Thursday, January 18, 2018

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

4of 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

Resurrection

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.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Review: We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone - by Ronald Malfi

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone, the debut short story collection from Ronald Mafi, is a bit of a mixed bag.  Although the twenty shorts included do make for an enjoyable read, I have to say I much prefer Malfi's recent novels to the tales included here. Little Girls made my top ten list in 2015, The Night Parade did the same in 2016, and Bone White is my favorite read so far in 2017.

The Dinner Party - The story of a paranoid housewife with an OMG ending.  One of the best in the collection.  Originally published at the Horror Drive-In.

Learned Children - Scarecrows creep me out and so do high school students.  Both are featured prominently in this tale.  Originally published at The Crow's Caw.

Knocking - There's an Edgar Allan Poe vibe to this story of strange tapping noise and the disappearance of a young wife.  "I heard it again: a labored breathy sound, very much like respiration.  My own breath seized in my throat.  Then another sound: a dull thud.  A knock.  This was it—this was the sound Tara had heard coming from behind the closet door."  Originally published at Horrorworld.

The Jumping Sharks of Dyer Island - Jealousy will make a man do some strange and potentially deadly things.  Originally published in Splatterpunk 2.

The Glad Street Angel - Mafi's descriptive skills are highlighted in this gritty, hardcore story of a young addict just out of prison/rehab.  "Carter Johnson is my father's construction worker buddy, and he looks like someone stretched a pair of filthy coveralls over a city bus.  His face resembles a burlap sack with eye-holes and his breath is an aromatic amalgamation of unfiltered cigarettes, peppered beef jerky, and steamed cabbage."  Originally published in Bare Bone #7. 

Under the Tutelage of Mr. Trueheart - A lonely, middle school student befriends an elderly man who believes people are being "replaced."  Originally published in Dark Hallows.

The House on Cottage Lane - Living next door to a foster family can be challenging.  Troubled kids coming and going.  This is the story of one such kid, Oliver, and a Halloween never to be forgotten.  A standout tale in this collection. Originally published by Cemetery Dance.

Pembroke - A wonderfully creepy story which takes place in a used bookstore. "'...the other night, when I was straightening up, I went to put the book on the rolling cart when it cut me.' Tom held up his right index finger, which was capped in an adhesive bandage. 'A paper cut,' Pembroke marveled, recalling that odd splotch of blood on the book’s page. 'Yes, of course,' said Tom, 'only that’s not what I thought at the time. Because when it happened, Mr. Pembroke—and this is going to sound ridiculous, I know it—but when it happened, my first thought was that the book had bit me'". Originally published in Dark Discoveries.

In a Pet Shop - A strange woman with a preoccupation with the birds in a pet shop.

Couples Seeking Couples -  A story of the dangers of wife swapping.  Originally published in 24:7 Magazines.

The Good Father - A wife's infidelity. A father struggling alone with his two young children.  Will she ever return and what would happen if she did.  Originally published in Lamplight.

The Housewarming - A young, upwardly mobile couple moves into a new neighborhood and throws a housewarming party.  As more and more neighbors show up time all but stands still in the twilight zone like story.  Originally published in Shadow Masters.

Chupacabra - "I am thinking of the horror stories Martin used to tell me when I was younger and he’d return from weeks and sometimes months on the road. He would tell me of the chupacabra and of the way they drained the fluids from livestock and how, sometimes, they drained the fluids from people, too." Published in Bare Bones #11.

All the Pretty Girls - The tale of a very disturbed mind and a rotting 1962 Mercury Comet. Originally published in Bare Bones #8.

Closing In - Ever get the feeling the walls were closing in on you?  Originally published in Dark Discoveries.

Underneath - A strange look at the writing process for a successful writer working under a pen name.  Originally published in Lost Cause Quarterly. 

All Is Calm - Dealing with the death of a spouse.  A glimpse inside the mind of the survivor.  Originally published in Bare Bones #10.

Painstation - A co-worker's obsession leads to a strange club where the rules are simple and breaking them can be painful in so many ways.  "He pushed against the door and it opened with little protest. Before him, a wooden staircase dipped into blackness. The stink of sulfur now accosted him, potent and unapologetic. Something else, too… Lilacs, he thought. Her perfume."  Originally published in Peep Show #3.

Discussions Concerning the Ingestion of Living Insects - A wonderfully disturbing tale of survival.  Originally published in Sick: An Anthology of Illness.

Then There is Boston - Malfi closes out his collection with an original story of love and poetry in Boston.

We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone is a fine collection of speculative fiction and one I can readily recommend.

We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone is currently available in hardback, paperback, and e-book formats from JournalStone.

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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Review: The Crabian Heart - by Erik Hofstatter

4 of 5 Stars

The Crabian Heart protects from inevitable heartaches.  It's a story of young love and perhaps, more importantly, an immigrant's tale.

It is a story well-told with beautiful prose.

AleŇ° obeyed and thought about Enola. He missed her already. She was an enigma, something dangerous but exhilarating—like diving with sharks. Her company dulled the pain of existence.

The Crabian Heart is a living, breathing piece of fiction.

In addition to the main novella, there's a bonus short story from Erik, called Fountain of Drowned Memories.

Erik Hofstatter is not afraid to tackle the difficult subjects.  Between the stories in this brief collection, he takes on both immigration and dementia with aplomb.

Recommended.

The Crabian Heart is available now from Parallel Universe Publications.  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.  Erik's books include The Pariahs, Amaranthine and Other Stories, Katerina, Moribund Tales and Rare Breeds.