Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Excerpt: Something Borrowed, Something Blood Soaked

When asked if I'd like to post the excerpt from Crista Carmen's collection  Something Borrowed, Something Blood Soaked, my reply was one word, "Send."  I'm in the middle of reading this right now and I've enjoyed every story so far.  Here is just a taste of what to expect.

by Christa Carmen

The trees were fire and the sky was panicked birds and the horse was made of bone.

She knew the horse would not walk forever.  She also knew that when the horse could go no farther, she would trade her Hell on Earth for one beyond her capacity to conceive.


On the day the water turned to poison, she had done the bad thing again.  When her father appeared before her, she was certain it was to scold her for her atrocious, perverted ways.  But when her father opened his mouth, a river of red ran out in place of reproach.  In a revelation of horror, she remembered her father guzzling the glass of water from the faucet, and she gripped her favorite stuffed creature—a gift that she had not deserved—as the gore rushed from between her father’s lips, hiding her face in its fur so she would not have to see.

She heard the muffled thwump when her father’s body hit the floor.  By then, her brother had drunk the water too, (by then, who hadn’t?) and when he saw their father in a frothy sea of unrelenting red,
he opened his mouth to scream.  His insides came out instead of sound.

She watched as the mundane setting of their living room became an estuary of brackish blood, her brother’s red mixing with her father’s.  The book that had taught her about brackish water and estuaries and other interesting, scientific things lay open on her desk upstairs.  It would remain there now, for an eternity.  Unless the water cleared and there was anyone left to drink it.

Follow along this tour with the hashtags: #SomethingBorrowed #Unnerving #PsychologicalHorror

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, Synopsis
     * Publishing Date: August 21, 2018
     * Publisher: Unnerving Press
     * Page Length: 282 pages

A young woman’s fears regarding the gruesome photos appearing on her cell phone prove justified in a ghastly and unexpected way.  A chainsaw-wielding Evil Dead fan defends herself against a trio of undead intruders.  A bride-to-be comes to wish that the door between the physical and spiritual worlds had stayed shut on All Hallows’ Eve. A lone passenger on a midnight train finds that the engineer has rerouted them toward a past she’d prefer to forget.  A mother abandons a life she no longer recognizes as her own to walk up a mysterious staircase in the woods.

In her debut collection, Christa Carmen combines horror, charm, humor, and social critique to shape thirteen haunting, harrowing narratives of women struggling with both otherworldly and real-world problems.  From grief, substance abuse, and mental health disorders, to a post-apocalyptic exodus, a seemingly sinister babysitter with unusual motivations, and a group of pesky ex-boyfriends who won’t stay dead, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a compelling exploration of horrors both supernatural and psychological, and an undeniable affirmation of Carmen’s flair for short fiction.


Christa Carmen is a writer of dark fiction, and her short stories have appeared in places like Fireside Fiction Company, Unnerving Magazine, Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Outpost 28, DarkFuse
Magazine, and Tales to Terrify, to name a few.  She has additional work forthcoming from Lycan Valley Press Publications' all-female horror anthology, Dark Voices, and her debut fiction collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, was released in August 2018 by Unnerving.

Christa lives in Westerly, Rhode Island with her husband and their ten-year-old bluetick beagle, Maya.  She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in English and psychology, and a master's degree from Boston College in counseling psychology, and she's currently pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard Extension School.  Christa works at a pharmaceutical company as a Research & Development Packaging Coordinator, and at a local hospital as a mental health clinician.  When she's not writing, she is volunteering with one of several organizations that aim to maximize public awareness and seek solutions to the ever-growing opioid crisis in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.

Author Website: www.christacarmen.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15179583.Christa_Carmen
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/christacarmen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christaqua
Twitter: https://twitter.com/christaqua
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christaqua/

Praise for Christa Carmen

“Christa Carmen’s 'Red Room' is a different beast altogether.  This story has some wicked imagery, a sinister and brooding atmosphere, and a terrific ending. I’d go as far to say that this is one of the best short stories Unnerving has published in the magazine." – The Grim Reader

“I was pulled in from the first story: ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,’ by Christa Carmen.  It was also one of my favorites and I have to say that the title gave me a dark chuckle when paired with the band mentioned in the story.” – Sci-Fi and Scary

"This beautifully macabre collection of urban legends and ghastly encounters is a cold whisper, a dripping ax, a shattered camera lens.  Walk carefully into Carmen's night.  But if you hear flies, run." -Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Brothel.

