Thursday, December 27, 2018

Review: The Cabin at the End of the World - by Paul Tremblay

5 Stars

The Cabin at the End of the World is, without a doubt one of the most talked about novels of the year, with nearly equal amounts of love and hate for the latest work from Paul Tremblay.  This is my third book by this Massachusetts writer.  I loved A Head Full of Ghosts and liked Disappearance at Devil's Rock and fall squarely in the love column for this brilliant take on the apocalypse. 

I took the time to read several of the one-star reviews and they actually have legitimate complaints, I just happen to have a difference of opinion.  I actually liked the open ending.  It left me pondering the possible outcomes.  Something I'll be thinking about for some time to come.

The whole story is thought-provoking, start to finish.  Andrew and Eric are spending time at their secluded cabin in the woods.  Their little girl, Wen, is in the yard catching grasshoppers and putting them in a jar.  She knows all about stranger danger, but sometimes a child just gets caught in the moment.  That's what happens when the kind and gentle Leonard starts to engage her about the art of catching the insects.

Before we know it Leonard is joined by Redmond, Adriane, and Sabrina.  Their story about the end of the world and the part Andrew, Eric, and Wen are to play is unfathomable and the solution untenable.

The writing is wonderful...

"Too many people have smiles that don't mean what a smile is supposed to mean.  Their smiles are often cruel and mocking, like how a bully's grin is the same as a fist."

I found The Cabin at the End of the World to be an imaginative "What would you do?" story.  I asked myself that very question, again an again, as I read the story.  I could easily see this as a feature film.

Strongly recommended, but be prepared to love it or hate it.  There is little middle ground.

Cabin at the End of the World is published by William Morrow and is available in all formats.

From the author's bio - Paul Tremblay is the author of Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, and the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland.  He has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book Awards and is currently a member of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards.  He has a master’s degree in mathematics and lives outside Boston with his wife and two children.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review: The Faithful - by Matt Hayward

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The beginning of Matt Hayward's latest novel finds Jonsey Morris trying to connect with his son, the problem is Caleb has no idea Jonesy is his father.

Then there's Leo Cartwright, a comedian who just recorded his final special and his last show as he prepares for retirement.  After the show, Leo meets up with Christopher Tate who has cerebral palsy.  Christopher shares a very strange story...

"'A strange town,' Christopher continued.  'In my dreams. People are… people are odd there.  I know how crazy this sounds.  But… I think I saw my parents… I think they lived there.  It’s a dark place, that’s the only way I can put it.  Dangerous.  In my dreams I can walk, I can talk properly, I’m free.  And there’s an old man with me, a man named Jarrad.  He shows me the truth behind the town.  He shows me the people for what they really are.  They’re not what they seem to be.'  He took a beat, and Leo waited.  'At least once a week, for two years, I’ve had this vision.  It’s not a normal dream.  It’s something else.  I wanted to tell you… Because he told me it was important.'"

The town in question is Elswich, North Carolina and this is where Matt's story takes on a Lovecraftian flair.  When Jonsey meets the man in Christopher's visions, Jarrad Prescott, this is what is learned...

"'...there’s a war ready to kick off, son.  A war older than anyone could ever imagine.  One between our people and theirs.  Us and them.  A war we won long, long ago, but one they haven’t forgiven us for ever since.'  'Our people?'Jarrad smiled a smile missing half its teeth. 'Not black or white, boy. Humanity.'  'And who are they?'  'Others. I don’t think they really have a name. Not one that sits on our tongue, at least. They’re old, malicious creatures, that’s all I know. Vile things, really.'"

Although I enjoyed The faithful, I must admit I've read similar stories which were better executed, in spite of a stunning climax, thus the four-star review.

If you're a fan of Lovecraftian horror, you don't want to miss this one.  Certainly recommended

Published by Sinister Grin Press, The Faithful is available in Paperback and e-book formats.

Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author and musician from Wicklow, Ireland.  His books include Brian Dead Blues, What Do Monsters fear?, and Practitioners (with Patrick Lacey). He compiled the best-selling anthology Welcome To the Show and is currently writing a novel with Bryan Smith.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Sawbones - by Ed Kurtz

5 of 5 Stars

Sawbones is one of the most original stories I've read in 2018.  Set in the mid-1860s, it's the story of a man out for revenge after a flophouse fire takes the life of a woman he has strong feelings for, even though they've barely spoken.

Calling himself, Dr. Septimus Whithall (not his real name), he sets off on a cross-country journey to find and dispose of those responsible.  Not an easy task by any means...

I carefully pressed my hand against the back of my head and found moist, hot brains fully exposed to the elements.  It was sticky to the touch, and my eyes were filled with glittering white stars each time my fingers made contact.  My skull, or at least most of it, was gone.  Chipped and broken.

At times Sawbones is a visceral, cringe-inducing, and violent story.  Totally immersive in the way the tale takes the reader from the comfort of their reading place to this wonderful world created by the author.

One could hardly live in Hell and not expect to get burned.

If I've learned anything from reading the work of Ed Kurtz, it's to expect the unexpected.  If I could read only one author.  His name would be Ed Kurtz.  I need more than five stars to rate this exceptional novel.

Sawbones is something completely different and if you're up for the challenge, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the ride.

Totally recommended.

Published by Crossroad Press and available in paperback, e-book, and Audible formats.

From the author's bio, Ed Kurtz is the author of The Rib from Wich I Remake the World, Nausea, Angel of the Abyss, and others.  Ed is also the author of numerous short stories.  His work has appeared in Needle: A Magazine of Noir, BEAT to a PULP, Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, and several anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2014.  Ed resides in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: Toy Thief - by D.W. Gillespie

3 of 5 Stars

To date, I've read all but one of the first nine offerings from Flame Tree Press and I've been quite impressed with everything I've read.  I've actually raved about the first seven books, so to experience a hiccough here at book eight is no real surprise.

This is my first time reading anything by D.W. Gillespie and I like the book well enough to read his work again, should the occasion arise.

Toy Thief is a creepy tale of two siblings and what they encounter over of the course of one summer in their young lives.

"To have a sibling, especially a close one, is to have a greatest enemy and a truest friend, but it's always been like that, hasn't it?"

It was the Summer of '91 when the toys started to disappear.  Jack and her older brother, Andy, set out on a quest to learn who or what was responsible.  The events are dark and meant to be terrifying, but the story just didn't work for me.

"Do you ever wonder how things just seem to vanish from your house even though you knew where they were? Maybe a pack of batteries shows up missing, even though you knew exactly where you put them? It might have been the Toy Thief."

I may have mentioned before, I'm mostly an analog kind of reader, same way with film and TV.  Too much bouncing around in a story and I start to lose interest.  Nothing inherently wrong with the technique, and sometimes it works for me, but this was not one of those times.

In the end, I just can't get excited enough to recommend Toy Thief.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Toy Thief is available in a wide variety of formats.

From the author's bio - D.W. Gillespie hails from parts unknown in the dark woods of Tennessee.
Supported by his wife and two feral children, he spends most days hunkered over a vintage typewriter he found in a smoking crater deep within the forest primeval.  Bearded and muttering, he writes tales to terrify by the light of a kerosene lamp.  A fan of all things dark and horrific, D.W. Gillespie has been writing horror, sci-fi, and fantasy for longer than he would like to admit.  He's been featured in many publications, both online and in print, and he's the author of nine novels and counting.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Think Yourself Lucky - by Ramsey Campbell

2 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Admittedly, I am not Ramsey Cambell's biggest fan.  I'm not certain where the disconnect comes from.  I understand he is one of the most successful English Horror writers and he has numerous accolades to prove it, but generally speaking, he's not for me.

