Sunday, September 30, 2018

Guest Post: Terry M. West - Writing Above Your Grade

I'd like to welcome Terry M. West to the blog.  And a big thanks for his guest post here today.  I just finished reading his latest, Gruesome: A Gathering of Nightmares, which I'll be reviewing tomorrow, but for now here's Terry...

Writing Above Your Grade

Whenever I’m asked to write a guest blog, it’s tough to sort out what I should discuss.  Should I just go the self-serving route and talk about my work, my process, my current WIP?  Or should I risk a lashing and offer advice to my fellow ink-slingers?  And though the case can be made that I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve forgotten more of my work than I remember from the fuzzy around the edges days of my writer-for-hire years, that doesn’t mean that the less seasoned won’t still scoff at any wisdom I have to impart. Or that I won’t still be just talking out of my ass.  Writers are lying con people with a wagon full of snake oil bottles in tow.

So I’ve decided to risk contempt and offer my thoughts on something that I’ve noticed in my own evolution as an author.  When I was a younger writer, I wrote smaller tales.  Nothing epic.  Nothing with an extremely challenging scope.  Back then, if you needed to research a story, you had to hit the library.  Not Wikipedia.  And like many in their baby steps as an author, I was lazy and undisciplined. I had that Ed Wood It’s Not The Small Details mentality.

There were ideas that I didn’t think I had the skills for.  I wasn’t a good enough writer to pull them off.  I carried that evaluation until five, six years ago when I decided it was time to build some worlds.  Night Things was an ambitious project for me when you look at the work that came before it.  A story where classic monsters lived among the masses, out of the closet and in the streets, found an audience.  And some love.  And though the world I had to build was intimidating for me and I felt that if even one brick was tugged the wrong way everything would collapse, I used what had worked for my fiction all along: characterization and dialogue.

Sure, there were a few who mourned that my world should have been in the hands of a better author (The Avengers want Iron Man, but not Tony Stark).  But it was a success for me and continues to find new readers.

But the tightrope I walked in 2016 was an even skimpier one.  All of the Flesh Served was my first ever full-fledged dystopian sci-fi attempt.  And I decided to use Trump’s election as the basis for the dark landscape it presented.  Because, you know, something I’d never dared before wasn’t hard enough without a political statement in the center of it.  Or maybe those works naturally come with societal attachments in hand.  The trick I think most would say is not to overwhelm the story with your message.  And while I agree that some messages should be whispered softly, others need to be tied to a rock and tossed through a window.

I’m proud of what I did with Flesh, and if it is heavy-handed, forgive me.  These are heavy-handed times it seems.

While it didn’t find an audience as big as some of my earlier efforts, it did earn some love, and is included in my Gruesome collection.

Both these projects were ideas that I would have immediately shit-canned twenty years ago.  But as you age, criticism doesn’t really bother you as much as it used to.  You become less self-conscious.  Like the old man dragging the trash can to the curb in his boxers.  You have to realize, getting in this game, that if a reader pays for the ticket, that reader has a right to give an opinion.  Fair, unfair, or indifferent.  I’ve found that bad reviews are usually more helpful than unabashed praise.  People who dislike a work are generally more honest with an appraisal than people who might be so in love with something that they fail to see its flaws.  Or fear that pointing them out will bruise the effort.
So don’t be intimidated by that huge idea that’s brewing in your head.  The one you keep pushing back because of the commitment it would take.  I’d rather fail spectacularly than play it safe.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put some boxers on and drag these cans to the curb.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: The Toroa - by Erik Hoffstatter

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

"The word Toroa refers to the Northern royal albatross, a bird that is sometimes used metaphorically to represent a psychological burden that may or may not weigh heavy on the soul as if it were a curse."

After reading this new work from Erik Hofstatter, I must say he has certainly succeeded in conveying the ideas in that definition into the novel's theme.

Abandoned by her father and abused by her mother, Mahi has grown up fast and when Aryan shows her affection she quickly falls in love, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy.  Her seduction is somewhat violent and may ruffle some feathers.

Each person who comes into Mahi's life is a disaster and little of what happens to her is pleasant.  When she flees to Aukland in search of her long-lost father, she finds answers, but not the ones she hoped for.

It's difficult to say more about Toroa without giving away too many of its secrets.  When those secrets are all revealed, I found myself nodding my head and thinking.  "Yeah, now it all makes sense."

Toroa is one of those novels where every character is flawed.  In the end, even Mahi is irredeemable.  This is not a book which I can easily recommend.  However, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, go ahead and read it.  You may have a totally different reading experience.

Published by Sinister Grin Press, Toroa is available now in paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

About the author - Erik Hofstatter is a dark fiction writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association.  Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism.  He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry.  His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show.   Rare Breeds is out now via Dark Silo Press.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review: Slices - by James A. Moore

5 of 5 Stars

Slices is a collection of shorts which originally came out as a limited edition hardcover and has now found a new home for wide release, meaning everyone can now enjoy James A. Moore at his best.

Fourteen tales from a true master of horror.

Grease Painted Smile - After seeing a picture in the local paper of up-and-coming comic Cecil Phelps the protagonist in this story believes he's looking at a dead man, more importantly, a dead man known as Rufo the Clown.  A dead man who once told him...

"I'm going to make you bleed, boy, I'm going to make you bleed and die., but first, I think I'll rape your sister and eat your brother's eyes."

If you weren't afraid of clowns before...

Shades of  Grey - Loaded with mystery, murder, and plenty of twists.  And terrific writing, too...

"Danny drank coffee with enough sugar to kill a diabetic and enough cream to guarantee clogged arteries."

War Stories - Grandpa, a veteran of WWII and Korea, and Eddie a Vietnam vet, trading war stories on the porch.  An early appearance from one of my favorite Moore characters, John Crowley...

" man before or since has ever scared the hell out of me the way he did."

Skinwalker - "Have you ever heard of a skinwalker?  According to the myths of my people, the skinwalkers are evil medicine men, or even the enchanted corpses of medicine men.  Either way, they are supposed to be possessed by a demon.  They have pale white skin and, according to some, a preference for human flesh.  They also have great magical powers and can make others do their bidding." 

Simon's Muse - Jerry gets stuck in an elevator at Screamicon with his idol, Simon Crawford.  An unexpected friendship ensures and years later he learns all about Simon's dark muse.

A Place Where There is Peace - An interesting tale which is never quite about what you think.  Moore's tribute to H P. Lovecraft.

In the Oubliette - A wonderfully inventive and layered story about love from afar.  One of my favorites in a collection of great tales.

Hathburn Avenue - "Now, I bet most people could tell you that at one time or another in their lives that they thought like they were being followed...but this didn't feel like eyes were following me so much as it felt like eyes intent on killing me."- I loved this ghoulish little story.

The Dark Place - IMHO, this could just be the perfect story.  This was so creepy, it actually made me shiver and that just doesn't happen anymore.

Harvest Gods - I got a kick out of the way Moore spends the first part of this story extolling the virtues of the quiet little town of Summitville and then tags it with the line...

"I wish I'd never seen the damned place."

They Fell from Space - *Note to authors everywhere.  Once a meteor falls to Earth, it is a meteorite.  That being said, this was a fun little telling of the familiar trope of something arriving with said meteorite and terrifying the natives.

Burden of Guilt I: Burden of Guilt - Howard R. Dowd, of Hinkle & Dowd, Attorneys at Law, has picked up a new skillset.  He suddenly has the ability to see a person's darkest secrets.  As a result, he begins to wonder if he's doing the right thing by getting his clients declared "Not Guilty."

Burden of Guilt II: My Brother's Keeper - Jake and John are twins who suffer from the Corsican Brothers Syndrome...

"I had to share the most intimate moments of my life with a man I hated and he had to do the same."

Burden of Guilt III: - Jack Covington and four other members of his HS football team did something their senior year they would all rather put behind them, but as so often is the case...

"The past has teeth.  The past is unforgiving."

Wow.  I'm so glad that John McIlveen at Twisted Publishing decided to resurrect this collection.  There is not a bad story in the bunch.  I am so happy to give Slices my highest recommendation.

Published by Twisted Publishing, an imprint of Haverhill House Publishing, Slices is now available in wide release in both paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - 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.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review: The Siren and the Specter - by Jonathan Janz

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

It was almost two years ago Jonathan Janz first came to my attention.  I kept hearing about his novel, Children of the Dark.  This what I said in my review of that work...

"This is one time where all of the hype was dead on."

I've been fortunate enough to read and review the initial six books from Flame Tree Press and I''m not surprised they've recruited  Jonathan for their inaugural offering.  Twist after twist makes The Siren and the Specter one terrific ride.

David Caine has made his living as a professional skeptic.  When his friend Chris and his wife Kathryn hire him to spend a month in the oldest haunted house in America and write a book about his findings.  David expects this experience to me much like his others, but that wouldn't make for much of a story now, would it?

There is just so much to love in this book, but at the top of my list is the way the author draws his characters with such care. Even the supporting players have great depth.  Take David's neighbor, Ralph Hooper,.a crotchety old man who takes David under his wing when things start to go South.  Ralph has a wonderful sign in his house...

"Education is important but fishing is importanter."

And Ralph himself has a way with words...

"I'd no sooner set foot in that house than I'd use my testicles as catfish bait."

If The Siren and the Specter doesn't set your heart racing, there's a pretty good chance you're dead.

Don't miss this one.  100% recommended.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Review: Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach - by Ramsey Campbell

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

No one writes horror like Ramsey Campbell as evidenced by numerous accolades over the years, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association and the Living Legend Award of the International Horror Guild.

Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach is the third book I've read from new publisher  Flame Tree Press and based on what I've seen so far they will be a welcome addition to the small press marketplace.

In this book, Ray & Sandra, their children, and grandchildren are on a shared vacation to the Greek island of Vasilema and the mysterious Sunset Beach.  While much of the story deals with typical family squabbles (three generations on a family trip, what could go wrong?), there is a faint undercurrent of horror.

Campbell is a master at keeping a story's secrets close to the vest, allowing readers to uncover the truth at their own pace.  Much of the horror I read is deliberate in its approach, the equivalent of being beaten repeatedly with a giant crowbar.  In Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach, the approach is so subtle you barely realize the horror is right there in the room with you.

If there is anything which bothered me about this book it was the author's frequent use of the phrase "Sandra and the teenagers."  Campbell said this so many times I began to think of them as a girl band from the sixties.  Just once maybe they could have been "The teenagers and Sandra."

Despite my nitpicking, I found Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach to be immensely enjoyable and is definitely a story I can recommend.

Available in various formats from Flame Tree Press.

From the author's bio - Ramsey Campbell is an English horror fiction writer, editor and critic who has been writing for well over fifty years.  Since he first came to prominence in the mid-1960s, critics have cited Campbell as one of the leading writers in his field.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review: Creature - by Hunter Shea

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Yes, I consider myself a Hellion.  That's how Hunter Shea refers to his most ardent followers.  I can't say I've read every one of his books (he's remarkably prolific), but I've yet to read one I didn't care for.

Creature is the second book I've read from new publisher  Flame Tree Press, who looks to publish both established authors and new voices in horror and the supernatural, crime and mystery thrillers, as well as science fiction and fantasy.  It's also a bit of a diversion for Hunter.  It's easily his most personal work to date.  Sure, there's a monster, that's evident from the title, but this book is so much more.

From the opening line, the reader realizes there is something different about this story...

"Kate Woodson was dying and her executioner was her own body."

For a while, it seemed the horror in the book would be found in the medical treatments Kate would have to undergo.

In an effort to get away from the doctors and treatments for a while Kate, her husband Andrew, and her beloved dog, Buttons, retreated to an isolated cabin in the woods of Maine.  It's not long before they discover they are not alone.  I love this kind of story and Hunter Shea delivers a good one.  Pure, unadulterated horror.

Despite the serious nature of Creature, the author still knows how hot entertain with his story-telling...

"She knew lobster was big up here.  Too bad she refused to eat something that looked like a cockroach from hell."

I'm used to Hunter Shea's monster fare but despite the title, Creature is a more complete book with greater substance throughout.  At times the pace was furious and I just couldn't turn the pages fast enough.  This is one of his most entertaining books so far.  Be sure to have a box of tissues handy, just in case.  A heartwrenching story with massive amounts of carnage.  Dare I say there is something for everyone.

Available in various formats from Flame Tree Press.

From the author's bio -  Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Review: The Bad Neighbor - by David Tallerman

5 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

There's a new publisher I think we're going to hear a lot about in the coming months.  They call themselves Flame Tree Press and they plan to publish both established authors and new voices in horror and the supernatural, crime and mystery thrillers, as well as science fiction and fantasy.

Their first set of novels include Creature by Hunter Shea, The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner, The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz, The Sky Woman by J.D. Moyer, Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Cambell and the book I'll be reviewing today, The Bad Neighbor by David Tallerman.

