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.