Would you like to feature?

If you would like to review Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked or feature Christa with an interview or guest article for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Review: On This the Day of the Pig - by Josh Malerman

4 of 5 Stars     (Purchased directly from Publisher)

Jeff and Aaron Newton, and their mother, Sherry, pay a visit to grandpa Kopple's farm.  That's when one of the pigs speaks to Jeff and convinces him he must kill one of the other pigs.  So picking up an ax, Jeff proceeds to do the deed,

"Pearl made me do it, Pearl made me want to do it."

On This the Day of the Pig is a fast-paced terrifying tale.

"The word came large to Pearl now because it was the right word, the best word, of all the words the farmer had taught him, on his knees in the barn, on his knees in the mud of the pen.  Pearl had been very patient with him, grateful, too, and it wasn't until the boy, the grandson, listened to him, to Pearl, that Pearl understood it was time.  Time to take over the farm."

Total madness and full-on terror, start to finish. Totally insane, yet wonderfully entertaining.

Certainly recommended.

Published as a signed limited-edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance.

From the author's bio - Josh Malerman is a New York Times-bestselling author and one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung, which performs the theme song for Showtime’s Shameless.  His debut novel, Bird Box, is the inspiration for the hit Netflix film of the same name. Josh almost always writes as horror movie soundtracks play on his record player (The Howling, Poltergeist, and Zombi 2 are great, but Creepshow is best).  His other novels include Unbury Carol and Inspection.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Review: The Same Deep Water As You - by Chad Lutzke

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Wow.  Just wow.  Every time I read a new piece of fiction by Chad Lutzke, I become a bigger fan than I was going in.  His newest work is the novella The Same Deep Water As You.  At eighty-two pages, it is a work best absorbed in a single sitting or perhaps two close sessions.

The Same Deep Water As You is a series of vignettes about a group of skateboarders, their relationships, it's about love and loss.

Music is the soundtrack of our lives.  Good or bad, it tells a story.

There are many gems in this story.  Bits of wisdom, like...

"...you really don't know how to treat a girl when you're 19.  It's like trial and error and nothing gets figured out until it's too late."

"John really had changed, and I couldn't stop thinking about what he said.  I thought about it all night, especially while standing alone, pissing in the marijuana jungle."

The Same Deep Water As You has more than one of those "Oh, wow" moments, the kind that just knocks the wind out of you.  The more I read, the more I really enjoyed Lutzke's latest work.  It's hard to pigeonhole what kind of story this is.  This holds true for much of his body of work.  I guess speculative fiction would be the best way of describing what he writes.  But the bottom line is, it's just great writing.

Definitely recommended.

The Same Deep Water As You is available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

From the author's bio - Chad lives in Michigan with his wife and children.  For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork.  He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine.  He's had a few dozen stories published, and some of his books include: Of Foster Homes and Flies, Wallflower, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface Boy, and Out Behind the bard co-written with John Boden.   Lutzke's work has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, Stephen Graham Jones, James Newman, Cemetery Dance, and his own mother.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Review: A Little Aqua Book of Marine Tales - by Tim Waggoner

4 of 5 Stars     Gift Copy

I recently learned Tim Waggoner almost drowned when he was just nine-years-old.  This led to a fascination with water in many of his short stories, several of which appear in this collection. from Borderlands Press.

Water Dark and Deep - A beautifully haunting tale of a woman in total control of her life...or, at least that's what she would like to believe.

Swimming Lessons - This story is short on words but long on wonderfully weird Waggoner.

Surface Tension - "Have you ever stopped to look a rain puddle?  I mean really look at it?"