What to do with an inheritance of  54,300 pounds.  Well, if you're young and desperate to own your own home and want to pay cash you can buy a bit of a fixer-upper in a bad neighborhood, but then you might wind up with a bad neighbor the way Oliver Clay did.

When one bad decision leads to your life falling apart, a person is likely to make even worse decisions in a desperate attempt to pull it back together.

Even though David's story is set in his native England, Americans can certainly relate to what's going on here, as his neighbor Chas and his mates are members of the hate group Britains For The British.

While not exactly horror, The Bad Neighbor is more of a Crime Thriller, it did have many horrific elements.   It made me angry and caused me to embrace the protagonist's effort to do something, even if it that something might be considered wrong by some.

This is my first read of David Tallerman, and I must admit I really enjoyed the experience.  It was so easy to become immersed in the brutal world in which Ollie finds himself residing.

Strongly recommended.

Available in various formats from Flame Tree Press.

From the author's bio - David Tallerman is the author of the YA fantasy series.  His comics work includes the absurdist steampunk graphic novel Endangered Weapon B: Mechanimal Science (with Bob Molesworth) and the ongoing miniseries C21st Gods (with Anthony Summey).

David's short fiction has appeared in around eighty markets, including Clarkesworld, Nightmare, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. A number of his best dark fantasy and horror stories were gathered together in his debut collection The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Review: Halcyon - by Rio Youers

5 of 5 Stars

About seven or eight years ago, I attended my first Horror Convention,  Horrorfind, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It was in the reading room where I first encountered Rio Youers.  He read from one of his stories in Dark Dreams, Pale Horses from PS Publishing. I loved the story and Rio was an excellent reader, too.  Later I picked up his novella, Mama Fish, and I've been hooked ever since (pun intended).

What do I enjoy about Rio's work?  It could be the character-driven stories, it could be the believability factor (even when dealing with the unbelievable).  Then there's the way he weaves the ordinary into his stories.  Like the scene where his character, Martin Lovegrove, is watching Lost on Netflix...

"...where Hurley was currently bouncing through the jungle.  Oh Hurley...four and a half seasons without Kentucky Fried Chicken and still a goddam lard-ass."

That's the reason I gave up on Lost in season one.  I couldn't buy into Jorge Garcia not losing any weight on that island.

Sorry, back to the review.

I already mentioned Martin, father to fifteen-year-old Shirley and ten-year-old Edith.  Mom, Laura was out of the picture for the most part, but the parents did combine forces in an attempt to find help for Edith who suffered from Night Terrors.   It is while on this journey of discovery we meet one of the most intriguing characters in the book, Calm Dumas.

Calm actually helps Edith a bit by teaching her to create a dream world inviting the girl into her own private place.  It's where...I can't say more; this surprise is best discovered by the reader.

Then there is Valerie, an amazing character herself with a rich and dark backstory and the driving force behind Halcyon named for a seabird in Greek mythology that could calm the waves...

"As an adjective, it means a time of great tranquility and harmony."

I've said enough, but believe me when I say I have barely scratched the surface.  Halcyon is broad in scope with multiple storylines which come together in a beautifully constructed climax.

Halcyon is one of those special books which reads like your watching a really good suspense thriller.  Emotionally charged.  Rio's writing is fearless and he really knows no bounds.  He is actually one of the most gifted storytellers of our time and Halcyon is his most amazing work to date.

This is a book I can recommend with the greatest of confidence.

Halcyon is published by St. Martin's Press and is available now in all formats.

From the author's bio - Rio Youers is the British Fantasy Award-nominated author of Point Hollow and The Forgotten Girl.  His short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada's prestigious Sunburst Award.

Review: Things You Need - by Kevin Lucia

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Kevin Lucia has a place he calls home in much of his work.  Like Stephen King has Castle Rock and Gary A. Braunbeck has Cedar Hill, Lucia has Clifton Heights, a small town in the Adirondacks where strange is more or less the norm.

That's not where the similarities to King end.  If you're at all familiar with Stephen's work you can't help but notice a similarity of titles between Needful Things and Things You Need.

Things You Need, at its core, is a collection of stories set in and around Clifton Heights.  Those tales are all wrapped in a larger story of a traveling salesman who comes to Clifton Heights.  Stuck in a job he's good at, but is anything but satisfying, Lucia's protagonist is considering the ultimate retirement...

"...the day I stepped into Handy's Pawn & Thrift, I'd say I was two steps away from giving my .38 that long, last kiss goodbye."

Now on to the stories within the story.

The Way of Ah-Tzenul - A perverted tale of a farmer who after a weak harvest the previous year discovers a most unusual way to tend to his fields.  I loved this story, but then I'm pretty much a sick bastard.

The Office - A cleverly constructed tale I won't dare give away.  Let's just say it made effective use of the magic eight ball which now finds itself residing at Handy's Pawn & Thrift.  It's also one of the finest shorts I've read this year and had a genuine Bradbury feel to it.

Out of Field Theory - Another gem of a story about a photography student working on a project for his final and gets caught up in shadows and what is happening "out of frame."

Scavenging - An engaging story of a man who has destroyed his future and is now trying to recapture his past.  One of the best reveals, ever.

A Place for Broken and Discarded Things - Many of the tales in this collection have that Twilight Zone vibe.  None more so than this story of a second-hand mega-store luring its victims like a venus fly-trap.

The Black Pyramid - A six-by-six-by-six black ceramic pyramid covered with odd etchings. Six-by-six-by-six.  Uh, oh.

When We All Meet at the Ofenda - It seems every Autumn I encounter numerous stories about the Mexican tradition, Día de Los Muertos.  This is my favorite so far this year.

Almost Home - A mother leaves a bad situation, taking her son and a .38. A story witch deftly ties the last tale into the larger story.

Kevin Lucia has a very comfortable style to his writing.  I won't soon forget my most recent visit to Clifton Heights and look forward to returning again soon.


Things You Need is available for pre-order 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.

Here is the rest of the schedule for Kevin's Blog Tour in support of Things You Need.

