Lucifer's Star is filled with explosive twists and turns to numerous to count with delightful wordplay throughout.  There's just so much juicy goodness in a story which is incredibly complex yet easy to follow.

Recommended.

Lucifer's Star is available in paperback, e-book, and audio formats from Crossroad Press.  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' bios...

C.T.Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a geek for life.  He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles" (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/).  To date, his books include Agent G,  Cthulhu Armageddon, Straight Outta Fangton, The Supervillainy Saga, and Lucifer's Star.

Michael Suttkuss is a man of mystery.  There is a dearth of information available about Michael.



Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: Hell Cat of the Holt - by Mark Cassel

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Hell Cat of the Holt is a stand alone Shadow Fabric mythos novella. If you're like me, you may not be familiar with the term holt.  A quick visit to Merriam-Webster provides us with this definition. Holt: a small woods : copse.

Ghosts, big cats, little cats, Shadow Fabric, Pippa (the clairvoyant artist), a witchblade, and more.  For me, that was part of the problem with Hell Cat of the Holt.  It seemed to lack focus.

The writing was rich and colorful...

“The men have been taken through the Fabric,” she said. This time her voice was stronger, clearer. Muffled though, behind the scarf. “For the Construct.” I was about to ask what she meant, when Leo interrupted. “A demon is building a construct?”“Yes,” Pippa answered him. “It’s using the flesh of those men,” Leo explained, seeing my expression, “to build a vessel to walk the earth again.”

After reading Hell Cat of the Holt I had little idea of what I had just read.  I'm convinced I might have enjoyed this piece more if I had read other stories in the Shadow Fabric mythos. There is a bonus short story called The Artist and the Crone which takes pace prior to the events in the main novella.

Although I can't readily recommend this novella, others have enjoyed it and that may be your experience as well.

Hell Cat of the Holt is published by Herbs House and is available in both paperback and e-book formats. 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 - Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines. His best-selling debut novel The Shadow Fabric was closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit.






Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Guest post: Something Familiar - by Mark Cassell

Today I welcome a guest fro across the Atlantic, the UK's Mark Cassell who hs a new novella out, called Hell Cat of the Holt.  And now, Mark Cassell...

Something Familiar

It’s common knowledge that for a companion, witches favour the cat. Known as their familiar, this small domestic animal – supposedly possessed by a low-ranking demon – is given to them as a gift by the Devil. Not just a companion, but as helper and advisor, and also used to perform malicious errands of the black arts.

The familiar, or imp as it was often referred to in the 16th and 17th centuries, is almost exclusive to England and surrounding islands and is a strong contribution to the theory of witchcraft.

Historical records indicate that cats of all colours have been associated with witchcraft; these days, the stereotypical witch’s cat is of course entirely black. As such, it’s claimed that if there is as little as one white hair on its body then the creature’s magical potency is reduced.

Today in rescue centres we see an abundance of black cats, where common superstitious misconceptions have led to them being abandoned, believed to bring bad luck. When actually, should one cross your path it brings good luck (whereas a white one is unlucky).

In addition to this, should one stray into your home, you must embrace it for this brings good fortune.

I once owned a black cat called Leo. After I found his body over a mile away from home, I made certain he’d live on in my debut novel, The Shadow Fabric (2014).

I named the main character after the little guy.

As the most commonly associated animal companion of the witch, the cat is known to be a favourite disguise of the Devil. In addition, it’s said that witches often took on feline shapes themselves, although throughout the centuries such familiars were equally as likely to be a crow, a toad, or any other common – yet small – animal. It was understood, however, that a witch could take the form of a cat nine times, reinforcing the popular belief that a cat has nine lives.

I guess my Leo already had his eight other lives before he was brought home from the rescue centre…

Throughout the witchcraft trials of the 16th and 17th century there was a common test by which one could determine whether a cat was indeed a witch in disguise: place the animal in a vessel of holy water. If the cat attempted to escape, undoubtedly it was a witch.

Rarely was it to the creature’s advantage when it came to witchcraft, and during the month of May when the spirits of the dead were considered to be exceptionally active, any cat born was soon drowned; it was said that they would be useless in hunting.

Cat-familiars were known to be of considerable age, having served numerous witches; inherited by one from another. In 1566, Elizabeth Francis, one of the Chelmsford Witches, claimed to have been given Sathan – a white spotted cat – by her grandmother. Following her ‘ownership’, and having sealed a succession of deals in the black arts (paying the small animal in blood by pricking her finger for each deed), after 15 years she had then passed it on to another witch.

Ursula Kempe, an accused witch during the trial of the Saint Osyth Witches in 1582, confessed to owning two familiars in the shape of cats, named Titty and Jack. Both of which she allegedly sent out on evil errands, and they were rewarded by sucking blood from her left thigh. She had another two familiars alongside the pair: a toad called Pigin and a lamb called Tyffin.

When writing Hell Cat of the Holt (2017), a standalone novella in the Shadow Fabric mythos, I chose to include domestic cats alongside the black cat of legend that surrounds the village in which it’s set. The emotions of Anne, the main character who searches for her missing cat, were too easy for me to write given that Leo was missing for two weeks before I found his body.

Although my Hell Cat story doesn’t contain witches or imps or any other familiar, it does feature ghosts, a sneaky demon, and a black cat much bigger than any you’d wish to meet. Atop that, the characters get tangled up in something way beyond anything history has ever given us…

Hell Cat of the Holt - a novella in the Shadow Fabric mythos is available from Amazon UK : http://amzn.to/2ruB1ux US : http://amzn.to/2rJvqO5

                                                                                                                                               


Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines. His best-selling debut novel The Shadow Fabric was closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit.


Mark’s 2017 release Hell Cat of the Holt further explores the Shadow Fabric mythos with ghosts and black cat legends.

The dystopian sci-fi short story collection Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill is in association with Future Chronicles Photography where he works closely with their models and cosplayers.

For one of Mark’s FREE stories visit www.markcassell.com
Or www.theshadowfabric.co.uk

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: Just Add Water (Mail Order Massacres) - by Hunter Shea

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I absolutely love this opening line from Just Add Water...

When everything was said and done and the dead were long buried, they would blame Wonder Woman.

What follows is a perfect blend of comic books, the eighties, and monsters.

Patrick Richards and David Estrada took on every odd job imaginable to make a few extra bucks and laid down every hard-earned nickel they had on comic books.

It was in a copy of Wonder Woman where they saw the ad for the Amazing Sea Serpents!

In the ad, a smiling family of creatures that looked like a cross between mermaids and anacondas, with almost human faces, waved back at him from the comfort of their underwater city.

When the kit arrived, Patrick and David were suitably excited, but when they didn't see immediate results they wound up dumping the experiment in the Tuckerville sewers.  And that's when all hell breaks loose.

If you are an adult of a certain age and you read comic books when you were a kid, I'm sure you recall seeing ads much like the one Patrick and David responded too.  Hunter Shea takes that same experience we all had, and proceeds to give the reader a helluva ride in this "what if" tale of a childhood adventure run amok and he definitely has fun with this one.

The sea serpents had done a pretty thorough job of digesting as much of every victim as they could, but there were still stray limbs, a few fingers, the top of a scalp, odd bits of clothes and shoes and, draped over a parking meter, the flap of someone’s entire face.

When it comes down to crunch time, only the kids can save the day, and you'll never guess what they use to destroy the monsters.

If you love a good brain cleansing read...this is it.  Totally recommended.

Just Add water  is published by Lyrical Underground, a division of  Kensington Publishing Corp, and is currently available as an e-book.

From the author's bio - Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone, and In Search Of.  He doesn't just write about the paranormal - he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself.

Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come.  Copies of his books, The Montauk Monster and The Dover Demon, are currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME.

Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he's happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray's Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits.  His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.