Lover, Come Back To Me - Alan, who nearly drowned, in Greywater Lake, as a nine-year-old, is convinced, by his wife, Jan, to confront his fear of the lake with a canoe ride.  Obviously, things don't go well.

The Nature of Water - "Dead boys don't rise from their watery graves to pay a late-night visit to their murderers in real life."  A very good tale with a touch of Lovecraft.

Fathomless Tides - A bit surreal, at the end, but another sharp story about taking chances.

Every Beast of the Earth - Valerie doesn't drive in the rain.  In this tale, filled with stunning imagery, she gets caught in an unexpected downpour.

Just for the record, I'm a fan of Tim Waggoner.  He's one of my "Go To" authors.  He has yet to let me down.  Since this collection is sold out, if you find a copy on the secondary market, at a fair price, be sure to pick it up.

A wonderful collection of personal stories with a similar theme. Strongly recommended

A Little Aqua Book of Marine Tales is a signed limited-edition collection of stories published by Borderlands Press.  Unfortunately, this item is already Out of Stock.

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

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: The Isle - by John C. Foster

4 of 5 Stars    Review copy

The Isle is a dark and demented look at the way life, or what passes for it, has evolved on a remote island off the New England coast.

No doubt, John C. Foster knows how to string words together...

"Dawn was a red rim of anger on the horizon as the storm gathered its strength and the wind tried to rip the door from his grip.  Waves detonated against the rocks with loud explosions of white foam, the ocean matching the swirling fury of the storm clouds overhead."

Foster is an artist who is able to paint pictures with his words and does it again and again...

"The Isle is technically only a territory.  Not part of Maine.  It’s eighty-two miles off the coast.  Isolated.  Only about three hundred people living there.  The only regular transport back and forth is a boat that delivers lobster and fish and picks up supplies."

The official synopsis for The Isle describes the story better than I ever could...

"A deadly menace threatens a remote island community and every man, woman and child is in peril. Sent to the isle to collect the remains of a dead fugitive, US Marshal Virgil Bone is trapped by torrential storms."

As the body count rises the community unravels, and Bone is thrust into the role of investigator. Aided by a local woman and the town pariah, he uncovers the island’s macabre past and its horrifying connection to the killings.

Some curses are best believed.
Sometimes the past is best left buried.
And some will kill to keep it so."

I enjoyed the way Foster would withhold secrets, reveling them at just the right moment. The story of the curse on The Isle was formidable.  In some ways, this is a literary work.  In others, it's an homage to New England gothic horror.  However, you look at it, The Isle is a helluva lot of fun.


Published by Grey Matter Press, The Isle is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

From the author's bio -John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember.  The Isle grew out of his love for New England, where he spent his childhood.  He is the author of three previous novels, Dead Men, Night Roads and Mister White, and one collection of short stories, Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances.  His stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Dark Moon Digest, Strange Aeons, Dark Visions Volume 2 and Lost Films, among others. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Glimpse - by Jonathan Maberry

5 of 5 Stars (Purchased at a Book Signing directly from author)

No doubt, Jonathan Maberry has the ability to grab your attention with just a few words...

"It's like that sometimes. 
     It starts weird and in the wrong place.
     This did
     Rain Thomas went to bed on Thursday and woke up on Saturday.
She had no idea at all that someone had stolen a whole day from her until she arrived twenty-three hours and forty-eight minutes late for a job interview.
     The interview did not go well."

I'm hooked.  Instantly.  No turning back.

One of the things I really liked about Maberry's latest novel is there are no squeaky-clean characters, they all have faults, much like what you find in real life but, at the same time Glimpse has little to do with real life.  Having left her reading glasses at home, Rain is given a pair by an elderly Latino woman on the bus.  A pair which gives her glimpses of things she wouldn't see otherwise.

When returning to the work of a favorite author there's a comfort level like no other.

Rain got pregnant as a teenager and gave up her child, Dylan, out of necessity.  The decision haunts her, even in her dreams...

"I think it means those glasses are telling me the truth.  I think it means that my son is out there, that I've been seeing him.  And I think—God help me—I think he's in real trouble...I think monsters are trying to kill him."

A master storyteller weaving reality and dreams, but are they dreams, and what is real and what is imagination?

Mayberry has a knack of reaching out of the page, grabbing ahold of you and drawing you into the story.  The man has some serious writing chops...

"Rain wanted to run.  Not run home.  Just run.  Any way.  Far away.  She wanted to outrun her life."

At times Glimpse is scary as hell.  My first great read of 2019.  I loved this book although, from the other reviews I've seen, not everyone did.  I understand their complaints, but for me, it comes down to how much you are willing to become invested in the story.  This is not a novel for the casual reader

Ultimately this is a story of hope.  Sure, there's violence, blood, and pain, not to mention weird, there's plenty of weird., but without hope, it's just so many words.


Published by St. Martin's Press and available in hardcover, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author.  Probably best known for his Joe Ledger novels and for his award-winning YA Rot & Ruin series.  He currently resides in Del Mar, California and you can find him online at jonathanmaberry.com.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Blood Island - by Tim Waggoner

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

OK, so Blood Island is no Jaws.  It's not even on par with Moby Dick, but it is worthy of 5 Stars for the simple reason it succeeds in doing exactly what it sets out to do.  And that is to entertain in the way a classic B-Movie like "Hell Comes to Frogtown" or "It Came From Beneath the Sea" did back in the day.

"The Mass will eat well this day. It will add the ur-tadpoles’ substance to its own and grow larger and stronger. It will save several of the ur-tadpoles to serve as Hunters until such time as it can find better – and bigger – servants. Life here at the dawn of time is extremely good for the Mass.
And it’s only going to get better."

Fast-forward 600 million years.

In an effort to capitalize on the events detailed in Waggoner's previous Severed Press novel Teeth of the Sea a film crew, led by director, Inez Perry is filming a B-Movie, Devourer of the Deep.  Little does the cast and crew realize there is more lurking in the waters offshore than the mechanical beast the propmasters have designed for this low-budget masterpiece.

Wonderful action sequences right from the start.  There are few throw-away characters.  Most of them well-developed and in mortal peril.  It's time to shut off your sense of disbelief and prepare for one wild ride.  Think Sharknado without the bad weather.

Both Teeth of the Deep and Blood Island are published by Severed Press and are available now.

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, January 9, 2019

Guest Post: Fiction You Can Sink Your Teeth Into - Tim Waggoner

Fiction You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

By Tim Waggoner

I’ve written a lot of horror fiction over the course of my thirty-seven-year career.  My favorite kind to write is nightmarish surreal horror, where reality is unstable, where characters’ psychological states are mirrored in the outer world, and where Entropy always wins in the end.  This kind of horror is the most artistically satisfying for me, but the most fun I’ve ever had writing horror was when I wrote my two novels for Severed Press: Teeth of the Sea, which came out in 2017, and Blood Island, which was recently released.

If you’re not familiar with Severed Press, they’re a Tasmanian small-press publisher that specializes in pulp horror of the monsters-eat-people variety, complete with lurid covers featuring toothsome beasts.  I’ve loved all things dark and wonderful since I was a kid, and I was especially fond of what I called monster movies.  I watched any horror movie that came on the TV – no home video devices or content streaming services in those days – but I enjoyed movies where some horrifying creature preyed on hapless humans the most.  The monsters stimulated my imagination.  There were so many different types, from humanoid varieties like vampires and werewolves to giant insects and irradiated dinosaurs.  The plot structure was likely comforting to me as well.  These stories were as simple and ritualized as genre fiction gets.  Monster appears and starts eating people, people discover monster exists, people battle monster while monster eats more of them, survivors find a way to defeat the monster in the end (often by learning about and exploiting its one weakness).  Somewhere in the story, people would have to deal with personal issues exacerbated by the danger and tension of the monster attacks, but this aspect wasn’t very interesting to the child-me.  I usually read comics while I waited for the monster to make another appearance.

