Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Guest post from Jason Parent, author of A Life Removed

Today,  a guest post from Jason Parent as he talks about a world without heroes...

In a World Without Heroes: that’s the tagline on the back cover of my latest novel, A Life Removed. It’s also the original name for the book. Knowing that between the novel’s first and last pages breathes a dark, perhaps distorted (while others might say realistic?) view of the world—one potentially without heroes in the traditional sense—would you want to step inside?

While this is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, set in a mirror world where the monsters are as real as those you see on the evening news and chock full of uncertain narrators and faulty protagonists, I did leave room for one traditional hero to give those who need someone genuine to cheer for a reason to keep on reading. Are you one of those people?

If you are, I’m not saying there’s any reason you shouldn’t be. A 2017 Bram Stoker nominee and immensely talented author posted recently (paraphrasing) that if he can’t become emotionally invested in a character within the first couple of chapters, he stops reading. I find this is true of many if not the large majority of readers, myself included.

But can you become emotionally invested in a character whose morals are questionable or absent altogether? Is a flawed protagonist necessarily a weak protagonist? For me, it’s a question of “identifiability,” and if that’s not a word, I’m claiming it as one.

I looked it up. It’s a word.

Anyway, I’m not talking about the anti-hero, who has easily become the preferred protagonist for many horror fans over the drink-your-milk, take-your-vitamins kind of hero: the real Han Solo, who shot first and didn’t stick around to ask questions later; the real Indiana Jones, who is misogynistic, brings guns to a swordfight, and is not afraid to run in the face of danger; or the real Rick Deckard, who may or may not be a replicant if you’ve watched that somewhat incoherent Director’s Cut.

Harrison Ford fetishes aside, modern-day antiheroes are much, much worse. And they’re usually pitted against an adversary that’s even more condemnable.

But the most oft-quoted book for the kind of protagonist I’m talking about is Holden Caulfield, who by every sense of the term, is a cantankerous son of a bitch. I loved him. But these dickhead leads were around way before then. MacBeth was one of the biggest douchebags in all of Shakespeare’s work, yet he’s still called a “tragic hero.”

But let’s bring it to the 21st century and the best-selling novels of Gillian Flynn. In her first three books, her “heroes” are beyond flawed. If you’ve read Gone Girl or seen the movie, can you name anything truly likable about her main character besides perhaps her resourcefulness or ingenuity? The book spent eight weeks on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.

Dark Places, one of my favorite books, doesn’t have any likable characters. The novel presently has a 4.1 star-rating and over 9,000 reviews.

Of course, there are people who liked Libby Day and Amy Dunne, myself being one of them. But for those people who couldn’t stomach them or the rest of Flynn’s flawed cast of characters, what kept them reading if they just didn’t care about anyone? A strong plot? Fine writing? Or do we all have a little darkness (or maybe a bit more than that) in our own hearts and the damning recognition of our own flaws—our weakness, our cowardice, our self-interest, our greed, our bitterness, and maybe even our self-loathing—that we can identify with these characters, walk in their shoes, even as we strive to be more than them?

The simple truth, however, is this: there are exceptions to every rule, and who constitutes a “hero” is in the eyes and mind of the beholder. And if the characters are true to life, they should be heroes on some days and heels on others, for even the best among us has sinned.

Worse still, there are people like me. What does it say about us when we applaud Hannibal Lector for wearing his victim’s face to escape or squeal with joy as Jason Voorhees slams a sleeping-bag-bundled co-ed against a tree?

Fuck it. I’m squealing with joy just thinking about it. That shit is funny.
From Jason's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he callsNew England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

When he's not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody's head off - he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Twice Upon An Apocalypse - ed. by Scott Gouldsward & Rachel Kenley

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

From the Introduction from GaryBraunbeck

The idea of taking a traditional fairy tale and setting it in Lovecraft's universe seems so inspired that it has to already have been done, right?

Placing these stories with their black-and-white morality into a world where virtue, ethics, courage, decency, and goodness are at best cruel jokes freed the writers from having to worry about the moral core of their chosen fairy tale being compromised, because here, here that moral code is D.O.A., the characters just don't know it yet., so the core remains unaltered.

The Pied Piper of Providence William Meikle Based on The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning

A somewhat predictable story as many of these will be. But good fun in the hands of Willie.

Old lady Malcolm was the first to see them when, on descending into her cellar late in the evening, she was attacked by six large rats which bit her most grievously before she managed to fight them off with a broom.

The town fathers are willing to pay whatever it takes to rid the community of this growing problem, but when it comes time to "pay the piper" they, like many politicians, find a way to weasel out of their deal with odious consequences.

The Three Billygoats Sothoth Peter N. Dudar Based on Three Billy Goats Gruff by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

So much fun.  True to form with a bit of whimsy

Little Maiden of the Sea David Bernard Based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson

But the Little Maiden was stubborn, and would swim to the surface and hide among the rocks, gazing upon the lights of the village that the hybrids said the air-breathers called Innsmouth.

