Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is the first in a series of anthologies, with this one specifically having as its theme devilish women. The overall title “Tales of the Undead” is perhaps a bit inaccurate, since many of these stories have nothing to do with the undead, but the subtitle is certainly more of a description of what is included within its pages. In some stories, this association is obvious, while in others that association to evil women is a lot more subtle.
It is often difficult to provide a review of an anthology because almost without fail, they are a mixed bag. A consistent theme often allows for a more comprehensive overview-each author provides a story to the mix that sticks to a sometimes loose, but understood guideline. TotU-HW does have a theme, but it runs the gambit with stories of vampires, ghosts, demons, witches, Satan, human-animal hybrids, werewolves, ancient gods, sexually voracious women, and even more of a mix of swirling horrors. And that isn’t even mentioning the poems, which are as diverse a lot as the short stories.
There were some gems in this book from my perspective, including “Entre of the Damned” and “Girls are Icky”, both appreciated for entirely different reasons, and of course some stories that did not click, which I will admit is more due to personal preference rather than the quality of the work, at least in most cases. The writing styles here are quite diverse, with everything from the delicately subtle to in your face. I enjoyed “Who F&*ked Up Kelly Yesterday?” because I have a taste for bizarro horror, while I know that there will be plenty of folks who would be repulsed by this story’s audacity. There were a few stories that I felt that the writing was a bit rough, with both the story itself and the way the author telling it making it feel forced and hard to get through, but there those were only a select few out of this bunch. There were some sagas that felt incomplete to me-either telling instead of showing and letting the tale reveal itself, or in one case where the writing style seemed a bit forced and awkward- like the author was providing a summary rather than providing the reader with the story itself.
Anthologies are journeys where the road is both smooth and bumpy at different times. Rarely do you find a short story compendium where every story hits the mark. But finding a short story or poem you really enjoy and that will stick with you makes the journey through the good, the great, and the bad worthwhile. Tales of the Undead-Hell Whore is such an anthology.
Tales of the Undead: Hello Whore can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BLR40A2/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
The Harvest Cycle is an Apocalyptic tale which takes place fifty years since the first harvesters appeared, boiling up from the sea to claim as many human lives as they possibly can for a far distant god who wishes to consume the dreams of mankind. The creatures-fast, silent monsters with claws that can slice through anything, including the skulls of its victims, have come many times since then, driving the remains of humanity into hiding far beneath the surface of the earth. Those that survive have chosen to either surgically remove the part of their brains that the harvesters are compelled to devour, or they decide to remain uncut retaining their ability to think creatively and to dream by those who have lost so much with the mutilation of their brains (and souls as well). In addition to the horrors of the harvesters, humanity must also avoid the ‘synths’ or robots that were once loyal servants to humanity that realized during the first harvest the endless nightmarish hell that awaits those humans in the afterlife whose brains are devoured by harvesters. They are on a mission of mercy to kill all of humanity to save them from this horrible fate.
The story begins when a group of dreamers, led by a hopeful visionary along with a woman who is psychically linked to the nightmare god who created the harvesters and craves humanity’s dreams, go on a quest with the hope of somehow destroying the harvesters. Pursued by a police officer named Jack DiVinci, one of the soulless survivors who has a secret that allows him to still be creative and dream, as well as a squad of robots on a search and destroy mission.
David Dunwoody’s latest novel mixes elements of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Asimov’s robots (with the authors unique twist on the Laws of Robotics…or more specifically, the zeroth law that Asimov added last: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm), and a slight hint of noir with Jack DiVinci, a man who believes what he is doing is saving the human race, despite his own doubts on what it means to be saved.
This is one of the more unique visions of the apocalypse that I’ve ever read, with plenty of madness and mayhem to go around, plus plenty of gore and a high body count to boot. Dunwoody has this knack for making a story gruesome, horrifying, and yet totally accessible. He has no fear when it comes to pushing the reader’s buttons-not just with who he is willing to torture and maim, but with how the universe he creates works. It isn’t always pretty, and sometimes it feels like I was being beaten senseless by the brutality of what happens in this tale, but there is beauty here too-hope that humanity can somehow overcome its own vile failings and perhaps persevere against impossible odds.
I haven’t been disappointed by anything I’ve read by David Dunwoody as of yet, and The Harvest Cycle is no exception. This is potent tale that mixes supernatural horror and science fiction with a fluid grace that few authors can pull off with such skill.
The Harvest Cycle can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934861324/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
If God Doesn’t Show is a modern take on Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft and the efforts of a cult to bring about his return. We are introduced to Thaddeus Archer, a secret service agent who is dealing with a wife who is struggling with mental illness and a teenage daughter who resents him for having her mother locked away in a mental institution. Things change when Casey, his daughter, is abducted by the same mysterious cult which desires the Old Ones return. Time passes and Thaddeus gets close but cannot find his daughter, and his obsession causes him to get demoted after several agents die in a bloody raid on the cult.
Then in an instant, everything changes, and the world shifts as the cult prepares to open the way for Cthulhu to return. But before he can come, the rift into the void brings with it shadows-dark creatures that makes puppets of the dead and sometimes even the living, with their only goal of destruction of humanity. But these creatures, or even the doomsday cult who accidentally let them into our dimension, are not the only forces at work trying to destroy humanity. Thaddeus will have to work not only with the few other survivors at his side who have escaped the initial onslaught of the shadows, but a man who has lived through many lives and has struggled with darkness and evil in every one of them if the former secret service agent wants to save his daughter and prevent the Old Ones from rising up from the mysterious island that now floats in the pacific ocean.
If God Doesn’t Show is an interesting take on the Cthulhu mythos, filled with action from start to finish and topped off with plenty of darkness and intrigue. What starts out as a personal tale of one man on a hunt to find his daughter abruptly changes into something far more earthshattering in a grand and dramatic fashion. We are introduced to Blount, the character who has been reincarnated time and time again, about halfway through the book. He is positioned as a possible savior of humanity, destined to struggle with all forms of evil in each of his lifetimes. When we are introduced to him, he is on a mission with a group of government operatives heading to the strange island in the pacific that has a dark, impossible city buried within its jungles.
