Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: Blood Desert: A Penny Miller Novel - by Steven W. Booth & Harry Shannon

5 of  5 Stars     Review copy

Every now and again you need a book like Blood Desert: A Penny Miller Novel just to clear the air, to show you how much fun reading can be.  No political undertones, no heavy themes, no underlying message.  Just a flat-out good time.

If you don't already know who Penny Miller is, that's OK.  You'll learn everything you need to know about the bad-ass Sheriff of Flat Rock, Nevada in this new novel from Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon.  But, when you're done with Blood Desert you may want to look up the six other books in the Penny Miller series as she does her best to survive the zombie apocalypse.

The newest book in the series takes place before all of those other novels and there's not a zombie in sight, but don't worry, there's plenty of other threats to the peace in this small desert community.  As if, it's not hard enough dealing with her ex, a drunken deputy who happens to be the Mayor's nephew, and a strange ailment affecting the cattle out on the Harrison ranch.  "It seems someone or something drained those cattle of blood."

When the humans begin to succumb to the same conditions as the cattle, things go south quickly.

"For a moment, vertigo set in, and Miller felt simultaneously lost in the vast expanse of the corridor and closed in by the sound or her own heartbeat.  She realized her mind was struggling with uncomfortable truths and cognitive dissonance of a most unusual nature.  The craziest of ideas suddenly seemed sane, and the normal abruptly threatening.  Monsters walked the earth."

Of course, Penny Miller remains the undisputed Queen of Snark.  Many of her best witticisms are too colorful for an Amazon review, but here are a couple of her milder remarks...

"As sure as a teenaged zit on prom night." & "I screwed up bigger than a drunk field goal kicker at the Superbowl."

Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon still have entertaining tales to tell.  Blood Desert was Flat(rock)-out fun.

Welcome back Penny Miller, can't wait to see what your future holds.  Recommended.

Blood Desert: A Penny Miller Novel is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Genius Book Publishing.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Guest Post: A letter from Penny Miller (The protagonist in the new novel Blood Desert)

To: Frank Michaels Errington

From: Sheriff Penny Miller, Flat Rock NV


Right off, let me caution you that this memo was written under difficult circumstances. In fact, it may not seem to make a lick of sense at first, mostly because I’m worn out as a goose with a bad case of the shits. I don’t even know where to start, so just gonna come right out and say whatever comes to mind, whether in or out of order.
Seems hard to believe now, but my little desert town, and the whole damn flat as a bovine frisbee county it squats in, used to be a calm and sleepy place. A big Saturday night had me putting a drunk in a cell to sleep it off, and maybe warning Ricky Bob Walker not to discharge his rifle within city limits. It was pretty nice around here, to be honest. Back then, downright pretty. Until the poop hit the fan and my life got splattered like bug guts on the windshield.
Before I go any further, I need to reveal a very weird thing. I don’t know dick about abstract physics, alternative universes, and all that SciFi stuff, but I suspect that something from way out there recently snuck up behind to nip me on the ass. What I mean by all that, Frank, is that everything just changed overnight around here.
And I do mean everything.
Stay with me: Time itself has kind of changed. And we ain’t talking about daylight savings. For a bunch of reasons I don’t understand, we have all somehow gone backwards. Like for real, by a couple of years, and that means that all six books you reviewed about that whole zombie thing, well they never happened. Not yet, anyway. In fact, back in this here world, I’ve just split up from Terrill Lee, who I caught banging some air headed bimbo while we were married. Here I’m somewhat new at being the Sheriff of Flat Rock, Nevada, but am already as good at this job as any limp noodled, numbnuts male who’s ever held the title. Way better, in fact. A fact which should come as no surprise. Because if you want something done right, always give it to a woman.
The thing is, some odd strangers have come to Flat Rock. Two new ladies who are bringing real money in, which our corrupt Mayor loves. But they are also dragging behind them, kind of like the tail of a kite tied to firecrackers, one hell of a lot of trouble. I've also spotted a pair of teen drug dealers who look to be exploiting this sudden uptick in our local economy. Now, you might think those events won't add up to a big deal, but you’d be wrong as a turd on a salad plate. It’s a slow-motion train wreck from the start and quickly gets a whole lot worse. Because Terrill Lee found some cattle with very unusual holes in them, and a then there's also that dead man out in an alley who kind of proved my point. Which is that things really do suck around here. And that ain’t just a figure of speech tonight. Things are sucking the blood out of people.
Hold on a second. I just heard something up on the roof. Might just be the wind or some raccoons. Gotta listen.
Never mind. It's gone now.
Anyway, that is just an update in case this whole case goes south. The good news is I’m not up against those ravenous, mindless zombies who can reproduce faster than a herd of bunnies chowing down on a garden of Viagra. The bad news is that this time the things that suck around here have turned out to have fangs and piss stuff you could use to scrub away rust.
These ass hats are actual vampires. Honest to God. They are batshit crazy and thirsty as a broke Shannon boyo on St. Patrick’s Day.
Yeah, I know how all this sounds. I can't believe it either.
Hold on to your package for another second. Did you hear that?
Shit fire. Something is for sure moving around up on the roof. Like it's looking for a way in. Claws on it, maybe? Not small. More like a bobcat or a cougar than a raccoon. Or maybe this is just one hell of a Plus Size bat. Not what I wanted to be dealing with, but guess it saves me a trip underground.
Looking out the jailhouse window I just saw a shadow cross the ground below, sort of like the huge thing is just pacing around up there. Is it nervous to try and take me on alone? Or maybe it is waiting for some backup?
Bullets won’t work on these assholes, but I’ve got me something rumored to get the job done. And I’m fixing to go take the bastard on.
Got to go, my people need me.
Stay well, and if folks want to find out what happens next, they will just have to buy the book Blood Desert. Frank, old friend, if I live through this one, I’m gonna be sure to check your page to see what you think of the new novel. At least that is one thing which is guaranteed not to suck.
Shhh. There it is again.
Now it’s hanging from the rain gutter. Butt ugly son of a bitch.
Gotta go. The sun is gone and it’s now full-on dark.



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Review: Land of Bones - by Glenn Rolfe

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

If you read Glenn's guest post on my blog yesterday, you are likely already aware that Land of Bones is a collection which deals primarily with loss.

And it all begins with a flash fiction piece set in a graveyard,.  The title story, Land of Bones.

Ghost of Spears Corner - Wow!  This coming of age short will definitely reach out and grab you.

"We weren’t perfect, but I’d say we managed to be relatively normal. All that changed, at least for me, the last week of summer vacation in ’57."

Simon - Little Ally has a fascination with worms, especially Simon.

"Her worm, as she liked to lovingly think of him, was not like the worms in Katy's, or Michael's yards."

Not Kansas Anymore - Another killer story about a series of deaths in Kansas, Maine.

"On the news, they were telling us we had a murderer in our town.  In the halls between classes, we were talking about vampires.  We were all wrong."

Fire - Thus far, I have thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.  How would you deal with a world suddenly aflame?

Welcome to Paradise - This story may be short on words, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in violence.

"She loved damage.  She loved scars.  She loved anything beautiful and broken.  The Lucky Lounge Motel served as the feeding ground for her biggest passion...murder."

Wish - All I can say about this story is one really needs to be careful what they wish for.