An absolutely delicious tale.

The Great Old One And The Beanstalk Armand Rosamilia Based on Jack and the Beanstalk by Joseph Jacob

What Jack finds at the other end of the beanstalk...

They sang out, words I had never heard, and wished I could forget.

I know not what they meant.  But such was the chill I received when I heard them, and stared into the evil cloud-like entity they clearly worshiped.  That they will be forever be imprinted on my psyche and the words spoken in my nightmares until the day I die.

In the Shade of the Juniper Tree J. P. Hutshell Based on the Juniper Tree by Philipp Otto Runge

A new author and an unfamiliar tale for me, but a terrifically horrifying story.

The Horror at Hatchet Point Zach Shephard Based on Rumpelstiltskin by the Brothers Grimm

Another new author for me with a story true to the original, but with that Lovevraftian twist.

I loved his words...

The perfect night they’d been waiting for was upon them: the clouds were dark sacks full of writhing pythons, the wind a banshee’s breath. Hatchet Point cleaved oncoming waves in a spray of black water, while distant lightning illuminated the foaming sea.

The Most Incredible Thing Bracken MacLeod Based on Det Utroligste (The Most Incredible Thing) by Hans Christian Anderson 

I was not familiar with this Hans Christian Anderson tale, but researching it, I found Bracken to true to the original with the wonderful twist of the contest to determine the most incredible thing being a tv show along the lines of America's Got Talent.  Clever.

Let Me Come In! Simon Yee Based on The Three Little Pigs by James Halliwell-Phillipps

Yet another fun spin on a classic tale.

The Fishman and His Wife Inanna Arthen Based on The Fisherman and His Wife by the Brothers Grimm

Great opening for a Lovecraftian infused story...

From the way the Director-General's anterior tentacles writhed on his desk, like earthworms dropped onto hot beach sand, I suspected this conversation wasn't going to go well.

The Little Match Mi-Go Michael Kamp Based on The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

The story had little in common with The Little Match Girl and delivered little in content.

Follow the Yellow Glyph Road Scott T. Goudsward Based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I automatically love any story set in this realm created by L. Ftank Baum.  My only complaint was, I wanted more.

Just follow me.”“But I’m following a talking cat down a strange road in a place I don’t know.” The cat stopped and turned to look at Dorothy with golden eyes. “I don’t explain. I tell the lost ones to follow me, and I lead them through the maze before something comes out of nowhere and lops their head off with a giant bloody axe.”

Another fine story

Curiosity Winifred Burniston Based on Bluebeard by Charles Perrault

True to the original in most ways with the expected Lovecraftian twist.

The Ice Queen Mae Empson Based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson

I found this story to be as chilling as The Snow Queen.  Of of only a few fairy tales that actually scared me as a kid.

But no bee in any book I’ve read has wings that glow in the dark, or six pincer-like legs with saw-toothed claws, thick with white hair. In the space where a bee would have a head, a tangle of antennae writhe like tentacles.

Once Upon a Dream Matthew Baugh Based on Sleeping Beauty by the Brothers Grimm

Wow.  Great story, nothing like the fairytale you heard as a child.

After the two feasted on the Queen’s carcass, the King took little Cthulhu to the balcony of the tower and presented her to the people.

Bloody disgusting.  I loved it.

Cinderella and her Outer Godfather C.T. Phipps Based on Cinderella by Charles Perrault

An appropriately twisted telling of this oft-told tale.

Donkeyskin K.H. Vaughan Based on Donkeyskin by Charles Perrault

Sweet Dreams in the Witch-House Sean Logan Based on Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm 

A wonderful twist on this classic tale.

He saw his sister tear off a piece of the eave and chew, but it was not creamy chocolate that dribbled down her chin, but the brown blood of l a rodent carcass.

Fee Fi Old One Thomas Brannon Based on Jack the Giant Killer by Joseph Jacobs

The King of the Golden Mountain Morgan Sylvia Based on the King of the Golden Mountain by the Brothers Grimm

The Legend of Creepy Hollow Don D’Ammassa Based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 

A well-told story with a true Lovecraftian flair.

Knowledge held in secret has no utility. When someone tells me he has learned some truth that transcends what we know of the physical universe, I can safely assume he is either lying, delusional, or a fool.”

Many the stories were played for laughs and weren't very terrifying at all, with a few exceptions.

Sometimes you just need to read for fun, not great literature, not groundbreaking prose, just to enjoy the read. This is such a book.  I'll never be able to hear these children tales as I've heard them all of my life.

Twice Upon An Apocalypse is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Crytal 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sharkwater Beach by Tim Meyer

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The story begins at S.Q.U.I.D, a subaquatic research facility that's located in international waters for a reason.  What they're up to isn't exactly work they want to be scrutinized by any government.