The two main characters spent most of this tale rushing toward the same objective and the pacing is fast and intense. While I found myself rooting for Thaddeus, Blount is the far more interesting character, surrounded by the supernatural and flashing back to past lives filled with battles against darkness. Their separate treks are both filled with mystery and energy, though that energy dissipates somewhat toward the end of the story, with what I could best describe as an extended epilogue. Giving away more details would be providing spoilers, which I like to avoid, but I felt as if the story lost a bit of its momentum going into the home stretch.
The authors provide excellent details surrounding the mixture of Lovecraft and Christian elements, though there were some questions I had that were left unanswered about the cult and their choices of sacrifice, though those quibbles were fairly minor. Overall, this was a fun read-a nice spin on the Cthulhu mythos with a few twisty elements tossed in for good measure. Of the two main characters, Blount was by far the more intriguing and the brief flashbacks to his past lives were intriguing tidbits that I would have liked to have seen more of. Perhaps this story doesn’t call for a sequel, but it might be interesting visiting some of Blount’s past lives.
If God Doesn’t Show can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618680560/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Spooky Showcase offers the reader a return to Alan Draven’s world of the supernatural and surreal. Bitternest is a city in Louisiana where ghosts, vampires, and other creatures exist and terrorize the inhabitants in pretty much all of the author’s novels and short stories. All but one of the tales in this book take place in Bitternest, including a novella entitled “The Paradigm” which is noir-ish detective tale that takes place back in the 80s and starts out like all the classic detective tales you’ve ever seen with the gruff private eye and the sultry dame in trouble, but dives into the deeply supernatural from there. Three short stories follow, two of which involve children and the real terrors that haunt them in Bitternest, before the reader is treated to a re-imagining of the classic Jack the Ripper saga with “Vengeance is Mine”.
I’ve been impressed with Alan’s ability to craft a real, vibrant city filled with all kinds of spooky and scary monsters since I read his first book about the strange place near New Orleans. While he does hint at future tales with Jim Coffin, the detective in his first story here, I felt that there was something missing from this particular story-a more fleshed explanation of what was happening to him was desired, though I’m sure more will be divulged in the future. Despite the desire for more, I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of the piece. Future installments should be interesting, and I could see something along the lines of Glenn Cook’s “The Garrett Files” or Simon Green’s John Taylor series if Alan puts a bit more spit and polish on his next few Jim Coffin stories.
The short stories are all enjoyable, each with a surprise attached-that quick rabbit punch that often makes a short piece all the more enjoyable. I especially liked “The Rattling Man” with its Halloween ambiance.
While “Vengeance is Mine” is perhaps more of a homage than anything-a variation the Jack the Ripper mystery with the author’s embellishments, I did enjoy his take on what might have been with good ol’ Jack. Plenty of gore for those hungry for it, and the author used the historical elements so that they fit around the story he created quite nicely.
Overall, this was a fun read that went by fast. I look forward to more of the author’s Bitternest sagas, and will be curious to see where he takes Jim Coffin from here.
Spooky Showcase can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0981021336/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen by Nathan J.D.L. Rowark is not a story that is all that easy to describe. In fact, for my period of reading at the beginning of this saga I wasn’t sure I quite understood what was going on in this fantastical tale of love, lust, and revolution, and wondered if I ever would.
The story begins with the introduction of Kay and Grace, a brother and sister who are in the Garden of Remembrance when a flight of snow bees separate them. This is a place where loved ones return from death in London, and where Kay will find his destiny in the arms of the icy Snow Queen, who will cause his demise but also receive his undying devotion.
We are granted a very slim understanding of how all these elements come together at the beginning of this tale-why there are these snow bees, which are both necessary to this world but are also a great menace to it-and why the dead come back to life.
Infatuation takes place in the far future, in a world where implants have tied the living together and granted them a form of immortality. Bodies are stowed away and the essence of a person can be transplanted into a new body after death. All of this is controlled by a mysterious religious leader who keeps everyone within the city under his control through the use of a pervasive social network.
When Kay and Grace get separated in the garden, they go on their own journeys-Kay with his new found love, the Queen, and Grace, in her efforts to find her brother, even though he has sacrificed his body for a new, dead one so that he can endure the touch of his icy maiden.
The story gets more complicated from there, but as with any intriguing story, much is revealed in time, and in the case of this tale, that is both a literal and figurative statement. The adventurers travel back and forth in time, with the meaning as to why this is happening to them not quite clear at first, or even throughout much of this tale. This story is a maze of alternate existences and discoveries of one mystery after another that intertwine Kay, Grace, Eternity (the Snow Queen), Reneta, the strange scientist who seems to be at the heart of much of the main mystery within the saga, and both her husband and son, who have rebelled against her and the religion-fueled government.
Describing this storyline in clear, precise details would be next to impossible, but at its heart, this story is about two souls destined for one another, despite so many seemingly good reasons for them not to be together. Nothing is as it seems in this story, which each chapter revealing a new twist and new surprise, both from the past, the present, and on into the future of the characters. This is a complex and layered mystery, which can be daunting at certain points, but once certain aspects of the tale were revealed, it kept me intrigued and fascinated to the very end of its pages.
Pigeon holing this story in a particular genre would be impossible. It is an amalgam of science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, and adventure, with a frosty haze layered over all of that. Admittedly, there is plenty here to confuse, and I more than likely missed a few key details in my initial reading that may require further review to understand all its elements, but I grasped more than enough to feel satisfied with its ending, though as with any tale where time travel plays a part, there is no real beginning or end, just different cycles in time and the hope that things can be changed, perhaps for the better, as they repeat themselves.
This is a tale for someone who is willing to stick with a story to the end-someone who likes it when an author doesn’t reveal more than is absolutely necessary at any given point. It is for someone willing to embrace the fantastical and magical mixed in with the technological while it has an almost a fairy tale-like sensibility.
Infatuation: The Story of Snow Queen can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00946F0L0/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
I announced about a week ago that No More Heroes, an anthology filled with all new superheroes and villains, was available over at Creatspace. I’m thrilled that it is now on Amazon as well. While it appears only in paperback at this time, I’m sure that it will be available in e-book format very soon as well. This project was a labor of love, as my past posts have explained. A fully developed and detailed world of new good guys and bad guys with all new super powers and abilities to cause mayhem and destruction. Definitely worth checking out for those who are looking for something new and different. You can read my tale of bad guys and good guys: “Slow Goth and St. North” there, along with a great lineup of other stories about plenty of other baddies and do gooders.
Check it out by clicking on the image of below.
The Revenants, book two of the I Kill Monsters series, picks up where Fury left off. Boone has been imprisoned by a vampire lord who is intrigued by the power of his blood and has hand picked him to complete a mission with several of his men.
Much like the first book in this series and the other books I’ve read by Tony Monchinski, the story hovers around New York City, though we depart that area to head over to Europe for a time, and Rainford, the Dark Vampire Lord, takes the reader and Boone on a journey to the distant past, where he relates the story of his history in Russia and the love of his life during his youth as a vampire. While Boone finds the telling of this tale as he is imprisoned annoying at first, he is sucked into it much like the reader is, seeing things through the eyes of Rainford while he recounts his tragic tale. But rest assured, this is no sappy romance with Rainford playing the role of tragic hero. As is the case with Fury, vampires are relentless, vile creatures who have no regard for the living and in many cases no regard for their fellow undead.
The story has numerous plotlines going, all intertwined in different ways, though sometimes it is hard to see the ultimate connections. As the author has a sizeable series planned, it is clear his plan is to reveal things in dribs and drabs here, and not divulge the meaning behind different portions of the overall story too soon. Vampires, Furies, and now Revenants are revealed as supernatural creatures here, though it is clear that the Revenants here are not the typical zombies we are used to seeing in books and movies these days, but a more traditional form of enslaved dead. The world as a whole doesn’t realize they exist, but the author is pulling back the curtain to show us more and more of the dark underbelly of the world.
Tony knows how to spin a complex tale, but therein lays the challenge with reading a book like this. It was exactly two years ago that I completed the first book, and the extensive secondary stories took some time to come back to my mind after such a long absence. Reading a complicated tale with sizable time gaps between each chapter makes it tougher to remember all the critical details from the previous book. But that is not a gripe related to the storytelling or the story itself; it is just a desire for the author to produce these books faster. Because both have been compelling reads, and I am already anxiously awaiting the third book in the saga.
This one has been years in the making. I held on to the hope that this one would come out, sooner or later, even though the original publisher let it languish for quite a time, then promised to release it, but let the contracts lapse. Then one of the editors, Wayne Goodchild, did his absolute best to find this book a new home. But it was a rather unique concept, one which bound all the authors together under the same umbrella, but also meant that a new publisher had to buy into the concept of a whole new realm of superheroes and villains being created. Yep, this alternate universe has an entirely new set of good guys and bad guys, and a very intriguing concept behind it. A cataclysmic event causes most of the superheroes on the planet to get evaporated, allowing the villains to take over…but a new group of superheroes have revealed themselves, ready to provide the resistance the world needs to save itself.
Fortunately, Matt Nord, who had a personal investment in this project, wanted this book to be released as badly as Wayne did, and thus, like a Phoenix, it has risen from the ashes. Now all we can ask is that you check it out…on createspace, and when it becomes available on Amazon and elsewhere.
The editors crafted a back story that was tremendous and should be included within the book. Dozens and dozens of evil villains and superheroes, ready for their stories to be told. My tale provides the origin of a angst ridden teen known as “Slow Goth” and his superhero mentor, “St. North”. Naturally, the story is called “Slow Goth and St. North”. I was pretty thrilled when my tale was accepted into the book, and fought along with Wayne and Matt to see this project to completion. The original vision was to not only see this project to its conclusion, but to hold out hope that it would be successful enough that we could craft more tales in future volumes…giving this world a real complexity, with as many of the bad guys and good guys used and involved in an ongoing saga. It remains to be seen whether or not that will happen, but for now, I hope you have the chance to check out No More Heroes! Just click on the cover to get sent over to Createspace.
On November 20th, 2009, a catastrophic event dubbed The Cataclysm wiped the world’s greatest heroes and villains off the face of the planet and created a death toll stretching into the millions.
Though most of the world survived, it is now in the grip of the super villains who avoided The Cataclysm. It may not have been quite the victory they expected, but it is the outcome they wanted: all the heroes are dead and the world is theirs…
Or so they believe…
Right now, my new novella, THE DARK MAN, just came out! But before we get into that, I want to thank Patrick D’Orazio for being so awesome as to let me commandeer his blog for a day. Thanks dude, you are freaking awesome.
In case you haven’t actually heard of the book, the following is the books short synopsis:
The human mind holds within its infinite reaches many of the greatest mysteries in the universe. Some are vast and wondrous, while others are chilling and nightmarish. Some mysteries are better left hidden in the dark corners of our minds, never breaking free of our subconscious.
Six high school students set out to explore these depths by sharing a mind altering substance on a night meant to be filled with both wild hallucinations and crazy antics. But the fun and games come to a shuddering halt when a strange man appears. This isn’t just any stranger. He is the Dark Man. Haunter of dreams and purveyor of nightmares. Dressed in a black suit and top hat, his pale skin and twisted grin promise a very deranged night of entertainment.
I originally came up with the Dark Man when I was a stupid little teenager. Bet you couldn’t ever guess how. Either way, I know of a lot of people who have actually come into contact with this person while on such substances. Needless to say it had to be written about. The fact that more than a handful of people have seen the Dark Man in real life is creepy enough for me. Whether or not the content of the Dark Man stands true in this book is another thing entirely. So, to answer that age old question: what inspired the book; well there it is. I’ve been there and done that and don’t recommend ever going back.
If splatterpunk, grindhouse action is what you crave in a good horror read, then I would definitely recommend picking this one up. It’s a fast paced death to the finish. And with that, I think that covers it for me.
Thanks again to Patrick for letting me hop in and say hello.