Anton Cancre - September 19th - Hiram Grange's Vaguely Inappropriate Interview With Gavin Patchett
Dan Keohane - September 21st
Amber Fallon - September 22nd - My Lament
Rebecca Snow - September 24th - Interview
Joe Falank - September 26th - Interview/The Man Who Sits in His Chair
Kevin Lucia at Cemetery Dance Online - September 28th - Special Edition of "Revelations" on Cemetery Dance Online, about how the Greystone Bay Series, edited by Charles L. Grant, influenced Clifton Heights
John Questore – September 29th – The Crayfish God
Erin Al-Mehairi – September 30th – Rest in Peace, Blackfoot Valley
Wesley Southard - October 1st – The Sidewalk Scavenger
Ryan G. Clark - October 3rd - Review
Yvone Davies/The Terror Tree – October 5th – The White Cat of Samara Hill
Mark Allen Gunnells – October 7th – The Cairn

Follow Kevin Lucia on Facebook for daily links.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Guest Post: Kevin Lucia writing as Gavin Patchett

I'm genuinely excited to hand over my blog today to Kevin Lucia, as he starts his blog tour for his newest collection,  Things You Need. 

Pre-Order link:

Gavin Patchett's the Name...

My name is Gavin Patchett.  I'm the author of half a dozen very forgettable science fiction media tie-in novels, and, more recently, the author of Things Slip Through, Devourer of Souls, Through A Mirror, Darkly, and my most recent release, Things You Need.  I recently sold another novella entitled The Night Road.  While I'm not ashamed of my science fiction stories, I'm certainly not especially proud of them, either.  They aren't horrible, fans liked them, and they paid enough for me to write full-time.

My most recent work?  I'm not sure if “proud” is the right word.  Thankful is better.  Thankful that, after ruining my mid-list career being a pompous, drunken ass, I've been given a second chance to write something worthwhile.  Something meaningful.  Especially the way things ended in my previous life, and the way I returned home, with my dignity and career in shreds.

My inglorious and perhaps inevitable return to Clifton Heights certainly wasn't the homecoming I'd always dreamed of.  Like every kid who leaves his small country hometown to “make it big,” I'd often entertained visions of coming home as the “local boy who had conquered the world.”

I'd move into an expensive cabin on Clifton Lake, of course, where I'd spend the days in my office writing bestselling novels.  Framed posters of my novel's covers would adorn the walls, between shelves filled with hardcover and limited editions of my ever-expanding body of work.  I'd be a modest sort of celebrity, (not exactly a Stephen King walking around Bangor, Maine, but maybe a close cousin), never too proud to rub elbows with the folks I'd grown up with.

I'd frequently give lectures on Creative Writing at both Clifton Heights and All Saints High, and would be a regular at Arcane Delights, the used and rare bookstore run by Brian Ellison.  I'd, of course, hold a signing there for each new book.  They'd probably dedicate a whole row of shelves to my work.  I'd do my grocery shopping at Great American Grocery, where I worked as a checkout clerk in my teens, but late at night, Sunday evening, so as not to be stopped too often by fans.

If I moved back to Clifton Heights single, I'd probably just focus on my work for a while, and wouldn't date much.  But maybe one of the English teachers from either high school would be female and single, and there'd be some chemistry which we'd coyly dance around at first.  However, we'd eventually bond over our love of books and writing. I wasn't egotistical enough to think she'd be my most adoring fan, of course.  Instead, I envisioned her as being my toughest critic, the first one I wanted to impress with my writing, but also someone whose red pen scared the bejesus out of me.

Maybe someday I'd break from science fiction and write a coming of age story about Clifton Heights, one that somehow reflected all the interesting, odd (and downright strange) aspects of my hometown, while still being a respectful homage to where I grew up.  And maybe, when the movie of that book became the next Stand By Me, they'd name the winding road leading up to my cabin Patchett Drive.

None of that ever happened, of course.

I did make one return to Clifton Heights early on in my writing career, after the book tour for my first book, a small-town thriller called Shades of Darkness.  I was invited to speak at the Clifton Heights High graduation.  I delivered a mostly forgettable speech about following your dreams and never giving up, and while the audience clapped dutifully at the end, I'm pretty sure most of the graduating seniors had fallen asleep sitting up.  Nevertheless, at the time I was sure when I came home next, things would be very different.

Things were different.

Just not the way I had expected.


A humbling truth about life as a moderately successful mid-list writer.  You can have a decent career and make enough money to write full time, have several books in print and on shelves across the country and even in a few airports, maybe even have several foreign editions of your books, but ask an average person on the street, “Ever read anything by Gavin Patchett?” and most likely you'll get nothing but a blank stare and a disinterested, “Never heard of him.”  Ask someone who calls themselves a fan of the genre that author writes in, and odds are 50-50 (most likely less) that they'll say they've heard of a Gavin Patchett, but they'll also admit to never having “gotten around” to reading his work.

Surely that author is a big hit in his hometown, right?  His novels on display in the high school library, where he spent his study hall hours all through school reading, as well as writing his first short stories?  A whole shelf at the local bookstore dedicated to his work?

In all truth, if the average person in Clifton Heights had been asked ten years ago, “Do you remember Gavin Patchett?  He's a writer now.  Have you read any of his books?” the answer would most likely have been, “Gavin Patchett writes books?  That's neat. I was to talking to so-and-so the other day, and I thought they mentioned he'd gone into advertising or something.  What's he write?  Hopefully, it's something like James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks.  Really popular stuff like that.  That's what I read.”

Suffice to say, when I returned to Clifton Heights ten years ago, my writing career in ruins, very few people in my own hometown were even aware I'd still been writing, even given my high school graduation address several years prior.  And if they had heard of it, it had been a third-hand story as an aside quickly forgotten.

Believe it or not, I'd preferred it that way, because I was certainly not returning as the “local boy who'd conquered the world.”  I was not moving into an expansive cabin on Clifton Lake, where I planned on writing a whole slew of bestselling novels.  I was moving into a modest, bland, and inconsequential duplex in Hyland Court, on the East Side.  I had no plans of writing anytime soon, and was about to willfully walk down that road to hell all failed authors fear is the ultimate end of their careers: a Monday morning interview at Clifton Heights High to teach high school English.

I would love to say that the next five years saw me slowly sober up, as I grew to love teaching.  I would love to say I became a Mr. Chipps, a Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, or a Mr. Holland from Mr. Holland's Opus.  The truth of the matter is sadly very different, and not very inspiring.  My first five years home I numbly followed lesson plans by rote, teaching paint-by-number units which filled the time and made the year pass relatively painlessly.

Most of my students were uninspired, and so was I. I received “adequate” and “meets expectations” on my annual teacher evaluations, and didn't feel anything either way.  At the end of every year, the district offered me a new contract, and I dutifully signed my name, relieved to know I'd at least be employed for another year.  During July and August, I taught an even more lackluster summer school course over at Booneville High, one which was designed by the county to pass students if they possessed a heartbeat.