Avenging Kitten - Love the title.  Another story of loss and in this case revenge.  This is one of those tales where I couldn't wait to see where it would go.

Charley Sings the World Away - A heartbreaking story of the end times.

The Fixer - A tale of horrible loss. A story that moved me to tears and then made me angry.  Well done.

The Rooster - "That Alice in Chains record is one we both loved."

Too Much of a Dead Thing - A novella-length story with a zombie-like event where the survivors are far worse than the monsters.

Little Bunny - Brenner's Woods were off limits. A haunted place with snakes, spiders, and ghosts, but that didn't stop Tommy Schafer from venturing in.

"While he came back each and every time, poor Tommy never came out quite the same."

Death Lights (A Lee Buhl Story) - If you read The Haunted Halls, you are already familiar with Glenn's demon-fighting urban shaman.

"Years after his showdown at the Burton Inn, Lee is going back to work and finds himself at an old farmhouse.  What he finds might be more than he is ready for."

A singular voice in speculative fiction, Rolfe is able to tell complete stories in his shorts, something some novelists fail to accomplish in 300 pages.  Some of these tales can be difficult to read, particularly if you've experienced a similar loss.  But, overall I found Land of Bones to be a worthwhile collection.


Land of Bones 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.

From the author's bio - "A vital part of this generation." - Brian Keene, author of The Complex and The Rising.  Glenn Rolfe is an author/singer/songwriter from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Ronald Malfi, Jack Ketchum, and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.  Glenn is the author of Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Abram's Bridge, Things We Fear, and the collections, Out of Range, Slush. and Land of Bones.  He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Guest Post: Glenn Rolfe - Tracks: The Making of Land of Bones

Tracks: The Making of Land of Bones

I put out my first short story collection in October of 2014. That was a book called, SLUSH. Within six months, I wanted to do it again. I set a date, threw out a tentative title (The World Comes Down), and started piecing stories together that I was excited about. I can’t recall all the dates I threw out to my readers and followers, but I remember February of 2016 was one of them, maybe the first.

What happened?

Well, for one thing, I started being published by Samhain Publishing. I wrote three novellas and two novels for them (one that never came out due to their closing up shop). Like most, I kept on writing and writing and writing. Another novella, another novel (one for Sinister Grin Press, one self-published), until I turned my eye back to the piles of short stories I was gathering.

Last summer, I finally decided on a new set of stories and ended up with a new title for the collection, Land of Bones. Yeah, that’s a pretty cool title. I started the work of rifling through had 14 “tracks” that I thought would do the trick and went to work touching them up and sending them to my editor.

Somewhere along the line, I decided 14 was the right number of tracks. I also knew that I wanted to include a new novella. I had two that were in the works to choose from, Bring Me to Life and Too Much of a Dead Thing. I chose the latter due to the characters. I had a bunch of stories I knew I wanted to be included, “Death Lights” (which I had to get permission to use-thanks Grinning Skull Press and Northern Frights!), “The Rooster”, “Welcome to Paradise”, “Wish”, “The Fixer” (which I had written at one point for Michael Baily), “The Land of Bones”, “Simon” and “Charley Sings the World Away”. A lot of those were shorter pieces which is part of the reason I wanted a novella included.

I also planned on putting a number of alien horror stories in here, but once my editor went through the few batches of stories, she pointed out the theme. That of loss. While the alien ones touched on that theme, I had already been there and done that with my short collection Out of Range. I needed to dig up some more…bones (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

I went deep. I went to old back up files from a laptop I had in 2014-2015. I picked out the ones I remember liking, “Fire”, and another alien one, “Hollowed”, and I also found an unfinished one that I remember liking a lot, “Ghosts of Spears Corner.” For me, this one really stuck out. I remember loving it while I was working on it, but pushing it aside when I didn’t meet the deadline for the submission call it was intended for. I was more than happy to rediscover my love for this one, specifically the tone and the voice of the story. Every author has a voice, but sometimes you discover another style or tone you can pull off. Like James Hetfield discovering he could sing “, Nothing Else Matters”, sure there was “Welcome Home” and “Fade to Black” before that, but “Nothing Else Matters” was a next-level, emotionally-packed delivery. I felt like I had another range I could sing in, if you will.

And that brings us to the one that was in and out and in and out like a pervert and his sexbot, “Avenging Kitten.” I loved it, another odd style, another odd character and tale, but was it good? I don’t subscribe to the “different is good” saying when it comes to stories. I prefer “good is good”. This story of a man and his cat, and an owl and some environmental dudes….it just wanted to be included so badly.

In the end, I decided on ten that had to be in and then asked my editor to help me select the final four spots. If you pick up a copy of Land of Bones and find yourself excited by “Fire”,
“Avenging Kitten”, “The Rooster” (she asked me to try re-writing that piece, which I did, and it turned out so much better), and “Little Bunny”, send a thanks her way.

We’ve got the tracks, but anybody who has been in a band and recorded a record knows that the sequencing, the order of the songs is a part of telling the full story and telling it in a way that keeps you invested and wanting to go on.

My editor offered up another great Foreword, and I knew “The Land of Bones” had to kick off the album, right? It was originally going to be a long story about ghosts in the graveyard, but by the time I had those first few paragraphs, I felt it was perfect as is. Sort of “In the Beginning” for those of you familiar with Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil album. Obviously, the next track had to punch you in the face. I felt “Ghosts of Spears Corner” fit the bill. Follow it up with a short piece (“Simon”), then another bigger piece that I loved, “Not Kansas Anymore”, a vampire tale that made me think of Ronald Malfi’s fantastic novel, The Narrows, only much, much shorter. “Fire” offers up a quick breather ala “God Bless the Children of the Beast” 9another Shout reference) before the triple threat of “Welcome to Paradise”, “Wish”, and “Avenging Kitten”. Three very different tales before “Charley Sings the World Away” brings the calm.

The last five tracks have no intentions of letting you up for air or letting you go.

“The Fixer” starts with a moment of pain before taking you on a ride you know isn’t what it seems. I was kind enough to throw the most emotional piece I’ve ever written next. “The Rooster” chronicles the loss of my big brother to the monster we call cancer. I cried re-writing this one. That is followed by a story that is a bit more fun, but hopefully, just as gripping, the novella, Too Much of a Dead Thing. A deadly outbreak is causing death and panic; the three characters in here made it all feel real and relevant to me. Hope it does the same for you. “Little Bunny” is a suicidal trip through wonderland that really hit home with some friends. And we close out with my favorite in the bunch, “Death Lights”. While not as grandiose as Springsteen’s “Jungleland” (the best album closer of all-time), “Death Lights” features the return of one of my favorite characters, Lee Buhl, the demon-fighting, urban shaman from my novel, The Haunted Halls. While closing the door to Land of Bones, “Death Lights” also opens things up for another adventure with our friend, Lee.

Jason Lynch provided another amazing cover, channeling the Goonies, making the package complete.
I tried to get to this book so much sooner than I should have, but everything has its own time. I hope you’ll enjoy your time spent with me, these stories, these sorrows, here in the Land of Bones.

From the author's bio - "A vital part of this generation." - Brian Keene, author of The Complex and The Rising.