As I grew older, I began to discover more sophisticated horror in books and film, but the creature-feature variety has always remained close to my heart.  I’d never had any ambition to write a monster-chomps-humans novel, but one day I saw a submission call from Severed Press on Facebook, and I thought to myself, “I wonder if I can do that?”  (Much of my writing career has been a result of asking myself this question).  So I pitched several ideas to Severed Press, all of which were received with less-than-wild enthusiasm.  The publisher asked if I could write a sea monster book since they sold best.  None of my original pitches took place on the sea.  I almost drowned when I was nine, and I use water a lot in my stories, but never at novel length.  I thought the sea would be too limited a setting for a monster book.  All people had to do to escape the monster was stay away from the water.  But it became a challenge, and I was determined to come up with a kick-ass sea monster concept.  The result was Teeth of the Sea.  In this novel, prehistoric monsters called pliosaurs attack the island resort of Elysium – which is crisscrossed with an intricate canal system (making it easier for my pliosaurs to hunt).

I had a lot of fun writing the book, but when I was finished, I figured that was it for me and sea monsters.  I’d found a way to tell a story with sea beasts, but how could I write another without repeating myself?  I started to wonder if I could do it again, and the eventual result was Blood Island.  This time a real-life sea monster attacks a film crew making a low-budget creature-feature movie.  And while the monster lives in the sea, extensions of itself can go onto the land in search of prey.  I had even more fun writing Blood Island, and I leaned in even harder to the cheesy B-movie vibe.

One thing I did in both novels is the same thing I try to do in all my fiction: make the story about people as much as, if not more than, the monsters.  The best horror – even cheesy B-movie just-for-fun horror – is never about the monster.  It’s about how people react to the monster (or to becoming a monster).  And even if a character makes only a short appearance in the story before he or she gets eaten, I do my best to make them as fully fleshed (no pun intended) as possible.  I try to give these characters some dignity before they’re forced to exit the stage.

If you check out either Teeth of the Sea or Blood Island, I hope you enjoy them.  And if you’d like to try your hand at writing a monster-eats-people story, always remember the people are just as important as the monsters.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Review: Scapegoat - by Adam Howe and James Newman

5 of 5 Stars     Review copy

James Newman lives in North Carolina, USA, and Adam Howe makes his home across the Atlantic in England.  Thanks to the power of the internet collaborations like this one are possible.  The result is both wondrous and wonderful.

So what's Scapegoat about?  Well, I'm glad you asked...

For metalheads Mike Rawson , Lonnie Deveroux, and Pork Chop, an RV road trip to Wrestlemania III becomes a one-way ticket to hell.  While delivering an illegal shipment of counterfeit wrestling merchandise, an ill-fated shortcut through the Kentucky backwoods leads them to a teenaged girl carved head to toe in arcane symbols.  Soon our unlikely heroes are being hunted through the boonies by a cult of religious crazies who make the Westboro Baptists look like choirboys… a cult that will stop at nothing to get the girl back and complete a ritual that has held an ancient evil at bay for centuries… Until now.

The end result is equal measures of violence and humor.  Junk food horror, if you will.  Or what I like to call, "Brain Candy."

I wasn't able to attend Wrestlemania III, but I was glued to my TV to see that epic matchup with Andre the Giant colliding head-on with Hulk Hogan and with that event as a backdrop for Scapegoat, I was immediately drawn to this story.

Mike Rawson, was the one levelheaded member of the trio headed to the Silverdome...

Mike muttered something about how he'd seen enough horror movies to know nothing good ever came from a shortcut through the woods.

So much carnage, with loads of horrifying images along the way.  And be sure to stick around for the story notes after you finish the book for insight into how Scapegoat came to be, as well as a list of recommended viewing and a playlist.  These guys have thought of it all.

The end result is a great collaboration and a fun read.  Recommended.

Scapegoat is currently available for the Kindle.  If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge.  Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

About the authors...

James Newman lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina with his wife, Glenda, and their two sons, Jamie and Jacob. He's best known for his novels Midnight Rain, The Wicked, Ugly As Sin and Animosity and the novella Odd Man Out.

Adam Howe - Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about.  A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in London with his partner, their daughter, and a hellhound named Gino.  He is the author of Tijuana Donkey Showdown, and two novella collections, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo.