Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for May, 2012

Review of Tonia Brown’s “The Cold Beneath”

The Cold Beneath is a tale of doomed high adventure, written from the perspective of the last survivor of a journey, sharing what came to pass in his diary shortly before he plans on willingly embracing his own death at the hands of the tormented crew who traveled with him.

Philip Syntax is a British inventor who has relegated himself to the American south in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a form of self-imposed exile after an invention of his was credited to his former mentor.  Arriving at his estate with a proposal for a great journey is Gideon Lightbridge, a former U.S. Colonel and a great explorer who has need of Philip because he is using the very invention Philip had stolen from him years before-a pair clockwork legs that serve the amputee better than his original ones did.  Lightbridge wants Philip to maintain the legs in sub-zero temperatures because he plans being the first explorer to make it to the North Pole.  They will be traveling in a helium Airship called The Northern Fancy.

Philip regales the reader with the story of his journey, leading up to his ultimate fate at the hands of the crew who were possessed by a strange and nightmarish sickness in the Arctic Northern extremes.

The Cold Beneath is a very entertaining steam punk tale tinged with the flavor of a seaborne mystery.  While the crew guides the ship upon the air, it felt almost as if they were on the high seas, though the seas in this book are the frozen wastes of the far north.  This is a zombie tale, and much of the fun of this story lies in the creative usage of the undead here, which are blue tinged nightmares that are somewhat Frankenstein-ish in appearance and actions.  This is also classic Gothic type horror told in diary form.  It would be easy to imagine this story being turned into an old Hammer classic, with devious deeds and plenty of dark mysteries afoot throughout.   There is also romance in this story, though even that is intriguing and riddled with twists and turns.  The author blends all these different styles together flawlessly and makes them all fit together nicely.

Tonia Brown has created a terrific voice for her narrator that puts the reader in the story and made me appreciate every crisp detail as it is revealed.  Philip Syntax is a thoroughly realized character, as are the other members of the crew of The Northern Fancy who play a major part in this tale such as Lightbridge, Albert, the Chief Mechanic, and Geraldine Goode, a former flame of Philip’s and the doctor on board the air ship.

If there is any sort of failing with this tale, perhaps it lies within the diary format.  By nature, things are revealed in advance of a full description and the reader knows things, such as the ultimate fate of the crew from the very beginning.  Still, surprises abound and as with any good mystery, I found myself guessing at the answers that reveal themselves in a highly satisfactory way within the last few pages of the book.

The Cold Beneath is a great bet for anyone who enjoys Gothic horror, mysteries, steam punk, or intense zombie action.  The characters are colorful, the pace is excellent, and the undead are some of the creepiest I’ve seen in quite some time.

The Cold Beneath can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Beneath-steampunk-zombie-ebook/dp/B0086VRXY6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338389299&sr=1-4

Review of Dean Giles “Alien Apocalypse: Genesis”

Dean Giles has crafted what amounts to a serial production of an alien invasion, releasing it as short stories with two installations thus far, along with a brief prequel that is included with Alien Apocalypse: Genesis.  The story is about Leon, a father imprisoned for manslaughter after he kills his wife’s murderer, and Elliot, his son, who has to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm until his father’s four year sentence is complete.  Nearing the end of his term of imprisonment, Leon has to deal with a comet that is passing close to Earth’s atmosphere and the fact that an alien presence that has hitched a ride on the comet has invaded earth, devouring virtually everything in its path and wiping out everyone in his prison except for him and a couple of other people.  The first short story, Alien Apocalypse: The Storm, tells the tale of his efforts to find Elliot and figure out how they can escape the encroaching alien growth, which has the ability to transform itself into a wide array of genetic hybrids that are capable of tearing apart just about anything to get to the human flesh it craves.  Leon and Elliot discover that the only thing that seems able to stop the alien assault is oil, which keeps the alien growth at bay.  In this chapter of the saga, Leon and his son make their way to an oil refinery, which seems like the safest place given the alien’s weakness and might provide them with a weapon to fight back.  Upon arrival at the refinery, they discover other survivors who have taken over and have enslaved several other people.  Leon and Elliot work to free these prisoners but only manage to provide an escape for one of them, a woman who has lost her memory who they dub Isabella until she can tell them her real name.  The author also shares insights into the alien hive mind and how it thinks throughout the story, letting the reader know what its plans are for the human race.

Alien Apocalypse is an entertaining sci fi outing that, so far, has me intrigued.  I am interested in where things go from here, with genetic replicas being created of human beings that, when separated from the hive mind, seem to have desires and yearnings of their own that tend to contradict the ancient alien they came from.  I for one am very interested in seeing where this story leads and look forward to the next chapter.

Alien Apocalypse: Genesis can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-Genesis-ebook/dp/B007EG96WQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338336404&sr=1-1

Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: The Beginning”

Mad Swine: The Beginning is a first person zombie apocalypse tale that takes place during the initial days of infection and the downfall of civilization.  It begins in the city of Chicago and the moves out into the suburbs where the main character, a University Administrator and former military man, takes charge of the people in his neighborhood to defend against both the infected and the living.  The zombies in this tale are actually not the living dead, but more accurately infected/still living, though the author essentially turns them into zombies by applying the same rule as you have with undead: you can shoot them repeatedly, but unless you get them in the head, they won’t go down.  There is an interesting slant in that they still sleep, which makes for some interesting situations when the characters come across a few snoozing undead.

The story moves at a fast clip, with very little build up before the introduction of panic and mayhem enters the main character’s life after he has reported to work one morning.  The infected are fast movers, so the infection, which seems to come out of nowhere, spreads like wildfire and makes the first few chapters an adrenaline soaked nightmare for Matt, our main character.  It doesn’t take long for the reality of this uprising to hit home with personal loss which carries over for him as he manages to make it back home to the suburbs.  He discovers that several communities have banded together to protect one another from the “crazies”, as Matt has dubbed them, and given his military background he is called upon to take the lead in his own gated community.  Matt comes prepared, with a veritable arsenal and a brother who lives with him who also has military experience.  Together they take charge and plan for the well being and safety of their people.  Mad Swine: The Beginning takes place within the first few days after the apocalypse.  It reads fast and easy and while much of the zombie action takes place prior to Matt’s transition to suburban leader from urban refugee, the focus on human confrontations is a priority from then on.  I enjoyed some of the confrontations that offer up hints as to what is to be expected in the next book of the saga, including the clashes between the different neighborhoods and how they are forced to deal with one another.

Overall, this was a fun, entertaining zombie read.  It doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table with the zombies or the setting, but the main character is solidly developed and his story made for an interesting ride.  While the book cuts off abruptly, the closing chapters set the stage for some potentially interesting developments in the second book of this saga.

I do my best to point out any concerns I have with each story I read and as is the case with every book, there were things I took exception to with Mad Swine.  My main concern here has to do with what I would dub the chaos and the calm.  By the chaos, I mean that the infection happens so quickly and spreads with such vigor that the world falls apart entirely around Matt in what seems like minutes.  Things are such a blur at first that there is virtually no appearance by either the police or military in this story.  The city falls to pieces almost immediately and the crazies rule the streets within hours.  And by the calm, I mean how dramatically different it is within the suburban conclaves where Matt and most of the other characters in this book live.  Everyone there seems to be on the same page, willing to fall in line with the new regime that Matt creates without questioning it or anything for that matter.  Certainly, there is conflict between different neighborhoods, but it is limited and (at least in this book) fairly civil, all things considered.  The transition from the chaos of the first part of the book to the calm of the latter portion is abrupt and would have made more sense had the chaos Matt sees in the city bled over into the ‘burbs a bit more.  While Matt, would seem like a natural choice as a leader for his neighborhood with his military experience and rather excessive arsenal, the fact that everyone within his gated community goes along with that decision without question or any who appears to be reluctant about such an idea seemed a stretch to me.

Despite this concern that I had with the story, it remains a solid, action filled apocalyptic saga with interesting characters and a storyline that has me intrigued and curious about what happens next.  I look forward to checking out the next book in the series when it becomes available.

Mad Swine: The Beginning can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Beginning-Steven-Pajak/dp/1618680013/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338266426&sr=1-1

Review of Mandy DeGeit’s “She Makes Me Smile”

She Makes Me Smile has gotten a lot of press based on what a particular publisher did under the guise of editing this work, which originally appeared in an anthology.  I won’t get into details of this here, because there are plenty of explanations out there, including one from the author included with this story.  Suffice it to say, I am happy that the author has had the chance to reveal her story to the public without the adornments installed by others who sought to change her work into something completely different.

She Makes Me Smile is a story told in first person about two people, one of which is bound and gagged and sitting on a couch while the other puzzles over why they have done this horrible act to their one and only friend.  There is confusion on their part, though emotions in general are something they don’t really experience…at least not until the urge to tie up their friend and do even worse things to them occurs.  That is where the title of the story comes in to play.

This is a simple story, unencumbered by complex details.  While the past of the character who narrates is touched upon, no depth of detail yields explanation as to why they’ve crossed the line.  And while their victim is definitely female, we don’t know if the main character is a man or a woman, so it is also impossible for us to interpret things based on perceived gender roles.  The simple elements of this story make it work, and made me curious.  We readers tend to want to fill in the blanks on a tale-anything an author leaves out.  Mandy DeGeit has given us a very sparsely drawn on canvas here, which allowed the dark avenues of my own mind to fill in all the gaps.  Simple, sparse, and yet effectively disturbing.

You can find She Makes Me Smile here: http://www.amazon.com/She-Makes-Me-Smile-ebook/dp/B0085KMVAO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338051843&sr=8-1

My big publishing announcement!

Well, it hasn’t been too long since I mentioned that I got the rights back to my trilogy of novels: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark.  Now I can reveal where those books are heading, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I have just signed the contracts to have them re-released via Permuted Press starting in early 2013!

Each book will have the “Dark Stories” as I dubbed them, that belong with each book, rather than in a separate book that only appears in the electronic version, like what happened in the past.  So tales related to all the characters that I originally wrote into the trilogy will be back where they belong, as bonus material in each printed book and e-book version.  I’m thrilled that everyone who reads these versions of the books will have the opportunity to get the full story on characters such as George, Megan, and Michael and everyone else.   Of note is that one of the Dark Stories that will appear at the end of Beyond The Dark is brand new, and another one of them is expanded beyond its rather short length to a full-sized short story.  So there will be a good amount of brand new content that no one has seen before as well.

The schedule of releases hasn’t been set as of yet, but I wanted to make an additional announcement at this time as well.  As I have babbled in the past, my plan has always been to produce two more novels that follow up the Dark trilogy, and my intention is to get rolling with those immediately after I have completed this last Dark story I am presently working on.  It will be my goal to complete the fourth book before the end of this year, and dive right into the fifth and final book of the saga after that.  So my hope is that they will find their way to market not long after the release of the final book in the trilogy.  Nothing else is for certain at this time, but I hope to be providing updates on this project as it goes forward, so as always, stay tuned!

A word to the wise for those who are writers or plan on becoming one in the future.

For the most part, my posts on this blog have been related to my work and the work of others: reviews, updates, and promotion of my work and the work of my fellow writers.  There have been a few commentaries on my experiences in writing and I will admit there probably needs to be more.  While I am far from an expert on how to get published or just in the craft of writing, I have learned a few things along the way and continue to learn new things every day.

One thing in particular that I have learned is that there are so many people out there who genuinely care for one another in the writing community.  They may make their living writing, editing, publishing, doing formatting…or they may be doing it more as a sideline-hobby/passion/dream of making it big someday (most of us are like that, in fact), or they are fans of the different genres: horror, science fiction, fantasy, bizarro, etc who have dreams of getting more involved down the road-maybe making movies, writing, creating their own publishing company, or something else.  They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into what they do, and care about it enough to make sure they do the best job possible-not just for themselves, but for everyone else who is relying on them.  Social media has allowed pretty much everyone to share their thoughts, connect, and join in the conversation with a very wide ranging community that is all over the globe.  I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people.  Not just about writing, but about the business side of things-what it takes to get a book out there, how to promote your work, how do you hook up with filmmakers, etc.  I’ve been lucky because I’ve associated myself with people who not only care about what they do, but they behave in a very professional manner.

But you hear stories now and again about someone who steals stories from other authors and claims them to be their own, or publishers who refuse to pay the artists for the work they put out there.  It is unfortunate, but the people who share their experiences and send out warnings pave the way for the rest of us to be able to avoid the same pitfalls, and because of that, we all are grateful to these brave souls.  Sometimes the lessons are more simple, such as avoiding getting provoked by a review of your work that you disagree with.  Tales of woe for authors abound on this front.

This brings me to the main topic of this post.  Yesterday, I saw two separate warnings posted on Facebook from two separate authors, both of which are fairly new to being published.  Quite a few people have since shared their information with everyone on Twitter and Facebook that they know, and I am joining their ranks.  As some of you know, I tend to keep my opinions to myself beyond of the topic of the writing I do or someone else’s work…and when I do comment on anything anyone else does, I do my best to be constructive and professional about it.  I have avoided more flammable topics, but for right now, I feel it’s important that I share these two tales with anyone who reads my blog.  Take away from them what you will.  It is my hope that what has happened to these two writers doesn’t have to happen to anyone else because of what they’ve shared.

The first post is from horror author Alyn Day.


The second is from author Mandy De Geit.



I think it is fair to share these blog posts with the world, as I think it would also be fair for me to share any rebuttals that the publisher has to offer to either or both of these authors, if I hear of one in the future.  Because there is always two sides to the story, and even with the information shared above, I would be curious to see what response there may be to these accusations.  It is a shame when things like this happen.  But as so many others have said and I have as well, the fact that this information was shared makes all of us the wiser and more prepared as writers going forward with our efforts.


So always be alert and concerned about what is going on around you as a writer.  Find out as much as you can about a editor, a publisher, and everyone else involved in working with you before you hand your pride and joy over to them.  Just as you expect a mechanic to be trained to work on cars and a doctor to have a medical degree before you let them tell you to bend over and cough, you should know the history of who you are looking to work with in advance of agreeing to anything.  But if you do end up making a mistake (and we all have, on many different occasions), don’t hesitate to share with others, so they can learn and avoid those same mistakes.


Review of Suzanne Robb’s “Were-Wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutations, Oh My!”

Were-Wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutations, Oh My! is a trilogy of short stories by Suzanne Robb, author of Z-Boat, a zombie novel set in the dark depths of the ocean, as well as a wide array of strange and twisty short stories with a horror and fantasy bent to them.  These three stories fit right in with what the fan’s of Robb has come to expect.  In “Welcome To The Future” she explores a near future filled with disastrous attempts at genetic manipulations to the human body.  We get to see plenty of failings and know why the whole idea of mutation is abhorred.  Along comes a teenage boy whose parents and teachers have given up on him.  He has even given up on himself until a doctor provides him with a solution to all his problems that promises to make him the smartest man in the world.  Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned, and all hell breaks loose.  In “The Moonlight Killer” we are given a story that turns the traditional werewolf tale on its ear with man-bites-wolf repercussions.  A really twisty, humorous tale with plenty of darkness to it.  Finally, in “B.I.T.E.” the reader is introduced to world on the very brink of Apocalypse, with strange beasties boiling up through the ground including massive man-eating squirrels, cobra-men, and minions…lots of minions.  That plus a mother and daughter who are bound and determined to stop the end of the world, no matter how dysfunctional they appear to be.

These stories have an interesting flavor that I would call Robb-ish, in that they not only give you some good scares, they also have some wicked dark humor to them that make you snicker while feeling a bit uncomfortable with the circumstances the characters are going through.  These are quick, entertaining reads for those of you looking for a tidy little dose of scary fun from an up and coming author.

You can find Were-Wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutations, Oh My! here: http://www.amazon.com/Were-wolves-Apocalypses-Genetic-Mutation-ebook/dp/B006SBC2UQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1336948427&sr=1-1