I wasn't drinking as much as I had been at the end of my writing career, but I was certainly drinking enough that I woke up every Saturday and Sunday morning with a mild headache and fuzzy memories of sitting in front of the television the night before.  A glass of whiskey before bed every night helped me fall asleep.  I hadn't yet progressed to having a “water bottle” in the third drawer of my desk at school, or a tin hip flask I hid in my briefcase...but I have to wonder how much longer it would've been before I reached that point...

If it hadn't been for Emma Pital.

One of my brightest and best students.  A talented high school senior, full of promise, who somehow saw more in me than what I was showing to the world.  A student who believed in me enough to share in her writing the racial persecution her family was suffering as Arabic people in a small Adirondack town, post 9/11.

I failed her.

There's simply no other way to put it.  I failed her.  Because I was hiding behind my desk and the papers stacked on it, desperate to avoid complications, desperate to remain safely numbed by teaching and booze, I failed to stop what happened.  Of course, the ultimate irony?  My failure led to the rebirth of my writing career, such as it is today.

One of Alcoholics Anonymous' central tenants is that to find lasting victory over your addiction, you need to give up control to a “higher power.”  Writing has become that higher power for me; writing, in particular, about this town, and the strange things which often happen in it.  You could say I've “given up control” to this “higher power” of writing about my hometown.

However, if you've read my first short story collection, Things Slip Through, please don't think of Clifton Heights as the embodiment of a Creepshow episode.  Do strange things happen here?  Absolutely.  But I believe that's true of every town or city.  Clifton Heights may be a strange town, but our world is a strange world, in which strange things happen.  I happen to live here, and I draw inspiration from these strange things for my fiction.  This, of course, begs the question...

Are the stories I write true?

In Things Slip Through and my work in progress, The Mighty Dead, I speak about the uncanny similarities I've found between news stories and rumors around town, and the stories I've written.  The stories in Devourer of Souls, Through A Mirror, Darkly, and Things You Need came from conversations with other people about their experiences (which may or may not have been true), but as I wrote the stories for Things Slip Through, I was never quite sure if I'd seen or read the news stories, or heard the rumors first, then wrote the stories...or if I came across those accounts after I'd written stories hauntingly similar to them.

Did they really happen?

Telling you if they did or didn't would be akin to a magician revealing his secrets.  Where would the fun be in that?  What I can share is several of my encounters with the odder elements of our town, and simply state that these encounters seem to inspire in me stories which, for one reason or another, hum with an unsettling resonance.

First, however, I'll share with you my story of what happened to Emma Pital, and how I failed her.  It's a fictionalized account of what actually happened, as is much of my work, but it's how I deal with my anger and grief these days, instead of drinking.  As I said, it has become my “higher power.”

Until tomorrow,

Gavin Patchett

Clifton Heights

Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: Backwater - by Tom Deady

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Tom Deady (pronounced dee-dee) is one of a few new writers I must read as soon as they release something fresh.  The only work I haven't gotten around to is Eternal Darkness and I hope to correct that before year's end.  Yeah, he's that good.  The two novellas in this collection further solidify his standing as a talent to take note of.

First up, is Class Reunion.  When Tim Douglas returns to Edgewater for his mother's funeral, he decides to attend his fortieth Class Reunion.  The event brings back a lot of memories.  Many of them not good at all.  Especially as he recalls the deaths of Anna Koslovsky, Mary Frazier, & Judith O'Shea.

Then there was the music, forty years ago and disco was big.  Not my favorite genre, but I admit I often supplemented my meager income as a radio DJ by working in area clubs playing the stuff people wanted to dance to, and this part of the story did bring back a few fond memories for me.

While parts of Class Reunion were charmingly refreshing there was a bittersweet taste to the tale as Tim and a classmate unravel a forty-year-old mystery.  The overall effect made for a stellar read.

Novella, number two also takes place around Edgewater during the same time period and shares some of the same locations which made for a nice touch.

One Night at the Grand is about a group of friends who often enter abandoned buildings without permission, just to explore and take photographs.

Word on the street is the old Grand Hotel is about to be torn down and when the opportunity to check it out before its demise came about, Brian, Jay, Katy, and their unofficial leader, Stanley Polwalski just had to get inside.

Deady paints a dark cloud over the excursion from the very beginning and you just know things are going to go very wrong.

Along the way, the author makes this wonderful observation...

"Life really does go by fast.  We retain bits and pieces, but much of it goes by like scenery on a well-traveled commute.  Invisible."

One Night at the Grand is definitely the darker of the two tales, even though they both have their moments.

Reading a Deady story gives me a level of comfort I don't get with many writers.  More a feeling like we're just hanging out and Tom is relating a story rather than being in a lecture hall somewhere being forced to take notes.  Very casual, informal.  Makes for a good read.

If you haven't read Tom Deady's work before, Backwater is an excellent starting point and if you enjoy what you find, pick up his debut novel, Haven.  You can thank me later.

Published by Omnium Gatherum Media, Backwater is available now for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Tom Deady is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of HavenEternal Darkness, and Weekend Getaway.  He holds a Master’s Degree in English and teaches Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University.   He is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association and a member of the New England Horror Writers.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Guest Post: Tom Deady - Born In a Small Town

Before we get started, I'd like to take a moment to thank Tom Deady for providing this glimpse into growing up in a small town.   Please come back tomorrow for my review of his two novella collection, Edgewater.  Now, take it away, Tom...


I grew up in the small town of Malden, Massachusetts.  In reality, Malden is the 17th largest city of the 351 cities and towns in the state.  But to a kid growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in the seventies, it was a small town.  We walked to the Sunnyhurst a few blocks away to buy cigarettes for our parents, we walked back and forth to school, and in the summer, we rode our bikes everywhere.

I was a voracious reader and lived on my brothers’ Hardy Boys books and anything I could get my hands on at the local library (yes, I walked there, too).  Then, when I was thirteen, I picked up a book from one of those spinning wire racks in a local Woolworths.  It featured an all-black cover save for a red drop of blood dripping from a fang.  Vampires in a small Maine town?  Sounded good to me!  If I had to pinpoint the moment where I turned into a true horror fan, that was it.  The scrawny teenager staring raptly at the back cover of his first Stephen King book.

Forty-something years later, ‘Salem’s Lot remains one of my favorite novels.  Others on that list include IT, Boy’s Life, and Summer of Night.  Aside from the great writing and storytelling in these classics, there is another element that stands out: the small-town setting.

I used small town settings in Haven and Eternal Darkness, trying to create the atmosphere that I love to read about.  The idea that something beautiful or normal on the surface can be rotten, even evil, underneath.  The claustrophobic terror of having no escape.

Small town life is an interesting dichotomy.  On one hand, everybody knows everybody, and there are often more social gatherings, like farmers’ markets or parades, for people to get together.  There is a sense of community, more than that, a sense of comfort.  On the other hand, does anybody really know anybody?  You trust your neighbors and those in positions of authority; teachers, police officers, even parents.  But should you?

There are many examples in horror where the people you think you can trust are really the villain.  Stephen King has used this in many stories: Big Jim Rennie in Under the Dome and Frank Dodd in The Dead Zone come to mind.  Another person of authority often used as a villain: a parent, like Margart White in Carrie.  It’s a special kind of terror when a person, especially a child, has nowhere to turn.

Small town life can also mean isolation.  Long stretches of tree-lined country roads are picturesque to take a nice Sunday drive on.  They may also be the only way in or out.  Deserted houses on the outskirts of town.  Lonely ponds or lakes or river beds.  No public transportation to hop on, no heavily populated places to blend in to.  Just you and your town and all your neighbors, good and bad.  Throw in a blizzard, or a washed-out bridge or a power failure, and then what do you do?  Isolation is a powerful component of horror.

In my latest work, Backwater, I return to small town horror.  The town of Edgewater has its secrets, both past and present. I hope you enjoy your visit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review: Kill Hill Carnage - by Tim Meyer

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Well, that was nasty.  Kill Hill Carnage begins with the most gruesome and violent prologue I've read in 2018.  The year is 1991 and there is more than campers and counselors at Camp Christopher...

"It was here for mayhem and murder, and it would get what it wanted in large doses, oh yes it bloody would."

Years later, a group of five twenty-something friends crash the long deserted camp hoping for some kicks where so many lives ended all those years ago.  Warren and Fiona are a couple.  Jenna just broke up with her boyfriend and bad boy Dave and good guy Seth are both vying for her attention.  Then there's Frank Harmon, hired to eliminate some potential threats on Kill Hill.

The teenage interactions really made this story for me.  Believable, not forced at all. I loved Seth's meager attempts at talking to Jenna...

"But they both knew Seth had a better chance of impregnating a Kardashian than he did of sharing a kiss with Jenna Lamb."

Kill Hill Carnage does an excellent job of building suspense even when you have a pretty good idea about what's in store for our current day campers.  This is my third Tim Meyer book and my favorite thus far, having previously read both Sharkwater Beach and The Switch House.  This book is monster madness at its finest.  There are even tentacles.

"Tentacles whipped in the darkness behind him with the fury of some ancient elder god."

I found Kill Hill Carnage to be dark, bleak, and terrifying.  Definitely recommended.

Kill Hill Carnage is published by Sinister Grin Press and is available now in both paperback and e-book formats.

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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Guest Post: Tim Meyer- Casting Kill Hill Carnage

I'd like to thank author Tim Meyer for putting together this Guest Post for today's blog.  Come back tomorrow for my review of his newest novel, Kill Hill Carnage.  But now...


I know some authors who “cast” their novels during the prewriting or first draft stage.  It helps them keep track of certain attributes.  It’s also easy to picture them in their heads, gives their characters’ development, a certain cinematic feel.  I’ve never done this.  Not because I think it’s a bad idea - quite the contrary, I think it’s a fantastic approach that can be very useful.  However, I prefer to let the characters stand on their own without the help of someone else’s image.  To me, the characters feel more personal, and I, in turn, feel more invested in them, their struggles and story arcs.  I like to build them from scratch from the inside out.

However, on a few occasions, I’ve thought about casting after I’ve written the story.  After all the drafts, revisions, and edits are complete.  After it’s been published.  Sometimes it’s fun to muse: what if this actually got made into a movie?  Who would they cast?  Who would play the characters that I made from nothing?  I’m a pretty big film buff and as an author, I think it’s perfectly natural to daydream about having your work adapted for the big (or small) screen.

So, Frank invited me to write a blog post about KILL HILL CARNAGE and I thought it’d be cool to answer those questions.  Without further ado, here’s who I’d cast in the film adaptation, using actors and actresses from today (like, you won’t see Harrison Ford cast as a twenty-year-old college student, cool as that would be).

Jenna - Jessica Rothe - I loved Rothe in Happy Death Day. I thought the film was brilliant and a large part of that was due to her performance.  I think she’d be perfect in the role of Jenna - a smart but somewhat broken, down-on-her-luck type character who decides to throw caution into the wind and join her friends on an impromptu camping trip.  Honestly, I think Rothe is probably one of the most talented young actresses out there and we need to see her in more stuff.

Frank - Timothy Olyphant - Ah, Frank.  For those of you who haven’t read KILL HILL CARNAGE yet, Frank is a long-time member of a criminal organization and he’s just taken his first hit job, which puts him in the same location as our campers: near Kill Hill.  Frank sees this as his last job for the mob; after it’s over, he’s out, on a plane to some tropical island.  He’s a little rough, doesn’t take a lot of shit, but he’s unqualified and way over his head.  I think Timothy Olyphant - who has unbelievable range - could nail this part down. I’ve loved his acting since I first saw him in the comedy, The Girl Next Door. I think he’d bring a certain charm to Frank, the same way he did with his characters on Justified and Deadwood.

Seth - Timothee Chalamet - This Academy Award-nominated rising star would be perfect for the role of Seth, a character who so desperately wants Jenna to notice him.  He’s the hopeless romantic sort who is much too shy to pursue his love interest.  That, and his best friend Dave, an aggressive sack of testosterone, proves to be a major roadblock on the path to Jennaville.  I believe Chalamet will probably grow to become one of the greatest actors of his generation, and I think he’d do the character of Seth a great justice.

Warren - Devin Druid -  Not as well known as the actors and actresses on this list, Devin Druid is probably best known for his role on NETFLIX’s 13 Reasons Why.  On that show, he portrays an introvert with some major psychological and anger issues.  The character of Warren is the complete opposite.  He’s very much outgoing.  As a student of the performing arts, he dreams of being a Broadway superstar.  So… he’s a little dramatic, over-the-top, and won’t pass on an opportunity to see himself into the spotlight.  I think Druid’s acting is solid enough to take on the role, and I see him doing a great job with Warren.  He definitely has the chops.