It's not long before things go horribly wrong...

A man wearing a shredded lab coat sprinted toward the elevator, spurts of red gushing from where his arm had previously been. His appendage had been ripped raggedly at the elbow. The scientist was panting like a dog on a hot summer day, struggling to keep his lungs full of air. He kicked up splashes of ocean water as he made for the elevator. 

Jill McCourty is on the date from hell when she gets a disturbing phone call from an old professor she once had a fling with.  Next thing you know she's being forced to confront her past and is living out a nightmare of humongous proportions.

What follows isn't exactly a spoiler, after all, both the cover and the title of Tim's new book give this much away.

The size of the tooth took up both palms. “Big-ass shark? Is that a new species or something?”“Didn’t come from a Great White. Their teeth are much smaller.”“No kidding.” A Great White tooth was three inches maximum. This was almost four times that. “If this thing is real, we’re talking Megalodon territory.”

This is the second novel this month with a part of the story from the POV of intelligent sea creatures, the other being J.H. Moncrieff's Monsters In Our Wake.  It's a fun aspect of the story and adds another dimension to what is happening and why.

The encounters with the super shark are everything you could want them to be with more than one "Oh wow!" moment.

Sharkwater Beach is pure B-movie madness.  Lots of blood.  Loads of fun. And wonderful B-Movie dialog...

“Okay, bozo. I’m done. Take me back. I’m getting out of here. You have more drama in your life than my grandmother’s soap operas.”

Sharkwater Beach is published by Severed Press 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 - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore. He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds. He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may. Among other titles, he’s previously published the short story collection, Worlds Between My Teeth.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Guest post from Tim Meyer, the author of Sharkwater Beach

Today's guest post is from Tim Meyer, the author of Sharkiwater Beach.  Think Jaws on steroids.  Watch for my review tomorrow, but for now, here's Tim...


All right, I admit it. When I was younger, I was afraid of sharks. Okay, scratch that – I still am. Why? Well, because they're sharks. They're 100 million-year-old killing machines. They're enormous, some of them. They have teeth. Great whites have about 300. Did you know that? Scary. Imagine a person with 300 teeth? That's scary, too. But back to sharks. They're terrifying. The worst part? You never see them gliding up on you from the murky bottom, gaping maw ready to bite, rip, and feed.

I can trace my fear back quite easily – JAWS. I watched the movie on television when I was about eight, and even though it had been edited for content (probably), Quint's death scene still managed to warp my fragile little mind. The sheer terror of that scene shook me, sank its teeth into me. I can still vividly remember watching the gouts of blood spilling from that beloved character's mouth as the massive white shark chomped down on him. The scene spawned many nightmares, and in a way, it's responsible for prompting me to write a novel about a giant shark terrorizing a small group of people.

I read the book Jaws a few years later, then discovered all of Peter Benchley's novels. I read his works before I became obsessed with King, McCammon, Barker; my other heroes. Benchley's books were plain fun, the perfect “beach read,” and as someone who grew up on the Jersey Shore, you can imagine how much time was spent with my butt in the sand, catching some sun with a book in my lap.

Jaws influenced my new novel Sharkwater Beach, but so did other Benchley classics like Beast and White Shark. White Shark, while probably not his most known or best written novel, was a big one for me. The summer when I was twelve, I must have checked it out of the library every other week. Don't know why, but that one stuck with me and it gets a big nod in Sharkwater Beach.

But Sharkwater Beach isn't like a Benchley novel. Not really. A big shark, fishermen, and a few marine biologists are where the similarities end. It's unlike anything I've written before. A beta reader told me it was like “Jaws meets Aliens,” and I couldn't have said it better myself.

So, sharks. Yes, these ancient sea beasts are terrifying. But that's also what makes them fun. It's the teeth, I think. And we all know books that bite are the most fun.
From the author's bio - Tim Meyer dwells in a dark cave near the Jersey Shore. He’s an author, husband, father, podcast host, blogger, coffee connoisseur, beer enthusiast, and explorer of worlds. He writes horror, mysteries, science fiction, and thrillers, although he prefers to blur genres and let the stories fall where they may. Among other titles, he’s previously published the short story collection, Worlds Between My Teeth.

You can follow Tim at where he has great content and features author interviews and you can sign-up for his newsletter!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine - Edited by David Price

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

With an introduction from Holly Newstein, Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine embraces the weird from the northernmost of the 48 contiguous United States.  Wait, I just googled a map of the US to verify that and it's not true, but it is up there and it is a place where weird things tend to happen.

Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine features twenty-two stories that are captivating, intriguing, scary, and above all, entertaining.

The Old Guide's Tale Peter N. Dudar

A trio of loading dock postal workers, regular guys, and the story, or rather, the legend of Sebago Lake.