As a result, I was expecting not to enjoy Think Yourself Lucky, and unfortunately, that turned out to be the case again here.

More than once I found myself having no clue what the author was getting on about.

I'm certain Think Yourself Lucky will sell well, after all, it's Ramsey Campbell.  But, truth be told, I didn't care for this work at all.  I didn't like any of the characters or the story.  It was a chore to turn the pages, but I read the whole book as I always do.  I refuse to write DNF in any review.  Generally, that's not a problem since I decide what I'll read and I tend to read what I like.

Think Yourself Lucky is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

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.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: The House by the Cemetery - by John Everson

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

John Everson writes some of the darkest horror imaginable, sprinkles it with a healthy dose of sex, and yet it's easy to believe every word he puts to paper.  His latest story, The House by the Cemetery is the quintessential October release.  The tale of a purportedly haunted house by a cemetery being refurbished as a Halloween attraction.

John wastes no time by giving us a small taste of things to come, right in the Prologue...

"Someone had slit the woman's throat.  The murder weapon lay nearby on the floor., the knife's silver blade coated in dark read.  A spray of blood bled down the wall beside her in visual opposition to the light that bled up the wall.  If was a study in opposites...the only constant was the color."

The House by the Cemetery is filled with fully fleshed out characters.  There's the flawed carpenter hired to refurbish the house just enough to make it safe for hundreds of people to pass through every night leading up to Halloween.  The paranormal investigator out to protect the spirits in the house and by extension, the patrons paying to be frightened.  The team of room designers, effects artists, and actors doing their best to scare the nightly visitors.  And then there's the witch of Bremen Coven.

Everson's love for his craft is evident throughout.  I've found myself reading a number of haunted house stories this year.  For me, it's the trope that never gets old an this is a particularly effective story.  More fun than any haunted attraction I've ever been to.  Just in time for my favorite holiday.  If you only read one Halloween story this year, be sure to make this the one.  As a footnote to any movie producers who might see this.  The House by the Cemetery would make one helluva film.


The House by the Cemetery is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in every format imaginable.

From the author's bio - John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of 10 novels of horror and the macabre, including  Redemption, the conclusion to his demonic Curburide Chronicles trilogy.  He also is the author of four collections of short horror fiction, including his latest, Sacrificing Virgins.  John shares a deep purple den in Naperville, Illinois with a cockatoo and cockatiel, a disparate collection of fake skulls, twisted skeletal fairies, Alan Clark illustrations, and a large stuffed Eeyore.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: Body of Christ - by Mark Matthews

4 of 5 stars

Body of Christ is a novella which grew out of a short story in the anthology Bad Apples 3.   Upon its publication, I wrote the following in my review...

"Another dark tale of a Christian mother's resistance to Halloween. Admittedly the oddest story in the anthology and gruesome at times, yet I found it completely satisfying."

In this enhanced telling of his original story, the author adds an equally strange family across the street.  After the death of her mother, Faith has that moment when she would rather have her mom's advice over any other.  Left to her own devices, the young girl develops some very odd habits around her time of the month.

I can't possibly say more about either family without taking away the joy of discovery in Body of Christ.  Let's just say if "odd" is your thing, then this quick read is definitely for you.


Body of Christ is available in paperback and Kindle, and Audible formats.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years.  He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood. He is the editor of the anthology Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, published in April 2017.  Matthews has run 13 marathons and has two running based books, The Jade Rabbit and Chasing the Dragon, also available on Amazon.  He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: Killer Chronicles - by Somer Canon

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Kutztown University journalism graduates, Anais Del Valle and Christina Cunningham run the website Killer Chronicles.

"The two use their journalism degrees to research, interview and compile information in order to create what their site refers to as 'files' on the murders they feature.  So far they have 31 files on their site."

On the surface, a completely believable premise.  Somer's characters are relatable and well-conceived.  The story moves at a brisk pace and is fun in all the right ways.

The latest murder to become fodder for their website very is different and exceptionally dark.  Once we learn who is responsible, the reader will need to set aside their disbelief, but if you're a fan of the macabre, that shouldn't be much of a problem.

'The face was probably the part that upset us all the most,' Stanley continued.  'See, I’m one of only two cleaning specialists with a permit to clean places contaminated with biohazardous waste in this area.  And I’ve seen some stuff. But the way that man’s face was ripped off of his head, God, his eyelids were still intact.  His beard scruff, his eyebrows and eyelashes, even his ears, they were all perfectly intact and just spread out pretty as can be on the dashboard of that there truck.  Even the part of the skin that had the tattoo.  You could fool yourself into seeing those pieces as something other than what they were, but that face sitting there all half rotted and slimy staring up at me…I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.'

By now, you probably know I read horror for fun.  Not much disturbs me, but let me tell you, Canon managed to push my buttons, more than once.

"You never think of yourself as the type of person that would whimper if you saw something scary, but then something scary is staring at you nose-to-nose and there you go. You’re a whimperer and have little inclination at the time to give a damn."

It's hard to believe this is Somer Canon's first novella.  I'm so looking forward to reading more of her work.  It's exciting to be there at the beginning of a career with such potential.


Published by Bloodshot Books, Killer Chronicles is available in both paperback and Kindle 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 - Somer Canon is a minivan-revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo.  When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review: Cold Dead Hands - by Jeff Strand

4 of 5 Stars   

Wasting no time, author Jeff Strand manages to isolate most of his cast of characters in a walk-in freezer.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially when there were people outside the freezer killing customers in the Sav-Lotz grocery store.  OK, no one saw anyone killed, but not for a lack of trying.

Among those inside the freezer were, Barry, whose arm had been cut up.  Another man in his forties in a SpongeBob tee.  There was Vanessa, Dana, a kid named Pete, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and Trevor, in his seventies.  Minnie, Syllabus, and Chad.

"I'm Chad.  Kids used to call me Hanging Chad and I thought they meant I looked like I should be a hangman."

If you're not familiar with Strand's brand of horror, be ready for a bit of humor mixed in with the scares.

Some of the things happening inside the freezer were in the "totally unexpected" category.

While this latest work from Jeff Strand is not his best, it certainly is entertaining and contains more than a few surprises.


At some point, Cold Dead Hands will be available as a signed limited edition novella from Cemetery Dance, but it's available now for your Kindle at  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 - Jeff Strand is a four-time nominee (and zero-time winner, but c'mon, he lost to Stephen King TWICE!) of the Bram Stoker Award. He is a two-time nominee and one-time WINNER!!!! of the Splatterpunk Award.  His novels are usually classified as horror, but they're really all over the place, almost always with a great big dose of humor. He's written five young adult novels that all fall into the "really goofy comedy" category.  His book STALKING YOU NOW was adapted into the feature film MINDY HAS TO DIE, which premiered at the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in Belfast, Ireland.  He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and one gigantic freaking cat.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: The Mouth of the Dark - by Tim Waggoner

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

This is my sixth and final review of the initial batch of releases from Flame Tree Press.  The Bad Neighbor  by David Tallerman, Creature by Hunter Shea, Thirteen Days at Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell, The Sky Woman: From Ringworlds to Earth, an Epic Struggle of Love and Survival by J.D. Moyer,  The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz, and now The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner.  A terrific mix of genre reads from a publisher showing great promise.