Fiona - Emilia Clarke - You probably know her as Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones.  Emilia is a fantastic actress, and with GOT ending next year, I can’t wait to see where her film career goes.  Fiona is Warren’s girlfriend and the sensible one of the pack.  She thinks rationally and when chaos forces the group into terrifying situations, she’s the one who keeps it together.  She’s also Jenna’s best friend and helps talk her through her personal issues.  I think Emilia could bring something special to the role of Fiona.

Dave - Ansel Elgort - You might recognize his name/face from such films as The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver.  He was also in the Carrie remake, a film I really enjoyed.  The character of Dave is a tricky one - plain and simple, he’s a class-A douchebag.  His behavior toward Jenna and his outlook on women in general are appalling.  His conduct is disgusting. Let’s face it, he’s a pile of human garbage.  I imagine these types of characters are difficult to “get into”, but I think with Elgort’s talent, he could slide into Dave’s skin quite well (yuck).  Dude has range and I think he could pull it off.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Skullface Boy - by Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

At first, the subject matter for Chad Lutzke's new book seemed the most unlikely and unlikable of ideas, but I have to admit the old adage is true, "Never judge a book by its cover."

Take a sixteen-year-old boy, severely disfigured, who's never lived outside of a foster care facility and set him free in 1980s America, with nothing more than a backpack and his thumb, in a quest to find the one other man rumored to share his appearance.

Skullface Boy is much more than what you might expect.  Much like Levi, who is much more than his appearance.  Of course, there are those who persecute the young man just because of what he looks like, but there are also acts of kindness to be found on his journey from Denver to Hermosa Beach, California.

Lutzke is a skilled writer who shows off his talent with pieces of Americana like this...

"I wrote a little, then left to find a diner.  I was hoping to find something like in the movies, where the waitress––the one with a latchkey kid waiting at home––calls you hon’ and wears too much blush and smells of cigarette breaks and last night’s gin, but I couldn’t find anything like that so I settled for McDonald’s.  They had a breakfast deal going on––sausage McMuffin, hashbrown, and a medium coffee for a buck twenty-five."

Along the way, Levi meets the most wonderful characters, each created with great care to make the individual vignettes read like mini-stories in the greater work.  I used to hitch-hike quite a bit back in the early seventies and Levi's stories brought back many memories, both good and bad.

Skullface Boy is wonderfully crafted and turned out to be one of my favorite reads in the Summer of 2018.  This one moved me and is definitely recommended.  Don't judge that book by it's cover.

Skullface Boy is currently available in paperback.

From the author's bio - Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife and children.  For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork.  In the summer of 2016, he released his acclaimed dark coming-of-age novella Of Foster Homes and Flies.  His latest, Stirring the Sheets, was published by Bloodshot Books in spring 2018.

Guest Post: Chad Lutzke

Welcome author Chad Lutzke to the blog.  Today he tells us just a bit about his latest work, Skullface Boy.  Watch for my review tomorrow.  Now here's Chad...

I thought I had only one coming-of-age book in me.  I’ve written four. Arguably five.  Author Mark Matthews calls STIRRING THE SHEETS coming of age for the AARP crowd.  I think he’s right.

Whether it be pure nostalgia or it's just so easy to root for a young, innocent protagonist, there’s something to be said about the coming-of-age subgenre that people have really taken to.  I blame McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE and King’s THE BODY for my attraction to it.  And apparently that shines through in my COA books, as those two titles, in particular, are thrown around when readers leave their kind reviews for OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES. But this time around I drew influence from David Lynch, Stephen Graham Jones’ MONGRELS and my own life experiences in my latest, SKULLFACE BOY.

"My name is Levi. I’m 16. I’ve got a skull for a face. And here's how shit went down."

Having never been outside the walls of Gramm Jones Foster Care Facility, sixteen-year-old Levi leaves in the middle of the night with an empty backpack and a newfound lust for life. A journey that leads him into the arms of delusional newlyweds, drunkards, polygamists, the dangerous, and the batshit crazy.  His destination?  Hermosa Beach, California where he’s told there is another like him, with the face of a skull.

We all read to escape.  Whether it be to Middle Earth, Castle Rock, a different era or another planet altogether.  For me, carefree road trips scratch that itch thoroughly.  So I wrote a book about one, with a character I’d like to think we can all relate to.  As Stephen Graham Jones said of SKULLFACE BOY: "This is Huck lighting out for the territories, and kind of documenting an era for us on the way. Only––because it’s now not then––he’s got a skull face to deal with. As do we all."

He’s not wrong.  We’ve all got a skull face.  We’ve all searched for something we might never find, struggled to find our place in the world, and learned along the way.  Sometimes shit broke our hearts, left scars.

There’s quite a bit in this book that is autobiographical (I’ll let you choose which parts), but I had the most fun with the “Lynch-ian” characters, those found in films like WILD AT HEART. Unpredictable and outlandish with a hint of weird, but never enough to alienate those who don’t care for that side of fiction.  This isn’t bizarro.  This is still comfortable.  It’s still in your wheelhouse.  You’ll just have to trust me.

I can’t wait for you to join Levi.  To eat from the hollow shell of a dumpster, sleep under the moon in the bed of a truck towering high above a junkyard, share a flat beer with a denim-covered werewolf and befriend a Vegas prostitute, all while hitching across the country.

That’s all a small part of Levi’s journey.  It’s how shit went down.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: Doorbells at Dusk - edited by Evans Light

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Finding a Halloween anthology at this time of year is the equivalent of finding a fun-size Snickers in your trick-or-treat bag.  Finding a really good Halloween anthology is like getting the full-size candy bar.  Doorbells at Dusk is definitely the full-size treat.

Fourteen scary stories to keep you up late and possibly give you a nightmare or two.

A Plague of Monsters by Charles Gramlich - What if you forgot it was Halloween and all these monsters started showing up at your house?  What would you do?  What if they weren't trick-or-treaters after all?

The Rye-Mother by Curtis M. Lawson - A delightful story of one boy's quest to return to the otherworld.  "Candy and costumes were all well and good, but Halloween was about that breach between the worlds and the magic which poured in."

The Day of the Dead by Amber Fallon - A Day of the Dead celebration at Los Calavera's Cantina.  Come in costume and drink for half-price.  What happens next is anything but joyous. This is a good one.  Nice to see Amber appearing in more and more anthologies

Rusty Husk by Evans Light - "Halloween was his favorite holiday, and each October for the last decade Rusty had made a new scarecrow."  But, oh there is so much more to this story.  An intense tale which I found truly frightening.

Adam's Bed by Josh Malerman - Halloween was Adam's fifth birthday.  A story for every reader who, as a child, was ever afraid of what was hiding under their bed.

Keeping Up Appearances by Jason Parent - Robbing homes dressed for trick-or-treating.  A delightfully macabre tale.

Vigil by Chad Lutzke - Mr. Lutzke has some genuine writing chops... "For a while, the talk was pure testosterone.  A grill tends to do that.  Mix it with trying to be strong around your woman while bodies are dug up across the street and you'll sprout hair on your chest just standing nearby."

Mr. Impossible by Gregor Xane - A new designer drug which makes the user believe they are the mask they wear.  Distribute it to kids and adults at a Halloween block party.  Things are sure to get crazy in this wonderfully well-crafted story.

Between by Iain Welke - Día de los muertos, 'shrooms, and Mr. In-Between might not be the best combination for making life-altering decisions.

The Friendly Man by Thomas Vaughn - "Mortal terror is an essential part of childhood development."  It's one thing to get into the spirit of Halloween, but The Friendly Man may carry things a bit too far.

Many Carvings by Sean Eads & Joshua Viola - The darkest story in a collection of dark tales.  About a midwife who is much more than what she seems.

Trick 'Em All by Adam Light - According to Travis Raines' parents sixteen is too old to trick-or-treat and too young to chaperone his siblings while they collect the goodies.  So he gets to stay home and hand out the candy, but when his pumpkin starts telling him what to do things go bad.  Very bad.

Masks by Lisa Lepovetsky - A twisted tale from the dark side of life and Halloween.

I love Halloween, and a collection like this is just the thing to get me into the spirit of the season.  Like an elegant display of jack-o-lanterns, not everyone is perfect, but as a whole the effect is stunning.

Certainly recommended

Published by Corpus Press, Doorbells at Dusk is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: TV Dinners from Hell - by Amber Fallon

3 of 5 Stars     Review copy

First, let me say I like Amber Fallon, I really enjoyed her novella Terminal, featuring a horde of bloodthirsty psychopaths from beyond the stars.  That was great.  TV Dinners from Hell, well, let's just say that this collection of seventeen short stories was like most TV dinners, not very tasty.  Oh, there were morsels I liked, but as a whole, I was left hungry.

One of the stories I enjoyed was Behind the Smile.  A well-crafted tale featuring clowns which included this wonderful gem...

"Mary's mother had told her that the music came from something called a 'ka-lie-oh-pee,' but Mary didn't like it one bit.  To her small ears, it sounded haunting and evil."

There was also 78154, a short which effectively built the level of terror throughout.  By the way, who's the moron who decided codes were needed to use the restrooms in a building where you already need a badge to get into work?

Something Bit Me was onlya single page but was scary as hell.  It totally freaked me out.

Dawn of the Death Beatles lost me when meteorites which had impacted the Earth were referred to as meteors.  Sorry.  That really bothers me.

There were, however, a couple of other standout stories here.  One being, Tell Me How You Die.  If you knew how you would meet your end would you take unnecessary risks which didn't involve the activity that would kill you?  Well told.

And then there was my favorite, The Dick Measuring Contest at the End of the Universe,  A terrific "What if?" story involving alternate universes and Hellen Marshall.

Six entertaining stories out of seventeen is just OK and not enough for me to really recommend,  I hear Amber's book, Warblers is really good, maybe I'll give that one a read soon.

TV Dinners from Hell is available now in both paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Amber Fallon lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two dogs.  A techie by day and horror writer by night, Mrs. Fallon has spent time as a bank manager, motivational speaker, produce wrangler and butcher.   Amber's publications include The Warblers, The Terminal, and others.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: Happy Doomsday - by David Sosnowski

4 of 5 Stars

Dev Brinkman has Asperger's Syndrome. Think Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang TV series.  Smart by severely regressed socially.

Mohammad Haddad (Call me Marcus) is a young Arab-American who has been radicalized.

Lucy Abernathy, a goth chick with a gay boyfriend who gets her pregnant.

The three characters have nothing in common until nearly everyone else dies.

" around noon, 12:30 p.m. eastern daylight time on a Monday in early June, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the world—or at least the world of people, at least mostly—had come to an end.  Cause of death: whatever."

I've been an Amazon Prime member for a very long time and every month they offer up a selection of preview books and I'm allowed to pick one and read it for free.  Until now, nothing has ever interested me enough to take them up on their offer.  Well, I'm glad to say, I finally took a chance.  Happy Doomsday was well worth reading and the price was certainly right.

One of my favorite observations in the book came courtesy of Lucy...

"Thinking about irony as a force in nature, invisible but inescapable, quietly shaping the arcs of human lives.  It was like Occam's razor meets Murphy's law: faced with two equally likely outcomes, the universe was biased toward the most ironic one."

A wonderfully original post-apocalyptic tale from three unique perspectives as they endeavor to jumpstart humanity.


Published by Amazon Digital Services, Happy Doomsday is available in a wide variety of 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 -  David Sosnowski has worked as a gag writer, fireworks salesman, telephone pollster, university writing instructor, and environmental-protection specialist while living in places as different as Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Fairbanks, Alaska.  In a novelistic twist, David currently lives in a Michigan home previously owned by the sixth-grade English teacher who inspired him to write.  David is a winner of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize.  He is also the author of the critically acclaimed novels Rapture and Vamped.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Review: The Smile Factory (Precipice Chapbook Series 1) - by Todd Keisling

4 of 5 Stars

The Smile Factory is, without a doubt, the strangest story I've read in all of 2018.  That's not a bad thing necessarily.  Sometimes it's good to take off the rose-colored glasses and look at our surroundings through a different filter.

Here, author Todd Keisling examines corporate life through a Lovecraftian lens...

"Here at [Company name redacted], down is up and up is down; the higher you climb the food chain, the more likely you are to be consumed."

BTW, never ask about Marty Godot.  Why?  You'll just have to read this chapbook to find out.

The Smile Factory (Precipice Chapbook Series 1) is available now in paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

From the author's bio - Todd Keisling is a writer of horror and speculative fiction, including The Final Reconciliation as well as the collection Ugly Little Things.  Born in Kentucky, he now lives with his wife and son somewhere near Reading, Pennsylvania. He still has a day job, he's awkward and weird, and if you were to live next door to him, your grass would probably die.