For John, the bigger his audience, the bigger the stories would get. I suppose with age comes the license to embellish. After all, when you're old enough to start forgetting things that happened in your life, you may as well make the stuff you do remember as unforgettable as possible.

A wonderful start to the anthology. I was immediately drawn in by the excellent story-telling.

Giant Wompstah April Hawks

I guess you could say this is the story of genetics gone bad.  The real victim being Larry the Lobster.

Purgatory Junction Jeremy Flagg

A well-told ghost story of the hazing of a teen-aged girl made to spend the night in an abandoned railroad station so she can sit at the cool kid's table.

I read this lying in bed preparing for sleep. Not recommended as it made me afraid to turn off the light.

Catharine Hill Leslie J Linder

A new author for me and a great take on the hitch-hiking ghost trope.

Often, she would thumb a ride from some traveler. She didn't really plan to go anywhere. She just wanted to check out the latest fashions and listen in on modern trends. She always asked them to turn on the radio. But if that failed, people who picked up hitchers were generally prone to nervous chatter. When she'd had her fill, she simply disappeared from the vehicle.

The Bad Trip Thomas Washburn, Jr.

The title says it all.  A bad trip (as in 'shroom trip) that led to a horrible conclusion.  Another new writer I enjoyed immensely.

Teacher's Pet John McIlveen

A student/teacher taboo that's too good to be true.  John is one of my favorite new writers. His debut novel Hannahwhere is well worth your time, as is this delightful short.

Screaming Through Sea Glass Juss Stinson

A ghost story of sorts and a damn fine one at that.

Mira's Shop of Peculiarities Harold Hull

A truly terrify tale. One of the best shorts I've ever read.

Slowly, an eye opened on one of the tiny heads. A quiet, scratchy voice uttered, "Help me." Then the eyes of the head beside it opened and the same words came out. The third shrunken head soon joined in and now there was a harmony of desperate voices begging James for help.

Seeing Is Believing Wicker Stone

An effective tale of an inherited horror.

The Wait Holly Newstein

I don't get to read nearly enough of Holly Newstein's writing

The Janitors Come Out at Night Martin Campbell

The janitors at this High School are not recruited as much as they are made.  A fun little tale.

Agony Chamber Morgan Sylvia

When you worship at the altars of the gods of pain the rewards can be great, but so are the costs.

In my dreams, they tell me to kill, and they promise me that, if I serve them well, one day I, too, can become a god. All I have to do is kill. Not rapists or murderers or child molesters, but innocents.

Window of Darkness Duane E. Coffill

The creature's face was revolting. Slimy green mucus dripped from its ghastly jaw as it gazed at Mark and Marie with mesmerizing red eyes.

Needs rimshot to accompany the story's ending

Death Lights (A Lee Buhl Story) Glenn Rolfe

From the same world as Glenn's novel The Haunted Halls

Death Lights. Evil spirits that promised to take the living in exchange for bringing back the dead. They were tricksters, but far from your average poltergeist. They were not to be f*cked with. Fools thought they could control the conjured spirits, thought they could wield the power. It never worked that way.

Rare Birds Katherine Silva

Cool ending to a story about an amateur ornithologist.

In the Woods Dale T. Phillips

One of my favorite stories in a collection full of great tales

Noseeum Road, didn't ya?" "Yes, I did. By the way, I was curious. What's that road name mean? Some Native American name? I heard you've got some of those folks around still." The storekeeper chuckled. "The name's from some damn little bugs we get up this way. We call 'em no-see-ums because they'll bite ya, and you won't even see that they're there."

Cool dialog, too.

"You ain't telling me you're a Yankees fan, are ya?" "No, I don't follow baseball." The man rolled his eyes again. "Well, better that than loving the Yankees. Then we'd have to shoot ya for sure."

Sleep Tight E.J. Fechenda

The Ricci family purchases a house with a history.  A history unknown to them.  Their young son Ethan is continually awakened by a man a the foot of his bed.  A great ghost story from another author I get to read for the first time.

The Black Beast of Andover Joshua Goudreau

Another new author for me and a killer monster tale to boot.

Lovely Little Nash Leon Roy

A disturbing story of a fun trip gone dreadfully awry for friends Dorothy, Jackie, Frances, and Ruby who have their day interrupted by their love of a classic car and a signed contract.  No one ever reads the fine print.

Liars and Lies Angi Shearstone

A man is suspected of witchcraft, but the truth is so much darker and so much better.

Confession James Graham

A confession leaves a Priest with a crisis of conscience.  Another well-told tale with a great kicker.

The Phippsburg Screecher Lynda Styles

"If you're staying in the Basin, watch out the Screecher don't get ya."  A really good monster yarn.
In the Root Cellar GD Dearborn

A wonderful way to close the anthology with a tale of alien invaders.

With an anthology this large, there are bound to be some stories you love and almost alway there are a few clunkers.  I happy to say, while I didn't love every story, there were none I didn't like and overall Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine was a terrific reading experience.

Northern Frights: An Anthology by the Horror Writers of Maine is published by Grinning Skull Press and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Scallywag - by Stuart R. Brogan

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Harry Davant made a poor decision taking the alley shortcut in the rain.  Two-bit criminal Callum Benson saw the old man's choice as an opportunity, but what happens next surprises everybody, including this reader.

To tell you more would be to give too much away. It's best if the readers get to discover all of the twists and turns for themselves.  I will say this Scallywag is a joyride filled with real characters and believable situations.  Stuart R. Brogan is a master at raising a reader's blood pressure.

If you've already read Stuart's debut novel Jackals and you're looking for another quick fix of his fast-paced, high-energy, writing style, you should pick up Scallywag right away.  BTW, if you haven't read Jackals, do yourself a favor and pick it up today.  It's the best debut horror novel I've read this year.

As for Scallywag, it's a wild and twisted ride which I whole-heartedly recommend.

Scallywag is published by Midgard Books 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 - Stuart R. Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people's minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people's brains out with fast-paced, gut-wrenching Horror and Thrillers.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog "Poppy" where he co-owns a kick-ass Viking/Asatru shop, fiercely named "Shield Maiden."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Reset: The Dowland Cases - One by Kirk Dougal

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Richard Jefferson Dowland, Jr., 39. Divorced, no children. Goes by Rick but a whole generation of people know him as RJ. Graduated from UCLA with an undergrad in Computer Science at the age of twenty. Co-inventor of the first fully-immersed computer game, The Kindred. He personally registered twenty-nine patents related to computer- human interfaces and games. 

Rick is now retired from the gaming industry and finds himself working homicide.  When a serial killer starts killing immersive gamers his boss and the FBI ask him to go back in and become a deep sleeper again.  Something he swore he'd never do.  It's an addiction, a habit he managed to kick once and has no desire to revisit.

Deep sleepers, the guys that stay inside for weeks or months, they pay someone to take care of their body while they are buried inside. Gamers call them peepers, or peeps for short.

For a reader, Reset: The Dowland Cases - One provides instant gratification.  The in-game action was fast paced and believable.  The story itself was as immersive as a good video game. With Rick having to go into more than one game it gave the author a chance to experiment with various writing styles in the same novel, including crime noir in the game called The City.


The plug-in air freshener tried but there wasn’t enough potpourri in the world to cover up the smell rising from the body on the bed.

I took a drink of the gin and wondered immediately if the bathtub had been clean when it was made. 

The canary on the mic had a color of blonde hair not found in nature and a dress slit almost high enough to see Cleveland. A few flat notes into the next song and I understood why the dress needed to be so distracting.

She stood close enough for me to hear the whisper of her blouse against skin as she breathed. Her perfume wafted into my nose and threatened to cloud my thinking.

So much fun.  Of course there are many red herrings along the way, but in the end it all makes perfect sense and the set up is there for book two in the series.  In the end Reset: The Dowland Cases - One is a tale that left me wanting more in the best possible way.  Highly recommended.

Reset: The Dowland Cases - One is 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.

From the author's bio - Kirk Dougal has had fiction works appear in multiple anthologies and released his debut novel, Dreams of Ivory and Gold, in May of 2014.  His YA dystopian novel, Jacked, was published in 2016.  He's currently at work completing the sequel to Dreams, Valleys of the Earth.

Kirk is currently working in a corporate position with a group of newspapers after serving as a group publisher and editor-in-chief. He lives in Ohio with his wife and four children.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Monsters In Our Wake - by J.H. Moncrieff

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The cover and title of J.H. Moncrieff's latest novel Monsters In Our Wake gives the reader a good idea of what they're in for, but this work is far from your typical sea creature trope.

When the novel you're reading begins from the perspective of a giant sea creature who's home is being threatened by oil drilling you know you're on to something different.

When the creature takes action to protect its territory, the result is a disabled ship and a stranded crew.  I always enjoy stories with a limited cast of characters, cut off from the rest of the world, with something out there.

“Nah,” George said, pointing at Flora, “I think she’s crazy. But I’ve seen horror movies. I know how this goes. You crackers always make the black man go first. I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to fix any generator, I’m not going to investigate the scary noise, and I’m definitely not going in the water.”

Monsters In Our Wake is not my first creature from the deep book, but it certainly is the most original and a helluva lot of fun.  It does require readers to check their disbelief at the door, but if you can do that I think you'll enjoy where this deep sea adventure takes you. Recommended.

Monsters In Our Wake is available from Severed Press in paperback, e-book, and Audible 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 - J.H. Moncrieff writes psychological and supernatural suspense novels that let her readers safely explore the dark corners of the world.   Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

The first two novels of her new GhostWriters series, City of Ghosts and The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, will be officially released on May 16, 2017.

When not writing, J.H. loves visiting the world's most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guest post from J.H. Moncrieff

Author J.H. Moncrieff takes over my blog today to talk about her unusual  sea creature novel Monsters In Our Wake.  I'll have my review tomorrow.

Never in a million years did I expect to write about sea creatures.

Not that I don’t have an affinity for them. I’ve always wanted to spend a day sitting alongside Loch Ness, hoping Nessie will make an appearance. And I love the legends of the nøkken and other creatures from my Scandinavian heritage.

Still, writing about monsters was never something I considered until Severed Press told me they were looking for a sea creature story. It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

However, telling the same old story—where a bunch of macho dudes and maybe one female scientist (who happens to be supermodel gorgeous) blast the monsters into infinity—didn’t interest me in the slightest. If I were going to write a sea monster story, it would have to be something completely different than people were used to seeing.

Since I have a huge sympathy and love for animals, I thought, “Why not tell the story from the creatures’ point of view?” So I did. And I had a lot of fun with it. Yes, there is violence and gore and dark themes, but Nøkken in Monsters in Our Wake is also sarcastic, witty, and urbane. I’d hoped that bringing his side of the story to life would help provide a new perspective. Whenever an animal attacks, we talk about the people affected, but rarely do we discuss how the animal’s territory is dwindling, its food supplies dying, and the part we play in these tragedies.

The result was a very different book. Different from anything I’d ever written before, and certainly different from your typical sea monster saga. So much so, I was afraid Severed wouldn’t want it. But they did, and I figured they understood their audience well enough to know what would be accepted and what wouldn’t. I also hoped the people who loved more mainstream monster stories wouldn’t notice mine—that it would be a mere ripple in an ocean of books.

Then Monsters became an Amazon horror bestseller. Suddenly, a lot of people were finding my book, and not all of them were happy about it. The backlash began, and it focused on one thing—the creature’s point of view. Either readers loved this unique aspect or they hated it. And when they hated it, they really hated it. One woman didn’t make it past page two. A man advised others not to read anything else I’d ever written, even though Monsters is unlike the rest of my work.

I knew I was taking a risk by swimming against the current, and that not everyone would appreciate it. What I didn’t anticipate was how angry they’d be, or what a polarizing book Monsters would become. Knowing this, was it still worth trying something new and smashing a time-honored genre convention? Definitely.

At the end of the day, I’m not writing for people who want the same old, same old. I don’t like remakes, and I have no interest in writing one. It’s important to have a variety of books and voices available. Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone was the same! I get why diverging from a trope irritates some people; I have my comfort food for the brain too. That’s what series are for—you know exactly what you’re going to get with each and every book.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to seek out readers who appreciate the unexpected, the ones who complain there’s never anything new under the sea.

J.H. Moncrieff writes psychological and supernatural suspense novels that let her readers safely
explore the dark corners of the world. She won Harlequin's search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016.

Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

The first two novels of her new GhostWriters series, City of Ghosts and The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, will be officially released on May 16, 2017.

When not writing, J.H. loves visiting the world's most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

To get free e-books and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.

Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Monday, May 8, 2017

Beautiful Sorrows - by Mercedes M. Yardley

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I've been hearing great things about this book for some time and with the new release from the fine folks over at Apex Books, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

First of all, kudos to Yannick Bouchard for an absolutely wonderful cover for Beautiful Sorrows.  Then there's the glowing introduction by P. Gardner Goldsmith comparing Mercedes' writing to the sirens in Greek mythology. Can the book possibly live up to all the hype?  Well, I'm happy to say it does.

The contents in this book have all been published elsewhere, but are collected here for the first time and run the gamut from flash fiction to longer pieces all giving you glimpses into the heart and soul of Mercedes M. Yardley.  At the end of the book, Mercedes graciously provides insights into each of her stories and many of these are as entertaining as the stories themselves.

Some of the highlights for me include Black Mary, a haunting story of child molestation.  Horrible by nature, but beautifully told.

The opening line of The Boy Who Hangs the Stars was particularly beautiful...

Once there was a girl who was sitting by the river.  She liked to watch the water, and listen to what it had to say.  Usually it was nonsense, but every now and then it came up with something important.

This was one of my favorite stories and had a fable-like feel to it.

Then there's Untied an unlikely tale of a suicidal man and the woman inside the window he's threatening to jump from.

Another story with a suicidal theme was Music To Jump By.  I'm generally not a fan of stories without an ending, but damn if this wasn't a perfect tale.

Mercedes M. Yardley's tales are small slices of life with pieces of the souls around us.  Although I enjoyed the many melancholy stories in Beautiful Sorrows, I loved the comedic horror in Axes.  Can you imagine death as your roommate? Imaginative, funny, and totally entertaining.  Followed immediately by The Quiet Places where Your Body Grows.  One minute she's making you laugh and the next she's tearing your heart out.  And that's a good thing.

And then there's Stars, a wonderfully fanciful story.  It's the little things that make a Mercedes story work for me.  Like the dog who's name changed weekly.  I can relate.  My wife and I have two dogs, one I would never consider changing her name and the other I try to change every few weeks, but my wife won't let me.

I can't leave without mentioning Big Man Ben another of my favorites, the longest story in the collection and one that just left me devastated.

Expect the unexpected in these stories, many of the tales are downright inexplicable. Recommended.

Beautiful Sorrows is available from the Apex book company in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Mercedes has three kids, a husband and no time to write, although she tries her very best. She is the author of the short story collection Beautiful Sorrows, the “serial killers in love” novella  Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, the BONE ANGEL trilogy,  Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, and the Bram Stoker Award winner Little Dead Red.  She specializes in the dark and beautiful.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dark Screams - Volume Six - Edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar continue to bring together the brightest stars in genre fiction for their Dark Screams anthology series, now in its sixth incarnation with more on the way.

This time, I absolutely loved two of the stories, thoroughly enjoyed three others, and was a bit let down by the sixth.

The stories include...

The Old Dude’s Ticker by Stephen King - Even a King completist may have missed this one.  Originally published in NECON 2000 for attendees of Camp NECON that year and later in The Big Book of NECON from Cemetery Dance. This is the story' s first wide release.  King himself calls the story a crazed revisionist telling of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  It is so much fun.  Read it just for the seventies slang if for no other reason.  Written very early in his career, it's like something out of a time capsule.

The Rich Are Different by Lisa Morton - A brilliantly crafted story of love and madness. Given the chance at unimaginable wealth would you take it at any cost?  “But the price is this: Your children will appear human until they feel lust, and then their desire will make them into my children, divine in appearance and strength.  Should they seek to satiate themselves with a mortal, they will create a victim, not a lover.  They will have only each other to fulfill their needs and continue your line.”

The Manicure by Nell Quinn-Gibney - Getting a dark fiction piece out of a free manicure. A wonderfully constructed piece of fiction from a writer new to me.  I really enjoyed this story.

The Comforting Voice by Norman Prentiss - We've all had our experiences with crying babies, but Josh and Cheryl's newborn, Lydia, really has a set of powerful lungs and knows how to use them.  The solution comes from an unlikely source in this charming tale.

The Situations by Joyce Carol Oates - I hate to say it, but this was my least favorite entry in the anthology.  A trio of tales I just didn't connect with.  I love Joyce Carol Oates, but not this set of stories.

The Corpse King by Tim Curran - I read this novella seven years ago when it was first published as a limited edition by Cemetery Dance and I just read it again for this review. What a terrific bit of writing this is.  So well-crafted. Takes the reader to a time and place where grave robbing was common, even if it wasn't respectable.

The harvest of cadavers was piled in the beds of muddy wagons and taken to market, sold to the highest bidder to supply dissection room and anatomical house.

Brilliant dialog and dialect.

“You’ve been sweet on the drink for too many years, Johnny Sherily, and this is a fact, I say,” Clow said to them all. “Ain’t nothing in the North Grounds. Nothing but money a-moldering in the ground.”

And Arnie, by Christ, he said he saw something down there, something staring up at him from that hole. Something like a huge, horrible skull with teeth like knitting needles. It stared up at him with burning eyes, crawling and creeping about, chewing.

And witty to boot

As things stood, she had one more tooth than eyes.

If Poe was writing today this would be a story he might write.  Definitely recommended.

For this story alone it's worth purchasing Dark Screams Volume Six available now as an e-book published by Hydra, a division of Random House.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Meatcow Maker by Matthew Warner

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I've made this comment before, but it bears repeating...

You just don't see many chapbooks anymore and certainly none with the quality and attention to detail as those that appear quarterly from Keith Minnion's White Noise Press.

From what I understand, Matthew Warner's Meatcow Maker is the last planned release for the foreseeable future.

The goodness begins with a gorgeous wrap-around cover from Deena Warner and the limited edition chapbook is signed by both the writer and the artist.

About the story...

There'd been a nuclear war started by the Orange President, whoever that was.

For many years the meatcows served their masters, the skralls.  Genetic creations which allowed their owners to partake of their flesh, which would regenerate in time. (You don't want to know what the meatcows eat).  But now things are changing, crops are being grown, and the meatcows are no longer needed.  Where are they to go?  What will they do?

Meatcow Maker is one of those stories which will stay with you long after it's been read. Recommended.

Meatcow Maker is available, as a signed limited edition chapbook from White Noise Press. For their complete list of chapbooks visit them online at

From the author's bio...In the time since his first newspaper article was published in the 1980s, Matthew Warner's writing career has traveled many avenues.  Now he's primarily a prose fiction writer, preferring the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Matthew lives in Staunton, Virginia, with his wife, Deena Warner, and sons, Owen and Thomas.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jackals - by Stuart R. Brogan

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I don't know about you, but I hate it when I'm reading a horror novel and I know who's gonna die. Jackals is NOT one of those novels and I loved it.

Jackals begins with a big surprise and delivers one powerful punch after another, right to the unexpected end.

Imagine an organization simply known as The Order that exists merely to recruit teams for the purpose of committing horrible acts of violence. The Order finds killers known as The Selected who then recruit three other killers. These teams of four are called Jackals. They only have one rule, NO GUNS...beyond that, pretty much anything goes.

For example...

She stood on the WPC's head and tugged at the ax that was firmly wedged in the policewoman's skull. With a little effort and snapping of the bone it came free. Rosie turned and headed for the canteen door. She was happy again and wanted to find more people to play with.

There are plenty of twists to keep the reader off balance and richly drawn characters to both root for and against.

I do feel compelled to share a bit of a warning here. Different folks look for different things from their horror. This is one of the most violent books I have ever read. It is brutal beyond words, but if you're up to it, Jackals is one bloody, bold, bodacious, bad-ass read. Thoroughly recommended.

Jackals is published by Midgard Books and is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Stuart R. Brogan is a former nightclub Bouncer and proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people's minds with Pagan related Non Fiction or blowing people's brains out with fast paced, gut-wrenching Horror and Thrillers.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long suffering Wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog "Poppy" where he co-owns a kick-ass Viking/Asatru shop, fiercely named "Shield Maiden."

Monday, May 1, 2017

Guest Post by Stuart R. Brogan the author of Jackals

Look for my review of Stuart's debut novel, Jackals, tomorrow, but first...

Tentative Steps by Stuart R Brogan

I am willing to bet a truckload of money on the fact that any artist, regardless of medium, has, at one time, been in the nerve-racking position of debuting their work, and despite their best efforts, have been terrified!

I don’t care how good you are or how much of a prodigy you believe yourself to be, you would have been shaking with trepidation regarding what people will think, and praying that the general public and reviewers look favourably at your work.

I myself felt this sensation when I was about to release my first novel Jackals. It was my baby, a thing of beauty and self-perceived genius that I had spent four months of my life dedicating myself to. In my mind, it was truly awesome, and I couldn’t wait to unleash it upon the world. As the day finally came, I braced myself for the onslaught, secretly hoping that people would enjoy my work as much as I had enjoyed writing it. It really was a case of batten down the hatches and await the hurricane of reviews and personal perceptions.

I have to say I was blown away by the reaction; in fact, the word humble doesn’t even begin to describe the sensation I feel when people talk about my novel. But it could have so easily gone the other way. It had the potential to start me on the path of a downward spiral, my fragile self-belief being used as nothing more than a break as my literary career scrambled to slow my rapid descent into oblivion and personal failure.

I like to think of myself as being a bit of a down to earth and grounded fellow and think of myself as being a leader, not a follower, regardless of what task I am undertaking. I have always danced to my own tune and refuse to play second fiddle to anyone. Bearing this clarity of vision in mind, I have often stated that I don’t care what other people think of me, and their opinion is of little consequence to my day to day dealings. But, in truth, perhaps that’s tinged with more than a little touch of ego and alpha pride.

I once heard the singer Marilyn Manson state that he DOES care what people think of him, but only the ones he respects. When I heard him say that I was nodding in agreement because, for all of my male bravado, I myself DID and DO care what people think of me and my work, but like he said, it was only those I respect.

Obviously, neither you nor I can please everyone. There will always be reviewers and readers that hate your work, be it due to the writing style, subject or voice, there will always be the haters, the ones who just don’t feel you should be breathing, let alone writing. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t feel a little annoyed by someone’s perception of me but I know it’s all part of the game I must play if I wish to keep releasing books.

On more than one occasion I have heard many a famous musician, author or actor state that developing a thick skin is an absolute necessity when putting your work out into the public domain. You are, after all, putting yourself at the mercy of public opinion and there are some out there who have nothing better to do than court controversy and illicit untruths. This is becoming an ever increasing problem due to the internet, where cyber stalking or trolling seems to be a viable pastime. Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing myself to some A-list movie stars, and I sure as hell don’t earn their kind of money, but the principal is exactly the same.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy reading great reviews of my work, it plumps my ego and makes me fit to burst with personal pride, but I also have to take the worst reviews just as seriously. I can’t just accept the good and discard the bad regardless of how much I dislike what is being said. So if our ego is so fragile what are we to do? Bury our heads in the sand for fear of reading or hearing something we don’t like?

The moral of the story- Don’t listen to any of it. Just do what you want and put it out there, ignore the haters and take pride in what you do. Enjoy it, because none of us truly know how much time we have on this rotating ball of water and dirt. In the greater scheme of things, we are only here for a fraction of a second so let’s make the most of it.

Tentative steps? Yes, but like the saying goes “Every journey, no matter how long, starts with a single step”