On with today's review...

Jayce Lewis' daughter Emily has gone missing and Jayce is doing all he can to find her.  The more he seeks the more he learns about her life and his own.  From the strange concoctions sold at the Crazyqwik, to the dog-eaters who think he's a meat thief, to the Harvest Man, and just wait until you encounter the pink devil.  It's all like his mother told him time and again...

"The world is a dangerous place."

At its heart, The Mouth of the Dark is about The Shadowers—people who can see—and interact with the darker aspects of existence.

I can always count on Waggoner to find the weird in a story and there's plenty of that in The Mouth of the Dark.  As is the case with most of his original work.  Tim has an original voice in the horror community and is a genuine wordsmith...

"Their ages ranged from early twenties to a foot-and-a-half in the grave."

The book is filled with truly horrible images, yet I found myself smiling more often than not.  Sex, violence, and an all-around crazy good time.

Totally recommended.

The Mouth of the Dark is published by Flame Tree Press and is available in all formats.

From the author's bio - Tim Waggoner's first novel came out in 2001  Since then he's published over forty novels and five collections of short stories.  He writes original fantasy and horror, as well as media tie-ins.  He's won the Bram Stoker Award, been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Scribe Award.  In addition to writing, Tim is also a full-time tenured professor who teaches creative writing and composition at Sinclair College.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: 100 Fathoms Below - by Steven L. Kent & Nicholas Kaufmann

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Most of the action in 100 Fathoms Below takes place onboard the USS Roanoke, SSN-709.  That being said, before the crew gets underway, petty officer third class, Warren Stubic gets into some rather dark business which leads to everything which follows.

You can't blame the guy, beginning the next day it'll be three months without sun, without liquor, without a woman.

Life onboard this nuclear sub seemed realistic enough and essentially added depth (pun intended) to what in reality is a horror novel.

"Stubic smiled back weakly, blinking in the bright, painful light.  If only this were a hangover.  Then he would have an explanation for at least some of what was happening to him.  But not for everything.  Even if he’d had too much to drink last night, which he damn well hadn’t, it wouldn’t explain the marks he found this morning on the side of his neck.  Two small welts like bug bites.  The tropical climate made Hawaii a welcoming environment for all sorts of insects, especially the nocturnal ones.  Something had bitten him, and he wondered whether his symptoms were an infection brought on by the bite.  Oh, God, was this malaria?  He took a deep breath and tried not to think about it."

It's not malaria, it's something far worse.

I really don't want to let on much more than I have.  I'll let the authors reveal their secrets as you read this fast-paced undersea horror/thriller.

Everything worked for me in this collaboration.  It's difficult to get an idea of who did what in the writing, but it's worth noting that the end result was a clear singular voice.

“Nothin’ makes sense in this boat, White.  Somethin’ been wrong from the start, I can feel it.  Back in the bayou, some folks still practice the old religion.  They say everything’s got a soul— even things that ain’t alive.  Sometimes I think they’re right. And if Roanoke’s got a soul, it ain’t a healthy one. Somethin’ bad got inside her, and now she’s rottin’ away from within.”

Full of surprises to the very end, I can gladly recommend 100 Fathoms Below.

From Blackstone Publishing,  100 Fathoms Below is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the authors' bios...

Steven L. Kent has published several books dealing with video and computer games as well as a series of military science fiction novels about a Marine named Wayson Harris.  While Kent earned a Bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in communications from Brigham Young University, he claims that his most important education came from life.  As a boy growing up in Honolulu in the 1960s, Kent developed a unique perspective. He spent hours torch fishing and skin diving.  In more recent years he's concentrated on writing novels, including,  The Clone Republic and Rogue Clone, both published by Ace Books.

Nicholas Kaufmann is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated, ITW Thriller Award-nominated, and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Walk In Shadows: Collected Stories, General Slocum's Gold, Hunt at World's End, and others.  Over the years, he worked in publishing, owned his own bookstore, managed a video store, and was a development associate for a well-known literary and film agent.  He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and two ridiculous cats.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Guest Post: Nicholas Kaufmann talks about collaborating on a novel

Author Nicholas Kaufmann has written a terrifying novel with Stephen L. Kent.  I'll be sharing my review of 100 Fathoms Below tomorrow, but right now I'd like to turn the page over to Nick as he talks about the collaboration experience...

People have been asking me about a lot lately about what it’s like to collaborate with another author on a novel.  This makes sense, considering I co-wrote my latest horror novel, 100 Fathoms Below, with Steven L. Kent, an author best known for his Rogue Clone series of military science fiction adventures.  In truth, I’m hardly an expert on the subject.  I’ve tried collaborations before back in my younger days, on stories as well as novels, but they always fizzled out.  More often than not, one or both of us would run out of time to devote to the project, or lost interest, or both.  100 Fathoms Below is the first novel I’ve written with another author to completion and publication.  Despite not being an expert, I did learn a few things along the way that I can share with you.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to collaborating on a novel.  We writers are so used to working alone, forever wrestling Jacob-like with the angels of our imaginations and answering to no one but ourselves.  Collaborating with another author requires developing a whole new approach to this process.  I’m not going to lie to you, it can be hard.  When an idea comes to you as a writer, whether it’s a plot point or an important bit of dialogue or a character moment, it comes with emotions attached, and so you become emotionally attached to it.  When a co-author tells you they don’t like it or it isn’t working, it can be hard to let go.  It can feel like a personal slight when something you came up with, something you thought was brilliant, is greeted with displeasure and resistance by your co-author.  But you have to get past that.  The most important key to a good collaborative experience is getting over yourself.  To successfully work with another author, you need to trust and respect that other author’s opinions and point of view.  If they don’t like something you came up with, there’s probably a good reason for it, just as there would be a good reason for you not liking something they came up with.

Communication is key.  With Steve living on the West Coast and me on the East Coast, we have never met in person—a fact that blows people’s minds whenever I mention it.  All our correspondence was done through email and comments in the manuscript.  But regardless of how you do it, you must keep those lines of communication open and honest.  Be warned, it can get messy at times.  After all, you’re dealing with another human being, one with their own preferences, tastes, and passions, all of which won’t necessarily line up with your own.  Collaborating on a novel is like any relationship between two people.  Clear and respectful communication is a must.  Even if it produces some bumps along the way, it will lead to a much smoother working relationship in the long run.

As challenging as it might be to work with another author, there is also a special magic to collaboration that you won’t find when writing on your own.  By working together, the two of you give birth to something beyond what either of you could have created alone, an outcome that exceeds the sum of its parts.  That’s what I believe we did with 100 Fathoms Below.  It’s not a Steven L. Kent novel with some Nicholas Kaufmann mixed in, nor is it a Nicholas Kaufmann novel with some Steven L. Kent mixed in.  It is its own entity, a novel that is more than the sum of its parts, and a novel that I daresay is better than either of us could have written on our own.

So is it worthwhile to collaborate with another author?  I think so, although your mileage may vary.  If you decide to try it, I think you might be pleasantly surprised by the result, so long as you keep in mind the advice I’ve given you.  I may not be an expert when it comes to collaborations, but having done a successful one, I find I would absolutely do it again if the right circumstances came along.  I have no intention of giving up writing solo novels, of course, but on occasion, two heads really are better than one.