The Dark Man is a good old fashion bogey man tale, with flavors of teen horror flicks that many of us grew up on sprinkled in for good measure. A group of teens decide that they’re going to party hearty one night with some illicit drugs while some want to see if a myth about a stranger coming to visit when other groups of teens have done the same thing in the past is real, or will be something that can be used to scare the pants off of the girls in their little group. And when they all start tripping and the Dark Man does pay them a visit, they’re forced to figure out what is real and what is hallucination as their unending nightmare begins.
This is a simple and effective horror novella that doesn’t try to create new worlds or new beasts for us to try and wrap our minds around. Instead of crafting outside worlds of doom and unspeakable horror, it reaches inside the mind, where our primitive fears of the dark and unknown lay tucked away but always within easy reach. The Dark Man is a fun tale in the sense that it doesn’t require the reader to suspend disbelief or accept the implausible. Instead, it uses what is inside us already to freak us out and send us to bed with nightmares about what is hiding underneath the bed or inside the darkened closet.
Shadows in the Mist was the first novel written by author Brian Moreland, written several years ago but that has been re-released this month by Samhain Publishing. I’m not sure what modifications were made to the original tale, if any, with this new version.
While most of this story takes place in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany in late World War II, part of it is told through the eyes of Sean Chambers in the present day. He is the grandson of Jack Chambers, the main character. Jack was a Lieutenant during the war and led his men into battle from Northern Africa all the way into Germany. His last mission in the Hurgten still torments him to this day. When Jack gives Sean his war diary and asks him to hand it over to his friend, General Briggs, who is stationed in Germany, a Rabbi who served with Jack on that last mission catches up with Sean and urges him to forget his grandfather’s request and let sleeping dogs lie. The mission was top secret and it would be better for everyone if it stayed that way. Compelled by his grandfather’s request and ignoring the ominous threats of the Rabbi, Sean and the General return to Hurtgen and to a church Jack referenced were the real mystery lies buried. This is also where Sean begins to read his grandfather’s war diary so he can better understand what happened all those years ago.
The rest of this tale returns us to the battles in Hurtgen that Jack and his platoon suffered through. Jack had been dubbed the Grim Reaper by some, since so many of his men died under his command, though it is clear that he has been given some of the most dangerous assignments in the war and that he has done all that he can to protect the soldiers under his command. We are introduced to the six men in his platoon who, along with Chambers, dub themselves the Lucky Seven because they alone have survived through every battle together. Promises are made that they will be sent back home after years in the field, but the officer who makes that promise to Chambers dies before he can send that request to HQ and his new commanding officer insists they complete one last mission-a secret one with a group of commandos looking to push the Germans out of the Hurtgen for good. As the men reluctantly join this group of gung ho secret operatives, including a Lieutenant who shares an ugly past with Chambers, they discover that the mission has much darker goal than they’ve been told-uncovering how the Nazi’s are using supernatural means to create super soldiers.
This is the second novel I’ve read by Brian Moreland and much like his other effort, Dead of Winter, it provides the reader with a well researched and thought out story providing historically accurate and intriguing details, but doesn’t suffer from being over-stuffed with “technical” minutia that might distract from an otherwise intriguing supernatural adventure tale. Certainly, the idea of the Nazi’s discovering artifacts and texts of a religious nature which provide them with an advantage in their quest to become the master race is not a new one, but the author has drawn from historical events to craft his story, which gave it the right touch of authenticity and made it feel all the more plausible and entertaining.
I enjoyed this novel-my overriding appreciation for it comes from Jack’s tale as divulged in his war diary. The characters-in particular the Lucky Seven and Jack’s hated lieutenant rival-were all entertaining and solidly developed individuals. But as I like to do with each book that I review, I like to point out where the story might have missed the mark for me. With Shadows In the Mist, it was with the present day portion of the tale. It just felt like it was missing something. Early in, Sean is warned about the dire consequences of digging into the past and discovering what Jack and the Rabbi who was with him during his mission worked so hard to cover up in the Hurgten, and then Sean does continue digging, then Jack’s story is revealed, and then we return to present day and …well, I don’t like to divulge spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the rest of Sean and General Brigg’s story left me expecting more. My honest belief is that this book could have stuck to Jack’s tale from World War II exclusively and it would have been a great stand alone tale.
Even with this issue of mine, this is a fun, entertaining supernatural adventure novel that was well done and a lot of fun to read. Definitely worth checking out.
Shadows in the Mist can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Mist-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619210665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347167908&sr=1-1&keywords=shadows+in+the+mist
Peter Clines is fast becoming one of my favorite new writing talents out there. He has written two of the best cross genre zombie tales and his Junkie Quatrain is the zombie story Quentin Tarantino should direct if he ever wants to take a swipe at the undead. 14 takes a different turn, leaving the undead behind and providing the reader with a mystery-thriller that is like a gift wrapped in countless layers of paper that you have to dig through with relentless determination to reveal the truth underneath.
Nate is a working class stiff living near Hollywood who is getting by on data processing temp work that barely pays the bills when his roommates decide to head off in different directions, leaving him searching for a new home with barely the funds necessary to get an apartment. A minor acquaintance suggests a place near Hollywood that has dirt cheap rent and covers the utilities. It seems almost too good to be true, but as Nate settles in and meets several of his neighbors, he begins to notice several strange things about the place. Certain light fixtures don’t work the way they should, apartments are locked up tight with no one living in them for ages, there is an elevator that has never worked, and a storeroom in the basement that is sealed up tight as a drum. Strange cockroaches scrabble across the floor, each apartment has a different floor plan, and it doesn’t appear as if any power lines are coming into the building. On top of it all is a building manager who urges everyone to avoid asking questions and just be grateful for the cheap place to live, which adds even more fuel to the fire and causes Nate and his new found friends to begin investigating everything strange about the place.
Finding out everything he can about the Kavach building becomes Nate’s overriding obsession and he leads what amounts to a Scooby Doo mystery squad of other neighbors on the hunt for the truth. And the truth, slowly revealed in bits and pieces until the whole mystery begins to unravel in faster and faster chunks kept me intrigued throughout. I liked how the story ties in alternative literature, supernatural elements and historical tidbits that gave the story plenty of heft. It is a grand, wide-spanning tale that makes Nate’s obsession make sense and kept me guessing every step of the way, especially as more and more is uncovered about the strange old place. There were plenty of twists and turns and the reveals as the story goes along that were quite satisfying.
Peter Clines has stepped away from the undead and superheroes to provide his audience with something new and fun that I enjoyed a great deal. The characters all had depth that made them feel genuine and real, Nate was a likeable lead and the way he connects with everyone else in the apartment complex was natural and their relationships believable. The creepy elements of the story were well thought out each one is approached with style and wit. A good read for anyone who likes mysteries with a supernatural bent to them. 14 is a blast.
Mad Mannequins From Hell tells the story of Burton Vilmos, an former movie special effects makeup artist who makes his living these day murdering people for his website. They pay him to do it, and of course, it isn’t them actually getting killed, it is all just gory fun. But when he runs through one of the scripts he came up with for his son, and takes a book his close friend got from a mysterious shop owner to do a séance-like ritual for the scene, all hell breaks loose. In particular, Beelzebub rises up along with a slew of mannequin-possessing demons that terrorize Portland at Christmas time. Max, Burton’s son, disappears and Burton makes it his mission to find him and put a stop to the mess he’s created. Along the way he finds three unlikely allies in a trio of battle nuns, has to avoid a couple of odd-ball cops (one of which is a midget in a Mexican wrestling mask), and of course, a ton of mad mannequins, who are skewering and draining the essence of everyone they come into contact with.
This is a bizarro tale, with plenty of wild, otherworldly elements and it works quite well as a snarky, humorous horror story with some unlikely heroes and villains instead of the more traditional stereotypical character types. The pace is brisk and it was a breeze to get through, with a lot of twisted and devious forms of mayhem being perpetrated by the demon-possessed mannequins, which had me smiling. A great deal of the story reads like a laundry-list of scenes of mayhem not directly attached to the main character. For a time, after the mannequins rise, we get scene after scene of destruction. Some of them work, some don’t, but my real complaint is that it leaves less room for the battle nuns in the book, who were by far my favorite characters. Perhaps that comes from my Catholic upbringing and schooling. I knew plenty of nuns in my youth and while most of them scared me (and intrigued me), very few had the allure of these three demon-slayers. Their weapons and … assets were quite impressive. I would have liked to see more of them in action, and perhaps there is another story the author might share that reveals their saga in greater detail.
Despite these minor grumps, this was a fun, entertaining read. It brought both smiles and grimaces to my face in equal measure, which is always a good thing.
Mad Mannequins From Hell can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mannequins-Uncanny-Valley-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B0089RDMY2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1342363717&sr=1-1&keywords=mad+mannequins+from+hell
The 5000 Fingers of Bob is a strange and creepy tale set in south during the Great Depression and tells the story of five men plotting the death of a local man they’ve dubbed Bob, even though they don’t know his real name. They call him Bob because that’s what he calls everyone around town. He is a man-child, a mentally handicapped man who is huge, eerie, but appears to be harmless on the surface. But when one of the men finds him leaning over his daughter’s bed one night and throws Bob outside, only to find giant back inside, he suggests to his friends that they kill Bob, or do something else to (at the very least) dissuade him from doing any other disturbing things. There are other rumors of Bob showing up in one place and then disappearing, and of things happening around him that are horrific, like the death of someone’s dog that is graphic and grotesque.
Things go wrong as the men continue to hatch their plot to put a stop to Bob and as they carry it out. While the truth is somewhat muddled, it is clear that there is more to Bob than meets the eye. This is a short story, and as such the author leaves out details that might reveal more about the nature of Bob and the supernatural shadowing effect that seems to surround him. That serves the purpose of keeping things a mystery, even as more is revealed about the man who seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once.
A good, creative short story. I do wish there were more details laid out there, but the author’s ability to set a scene and pull you into it as a reader gives this little tale a potent punch.
The 5000 Fingers of Bob can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-5000-Fingers-Bob-ebook/dp/B007FYBBQG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340113984&sr=8-1&keywords=the+5000+fingers+of+bob
Not too long ago, I was approached by an author friend of mine with a request to help promote their new fantasy novel on my blog, which I did, happily. I tend to write reviews of horror novels, but I thought that since I am a big fan of fantasy as well I would also read her book, and not just promote it. So here is my review of her book, which I would say fits nicely in the realm of young adult fiction, with both fantasy elements as well as a bit of horror-with werewolves and vampires playing a prominent role.
Charming Incantations: Enticed tells the story of Lisa, a young woman whose parents were tragically killed in a fire, which thrusts her into a world she never knew existed: one with supernatural creatures that expect her to do her part as the surviving heir to the human representatives on a council that works to keep the world safe from darkness.
While the story provides a prolog explaining the alliance between the six races: human, werewolf, vampire, shape-shifter, witch, and banshee, the first chapter of this tale bypasses Lisa’s initial realization of what she must do or any revelations she has that there is an entire world that has been hidden from her. Instead, her tale begins with her knocking on the door of the meeting place of the six representatives of the six races. There she meets the five other generals, or leaders of the armies that hold back the evil known as goblins from taking over the world. One of them, Romulus, the leader of the werewolves, will take her in and protect her from danger until she can be trained to protect herself and take over her duties as a leader.
Lisa faces a great deal of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that she is falling hard for Romulus while she is trying to grasp this new world that surrounds her. She fears these supernatural races but must come to terms with them all so that she can insure that her status as protector of humanity comes to pass.
This tale is part romance and part fantasy adventure. There is magic here, and I am sure there will be passing comparisons to Twilight, but this is a tale on a far grander scale. Lisa is learning about this new world as we learn about it, and is forced into battle even though humans are deemed the weak link in the alliance. She cannot raise her own army of humans because the secrets of the other races must be kept, so the burden is even greater for her than for her counterparts. In some ways, this is a coming of age tale as well, with Lisa doing her best to find her place in a world that is scary, exciting, and quite dangerous.
This is the first book of what I believe will be a series, but this story can certainly stand on its own as a tale of a young woman coming into her own in a world filled with both dangers, delight, magic, and mayhem.
Charming Incantions: Enticed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Charming-Incantations-Enticed-Monique-Snyman/dp/0987874721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336631184&sr=1-1
Another project I worked on and am very excited about has come to fruition and is now available over on Amazon. Read The End First has the unique premise of showcasing 24 different tales of the end of the world, each based in a different time zone. Because of the nature of the project, this was an invite only anthology, and each author had to pick a particular time zone and write a story that would make sense given their location on the globe. My particular story takes place in Bethlehem and is entitled “What Rough Beast.” You’ll just have to guess at what the story is all about.
So check this one out, there is a great list of authors involved, including Stephen North, Suzanne Robb (who edited it), Michael S. Gardner, Rebecca Snow, A.J. French, Craig Saunders, John McCuaig, David Dunwoody, Wayne Goodchild, Adrian Chamberlain, D.A. Chaney, Hollie Snider, William Todd Rose, and many more that I apologize I can’t remember right off the top of my head.
So click on the cover and head on over to Amazon to check out your very own copy of Read The End First.
Most folks don’t know it, but I am just as much a science fiction and fantasy fan as I am a horror aficionado. Up to this point, my attempts at writing most fantasy were well in my past, and while I plan on giving it a genuine shot down the road, I am dedicated to writing mostly horror stuff for the moment.
With that said, a friend of mine who has more of a talent for writing fantasy, and in particular, YA fantasy, is having her first book released through Knightwatch Press. But it is definitely worth noting that this YA Fantasy has horror elements as well, with vampires and werewolves playing a role in this tale. So for you horror fans who are looking for something that might be something you and your kids can read, I would check this out. I know I will be, and will hopefully have the chance to review it here soon.
Who is this friend, you ask? It is none other than Monique Snyman. Monique is a South African writer and reviewer of books, movies, and games, who runs her own website over at http://www.killeraphrodite.com/. The book, the first in a series, is entitled Charming Incantations: Enticed. Here is a description of the story:
When Lisa Richards’ parents die in a horrible accident, she never thought her life would change as drastically as it did. Not only does she have to take over the family business as being the Human Representative in a supernatural council, bound to protect the world from the common threat, but she also has to deal with falling in love with a werewolf that has a vampire best friend and try to keep herself alive long enough to defeat the goblin army.
Not sure about you, but to me that sounds like the start of a pretty wild ride! And I know that plenty of horror fans out there dig all sorts of speculative tales, so keep your eyes open for this one. Monique was kind enough to get me a copy of the cover for your viewing pleasure below. I’m sure it’ll be popping up on Amazon quite soon, among other locales, so check it out!
A while back, I had the opportunity to write a story for a new anthology based on an old movie. Let me correct myself. It was an old, bad movie. Not just any bad movie, but THE bad movie. The one that is so bad it has gotten awards for being the worst movie ever made, and because of that, has become a cult classic in the minds of people everywhere. Heck, they made a movie about the guy who made this movie because this movie was so bad, and this guy was so good at making bad movies and THAT movie even won an academy award. Strange, huh? A movie about a movie that is bad winning an academy award. Go figure.
Well, I’m not trying to keep any secrets here, since everyone can guess based on the title of this post what movie I’m talking about. It is Ed Wood Jr.’s classic Plan 9 from Outer Space. Tony Schaab, who runs Twinstar Media, as a huge fan of the movie and someone who is involved in the novelization of the script as well as a remake of the movie, came up with an intriguing question: if the movie shows what Plan 9 was from the aliens, which failed so miserably, what were their first 8 plans to conquer earth? Well, maybe not to conquer earth, but to prevent us from making a solarnite bomb. And if you don’t know what a solarnite bomb is, go look for Plan 9 on Youtube-you can watch the entire movie in all its wretched glory free of charge.
Thus was born the idea behind Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space. I’m proud to be a part of this project and to have the chance to pay homage to one of the worst movies of all time with what I hope isn’t one of the worst short stories of all time, heh. My little story has the honor of being Plan 1, if you can believe it! It is entitled: Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey. Yep, these aliens have been bugging us humans since the days of Greek heroes like Odysseus.
Here is the full table of contents:
- Plan Zero from the Mesozoic Era by Tony Schaab
- Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey by Patrick D’Orazio
- Plan 2 from Ancient Egypt by D.A. Chaney
- Plan 3 from the Middle Ages of Hamelin by Greg Carter
- Plan 4 from the Clockwork Country by Tonia Brown
- Plan 5 from the Depressing Depression by David Dunwoody
- Plan 6 from the Nazi Regime by Rob Silvera
- Plan 7 from Sin City by Jonathan Maberry
- Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 1 by Craig DiLouie
- Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 2 by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
Carole Lanham has compiled a series of intriguing poems and short stories that all revolve around the experiences of children in dark and strange places-sometimes these places are in the mind, and in other instances, geographically and chronologically distance lands that seem like dreamscapes, even if they are in places as commonplace as a farm in rural Iowa. The stories here have a way of tantalizing without revealing too much, too soon. Many of the stories tease about the relationships among boys and girls-their dreams and fears, lusts and passions. And while what the characters are experiencing seem so real and within your grasp as a reader, there is a magic allure to them that makes them fleeting and illusive. They have an otherworldly quality about them. It is not just the tales with obvious magic, like ‘Keepity-Keep’ or ‘Friar Garden…’, or the tales beset with monsters, like ‘The Good Part’ or ‘The Blue Word’, but every tale and every poem within this compilation. Even though ‘Maxwell Treat’s…’, ‘The Reading Lessons’, and ‘The Forgotten Orphan’ all seem as if they could take place in the real world-our world-the author manages to transport us to mysterious and alien realms in them that are fascinating and dark beyond the realities most of us will ever deal with.
I enjoyed this compilation. I had read ‘The Blue Word’ previously, and while I normally skip a tale when I come across it for the second time, I found myself compelled to read it again and was filled with the same level of sadness and regret that I felt the first time, even when I knew what was coming at the end of the story. It is one of my favorites in this book, along with Keepity-Keep. Some of the other tales didn’t resonate with me quite as much, but they still had a flavor to them that is hard to pin down or describe-like a meal in a restaurant you’ve never been to before. They sort of leave a odd taste in your mouth, but not in a bad way…in more of a fantastical way that sticks with taste buds long after the food is gone. There wasn’t a particular story or poem I didn’t like-the author pulled me in with each, and even if there may have been a certain aspect or one or the other that didn’t click for me (the ending of ‘Friar Garden’ seemed rather abrupt for my tastes), they all made sense in a strange, dream-filled way.
Carole Lanham has a tremendous talent for the written word. I don’t just mean this because she can craft a story, which she most certainly can do, but because there is a particular quality to each story that transports you, like some authors are able to do-taking you elsewhere with just a few words in the first few sentences. Some authors make you feel at home with their writing, as if you are reading about people you feel like you know and could find yourself surrounded by even if they are in a environment that is pure fantasy or beyond belief. Carole Lanham does not do that here, in this book. Instead, she has the knack of introducing characters and places that take you out of that comfort zone and puts you on alert that there is something strange going on, both in the world at large and within the characters themselves that make them different from you or I. You may not be able to figure it out right away, and even if you think you do, you realize that there is probably more to it with every passage you read. And in the end, things don’t all fall into place. You are left wondering what just happened.
The Whisper Jar is a compelling read, sweet and savory while often times leaving you squirming with discomfort as you journey through its pages.
You can find The Whisper Jar here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Whisper-Jar-ebook/dp/B0062ID33K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324185038&sr=8-1
Captain Nate Leathers of the U.S. Army is in Iraq on a routine patrol in a small town outside of Basra when his Humvee convoy gets ambushed by insurgents. As the only survivor, he is taken prisoner and dumped in an underground dungeon by the insurgents. Not long after that, there are explosions and other chaos from up above, and a strange green mist starts floating through his prison cell. Concerned that it’s a chemical weapon, he tries to avoid it, but after a while comes to accept that it seems to have no effect on him. He manages to escape the abandoned dungeon and makes it to the streets of Basra, where he discovers that it seems as if the dead are walking and there are very few people still left alive. Hiding and escaping on foot from trouble with an Iraqi named Muhammad, he discovers there are far worse creatures than zombies roaming the streets-creatures that seem to have crawled (and flown) up from the depths of hell. But even with all of that, the real trouble starts for Leathers when he comes across a group of survivors who create even more of a hell on earth for him.
Archeron starts out strong as a tale told in first person. The author does a solid job of explaining military terminology and other aspects of life in the field without going overboard with it. He also does a good job of keeping the reader in the dark as to what is happening outside of the narrow perspective of the main character early on. This gives a sense of claustrophobia which increases the story’s intensity level a few notches for the first third of the book. Even as Leathers makes his escape from the insurgent’s dungeon, the mystery surrounding the green mist and the strange, zombie-like creatures that bewilder him at first kept the story moving at a rapid, entertaining clip. He starts to get his bearings and discovers there are more than just zombies involved in this strange new world he is a part of, which makes the story even more interesting. I liked it when Muhammad, the Iraqi who saves Leathers early in the story, does his best to explain that the shambling figures out on the street are indeed zombies, despite a language barrier. I thought he put the message across in a very creative way. I do regret that Muhammad didn’t play a bigger role in this tale. I would have liked to see more of him.
I enjoyed the fact that this story does take place in Iraq, which is not the typical locale for a zombie story. But as I read through this book, I realized that this is not a zombie story, but a story of demons and ancient mythology. The author has a strong knowledge of how the military operates and the ancient mythology he chooses to develop his horror creations. The action moves at a steady clip early on and in the latter stages of the book, with quite a bit of time in the middle dealing with interpersonal conflicts and the characters pondering what is actually happening.
Unfortunately, I did have a couple of issues with the story that took away from my enjoyment of it.
The first is what I will call ‘asides’ that distract from the main tale. These take place when, for example, the main character spends a chapter discussing the benefits of wearing your combat boots while you sleep, or when the main character starts contemplating the meaning of life-an example of this is when Captain Leathers states that one man’s religion does not make him any more or less moral than another man. These asides bog down the story for me, slowing the tempo and detracting, rather than adding to the texture and complexity of the tale.
My second issue was with Leathers himself. He struck me as a contradictory character. One the one hand, he is a combat vet and an officer who has the guts and confidence to make life and death decisions every day. On the other hand, he fails to take aggressive stance that would diffuse a dangerous situation again and again. I won’t elaborate on this further to avoid revealing spoilers. I will say that I do like a character that is human in their failings, and make mistakes, but the mistakes Leathers makes seemed redundant to me.
While I had some issues with this book, I think the author is a talented writer who has come up with a very interesting universe inhabited by not only zombies, but mysterious netherworld creatures. I will be curious to see what happens in the inevitable sequel to Acheron.
Acheron can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Acheron-Bryon-Morrigan/dp/1934861677/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1
Whispers from the Dark is a compilation of author Bryan Hall’s short horror fiction. He is releasing his first novel length story, “Containment Room Seven” fairly soon, and so compiled this list of tales, several of which have appeared in other publications, as something of a pre-release. It is a good way to get to know the author’s style of writing before plunging into his novel. Most of these stories are bite-sized morsels of horror that are a just a few brief pages in length. They run the gamut from monstrous horror to more subtlety nuanced darkness, with each having at least a bit of flavoring from Mr. Hall’s roots in the mountains of North Carolina. Some of these stories, such as “Dirt Don’t Hurt” are like a rabbit punch to the gut, giving you a quick scare, while others are more fully fleshed out with characters that are well-defined despite the short amount of space on the page they take up. The author knows how to spin a yarn, and regardless of length, there was a nice building of tension with almost all of them. Mr. Hall doesn’t waste time trying to explain the supernatural horrors his characters are facing; they are just there, and it is a credit to his writing ability that I accepted them as such, and for the most part didn’t need more detail. Because that is the allure here: I was taken into these dark spaces and given just enough understanding to have the feeling of discomfort and ominous foreboding that we horror fans love.
The only story in this anthology that I had seen before, and what drew me to checking this out, was the longest tale of them all, and the one that perhaps had the least amount of supernatural potency to it. All the same, “The Swim” was the most frightening story in this book, leaving me shattered when I first read it. It is one of the finest horror short stories I’ve ever read. Bryan hits all the right notes in that one, and pulls the emotions out of its readers like a maestro.
There is a bonus excerpt of Bryan’s novel at the end of the book of his upcoming novel, which I look forward to checking out based on the what I have seen of his short story work. Check this out, and give his novel a shot as well, once it’s released.
Whispers from the Dark can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Whispers-From-The-Dark-ebook/dp/B005Q339DQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320360457&sr=8-1
Knight Watch Press brought together a community of writers to create stories of their hometowns and the apocalypse. Essentially, the mandate was to craft a story with one of the last living people after things fall apart or extinction event occurs. We could use pretty much any humanity annihilating excuse to see how fun, or how scary it could be under those circumstances. So my little story, “Love Thy Neighbor” takes place in Cincinnati, but the same thing could happen in any town, any city the world over. I can’t wait to get my copy of the book to check out the rest of the stories-the reviews I’ve read thus far are quite complimentary. And what’s even better is that a second volume of stories is due out early next year, with even more world toppling excitement.
So check out Soul Survivors Hometown Tales: Volume 1 over on Amazon, or where ever you can get your hot little hands on a copy! Click the picture to head on over to Amazon.
Dead of Winter takes place in a fort in the Ontario wilderness in 1878. Inspector Tom Hatcher has been called in to solve a mystery surrounding strange murders involving cannibalism and a plague that seems to be turning its victims into ravenous creatures that both look and act inhuman. Tom has come from Montreal, where he dealt with a cannibal of a different sort-a serial killer who murdered street walkers and devoured their flesh. He managed to capture that madman, and tossed him into prison. Now it seems a new killer is following in that maniac’s footsteps out in the backwoods. At the same time, back in Montreal, Father Xavier, an exorcist, has been called upon to cast out the demon possessing the serial killer that Tom Hatcher caught while the man rots in prison. These two men’s paths intertwine as the mystery at the fort grows deeper and more people end up dead or worse, transformed into savage monsters, both in mind and in body. It is up to these two men to discover what is behind the plague and stop it before everyone else ends up dead.
Dead of Winter is a horror-mystery that intertwines both of these elements with ease. The author also intermingles Catholic beliefs in demonic possession and exorcism with the traditional native tribal beliefs of evil and good spirits, and does so quite deftly. The interesting thing is that the way the story is told, the two elements don’t clash or conflict with one another, but seem to make sense as a natural blend. Evil is evil, whatever it is called, and you need whatever resources you can collect to combat it. The culture, religious faiths, and historical elements of the story are well researched, and my first guess was that the author must live in the region, since he knows so much about its tribes and history. So I was surprised to find out that Mr. Moreland lives in Dallas according to his bio (though I suppose that doesn’t mean he isn’t originally from Canada).
I enjoyed the detail to which the characters were developed and the depth they were given. They are revealed inch by inch, divulging enough details that they kept me intrigued without revealing too much, too soon. The reveals are intriguing at each turn and the author was willing to give the reader a surprise with a startling turn of events fairly early on in the story. Elements like that are unexpected, but welcomed despite the sense that an author has zigged when you might expect him to zag. At least for me. Characters like Tom Hatcher and Father Xavier are definitely not cookie cutter-there are plenty of reasons to both like and dislike both men, and to really feel what they are going through as they face this nightmare both on their own and with the rest of the cast of characters.
I have not read anything else by Brian Moreland, but if his other works are this well researched and well crafted, I look forward to checking them out as well. Dead of Winter is a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
You can find Dead of Winter here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-of-Winter-ebook/dp/B005LYIDUY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1319692214&sr=1-2
Donovan Vicar is a man with a special gift. He is a feeler, which the author describes as someone who feels the vibrations of those around him. It becomes clear rather quickly that this is only scratching the surface of this gift…a gift he will soon need on a strange journey he must set out on across time.
Fractured Time begins in the present era, in the year 2007 in the city of Bitternest, Louisiana. Donovan is working to manage his power as a feeler, which tends to knock him for a loop every time he is around someone who has a negative or evil aura. So when someone walks by that has the most potently evil aura of anyone he has ever met, it compels him to follow them. Donovan fears the danger they represent. In the past, he has discovered too late that when he senses such evil, something horrible is about to occur. Not long after this discovery, Donovan finds himself traveling backwards in time in pursuit of this evil man. Fifty years in the past to be exact, to the Bitternest of 1957. It becomes clear rather quickly that the man he was tracking is responsible for this new puzzle, and it is up to Donovan to figure out how to stop whatever foul plan the man has for the world and to hopefully find a way back home, to the present.
Fractured Time is a good old fashion mystery spiked with magic, imbibed with ancient evil, and with just the right touch of nostalgia mixed in for good measure. Alan Draven has created a city shrouded in darkness and strange alien forces, and populated it with a cast of colorful characters that are quite entertaining. I enjoyed the almost retro feel of this story, and not just because the vast majority of it was set in a world fifty years in our past. This is a good old fashion tale of sorcery and evil men who crave absolute power who are willing use the blackest magic in their cause.
Naturally, no story is perfect, and this one suffers a bit from what I would say is the author’s enthusiasm to share with his audience as many details as possible about the world he has created. The thoughts and motivations of not only the main characters are revealed, but those of most of the secondary characters are as well. Mysteries are unraveled at a pace that is probably faster than I would have preferred for this type of tale, and leaving some questions left unanswered would have been just fine by me. The epilogue is an example of this. While probably necessary, to fill in all the blanks, some of the answers seem almost abrupt-loose ends that are sewn up in a hurry, so nothing is left to puzzle over.
Even so, I can understand the enthusiasm the author wants to share with us over his creation. Bitternest holds up a strange, fun-house type mirror to what would be its sister city of New Orleans, another Louisiana city filled with oddities, magic, and strange tales of the occult. Alan Draven has given us old magic and old gods that feel right at home in this strange city, and I can understand his passion for sharing every last bit of it with us.
Fractured Time can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Fractured-Time-Alan-Draven/dp/097699478X/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314631559&sr=1-7