Glenn Rolfe is an author/singer/songwriter from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied
Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Ronald Malfi, Jack Ketchum, and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author of Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Abram's Bridge, Things We Fear, and the collections, Out of Range, Slush. and Land of Bones.

He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: It Sustains - by Mark Morris

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Pete Kahle at Bloodshot Books is a personal hero of mine.  He has an eye for finding books which have only appeared as limited edition releases in the small press and getting the authors to bring their work to a wider audience.

This time around Pete was able to get Mark Morris to allow his company to publish It Sustains which was originally released by Earthling Publications five years ago.  Don't get me wrong, I love limited editions, I'm a collector myself, but once the books are sold out it's important to get these works to the masses.

In many ways It Sustains is a story about loss.  In Adam's case, it's about the loss of his mother.

Less than to hours into the New Year, not long after she had kissed me goodnight and told me that this would be our best year ever, Mum was dead.

The writing is strong and powerful.  Genuine encounters with real people.  Characters with a lot of texture.  Morris is able to convey what a particular character is feeling with a few carefully chosen words.

I really enjoyed this read, but when I was finished, I had no idea what just happened.  But, that's OK.  It Sustains was not so much about what happens in the end as it was about the journey.  Overall, it was a very satisfying read and one I would certainly recommend.

It Sustains has been re-released in both paperback and Kindle formats by 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 author's bio - Mark Morris has written over twenty-five novels, among which are Toady, Stitch, The Immaculate, The Secret of Anatomy, Fiddleback, The Deluge and four books in the popular Doctor Who series. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror - by Willie Meikle

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

I love everything about this wonderful collection from Willie Meikle.  Take the concept of Willie's Carnacki collections and replace the dinner guests with literary greats of the Victorian era, each sharing a ghost story, and you have the premise for this new work from William Meikle.

Don't get confused, these are not newly discovered works by these authors.  All fourteen stories are written by Meikle writing as these legendary authors.

Wee Davie Makes a Friend by Robert Lewis Stevenson - A wonderfully entertaining story to start the collection.  Tragic in many ways, but great none the less.

The High Bungalow by Rudyard Kipling - Another cool tale.  This one about a haunted Masonic lodge.

The Immortal Memory by Leo Tolstoy - When Empress Yekaterina Alexeyevna calls Captain John Marsh to an audience at court and commands him to find a Scotsman who is able to recite the works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns in Russian and present him at a party that very night.  The events that follow are decidedly unexpected.

In the House of the Dead by Bram Stoker - Reminiscent of one of Meikle's Carnacki stories.  If you lost the love of your life, to what lengths would you go to be with her again.

Once a Jackass by Mark Twain - I've long been a fan of Mark Twain and here Meikle has really captured the essence of a Mark Twain tale.  Set upon the majestic Mississippi River, this is one of my favorite stories in the collection.

Farside by Herbert George Wells - This entry could have easily been in one of the author's Carnacki collections.  The story of a man named Hoskin's who has invited a number of friends to dinner to display his latest invention which has a curious side effect.

To the Manor Born by Margaret Oliphant - It was hard to grow up in a small town in Scotland and not hear at least one, if not a handful, of tales of kin who came back, of lost loves pining in the afterlife, of fishermen coming home for one last kiss. Her childhood had been full of such tales, most of them more capable of frightening her than this sad, disembodied, song.

The Angry Ghost by Oscar Wilde - An absolutely delightful story with a cute kicker.

The Black Ziggurat by Henry Rider Haggard - Another impressive and imaginable tale.  This one set in Kenya.

Born of Ether by Helena P. Blavatsky - An odd yet enjoyable ghostly tale from Meikle's telling of a story in the style of an author I am totally unfamiliar with.

The Scrimshaw Set by Henry James - So cool.  An exquisitely told tale of a haunted chess set.  One of my favorite stories in a book full of such work.

At the Molenzki Junction by Anton Checkov - A Winter quest for vodka encounters both wolves and a ghostly presence.

To the Moon and Beyond by Jules Verne - A wonderful opening line..."To the Moon and Beyond Jules Verne Ever since man first looked up at the night sky, he has wondered about the moon, that great white lady who circles us constantly, like a predator circling its prey, merely waiting for a weakness so that it may pounce."  Once again Meikle manages to capture the style and feel of the author he writes as in this standout tale.

The Curious Affair On the Embankment by Arthur Conan Doyle - Surprisingly this is NOT a Sherlock Holmes story, although it takes place in that same world.  Here Scotland Yard's Detective Lestrade solves a mystery involving the disappearance of a number of successful young women.

There are a number of solid reasons to add The Ghost Club to your reading list.  For example, you love a good ghost story, or maybe you've read and enjoyed Meikle's Carnacki tales, or perhaps you're a fan of Victorian terror, or maybe you just enjoy a good read.  Whatever your reason, happy reading.

The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror is currently available in both Kindle and paperback formats 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.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: Down There & Others- by Keith Minnion

4 of 5 stars     Review copy

Keith Minnion is known mostly for his outstanding work as an illustrator, but if you've never read his fiction, you are doing yourself a disservice.  His novel, The Boneyard and his first collection of short stories, It's For You, are among my favorites over the last decade.  Now he is back with his second collection.

From the Amazon description of Down There & Others... 

"Sixteen stories, over half published here for the first time, spanning the same range of genres (horror, SF, dark suspense) as Keith's previous collection It's For You, with fourteen full-page interior illustrations drawn by the author, and an introduction by author Tony Tremblay.  Also included is the first act of Keith's upcoming new supernatural mystery novel Dog Star."

The Blue Cat - Anne Foyle loves porcelain figurines, but the new cat she just brought home seems to have a mean streak.  Fun and clever.  A nice way to open the collection.

On The Hooks - Mal, an aging hunter, who in his world is also the hunted.  One of those stories which leave the reader wanting more.  "Cat meat was no-one's first choice, but flesh was flesh, food was food."

So Many Hats - The first of a few flash fiction pieces.  A deadly tale in just a few words.

Under The Wing - Dek's parents are off to explore the vast reaches of space and Dek is sad about being left behind.

Old Bones - Wow!  A dinosaur gig, new technology, a dog, and a jackrabbit, all combine to make a wonderfully imaginative story that was over way too soon, even though it was the longest story, so far.  Definitely one of my favorites.

A Trail of Footprints - Young Andrew is late coming home and the truth of the matter is a bit of a mystery.  "The boy's footprints had stopped.  Right there before him, in mid-stride, in the middle of the field. Just stopped. "

Paterfamilias - A weird tale of a man and his estranged wife.

Runners, Running - Sue is about done with her inattentive boyfriend.

Close The Door - Author's note: This is a coda of sorts.  The chapter after the final chapter of my novel The Boneyard, which was published in 2011.  Close the Door takes place a few decades after the end of that book.

I'm a big fan of Minnion's dialog.  It's never forced, always the way people really talk.  "'All the old places around here are named after their former owners.'  Becky chuckled.  'Then I guess you should call our house the "Nobody Important Ever Lived Here House"'''

What Does It Feel Like When I Do This? B - A story about first times.

The Holes  - Thirty years is a long time, but some things you never forget.

Little Sister - This tale was first published in a college literary journal in the early seventies and was an homage of sorts to Ray Bradbury's "Mexico" stories.

Ghosts - One of my favorite tales in this collection just happens to be Keith's very first professional sale.  I found this to be a rather cool notion.  "They have succeeded in documenting certain kinds of life—specific types of intelligently controlled energies—that persist after physical, material life ends."

Moons For My Pillow, Stars For My Bed - A wonderfully charming story that just happens to be the complete manuscript for a children's picture book and just needs the picture part.

The Wampyr - More flash fiction.

Down There - The title story, and a quick foray into Lovecraftian horror.  Cyclopean mountains and stygian darkness.  Oh yeah.

Dog Star - Keith Minnion completes his second collection with part of a work in progress.  A story that brought back the best kind of memories from those college years.  So long ago for some of us.

Although I enjoyed Keith's initial collection, It's For You, more.  I'd say Down There & Others is certainly time well spent. When you read this one, take your time and enjoy the prose.


Down There & Others is available in both paperback from Amazon.com and digitally in a wide variety of formats from Crossroads Press.

From the author's bio - Keith Minnion sold his first short story to Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine in 1979. (Its included in this collection).  He has sold over two-dozen stories, two novelettes, an art book of his best-published illustrations, and one novel since.  Keith has illustrated professionally since the early 1990s for such writers as William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Gene Wolfe, and Neil Gaiman, and has also done extensive graphic design work for the Department of Defense.  He is a former schoolteacher, DOD project and program manager, and an officer in the U.S. Navy.  He currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, pursuing oil and watercolor painting, and fiction writing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: Weekend Getaway - by Tom Deady

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Weekend Getaway is the new novella by the author of  Haven, the 2016 Bram Stoker Winner for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.  This new work is decidedly different in tone from his debut work, a lovely coming of age story.  Weekend Getaway has more in common with some of Jack Ketchum's more graphic works than his own novel.  And it's every bit as good.

In the words from the introduction by Josh Malerman "Weekend Getaway is as much a gulp of Jolt ® Cola as it is a quick snap of a rubber band on the wrist. It’s smart, small, and (undoubtedly) effective."

At its purest, Weekend Getaway is the story of how John Baxter lost his finger.  After the loss of their child, John and his wife of off for a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods, a place John found and booked online.  Needless to say, things did not turn out as planned.

There are plenty of unexpected twists to keep the reader guessing from start to finish, making Weekend Getaway one of the best novellas I've read in 2017.

Recommended, for sure.

Weekend Getaway is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Grinning Skull 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 author's bio - Tom Deady is the author of Haven, winner of the 2016 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. His second novel, Eternal Darkness, was released in early 2017, and his writing journey has just begun. He has a Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing from SNHU. Tom is a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, where he is hard at work on his next novel.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays - by Kit Power

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Nearly two years ago, to the day, I read and reviewed Godbomb! by Kit Power.  It was one of the most amazing books I read in 2015. Now Kit has returned with a collection of short stories and essays which are hard to describe, but I'm willing to give it my best shot here.

A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays covers a lot of ground and is loosely woven together with a story set in a future where most of human history has been forgotten or purposely covered up and a mid-level government employee is doing his best to uncover the truth through a series of stories uncovered in a hidden mainframe.

Truthfully, I have no idea what I've just read, I just know that I  thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  It's true that some of the stories were better than others, but the overall effect was a win.

Tem├╝jin - Family, half-brothers, and revenge. "Loyalty comes first.  All else is dust."

The Chicken and the Three Gods - Original and intriguing story of a henhouse and their nemesis.  Told from the third person POV of the hens. 

Conference - An actual alien invasion taking place at a con.  Who would notice?

Valentine's Day - A subtle tale of the massacre. 

Wide Load - I felt real pain reading this story.  ...in Beccy's spell book, a single-word incantation was circled in black ink, with a small neat tick next to it.  Goldbricker."

Richard Madeley Is a Fucktard and We're All Going to Hell - "There are times when my rage cannot be adequately expressed in 140 characters."

Reverse Engineering - Bruce and June want to be parents.  In the future, it's not as easy as you might think.  A thought-provoking tale with a bit of a twist.

The Film That Made Me: Robocop - I enjoyed Kit's essay on his love of Robocop so much I actually rented and watched it for the first time in thirty years.

Cold Shock - A great story.  One of the best I've read this year.  A killer opening line, too.  "It takes twenty minutes for a submerged car to fill with water.  Seth doesn't even wake up for the first four."

My Brief Career as an Eleven Year Old Slave Trader - A primary school student's assignment to provide an account of events from the point of view of a slave trader.  A very interesting exercise.

Zombie Dad - Kit excels at opening lines.  "My dad's got a pretty good left jab, especially for a guy who's been dead for two years."

Keep It Up Son, Take a Look at what You Could Have Won - A favorite band goes in a new direction. Wow.

Feed the World - I'm thinking this story may have been inspired Do They Know It's Christmas by BandAid, the 1984 recording to raise funds to help the starving children in Ethiopia. "Where the only flowing water is the bitter sting of tears."

Like a Charm - A rookie cop purchases a bullet at a gun show which turns out to be a good luck charm.

Ted - Jason just loves the ragged old teddy.  The two are inseparable despite his mother's attempts to tear them apart.   Toy bears freak me out and Ted is no exception.

Enemies - Without saying as much, this wonderful short is likely a conversation with Charon the ferryman charged with transporting souls of the newly dead across the river Styx into the Underworld.

The Hand - I've played a lot of Texas-Hold-'Em over the years and Kit has managed to capture the adrenaline rush of high stakes poker in this amazing short.

Baptism - The bathing of a child turns into a horrible nightmare.

Time Out of Mind - What would you do if time travel was a thing?

The Final Setting of the Sun - About a three trillion gigaton fusion bomb called Larry.

The Bar at the Edge of the Desert - "But here’s the good bit. When you get to the end, you go to a bar, and they give you a drink. And you drink down the distilled essence of your life experiences, and you savour it, and it becomes a part of you. Then you leave the bar, and outside is a desert, and you cross the desert, and on the other side is another life, another set of experiences and lessons and stories and love and heartache. It never ends. That’s the good news.’"

Reading Kit Power never disappoints, if for no other reason than his work is far from ordinary.  Strongly recommended.

A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays is self-published and available now for your 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.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Bloodstained Wonderland - by Christopher Golden & James A. Moore

5 of 5 Stars

Several years ago, I got wind of a Limited Edition release from Earthing Publications, called Bloodstained Oz.  I've long been a fan of all things related to The Wizard of Oz and immediately set out on a quest to read this novella.  Since the work was out of print I had to look on the secondary market and finally found a copy for $100 and plunked down the cash and got to read what would become one of my favorite novellas in the last ten years.

That same Limited Edition signed hardcover now goes for over $200, but if you have Kindle Unlimited you can read it for no additional charge or buy the e-book for $2.99.

It took a long time, six years to be exact, but Golden and Moore finally got around to writing the sequel called Bloodstained Wonderland, and I immediately bought one of the 500 Signed Harcovers available from Earthling Publications and as of the writing of this review there are still some copies available through the publisher.

It's 1940 and when the story begins we meet Gayle Franklin and her friend Elisa.  The setting is London during what would come to me know as "The Blitz."

Th authors deftly tie what happens in this story to the events in Bloodstained Oz.  The tale is both wondrous and magical, yet frightening.  Christopher Golden and James A. Moore have taken another of our childhood memories and turned it into a bloody reign of terror orchestrated by the Wizard of Oz.  

"She looked toward the shape of demons, each clothed in forms almost familiar, dressed in nightmares made flesh.  A walrus galumphed into the room wearing a vest and a cravat.  It sported a derby on its wrinkled brow and the great tusks jutting from the mouth were as bloodied as the unicorn's horn.  Beyond that blubbery mass a dormouse pranced in, dressed in tattered finery.  The oddly delicate paws held the stretched face of a woman. just the face which had been peeled from the skull."

Bloodstained Oz is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and is devilishly violent.

"Where it touched the crown of his head, little rivulets of scarlet had trickled down to streak his face and mat his hair.  Around the inner rim of the hat were tiny claws or fangs that had punctured his forehead and scalp.  Gayle stared, somehow even more hollow than before.  The madness of these animals, of the flying cards, of all the rest had been nightmare enough, but this tophat was alive and it had tasted this man's blood."

Yes, Alice is in the story, but she's not the sweet, naive little girl from the Lewis Carroll story we all remember.  All of your favorite characters make an appearance, but all through the warped minds of Golden and Moore.

I loved having these childhood memories ripped apart and reimaged and I think you'll like it, too.  Go read the Kindle version of Bloodstained Oz first and then pick up one of the remaining Limited Edition copies of Bloodstained Wonderland and then prepare for Bloodstained Neverland.  I just hope we don't have to wait six years this time.

About the authors...

Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Ararat, Snowblind, Tin Men, and many many more.  Golden co-created (with Mike Mignola) two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective.  Golden is also co-host of the podcasts Three Guys with Beards and Defenders Dialogue, and the founder of the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.  Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.

James A. Moore is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: Lost and Lonely - by Brian James Freeman

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Lost and Lonely is a novella-sized collection of five short stories that can be read in a single sitting or stretched out over a  week.

Losing Everything Defines You - This short begins with a familiar trope...

"If you're listening to this, I must be dead."

After Wendy and Andrew vanished the question that must be asked is, "Did the husband do it?"  They always suspect the husband, but in this instance, he was questioned but never arrested.

I love Freeman's turn of phrase...

"Each night I cower in bed, the covers pulled up to my neck, the darkness wrapped around me like the grip of a dead lover."

Loving Roger - Starts with a riveting opening line...

"Everyone makes mistakes, a truth Patty knew all too well, which was why she believed in the power of forgiving and forgetting."

A story of mistaken identity, or is it?

How the Wind Lies - "Never speak a lie, lest thy lie becometh the truth."  

This short is set well in the past, during the time of westward expansion.  Something is killing the buffaloes.  Each found with two puncture holes and drained of all blood.  William, Sarah and their three children had left the colonies to escape this very threat that has now appeared at their doorstep.  I don't want to reveal too much, but I loved where this story went.

Perfect Little Snowflakes - Melissa was just 16.

"One day she was a teenage girl in love with her boyfriend, the next day she was a mother-to-be with no idea what to do."

True, they had options, but what happens next is not what anyone would expect.

The Plague of Sadness - A 9-1-1 call that goes awry and its aftermath.  A story that is incredibly short, but left me totally drained as a reader.

I found myself hungry for every word on the pages of Lost and Lonely.  Each story in this collection is powerful in its own unique way.  They are the kind of stories which leave you restless.  The kind that stay with you long after you put the book down.  Also, Glenn Chadbourne's illustrations throughout are magnificent.


Lost and Lonely is currently available as a Signed Limited Edition Hardcover from Cemetery Dance http://www.cemeterydance.com/lost-and-lonely.html

From the author's bio.  Brian James Freeman sold his first short story when he was fourteen years old and his first novel when he was twenty-four.  His novella, The Painted Darkness, took the Internet by storm as an eBook during the summer of 2010, reaching more than 30,000 readers in the first few months after publication.  The book was published in hardcover in December 2010 by Cemetery Dance Publications, with the signed editions selling out in just 24 hours.  Freeman is also the author of Blue November Storms, which was recently revised and republished, and Black Fire.

Since December 2008, Freeman has been the managing editor of Cemetery Dance magazine, where his column "The Final Question" appears.  Freeman is also the publisher of Lonely Road Books where he has worked with Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, Mick Garris, Stewart O'Nan, and other acclaimed authors.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, two cats, and two German Shorthaired Pointers.  More books are on the way.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Review: Episodes of Violence - by David Bernstein

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

It's been nearly six years that I've been reviewing horror books on my personal blog.  The first work I ever reviewed was the novella Torment by Greg Chapman.  14 people saw that post.  More than 700 reviews have followed and yesterday's review was seen by nearly 250 people.  I can't thank you enough for your support as we near 100,000 views over six years.

I mention this not so much to toot my own horn, but I admit It does feel good.  I say this to let you know that the book I'm reviewing today, Episodes of Violence is, by far, the most brutal, savage, murderous, and vicious novel I have read in all of that time. Yes, it's that good.  Don't even bother with the rest of the review.  Just do yourself a favor and read this before you read anything else in 2018.

And now for the review.  At the very beginning of Episodes of Violence, we meet the blood-thirsty trio responsible for most of the action, Sage, her boyfriend Daemon, and their best friend Bobby.  It all starts in the opening paragraph...

"The barn-shaped mailbox exploded as the baseball bat smashed through it.  Various-sized jagged pieces of red plastic scattered into the air, a few pinging off the hockey mask Sage was wearing."

Mailbox baseball was just the beginning...

"What (Daemon) really wanted was to do something that wouldn't be forgotten.  Something that would horrify the town and baffle the law."

Bernstein has always exercised an "in your face" writing style, but never more effectively than in his latest effort as he delivers again and again on the book's title with a vivid writing technique that's more akin to watching a movie than reading a book.

"A naked woman with tattoos covering her chest, arms and thighs lay on the stained and torn leather couch.  Her nose, eyebrows, and ears contained hoop-shaped piercings and each of her nipples had a thick bar through it.  Her legs clearly hadn't been shaved in some time, the hairs like a layer of fuzz, and her bush sprouted up like the head of a huge broccoli floret.  She looked at Sage and then at Daemon, giving them a weak smile and wave.  'Come to party?'"


"He braced himself as much as possible for the ringing his ears were going to feel, knowing it wouldn't matter.  He pulled the trigger with his sweat-slicked finger.  The gun roared and jumped in his hands.  Baldie's crotch vanished in a spray of fabric, flesh, and blood that decorated the grass behind him."

And that just begins to scratch the surface of what you'll find inside Episodes of Violence.

I've never been disappointed by anything I've read by David, but truthfully, I don't believe I've ever enjoyed myself more.  There is more that just an ultra-violent dissertation here.  There's a story with depth, characters we can love and empathize with, and others we can love to hate.

As long as you don't mind sex, blood, and guts, I can all but guarantee that you'll love this book.

Episodes of Violence is available in paperback and e-book formats from Sinister Grin Press.

From the author's bio.  David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills.  He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh.  He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there.  He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C, and now Episodes of Violence.  David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Guest Post: David Bernstein and "A Little Bit About Some Shit"

A Little Bit About Some Shit

First, I'd like to thank Frank for inviting me to write something on his blog and for taking his time to read and review my newest novel, Episodes of Violence.  I come from a time when the greatest, trashiest, most gore-filled and outrageous movies were made.  I gobbled them up to no end, nothing ever too nasty.

With Episodes of Violence, I wanted to go back and relive those glory days of 80s movie magic in book form.  I made sure to push the ridiculous, but also make it believable as if it could be based on a true story.  (Hey, you never know).  Episodes of Violence is a mix of Toxic Avenger meets Justified or Hell or High Water.  In other words, it's fucked up young adults with no morals wreaking havoc in small town USA with a revenge tale looming and blooming like a building storm.

Episodes is a real-world novel.  I wouldn't exactly say it's horror, but I wouldn't say it isn't.  It's what could, and has happened, in the world we live in.  I find this kind of writing more intense and scary than vampires, demons and other such monsters.  This book is more like The Unhinged and different from my other novels because it isn't a straight to the bone horror novel.

Well, enough about that.

I have a one-year-old daughter and since she was born I haven't felt the need to write.  I haven't written in over a year and a half. (Well except for a short story for the C.H.U.D. Anthology which I certainly could not pass up).  I'm not sure if it's just me or if you have to experience having a child to know what I mean about not needing to write.  I want to spend as much time with my daughter as possible and soak it all in because everyone keeps telling me it goes so fast.  So I've put the writing aside for a bit.  It's like I don't need it.  (Not to mention the bullshit I went through and am still going through with publishers—closing down, not paying... I consider myself lucky though.  I've worked with great people and publishers and came up with some great authors who I call friends.  It was incredibly smooth sailing for a while there, but I guess like all authors sometimes shit just blows up and then you have to pull yourself together and get back on the horse).

I've recently found the inspiration to write again and bring the horror back into my words, including extreme horror.  But instead of taking time away from my family, I will simply watch less tv and stay up later to get the writing done.

So there are ups and downs in a writer's life and I went through a long stretch and I was worried I wouldn't get back into it, but alas I have.  I wrote my first short story when I was in kindergarten so I should have figured once a writer always a writer.  But it's scary when you spend so much time writing and getting books published and then it seems like its all over.  (Especially when publishers go under that you did well with).

I know this post has two completely different topics, but fuck it, it's my guest post!  Hopefully, you've enjoyed it and learned a little more about me.   

Frank here - Thanks for taking the time to put together the guest post.  I, for one, am excited to see you writing again.  Look for my review of Episodes of Violence on Saturday.  Just a suggestion, David.  Don't EVER let your baby girl read this one.  E-V-E-R!!!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Spungunion - by John Boden

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Spungunion: (pronounced: Spun-Gun-Yun) noun; 1.) a dish made from rotting road kill, usually a skunk or a opossum. The more fragrant or maggoty, the better. 2.) Something that's been on the road for a long and unfortunate time...

It's also the story of a long-haul trucker, the love of his life taken in a fit of violence, and his personal road to redemption.

Deke Larch is a road dog.  John Boden tells his story with panache and gusto.  Set in a world of rednecks.  When Deke returns from an overnight run to find his wife, Lucille, dead in the bed of their trailer, he begins a strange quest to learn the truth.  Even questioning his own guilt or innocence in the process.

I loved the story of how Deke and Lucille met in the diner and it was truly love at first sight.  Yes, it does actually happen sometimes.

Their love was powerful and you can feel the weight of Deke's grief in the way Boden describes the character's loss. 

At times the prose in this book is downright poetic...

"Deke sat in the truck and gazed out at the cemetery.  His pap had always called them 'bone gardens.'  The morning mist rose in finger curls from the crisp grass.  The leaves were starting to change on the trees and a few early suicides littered the ground."

Then there are the clever head-nods to other popular horror writers. A joy for constant readers, like myself and you, if you read these reviews.

"Yardley, Lutzke and Janz were like department store mannequins."  Then there's Sheriff MacLeod, another author reference, for sure.

Spungunion is currently available here and is well worth your time... http://dynatox.storenvy.com/products/20076764-spungunion-by-john-boden

From the author's bio.  John Boden lives a stone's throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons.  A baker by day, he spends his off time writing or watching M*A*S*H re-runs.  He likes Diet Pepsi, cheeseburgers, heavy metal and sports ferocious sideburns.  While his output as a writer is fairly sporadic, it has a bit of a reputation for being unique.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Review: Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella - by Michael Patrick Hicks

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

"Jon Dangle is a keeper of secrets, many of which are buried deep below his dealership."

Antoine DeWitt is having a bad day, and it's about to get much worse.  Good jobs are hard to come by, particularly when you've only been out of prison for a couple of years.  But when your redneck boss is singing the praises of President Trump and denigrating the prior President with racial slurs, well there's only so much a man can take.

Newly unemployed, with a wife and infant child, Antoine is pressured into responding to a "Money Carlo" mailer from a car dealership which seems to indicate he's a $5,000 cash prize winner.  I'm sure you've seen the likes of these contests, where it looks like you've won a significant prize.  A big screen TV maybe or even a cash award.  There have been times when my wife and I read all the fine print and were convinced we were big winners, but even then we stayed away because it's like they say, "If it's too good to be true..."  After reading Broken Shells, I'm pretty sure Antoine wishes he would have stayed away, too.

"The pain was immediate as his ear was ripped away from his skull, blood sheeting down his neck and leaking into the gap between his body and the shell that held him in place."

Bugs are creepy, but giant bugs...

I don't think I've given too much away, after all, the title reveals quite a bit Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella.

Michael Patrick Hicks has combined a common sales technique with a number of Native American legends and given it all a dark and nasty twist in a novella I won't soon forget, mostly thanks to the nightmares I've already had.


Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella is now available for pre-order from High Fever Books.

From the author's bio - Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of a number of speculative fiction titles. His debut novel, Convergence, was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. Prior to Broken Shells, his most recent work was the horror novel, Mass Hysteria.

He has written for the Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter websites, in addition to working as a freelance journalist and news photographer.

In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Guest Post: What Lies Below? - by Michael Patrick Hicks

What Lies Below?

One of the first, maybe even the very first, work of subterranean horror I ever read was in a high school literature course, with the assignment of Dante’s Inferno.  In this 14th Century epic poem, Dante journeys through the nine circles of Hell lying at the center of Earth.  Dante’s depictions of Minos and Cerberus, the deprivations and tortures and violence of the sinners lost within proved to be a lasting influence.

Even before then, though, at a much younger age, I was fascinated with the world beneath our feet. I’d dig around in my mother’s rosebush garden to pull up worms and hunt for roly-polies, snails, and slugs, marveling at the abundance of life just scant inches below the topsoil.  Although I never had one, ant farms and the prospect of their underground colonies got my childish imagination going.  The idea of so much life, and so many different kinds of critters, living under our feet was (and, I must admit, still is!) awe-inspiring.

As I got older, though, I began to wonder about the darker side of things.  I am a horror writer, after all.  Worms and slugs are neat, but what else could be down there?  Life is so myriad and complex it seems quite likely we have only begun to scratch the surface of discovery, and every day we find new species and organisms alive and thriving in environments we previously had deemed uninhabitable.  What else is down below, deep underground, living in the dark?  More pointedly, what potential evils lurk beneath us, what secrets are buried and exist below the surface?  And, in the case of Broken Shells, to what lengths will people go to protect such a secret once discovered?

Plenty of myths have sought to explore similar questions throughout all of human history.  Subterranean horrors have long been the source of many legends and fairy tales, and one such myth, in particular, played a significant role in shaping the plot of Broken Shells.  I won’t spoil the fun here, though. You’re going to have to read the book to find out that story!

Although the inspiration for Broken Shells came with the mail delivery of a Money Carlo flyer, quite like the one Antoine receives, I knew right away it was going to be a work of subterranean horror.  I also knew that, much like in Dante’s Inferno, Antoine would be taking a quick descent into the pits of hell (or, at least, a hell; not necessarily the Hell).  I knew it was going to build on ancient myths and legends, and that poor Antoine, a down on his luck fellow who discovers things can certainly always get worse, was going to learn a secret he was far better off not knowing.  Not that he had much say in the matter, really…


Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of a number of speculative fiction titles.  His debut novel, Convergence, was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist.  His latest release is the subterranean horror novella, Broken Shells.

He has written for the Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter websites, in addition to working as a freelance journalist and news photographer.

In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Review: Wicked Haunted: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers - Ed. by Scott T. Goudsward, Daniel G. Keohane, & David Price

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

I am happy to report that there is not a bad story in this entire anthology.  Sure, some are better than others, but each original story has its own unique twist to the ghost story trope.

It's been a long time since I've read a good ghost story and this collection has filled that void nicely.

Knock, Knock Artwork by Kali Moulton - One of a few selected art pieces to accompany the stories in this collection.

The Thing With No Face by Peter N. Dudar - A wonderful start to this anthology of ghostly tales.  A return to a childhood home causes Kevin Ellis to remember a tragic day.  "But the thing standing directly in the center of the lawn was loathsome; a silhouette of spindly white arms and legs that fluttered in the hot pre-dawn breeze like a frayed flag. The apparition floated in defiance of the tangible things surrounding it, as if it somehow wanted to find the same permanence but could not."

Lost Boy by Bracken Macleod - Tale of the ghost of a boy who once was.  Bracken succeeds in building the suspense in his contribution to Wicked Haunted.

Scrying Through Torn Screens by Patricia Gomes - One of a few poetry selections in the anthology.

They, Too, Want to be Remembered by KH Vaughan - The nightmares in this short would be funny. if they weren't terrifying.  "But I am not so fortunate. I wake with a start to the sound of destruction and mayhem. There are horses in my apartment, crashing through the windows and rearing high enough to scrape the ceiling with their hooves. My coffee table and flat-screen are toppled and smashed beneath sharp hooves. Their eyes are wild and rolling. This time I am not dreaming."

Everything Smells Like Smoke Again by Curtis M. Lawson - Another above average ghost story as evidenced by a glowing cigarette.  I loved this story.

The Boy on the Red Tricycle by Dan Szczesny - An effective story about Sam and the ghost who becomes like a son to him.  Trust me when I tell you this story does not end well for anyone.

One Way Dead End Artwork by Ogmios

East Boston Relief Station by Paul R. McNamee - A kidney stone, a GPS pointing in the wrong direction, and a ghost in the East Boston Relief Station.

Mouse by Larissa Glasser - Loved this ghost story with a transgender theme.  Told from the point of view of the ghost.  Larissa has created something special with her contribution to the anthology.

The Walking Man by Matt Bechtel - Not all ghosts are dead.  A story with a terrific twist from one of my favorite writers.

My Work is Not Yet Completed by Nick Manzolillo - A wildly imaginative telling of the story of the ghost of Samuel Clemens.

Ghosts In Their Eyes by Trisha J. Wooldridge - Poetry is not my thing, but Tricia uses the format to tell a wonderful story.

They Come With the Storm by Dan Foley - Lost love and ghost-laden storms make for one creepy tale.

Turn Up the Old Victrola by Tom Deady - Tom Deady is becoming one of my go-to writers for entertaining stories.  Last year he was awarded a Stoker for his debut novel, Haven, and I just read his new novella, Weekend Getaway.  Here he tells a wickedly entertaining tale of a haunted victrola.

Ghost Maker by Emma J. Gibbon - Asking the poignant question, if you get an abortion, do you create a ghost.

The Pick Apart by Paul McMahon - Another effective ghost story involving a girl killed in a bridge collapse.

The Stranding Off Schoodic Point by R.C. Mulhare - Story of an apparition at sea.  A tale with a lovely twist.

Triumph of the Spirit by GD Dearborn - Life as a ghost through the eyes of the spirit  Wonderfully told.

Ghost on a Swing Artwork by Judi Calhoun

The Road to Gallway by Rob Smales - I loved this story and its wonderful twist.

The Thin Place by Morgan Sylvia - “There’s a ghost in my house,” I said. She looked at me thoughtfully, and then closed her mascara-laden eyes and did some mumbo-jumbo with her hands, her heavy rings flashing in the light. A moment later, her eyes snapped open. “Analea,” she said. “A victim of the fire.”

Tripping the Ghost by Barry Lee Dejasu - An odd story of bodies, mushrooms, and, of course, ghosts.

we’re all haunted here by doungai gam - A touching and heart-warming story told by a new ghost.  I just loved this line in Gam's story.  "The living claim they’re the ones haunted by ghosts, but those of us already dead are every bit as haunted by the ones we left behind."

Murmur by Jeremy Flagg - Witches using magic and computers to communicate with the dead get more than they bargained for.

Pulped by James A. Moore - A great way to end the anthology.  When it comes to James A. Moore, I'm admittedly a bit of a fanboy.  This is a wonderful story of an early superhero now a ghost seeking revenge.

As I was writing this review, I was reminded how much I enjoyed reading this anthology.  So many great stories from familiar authors and authors new to me.   As a reader, you can't ask for more than that.

Strongly recommended.

Published by NEHW Press, Wicked Haunted: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers is available in both Paperback and E-Book formats.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: Midnight Echo 12 - Edited by Anthony Ferguson & Shane Jiraiya Cummings

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Midnight Echo 12 marks the rebirth of the Australasian Horror Writers Association's signature magazine.  Issue 11 was published more than two years ago.

It's nice to see its return, not just because it's an important venue for Aussie writers, but because it represents speculative fiction at its finest.

I'm going to comment on just a few of the standout stories in this issue.  Stories like EFFIGIA MALO by Angela J. Maher.

Lydia made a choking noise as she felt a rope tighten around her neck. 'Paul,' she rasped. 'Get out. Run! It’s the book; it’s evil. The illustration is creating a reality. Go, before it gets you too!'

I was also impressed with a delightful little ghost story called, WAR GHOST, and OLD MAN RED GUM, a tale of an ancient tree and its dark history.  But, the best of the bunch comes at the end of the magazine as Matthew R. Davis tells the story of lost love.  Really lost, as in never existed. But the lead character remembers his love clearly and he even gets a Christmas gift from her.  A mixtape made when they were still dating. The rest of the story is told in a series of flashbacks, one for each song on the tape.  Terribly clever and then there's the big reveal at the end.  Perfectly told.  Go read AN IMPOSSIBLE GIFT.

Midnight Echo 12 is a nice blend of fact and fiction and includes several award-winning shorts in this issue.  Welcome back and don't stay away so long this time.

Midnight Echo 12  is published by the Australasian Horror Writers Association and is available in Kindle format.  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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: What Hides Within - by Jason Parent

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

What Hides Within takes off at a torrid pace and barely lets up for a minute before it's exciting conclusion.

Clive stared under the bridge, intending to view the travel conditions beyond it. What he beheld was as magnificent as it was unnerving. His mouth dropped open in awe of the animalistic artistry. In the cool, damp darkness, an intricate mass of webbing sheathed the bridge’s undercarriage like a drape woven in silk by the most skilled of weavers. Its beautiful yet ominous patterns served as a warning to weary travelers who dared attempt passage. This is no place for humankind.

Of course, Clive is not deterred and he'll certainly live to regret his boldness.  When his kayak overturns in the murky water, his ear is left waterlogged, and as if that isn't bad enough, he soon begins to hear a lone voice in his head.

Jason Parent masterfully lays on layer after layer of intricate storytelling, weaving a masterful web and an entertaining tale.  A tenacious page-turner which only requires the reader to check their disbelief at the door and enjoy.  I found What Hides Within to be clever, at times comedic, and at times very dark.

Ultimately recommended.

What Hides Within is currently available in both paperback and Kindle 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 author's bio - In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New 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.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator.  When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it's harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble.  The flops got repossessed the next day, and he's back in the legal field . . . sorta.  But that's another story.

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.

Guest post: Resurrected - by Jason Parent on his relaunch of What Hides Within


Several people have asked me why I am re-releasing What Hides Within, especially those who liked the story and didn’t want to see it altered. I like the story too, but its former presentation did not live up to its full potential. It’s no secret I never liked the original cover. Beyond that, every work I have released since has been meticulously edited. What Hides Within was years in the making, and the final product looked as though I rushed to publication. The truth was that I had spent a fortune in editing from editors I shouldn’t have been using, and my own knowledge of both writing and publishing were not where they needed to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely happy for the opportunity my first publisher gave me. It was an invaluable learning experience essential to my growth as an author. Maybe you’ve seen an original copy of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. It’s a beautiful book, but it’s riddled with errors. In later editions, these errors disappear. And why not? If you have an opportunity to fix something, you’d be a fool not to.

Now, I’m no Stephen King. I know that. But I’d like to think I strive for his same high standards. So when my contract was up, I pulled the book from market and signed on with Bloodshot Books, where I believed What Hides Within could see a brighter future, knowing what I now and should’ve known back then.

The cover isn’t all that has changed (though it’s everything I hoped it could be). The book has gone
through additional edits from both myself and people I trust. I kept the voice of the novel – the sarcasm and the humor – the same but streamlined some of the action and cut out the excess.

Overall, I was happy with the response to the first edition and always believed What Hides Within to
be a rather unique story, but I was never 100% happy with the original product. Now, the book has the
cover and the story I intended. Sure, even with the new version, Bloodshot and I hit a few stumbling blocks on the road to publication as is the story with every book. But we overcame those quickly and produced a stand-alone novel I’m proud to have my name on.

And now that I am happy with the story, I am ready to continue it. Expect a spinoff this year.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Welcome to Paradise - A short Story of Brutal Love by Glenn Rolfe

5 of 5 Stars      Review copy

This story from Glenn Rolfe may be short on words, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in violence.

She loved damage.  She loved scars.  She loved anything beautiful and broken.  The Lucky Lounge Motel served as the feeding ground for her biggest passion...murder.

Welcome to Paradise - A short Story of Brutal Love is lurid, vicious fun with a wonderful twist.  Don't miss it.

Welcome to Paradise - A short Story of Brutal Love is a self-published short story and 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.

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

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review: Goblin - by Josh Malerman

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Goblin: A Novel In Six Novellas is the thirteenth book in Earthling Publication’s annual Halloween Series.  Featuring an introduction by James A. Moore, Cover artwork by Allison Laakko, and Interior artwork by Glenn Chadbourne, Goblin is indeed a very special book.

From the Earthling Publication's website...

Welcome to the town of Goblin. May your night there be wet with rain, breathless with adventure, and filled with fright…

I know I said the story was told in six novellas, but we mustn't forget the Prologue - And a very important delivery to Dean Crawford in Goblin, MI. A delivery that must take place between Midnight and 12:30.  The prologue was just a tease of things to come, albeit a pulse-pounding one.  What follows is a series of compelling tales of life in Goblin.

A Man In Slices - A story where we learn quite a bit about the strange history of Goblin, including how the people of the town are buried standing up  And then there's Charles Ridnour...a man whom women avoided on sight, on instinct, despite his not having spoken to them at all.  A young man who wants to prove to his long-distance girlfriend that they have “legendary love,” better than Vincent van Gogh, so he sends her more than just his ear.

Kamp - Walter Kamp is scared of being scared to death by a ghost and sets up a series of “ghost traps” all over his apartment, desperate to catch one before it can sneak up on him.

Happy Birthday Hunter! - Big game hunter Neal Nash throws a lavish sixtieth birthday party for himself but leaves when he becomes obsessed with killing a Great Owl, a protected species in Goblin.  But the North Woods are anything but friendly.

Presto - In the pages of Presto magazine, a young boy reads that his favorite magician, Roman Emperor, is coming to town. She knew all about how magicians had their secrets, secrets they don't share, but there was something different about this show.  Something terrible. Something scary.

A Mix-Up At the Zoo - Dirk Rogers works full-time at the Hardy Carrol Goblin Zoo, as a tour guide, and he also works part-time at the Goblin Slaughterhouse.  What could possibly go wrong?

The Hedges - When young Margot solves the mystery of the Hedges there's a chase between the Goblin police and the owner of the Hedges which leads directly to the terrible North Woods.

The book ends with a satisfying conclusion to what began in the prologue.

Goblin was fun, unexpected, and filled with the sort of prose that makes one want to slow down and savor every word.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the interior illustrations from artist Glenn Chadbourne.

Currently, Goblin is only available from Earthling publications in the following formats...

 500 numbered, smyth sewn, offset printed hardcovers, illustrated endsheets, silk ribbon page marker, signed by Josh Malerman; $50

15 lettered, smyth sewn, offset printed, traycased hardcovers, both book and traycase completely hand made using the finest materials, signed by all contributors; $ price TBD

For more information, visit http://www.earthlingpub.com/jm_goblin.html

From the author's bio...Josh Malerman is an American author of novels and short stories.  Before publishing his debut novel Bird Box with ECCO/HarperCollins, he wrote fourteen novels, never having shopped one of them.

Being the singer/songwriter of the Detroit rock band The High Strung, Malerman toured the country for six years, as the band played an average of 250 shows a year, and Malerman wrote many of the rough drafts for these novels in the passenger seat between cities on tour. He says this about those days: “I never saw the books with dollar signs in my eyes. It was no hobby, that’s for sure, it was the real thing and always has been, but I was happy, then, simply writing, and while I blindly assumed they’d be published one day, I had no idea how something like that occurred.”

Bird Box was released in 2014 and many short stories and novellas have followed.