Nicholas Kaufmann is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated, and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of two collections and six novels, the most recent of which is the horror novel100 Fathoms Below, co-written by Steven L. Kent.  His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Dark Discoveries, and others.  In addition to his own original work, he has written for such properties as Zombies vs. Robots and The Rocketeer.  He and his wife live in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Devouring Dark - by Alan Baxter

5 of 5     Review copy

Killer opening for Alan Baxter's latest novel, Devouring Dark...

"Matt McLeod knew the old adage, that light is supposed to push away the darkness. But he also knew it wasn’t true. Light sits on top, like a film of oil on water. The dark is still there underneath, deep, permanent, waiting. And usually it’s enough, that surface skein of brightness, to keep a soul from the yawning black abyss below. But once the cracks appear, the fall is inevitable. And the darkness devours."

If you have previously read Alan's Australian Shadows Award-Winning short story, "Shadows of the Lonely Dead," you may already be familiar with the overall theme of Devouring Dark.  If not, you could do something I never suggest and skip to the end of the book and read that first, or read the book and then discover the short story.  Either way, you're in for a treat.

Devouring Dark is full of delightfully rich characters.  Matt has a unique talent he uses to eliminate people who deserve to go.  Amy Cavendish works at the Sally Gentle Hospice and has a similar talent, but exercises it in a decidedly different way.  Then there's Vince Stratton, a mob boss/hitman of sorts.   Generally, Matt is very careful about when and where he does what he does, but the one time someone sees him, it's one of Vince's "boys."  Now, Vince wants Matt on his crew and he won't take no for an answer.

That should be enough to whet your appetite.  Devouring Dark is a brilliant mix of crime and the supernatural.  One I won't soon forget.


Published by Grey Matter Press, Devouring Dark, is available in both paperback and e-book formats.  Pre-order now and read on November 6th, 2018

From the author's bio - Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes supernatural thrillers and urban horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dogs.  He also teaches Kung Fu.  He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales, Australia, with his wife, son, dogs, and cat.  He’s the multi-award-winning author of several novels and over seventy short stories and novellas. So far.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Guest Post: Dealing with Death - by Alan Baxter

Next Tuesday, November 6th, 2018, will see the release of DEVOURING DARK by today's author of a Guest Post, Alan Baxter.  Pre-order here

Dealing with Death 

It’s no lie to say that I’ve experienced more death than I’d have liked.  Of course, everyone hopes they experience as little death as possible, but it’s an inevitability that comes to us all in the end.  The best we can hope for is that death is late to our personal party.  At the very least, we hope to reach adulthood without too many close brushes with mortality.

For most people, if they’re lucky, any childhood experience of death is first softened with the slightly less traumatic loss of a pet rather than a person.  My own son, who’s just turned five, recently helped us bury our cat, and he’s currently facing mortality in all its grim finality through that lens.  (The cat was nearly 18 and died from an extended illness, by the way – we didn’t bury her alive as a learning experience for him.)  Hopefully it’ll toughen him to the bigger losses of people in his life, and hopefully, those people will be old and satisfied after a long and happy life.  We should all hope for such good fortune.  But for many, that luxury is not enjoyed.  Some people experience mortality to excess and too soon.  I did.

My own experiences on that front have informed a lot of my writing and eventually led me to write a short story called “Shadows of the Lonely Dead”.   While it doesn’t directly address my personal experiences, it’s a story that examines death and is set in places where I spent too much time, like palliative care homes.  That story centres on a young nurse whose ability to see and control the strange shadows of death sets her on a path of vigilantism she never anticipated.  But I knew during the writing of that story I’d only touched on the edges of exploring the strangeness of death. I needed to return to it.  So eventually I did, in my new novel, DEVOURING DARK.  In this book, we focus on the protagonist Matt McLeod, a man plagued by guilt and darkness, who has had the shadow of death hanging over him from a very young age.  In the course of events, he meets Amy Cavendish, the main character from “Shadows of the Lonely Dead”, and together they complement and juxtapose each other.  They get tangled in a web of crime and corruption and dark mayhem ensues.

The book is a dark, disturbing horror story of vigilantism and survival, but the course of the narrative is also guided by considerations of what death really is.  What does it mean to die well?  Who deserves death?  What might the purpose of our death be, if anything?  How might our death, as well as our life, impact and change the lives of other people, both those close to us and others, further away?  I’m not suggesting that DEVOURING DARK actually provides any answers to this stuff, but it does explore the questions inside an entertaining thriller.

It’s no surprise that more opinion has arisen around our lack of knowledge regarding death than probably any other subject.  Every religion ever conceived, after all, only came about as an attempt to answer the three big questions:  Where did we come from, why are we here, and where do we go?  The thing is, just because we can ask those questions, it doesn’t mean there have to be answers.  Or the answers might well be: Random chemical aberrations, no reason, and nowhere.  But that’s ultimately unsatisfying, so religions try to fill the gaps.  And of course, the non-religious still consider and struggle with these concepts, these unanswerable questions.

Regardless, living the best, most productive and caring life we can, seems to be the bare minimum requirement in the face of those enquiries.

In DEVOURING DARK, I have different characters in different situations facing death from many
angles.  They each deal with their lives in very different ways.  And I keep asking questions because that’s something people are really good at.  And often the most intriguing questions are the ones to which we might never get an answer.  Or any answer we do get comes along too late to really mean anything.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: The Window - by Glenn Rolfe

5 of 5 Stars - Review copy

After reading four novels and a collection of short stories by Glenn Rolfe, I have to admit, I am a fan.   I'm also pleased to note I've seen growth in each new work and believe The Window is Glenn's best book to date.

A wicked tone sets the mood for Rolfe's latest excursion into horror.

"The demons Domineus and his wife Sanikus, so close, yet so far from attaining their ultimate goal, once again, were forced to wait for another opportunity, another family to attach to and ruin."

James' parents, Richie and Samantha are divorced and James is with his mom and away from all of his friends most of the time.  When the chance to spend what's left of his Summer with his dad, and as a result, with his friends, James is elated.

His dad had lots of plans, Def Leopard tickets and a Red Sox game were all a part of the agenda, but in the end, none of those things happen.  Truth is, relationships are tough enough, but throw in a family of demons and well...

Rolfe captures the "coming of age" aspects of the story in a realistic manner and the dialog among the kids is spot on.

At times, The Window is brutally vicious.  It's a story which pulls no punches and is right up there with my favorite reads of 2018.

Completely recommended.

Published by Alien Agenda Publishing, The Window is now available for the Kindle at 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 from the dark woods of New England.  He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University.  He continues his education in horror by reading the works of Stephen King, Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Ronald Malfi, and many more.  He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl.  He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

Guest Post: Glenn Rolfe looks at the "Coming of Age" tale and its place in the horror genre

Today's Guest Post is courtesy of author, Glenn Rolfe who's latest book, THE WINDOW is available now, for the Kindle, at Thanks, Glenn...

The Horror Writer and the Coming of Age Story

My latest novel, THE WINDOW, features a father, Richie Curry, succumbing to a couple of nasty demons he finds in his reflection. These demons work him down bit by bit, until...well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Discovering his unique problem is his son, James. James has been moved away to live with his mother and her new fiance but is granted permission to spend all of August, the last wonderful month of summer, back home with his dad and his best friends, Kevin, Eric, and Carrie.
You have to wonder why small-town teens always end up getting tasked with the job of vanquishing demons.

For us in the horror writing/reading community, it comes with the turf.

Growing up on stories like Robert McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE, Brian Keene’s GHOUL, and Stephen King’s IT, this is just the type of story that has the ability to hit us in the feels. Turning forty-one this month, the eighties and nineties were my childhood. When I get a chance to live those days through someone else’s eyes, especially from a writer I really trust, it adds that something extra to the story and how it hits me.

While McCammon and King created masterpieces, it’s Keene’s GHOUL that hits closest to home for me. I remember a scene where the dad tears up the kid’s comic, that hit me good. My dad snapped one of my Kiss cassettes in half after I helped my older brother cut off my sister’s fingernails while she was asleep (hey, she used to scratch the shit out of us). But it’s funny when you read something that someone else went through or imagines, and it’s something that also happened to you. It’s what makes a story resonate with us.

In THE WINDOW, I definitely brought my bag of childhood summers with me, from going to the movies and getting in a fight to running off with a friends dirt bike for the afternoon, and of course, there’s always a girl.

While my story is set in the present rather than the eighties or nineties, I still felt like these fights or situations are things kids get themselves into even now in the digital age, but you’ll find plenty of me in James and his friends, as well. In real life, my kids are well versed in rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Alice Cooper, and the Ramones.  There’s plenty of nods throughout, as there usually is in my work.

But growing up in a horror story is about more than just the decade the tale is set in, or what TV shows or bands your kids are listening to. It’s about those big moments that seem to happen in bunches when you and one or more of your buddies are hanging out. I remember how hard it hit one of my friends when his parents got divorced. For a minute, everything was out of step. But through the magic of the following summer, we helped him find his groove.

The first time I fell in love with a girl in my neighborhood, man, I don’t know how I ever managed to get my feet back on the ground. My friends were right there after she kicked my heart in the teeth. It’s funny about that magic. Our innocence. The moment you lose it, it gives you this amazing thrill, it’s not until you’ve come back down on the other side in that strange new world that a deeper feeling settles in. We’re always eager to get there, but once we land, there’s really no going back to the wild and carefree nights tenting out in your best friend’s backyard.

I think there's a brief moment in your life where you’re realizing this and mourning in some way just before you accept true childhood’s end, and set forth on your lean, mean teenage years. Driving and working and all that next level stuff.

We’d all love to visit that old magic again, even if for just a few hours in a book or a movie. I think that’s why we’re so attracted to the coming of age story.

As horror fans, we just get to add a little blood and demonic possession along with it.

I’m not comfortable calling THE WINDOW a straight up coming of age tale, but there’s plenty of

those elements floating from page to page for it to sit comfortably around similar books. While there’s plenty of my young self in these kids, there’s just as much me and my life among the adult characters, as well.

I hope you’ll consider grabbing a copy of THE WINDOW and giving it a read.  If not, that’s cool, too. Thanks for spending these few minutes with me just the same.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: The Sky Woman: From Ringworlds to Earth, an Epic Struggle of Love and Survival - by J.D. Moyer

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

The Sky Woman: From Ringworlds to Earth, an Epic Struggle of Love and Survival by J.D. Moyer is the fourth book I've read from new publisher Flame Tree Press and they are certainly living up to their 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.

The Sky Woman deftly combines multiple genres into a solid work which starts out reading much like your typical fantasy fare but goes places I never anticipated.

Although I've never read anything by J. D. Moyer previously and this is not a book I would likely pick up without having been asked to provide a review, I found the work to be wildly imaginative and totally entertaining...

"...could kill a man so fast his opponent would continue fighting and boasting for some time, until a severed body part fell to the ground reminding the man that he had already been killed."

There is so much more I want to say in this review, but I'm seriously trying to restrain myself as this is one of those books where giving away anything at all would be a serious disservice to the reader as the thrill of discovery is such a huge part of its charm.

I will say this, The Sky Woman: From Ringworlds to Earth, an Epic Struggle of Love and Survival was so much fun, I'm already looking forward to its sequel, The Guardian.

J. D. Moyer, you have yourself a new fan.

Even if this isn't quite your thing, The Sky Woman is worth taking a chance on.

Available in various formats from Flame Tree Press.

From the author's bio - J.D. Moyer lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, daughter, and mystery-breed dog. He writes science fiction, produces electronic music in two groups (Jondi & Spesh and Momu), runs a record label (Loöq Records), and blogs at

J.D. has had a long and varied career, but after the birth of his daughter, he returned to his love of fiction writing.  Recurring themes in his fiction include genetic engineering, the sociological effects of climate change, virtualized consciousness, and evolutionary divergence.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: Let There Be Dark - by Tim McWhorter

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Let There Be Dark is the perfect gateway into the world of Tim McWhorter.  Eight stories to spark the imagination.  As a relatively new writer, three novels and one previous short story collection you may not be familiar with Tim's work, but he's certainly worth discovering and this book is a wonderful place to start.

Rope Burns - I love this story of a haunted restroom at a Walgreens in Salem, Massachusettes.  It sounds a bit funny to put it that way, but this tale is anything but.  Sad that there's a chain pharmacy where such a tragic event was purported to occur.

"They're selling multi-pack condoms and lube right here on the very spot where they hung Bridget Bishop and the others.  Isn't that quaint?  I bet the ladies would be thrilled to know."

The Company You Keep - A thoroughly enjoyable mob story with a bit of a twist.  One of those stories which start off in one direction and ends up somewhere totally unexpected.

The Bridge - One of the most effective ghost stories I've read in some time and one which is likely to rip your heart out.  Tread lightly.

"The legend of the Alderson Road Bridge was well known to those in the surrounding counties.  The story of babies crying in the night had long ago established itself in the area's folklore."

No Saints Here - You'll really appreciate the title when you get to the end of this twisted little tale.

Pigs - Pig farming ain't quite as glamorous as it might seem.

The Dark Side - A tale which gave me the creeps.  It's the story of a blackout room and captures the scares of such exposure.

"Brent wasn't about to be deterred.  He is as excited about his first blackout experience as a kid about to attend her first boy\girl birthday party."

Growing Cold Together - A potty break in the middle of a snow-covered forest on the way to a resort lodge leads to terrifying results.  Although I had never heard of the creature in this story, I looked it up on Wikipedia and found it to be a nocturnal fearsome critter from American folklore that preys upon humans that wander the woods.  There is plenty of horror crammed into this short story.

Skull Session - Infernales.  A store which features a number of oddities, including shrunken heads.

Tim McWhorter doesn't miss a beat.  With a knack for the unexpected twist, he manages to deliver a number of surprises in this, his second collection of short work.

My highest recommendation.

Published by Hydra Publications, Let There Be Dark is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Tim McWhorter was born under a waning crescent moon, and while he has no idea what the significance is, he thinks it sounds really cool to say.  A graduate of Otterbein College with a BA in Creative Writing, he is the author of the novella Shadows Remain, the suspense-thrillers, Bone White, and its sequel, Blackened, and a collection of short stories titled Swallowing The Worm and Other Stories.  Tim lives the suburban life just outside of Columbus, OH, with his wife, a handful of children and a few obligatory 'family' pets that have somehow become solely his responsibility.  He is currently hard at work on another thriller with just enough horror to keep you up at night.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Guest Post: Tim McWhorter - Who Says the Holiday Season Doesn’t Begin with Halloween?

Who Says the Holiday Season Doesn’t Begin with Halloween?

By Tim McWhorter, author of Let There Be Dark

I come from a long line of traditionalists.  Growing up, my family had those certain things we did every year for birthdays and holidays.  Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve happily passed the importance of tradition down to my own kids.  We have so many Christmas traditions that we have to get out the calendar at the beginning of each December and schedule the month’s activities just to make sure we squeeze them all in.  Only one other holiday comes close to having as many traditions.  That holiday is Halloween.  Cobwebs all over the house (fake, not real).  Multiple trips to multiple pumpkin patches.  Pulling the firepit around to the driveway and staying toasty while we pass out trick or treat goodies.  But my favorite tradition of the Halloween season is one that requires no work on my part.  I get to just sit back and enjoy.  That tradition is the return of the horror movie.

Now, before you get your jack o’ lanterns in a wad, I’m not talking about the usual ‘sitting on the couch with the lights off and a blanket pulled up to your eyes’ horror movies.  That’s a fun-filled family activity you can take part in any time of the year, whether it’s the hottest day in July or the coldest in January.  What I’m referring to, and what I get most excited for every October, is the return of classic horror films to the theaters.  Every year around this time, the theaters in my area bring back at least one or two classic horror films for one or two special engagement showings.  My all-time favorite horror flick is The Exorcist, and in the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it in the theater on three separate occasions.  The size of the screen, the spooky scores coming through the Dolby speakers at bombastic levels, all combine to provide a viewing experience you just can’t get at home.  I don’t care how much money you’ve spent at Best Buy.  Each time I saw The Exorcist, my heart pounded like a fat kid in gym class during track and field week.  (and I know because I was a fat kid in gym class during track and field week).

This year, the theater gods have not failed me.  In addition to Carpenter’s original Halloween that’s being shown across the country this week prior to the release of the new Halloween film, there are theaters showing George A. Romero’s classic, Night of the Living Dead.  (And yes, I’ve already purchased my tickets.)  This one I am exceptionally excited for. I have teenagers in the house who share my affinity for the scary movie.  (pause for nature versus nurture debate)  The truth is, not all classics that I show them resonate as well as I hope.  Some are too slow by today’s standards. Others have a cheese factor north of Limburger.  I could see NOTLD being one of the more difficult films for them to grasp fully why its one of the all-time greats.  It’s slow.  It’s black and white.  And viewing it in our living room, they may not get the film’s subtext, given the state of our country now compared to the state it was in back in 1968.  But sitting back and watching it all play out on a seventy-foot screen and in Dolby surround sound might help matters.

Questionable child-rearing aside, the fact of the matter is that I was born in 1970.  Many of what are now considered classic horror films had already been relegated to VHS by the time I got around to them.  Getting a chance to see them on the big screen, most for the first time is a real treat for this life-long horror fan.  Other classics I’ve seen in the theater the past few years are Carpenter’s The Thing, Carpenter’s Halloween, Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, The Shining, Jaws, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Alien, and of course, The Exorcist.

So this year, once the pumpkins are carved and on display, and our house looks more like a haunted attraction than my homeowners’ association would care for it to, you’ll find me in a theater somewhere.  I’ll have my feet kicked up, a tub of buttered popcorn on my lap and a cherry Coke in the armrest, waiting for the opening credits to roll and my favorite cardio workout to begin.

See ya at the movies!

Review: Predators - by Michaelbrent Collings

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

If you're anything like me, when you hear the title, Predators, your mind goes immediately to the science fiction action horror film franchise.  Just so you know, Michaelbrent Collings' new book has nothing to do with aliens, but everything to do with terror.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a predator as an organism that primarily obtains food by the killing and consuming of other organisms.

"Running was what the food did."

The story takes place at and about the Happy Africa Safari Tours, a struggling enterprise on what could well be their final expedition.

Predators is very much a character-driven story.  Just a handful of guests take off on an evening excursion in an attempt to see some wildlife on what was so far has been a less than successful safari.

There are the little blind girl, Gale, her father, Craig, and Grams.  Much of the story revolves around these three, however, they are not alone.  There are Evie Childs and her domineering husband, Bill.  Bernard Eberhardt, one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, and his ingenue, Selena.  And Gunner Helix, a self-proclaimed survival specialist with in excess of six-million YouTube subscribers.

All of the players in this tale are carefully drawn, some pure, some dark, and others in shades to grey.

"If we have found a spotted hyena, then we have found the most successful predator in Africa."

Amidst all of the violence in Collings' story, there is an incredibly touching moment.  It comes at just the right time to alleviate some of the tension, as hope seems all but lost.

In the end, Predators is a demanding read that is worth the effort and when the book was over, I didn't want to leave.  Definitely recommended

Predators is available now in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio - Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award Finalist, and one of the top indie horror writers in the US.  He hopes someday to develop superpowers and maybe get a cool robot arm.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Guest Post: Storytelling on Social Media – a Parable of Tanks and Rollerskates by Michaelbrent Collings

Tomorrow I plan to review the new novel Predators by Michaelbrent Collings, but for now, I'd like to turn over my blog to Michaelbrent for this informative guest post...

Storytelling on Social Media – a Parable of Tanks and Rollerskates

What to write about… what to write about…

This is the question I face when writing this article or starting a book, or anything else. What do I write about? What do I DO?

So I thought I'd write about that process – and about something that so few of us think about: the power of our words. As writers, we all kinda-sorta-maybe know that. We know that words matter, but many (most? all?) of us think about them in terms of, "I have a story. The story matters. People will like it. People will buy it and I will have a pool of golden ducats that would be the envy of Scrooge McDuck."

To be sure, I think most people do have that kind of story in them. The trick is finding it, bringing it out, putting it down, and getting the word out (and those are a whole SERIES of blog posts/articles/book so I won't try here).

My dad once said (wisely) that talking about important things on social media is like trying to teach rocket science using bumper stickers. To which I would add: with the only difference that we would all agree that the latter is insane.

But not the former. We talk about "important" things all the time, never minding that they a) usually AREN'T that important in the grand scheme of things (and if you think they are, I'd invite you to tell me what you Tweeted last Tuesday), and b) the most important things merit our greatest care and attention.

I'm not telling people here to stop social media. I'm not encouraging silence. I'm saying that we live in a time where communication is possible on a greater scale than would have been imaginable even twenty years ago. I'm saying that this means words are flying around constantly.

And words, I am fond of saying, are the single greatest inhibitor of communication ever invented.

Before words, it was easy. You either hated or feared a person – in which case you ran away and/or beat them with your club made of T-rex femur – or you loved them, in which case you ran TOWARD them and shared your T-rex meat and/or went to the nearest cave to make sweet caveperson love.

Now, though… so many words. So much complicatednessosity. Even that last word is needlessly complicateder than it has to be. But I'm leaving it. BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT.

Ultimately, we created words that allowed us to exercise the single greatest power in human history: the power to tell stories. That's the thing that differentiates us from every other creature because there's no other creature capable of telling Beowulf, or creating a sonnet, or writing out blueprints or mathematical equations (which are how science tells ITS most important stories).

We are creatures of stories, you and I. We meet, we converse, we share… and, fundamentally, we spend much of our time misunderstanding.

That's one of the pitfalls of being a writer: you become convinced that not only are you telling a good story but that the people for whom you write are hearing the same story you intended to write. This is rarely the case, though, because we all bring ourselves to the stories we hear. The audience is as much a part of the finished product as is the "original" storyteller.

This is even more pronounced on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. A smiley-face or heart means something vastly different to me than it does to you. Sure, they

mean "happy" or "love," but those words themselves are two upon which oceans of writers have expended infinite words, so obviously there's a lot of wiggle room there.

"Don't just write a short story. Start out with an epic, because you gotta build to a short story." I said that once in jest/not-jest, and there's truth in it. Writing something short that matters, that's punchy and interesting… it's hard. Not least of all because, again, the chances of the audience reading the interesting, cool, deep thing you tried to write is infinitesimally small. They're going to read the words, but their lives loom larger when the picture is smaller. They'll bring more of themselves to a short story than they would to a novel because the author of a short story necessarily leaves more blanks for the audience to fill in. An eight-book epic spanning twenty years of a family's lives, well, that's something where the author gets to put a pretty sturdy cage around what he intends and keep prying audience members from messing with it too much. But a twenty-page short story? A five-hundred-word flash fiction piece? Those are really written by the author, interpreted by the audience, and the interpretation disseminated to the masses.

So what, then, a Tweet? A line under an Instagram picture.

Again, this isn't to condemn those forums. This isn't to tell people to stay away. But as a writer, I've seen far too many times where I thought I was telling one story and ended up telling one completely different. I take great care now not just to tell the story, but to make it as close to impossible for the reader to misinterpret it as I can… and I still only succeed a fraction of the time.

Our words are magical. Our words are lovely. They are the brightest of suns. But they also burn, they cut, they corrode. So powerful, and it behooves us to use them wisely and well. Our society has little place or use for hermits; we interact with each other and expect others to contribute to our lives just as we contribute to theirs. But we must remember: we are creatures not of concepts, but of stories. Every word we say, or write, or type, is part of a story that goes into the world and changes it a bit. We bear every bit as much of a responsibility to do our best to change the world in a good way with every word as we do the responsibility of leaving a world behind that has food and air and

water for our kids. But though most of us wouldn't blow up a dirty bomb in a mall amongst thousands of strangers, we think far too little of lobbing potentially dangerous words into the atmosphere of social media. Then we shrug and say, "Hey, I'm being honest," or, "Hey, that needed to be said," or "Hey, I've always stood up for what I believed," without ever asking the more important questions: how does that honesty benefit the world? Did it "need" to be said, or did I just really really wanna say it? And in standing up for what I believed, did I help others, did I harm them, or did I care less about that than I did about just getting something off my chest?

The world is magical. It's so full of stories, so full of words. We talk, we smile, we laugh, we play. I love all those things – they make me smile myself, and (selfishly) I enjoy stealing others' stories so I can reshape them in my own image.

But we also stand up and tell people things "for their own good" without getting to know them. We condemn groups as a whole without regard for whether that will actually change their minds or lead to any kind of change. We spit into the wind, because we are ANGRY, DAMMIT, and then are shocked when the wind changes and the person who gets the most spittle on their cheek is not the intended victim, but we ourselves.

Words are important – and there are definitely those that must be said. But we have to be careful. We have to think.

We are storytellers. That is what it is to be human: to experience things, then to take those experiences and boil them down into stories we can tell to (hopefully) make our future experiences and the future experiences of others into something more meaningful and pleasing. But as storytellers, as the most powerful of creatures, we also bear the tremendous responsibility of using that power wisely. If Superman went out and murdered someone – even just once – we would toss him out as our superhero. I'm not talking "I got into some kryptonite and did something over which I had no control," I'm talking about a day where Supes just gets tired of it all, throws up his hands, and heat visions his frickin' neighbor who constantly plays house mixes with full bass to

death. At that point, we are done with him. He is no longer not a hero, he is forever unredeemable.

But we can lose control. We can post in the moment because IT MUST BE SAID IT MUST BE SAID NOW IT MUST BE SAID THIS WAY BECAUSE I FEEL IT MUST BE SO.

I am a storyteller. I am a human. So are you, those of you who read this. So let us tell good stories. Let us tell kind ones. Sometimes kindness is painful (ask any child who just had a tetanus shot or got a cavity filled what he or she thought of it). But kindness is never unthinking, or motivated by my feelings of the moment – it is motivated by plans that will benefit someone's future.

The best stories are these. Frank Errington asked me to write something for a guest post, and I always try to think of something useful to write on those occasions. There are story tips, there are craft how-tos. I can talk about making a relatable villain, or dealing with the suspension of disbelief for a zombie story. All that's important, but all it boils down to at its base is the fact that the story that matters deserves a well-crafted vehicle.

So craft your own vehicles well. And remember that Twitter is just as much a storytelling venue as is Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Remember perhaps as well that when we use social media as a vehicle for our stories, it's not a rollerskate; as often as not it's a tank with a single devastating shot. Let us take care to shoot only things we've really thought about, and really aimed for; collateral damage is horrid in war, but for some reason it deserves no notice when I'm posting on "my" wall – a wall of "mine" that is bought and paid for and designed and maintained by other people without any input on my part, which is the strangest definition of "mine" I have ever heard.

And maybe we should sometimes not shoot at all. Perhaps we should get out of the tank, and take a walk. That's how we actually meet people with whom we'd like to share our T-rex meat and make sweet caveperson love.

Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist, produced screenwriter, and makes awesome waffles. His newest novel is PREDATORS, available on all major ebook retailers, and you can find out more about him and read more of his wordingosityness at his website,

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: Nothing You Can Do - by Ed Kurtz

4 of 5 Stars 

Nothing You Can Do is the first collection from genre writer Ed Kurtz.  Seventeen stories of hard-boiled crime.  Most of them have been previously published, with the exception of the final story, which appears here for the first time.

Unless you are a hard-core Ed Kurtz fan, chances are pretty good you haven't read more than a handful of these tales.

In the Neighborhood - This is an outstanding start to the stories Kurtz has assembled for our entertainment.  Van Duong owns a pizza shop, but a group of bad boys remember him from Vietnam.  Needless to say, things don't go well for the VC.

Bea's Wager - They don't want money, they don't want sex, what they do want will likely surprise you.

Buffalo Squeeze - I learned something new here.  A "Buffalo Squeeze" is a pose struck by an ecdysiast (stripper to you and I) in which the arms are crossed before the breasts emphasizing their cleavage.  Violent fun.

Marla's Eyes - There's a thin line between nightmare and insanity.  In his story notes, the author suggests thinking of this period piece as the Downton Abbey Halloween special.

Roadbeds - This was the author's first ever flash fiction crime story, about what happens after dark at a construction site.

Dogs Will Hunt - Features one of the best lines in the book.  In describing an abandoned church turned meth lab...

"There sure as hell wasn't any grace left in this place, amazing or otherwise."

Dog Will Hunt is certainly not a happy tale, but then few of the stories found in this collection are.

Pegleg - All you need to know about this crime caper can be summed up in a single sentence.  "Porky's leg is the safe, you get the leg, you get the money."

Amore Violenta - A man, his wife, and his lover.  A violent affair.

A Good Marriage - This short appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories2014. "Killing one's wife is a tense business, as it happens."

Bad Luck Billy - More flash fiction.

Falldown Church - A twisted little tale of southern noir.

The Trick - One of my favorite reads in an exceptional collection.  Kurtz brought his A-game to this story set predominantly in a NYC bathhouse.  So many great lines, but my personal favorite was...

"My ship had come in all right, but it kept on sailing into the night and I'm not a very good swimmer."

Third Wheel - Good story about, you guessed it,  a third wheel.

Nothing You Can Do - The title story about a very expensive night in a European brothel.

The Beard - A gay detective outs an attorney.  More great writing.

Hell Broke Loose - Based on true events.  The story of the "servant-girl annihilator."

Tanglefoot - The only piece in the collection not previously released.

The language is just what's called for in stories like these...

"...had a man bent over next to the cash register, looking for all the world like he was about to indulge in some maximum security romance."

"The house smelled like wet dog and warm hot dogs."

While not quite perfect, Nothing You Can Do comes pretty damn close.  There are many similarities between horror and crime fiction and while this collection falls mostly in the latter category, I really enjoyed Kurtz's first collection and look forward to many more.


Nothing You Can Do is available now in both paperback and e-book formats from Down & Out Books.

From the author's bio - Ed Kurtz is also the author of Nausea, Angel of the Abyss, The Forty-Two, and The Rib From Which I Remake the World (do yourself a favor and read that one ASAP).  Ed is a bit of a wanderer and currently makes his home in Connecticut.  Now that I've told you that, he'll probably up and move again.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Review: Bad Man - by Dathan Auerbach

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Eric, aged three, disappears at the grocery store while under the care of his older brother, Ben.  Every parent's worst nightmare.  The rising panic woven through this scene was incredibly well written.

I can't say I liked everything about Bad Man.  Early on, I was enjoying the read but found myself searching for the story.  There was one red herring, in particular, which I was less than fond of.  But, I will say Dathan Auerbach is a very capable writer, deserving of his success.

There were numerous gems sprinkled throughout the prose...

The mosquitoes had all died or gone back to hell, or whatever they do when the air starts to bite and sting.

Bad Man features a number of fully fleshed out characters.  Ben, for example, was wonderfully developed as the reader sees through his eyes and feels his every emotion.  I will say, Bad Man protects its secrets the way a mama bear protects her cubs.  But, ultimately the payoff is worth the wait.

Recommended, for sure.

From the author's bio - Dathan Auerbach was born in the southern U.S. and has lived there for most of his life.  In 2011, he began posting a series of stories to a forum dedicated to horror.  After a KickStarter that raised over 1000% of its goal, he was able to release the revised and expanded version of his story as the novel "Penpal."

Review: Twin Lakes: Autumn Fires - by Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason

4 of 5 Stars     Review Copy

If you enjoy reading horror as much as I do and if you haven't read anything by the Sisters of Slaughter you're doing yourself a disservice.  Real-life sisters, Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason, have always loved the dark side of life.  I loved this line from their guest post on yesterday's blog...

"We dressed our cats in doll clothes and pretended they were werewolves attacking our Barbies."

Their first published novel, Mayan Blue, was nominated for the coveted Bram Stoker award. and they show no signs of slowing down.  Their latest release, Twin Lakes: Autumn Fires, solidifies their place in the modern day registry of horror writers deserving of your attention.

The opening sequence of this book could not be more timely...

"The breeze carried his cheap aftershave from her bare chest up into her face and vomit rose into her throat. He hadn't succeeded in accomplishing what he planned since he picked her up, but the trauma of his attack wouldn't leave her for the rest of her days."

A serial killer is plaguing the community of Twin Lakes, Washington, a locality with more than a few secrets.  It's those very secrets which are keeping the town leaders from bringing in outsiders to aid the investigation. 

The occult. monsters, witches, and werewolves.   They're all here in this otherwise quiet little town.  Seems to me, Twin Lakes could be home to a few more stories, should the Sisters of Slaughter chose to revisit in the future.

While not perfect, Twin Lakes: Autumn Fires makes for some damn fine reading.  Recommended.

Published by Sinister Grin Press, Twin Lakes: Autumn Fires is available in both Paperback and for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

About the authors - Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason are a twin sister writing team from Arizona.  They have been writing together since they were little girls and have been dubbed the Sisters of Slaughter for writing a mixture of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.  They’ve been published by Sinister Grin Press, JEA/Wetworks, Thunderstorm Books, Bloodshot Books, Eraserhead Press, and Fireside Press.  Their debut novel Mayan Blue was released by Sinister Grin Press, earning a nomination for a Bram Stoker Award.  Silverwood: The Door was recently released with Brian Keene, Richard Chizmar, and Stephen Kozeniewski.  Silverwood: The Door is a serial horror story put out through Serialbox, the HBO of literature.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Guest Post: CHILDREN OF THE WITCHING SEASON - By Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason

Today I'd like to welcome the Sisters of Slaughter to the blog.  Real-life sisters who certainly have the horror genre sitting up and taking notice.  Come  back tomorrow as I review their newest release.


By Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason

We have always been horror children, we don’t know how to explain it other than it was what drew us in, the same as some kids love astronauts and others dinosaurs or princesses, we, on the other hand, have always loved creepy scary things.  We were interested in stories of witches and ghouls, we dressed our cats in doll clothes and pretended they were werewolves attacking our Barbies, and we begged our mom to buy us Goosebumps books for our brother to read out loud to us.  We loved to watch things like Hocus Pocus and Ernest Scared Stupid, every Scooby-Doo episode we could find and even Alvin and the Chipmunks meet the Wolfman and Frankenstein.  As teens, we loved going to the school library and when that was closed we walked to the city library to get lost in the shelves of horror fiction and books of mythology and stories of true crime.  We were drawn to the macabre, the darkness of the human mind as well as the make-believe monsters creeping in the shadows.

Those days spent reading and absorbing the oddities and tragedies of the world helped shape our retreating into our minds was a much better place.  We dreamed of becoming storytellers and sharing our tales with other people but as we got older we buried that dream and thought it would remain just that. It was something we’d think about especially around Halloween, our love of horror and the dusty notebooks filled with pages of handwritten terrors…
imaginations and the stories we would tell.  We started writing together just for fun around the age of eight or nine, it was just an extension of playing pretend.  We wrote stories and drew little pictures to go along with the tales and then read them to our mother out in our little playhouse our dad made for us.  Those were magical times, some of our greatest childhood memories were of the occasional rainy Arizona day and reading to our mom while sipping cups of tea she would make and carry out to us. When we became teenagers, a time when most kids give up their make-believe worlds for entering the “real world”, we continued writing because we got a taste of what was beyond our imaginations and decided

The years slipped by and we got old enough to stop feeling the fear of rejection.  We were thirty when we finally decided to start submitting our work for publication.  The road was rough and the rejections came creeping in, but we didn’t give up.  Time makes you bolder, as the song goes, and we refused to give up until we achieved our goals.  We worked on our craft and kept on submitting until we started getting accepted. We were in a number of anthologies and then released, Mayan Blue, our first novel and it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.  Now, five years after making the plunge into the publishing world, we’re still at it, still fighting every day to keep our dreams alive, but they are, like a monster resurrected from sewn together corpses of daydreams we imagined decades ago, it breathes and it lives.

October is here and in the desert it signifies the death of summer’s brutal grip on the land and its people.  We are free to roam without the burning gaze of the sun, like creatures emerging from hibernation or spirits rising from the grave, we seek our old haunts in search of merriment and revelry.  We just released our latest book through Sinister Grin Press, Twin Lakes: Autumn Fires and following on its heels we launched a serialized fiction project, Silverwood The Door through Serial Box, alongside our idols and friends Brian Keene, Richard Chizmar, and Stephen Kozeniewski.  We can’t stop the stories from flowing from our fingertips like automatic writing.  They form in our minds like the whispers of ghosts and they take us back to listening to the rain outside and softly reading to our mother, they reconfirm that we are children of the witching season, now and forever.

-Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason