Review of multiple short stories by Stephen A. North: “Forgotten”, “Nobody’s Hero”, “Undead In Vegas”, “Means To An End”, and “Stupid Train”
Stephen A. North has written several novels but he has a definite fondness for short stories. These stories, much like his novels, usually have flawed (sometimes very flawed) characters in them. They tend to be in a tough spot in life, and we drop in on them as things are coming to a head. Such is the case in Forgotten and Nobody’s Hero. Forgotten shares a brief bit of Private Henri Dragon’s experiences in Vietnam. Things are about to get ugly in a village where the Viet Cong have been spotted and he and his squad will be in the thick of it. Nobody’s Hero is a little more domesticated a story, where Sue is desperate to find a way out of an abusive relationship and is willing to do whatever it takes to break free.
In both stories, the author puts us in the middle of what is perhaps the most intense few minutes of two very different (but in some ways similar) people’s lives. I would dare say the titles of these stories are interchangeable. You don’t do the necessary things to be a hero. You don’t do them to be remarkable or remembered. You do the absolutely necessary things because living is better than being dead, even if we don’t think much of the lives we’ve led.
This is a gritty one, with no apologies made and none necessary by those involved. Not necessarily fun, but if you like North’s trademark run of bad luck type characters, this will suit you just fine.
Forgotten and Nobody’s Hero can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B086SKWJVW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1
Undead In Vegas is a return to zombie actioners for North, in a condensed format. His trademark sad sap, down on their luck characters are on display here, and not just with Wallace, the main character truck driver who has ended up in Vegas as the zombie apocalypse has kicked into gear. Wallace isn’t dislikable, but you may find him a bit of a sap with his efforts to be the good guy, or at least the nice guy here. Life has become pretty easy to discard when most folks are walking around trying to eat you, and Wallace seems pretty fatalistic. Still, he isn’t a man who likes to be without a purpose, or so it seems, even if the purpose of helping out a woman whose husband is a schmuck seems like a not so great idea. I might have felt a little more appreciation for the main character if he had a bit more desire to do something for himself earlier on and perhaps had prioritized things a bit different as the story progressed. Not that I’m not surprised at how he acted-you see people doing similar things every day. Fatalistically putting one foot in front of the other, grasping at what little bit of life is available why accepting the inevitability of death perhaps being right around the corner.
Undead In Vegas can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YQ47RVZ/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3
Means To An End and Stupid Train might be my least favorite short stories of Mr. North’s, but at the same time, they might be the ones that make me grit my teeth and admit that both stories are the slap in the face you occasionally need to remind you that not everything needs to be either happy, or a short story needs to come to a smooth or perhaps satisfying conclusion. In a way, both stories end before they have the chance to get very far, to get warmed up, or to get rolling along to some predestined conclusion. Instead, they are both like starting your old, reliable car on a very cold winters morning and not waiting for the car to warm up, but instead pulling out of the driveway when there is still ice on the windows, and getting flattened by a speeding garbage truck the instant your tires touch the street. It would have been different if the car had warmed up, the ice scraped away, and you got to the highway before being creamed by an out of control semi, but either way, the end result is the same-just a lot more jarring.
The characters are not likeable, but the writing style from North remains consistent. His fondness for writing unapologetically hard luck and sometimes very unlikeable characters is something I appreciate. Tammy, in Means, and Lou, in Stupid, are perhaps best described as predator and prey, in their own worlds-destined to their fates because of who they are, innately. To expect, or hope for more, is perhaps foolish, or pointless. Thankfully, I can handle my fatalism in small doses, and these two are like taking a couple of shots of hard liquor. They burn going down but you can appreciate them after you get past the bitter taste left in your mouth.
Means To An End and Stupid Train can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078K4RGDW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2
Down in the Gutter Like Me has, like a lot of Stephen A North’s work, a bit of a noir-ish flavor to it, with a down on his luck main character who isn’t squeaky clean by any stretch. Unlike a lot of his other works, this isn’t a character that gives the reader much of a reason to gain a sense of empathy for him. If you feel empathy for Guy Masters, I might feel a bit sorry for you, but more likely, I’ll just make every effort to steer clear of you (and make sure anyone I care for does as well).
Guy isn’t just down on his luck, he lives in the gutter, as the title of this short story infers. We are invited to join him down there as he stands in the dark one night, trying to peep through the window of his ex-girlfriend to get a look at her as she undresses while he wishes he had a handful of the painkillers he’s addicted to pop like candy…and it only gets seedier from there.
North has a knack for creating characters that are down on their luck. Bubbling with barely controlled rage, just beneath the surface. With most of what I have read, these characters are no choir boys, no boy scouts, but they have a moral streak that give the reader a reason to root for them and hope they find their redemption. Not so here, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This reads like the transcript of some news docudrama: a night of insanity perpetrated by a soul who isn’t just lost, but comfortable being lost-it doesn’t take much for them to do what the rest of us would call questionable or deplorable-little in the way of justification crosses Guy’s mind. He’s used to life sucking and he’ll make his own luck, no matter what kind of ugly he has to perpetrate for that luck to happen.
I guess you could feel something for Guy more than disgust. Perhaps it is that way for me because it’s pretty damn hard to imagine falling that far and that hard in life and being grateful those circumstances haven’t befallen me. We don’t want to be as hard, as cruel, or as vicious as life has been to him, or he has been to the world around him, so sympathy creeps in and we get tantalized by how wrong everything is that he does-never does he step onto the right pathway in this story and you get the sense he never has at any earlier point in his life. It allows us to take a quick glimpse into that type of vile world and step back, wash off the filth, and perhaps not feel so bad that some of the buzz Guy feels when he does yet another terrible thing didn’t instantly disgust us. After all, we’re not down in the gutter with him, living there. We’re just visiting for a little while…
Down in the Gutter Like Me can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Down-Gutter-Like-Stephen-North-ebook/dp/B082Z6STW7/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=down+in+the+gutter+like+me&qid=1577667634&sr=8-1
Not too long ago, I shared that I had the privilege to be a part of a writing project where the proceeds would be going to support hurricane relief. The Will To Survive is a labor of love for editor Felicia A. Sullivan, who brought together the talents of everyone who contributed to this project: those who write, those who format, and the artist who created the awesome cover.
The book is available both in kindle and paperback format. I have a paperback version of the book and with 22 different short stories, it weighs in at a pretty hefty 345 pages.
The two charities being supported with this work are: One America Appeal: www.oneamericaappeal.org and Global Giving-Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-harvey-relief-fund/. Please consider picking up a copy of the book, but also consider directly donating to these worthy causes. You can find the book here: The Will To Survive.
The description on the back reads as follows:
When normal life collapses, peril waits around every corner, and one small slip could mean certain death. In THE WILL TO SURVIVE, unique and brilliant voices bring to life stories of post-apocalyptic danger sure to make the heart race, the flesh creep.
NOTE: THE WILL TO SURVIVE is a collective effort by a great group of authors, born from the desire to help their fellow citizens suffering the devastating effects of multiple hurricanes. Every short story has a survival element, and 100% of the proceeds are being donated to two charities, One America Appeal and Global Giving Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
Twenty-Two stories of tragedy, hope, and survival in one volume. It’s the end of the world. Do you have the will to survive?
Another way you can help us continue to build awareness and generate more interest in this book is to read it and write an honest review on Amazon and anywhere else you can post a review. My story, “The Collective” is nestled within the pages of the book and its a story that I have always felt was one of my more compelling. Nope, no zombies to be seen, but one that really focuses on the value of life, the value of living, and choosing whether it is worth going on when everyone else that you love is gone.
Please check this book out. It’s a great cause and if you enjoy TEOTWAWKI fiction, you’ll love it.
Like a Man and Purchase Order #2113-21A are a couple of quick, tightly written shorts by Stephen A. North, who has bounced back and forth between apocalyptic fiction and science fiction with his prior novels and shorter works. These two tales fit in well with his other stories, both with rough and tumble main characters coping with nightmarish circumstances and impending end of the world doom.
Like A Man takes place in Rio De Janeiro set in the present, and appeared in an apocalyptic anthology the author contributed to several years ago. I’d read the story then and enjoyed it for it’s surprising, startling transition from a sun drenched flirtation between a body guard and his boss’s girl to the sudden, abrupt, and brutal end of the world sequence it proposes with the alien creatures burrowing up from the depths of the earth.
Purchase Order #2113-21A could be an addendum to the universe Stephen created with his Drifter novel. A future filled with enslaved soldiers doing the bidding of others, it has a flavor of Blade Runner/techno near future gloom, though with an even darker glimpse of how ugly humanity can potentially become then either of the Blade Runner movies.
These are two quick shorts that definitely speak of larger worlds and potentially more involved stories if the author chose to expand them. As they are, they are good, quick bite-sized bits of apocalyptic goodness for those looking for a quick fix.
Like a Man and Purchase Order #2113-21A can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Like-Man-Purchase-Order-2113-21A-ebook/dp/B0756W8NXG/ref=la_B002K8VVMG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507757852&sr=1-1
Tusk and Sedation Dentistry are two horror short stories with dentists as their main characters. Tusk has us sitting down next to the young, beautiful neighbor of an older dentist who enjoys regaling her with tales of his adventurous youth. You see, he has countless trophies from trips abroad adorning his office walls. But one particular trophy, an oddly elongated tooth, has caught her eye and she is insistent on hearing how the good doctor came across this strange artifact. Though reluctant, the dentist begrudgingly shares his journey of dark discovery.
Sedation Dentistry is like the sickly sweet dessert after devouring a darkly delectable meal. Weighing in at only a couple of pages, this tidbit reveals how tremendously horrifying dentistry might be. Spending every day starring into the deep, dank abysses that are people’s bacteria infested mouths and then being forced to stick your fingers inside those vile maws must be a nightmare for some. Even worse must be the secret fear that those horrible ivory pillars could come slamming together at any second to grind the flesh off the bones of your fingers…
These two ‘toothsome tales’, as the author describes them, are a quick, painless read, poured through faster than it’ll take you to go through your next six month checkup. Tusk leads us into a chultun-an underground chamber on the Yucatan Peninsula where our dentist friend is hunting for treasure with a couple of comrades. This dark lair shares some disturbingly similar characteristics to the open, steaming holes that are the mouths he deals with as a dentist, including the sharp, pointed teeth. Sedation Dentistry fooled me in the first couple of sentences, with its description of a cavernous, plague infested mouth that was as ominous as the caverns found in Tusk.
Quick easy reads for those chomping at the bit for a taste of horror.
Tusk and Sedation Dentistry can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Tusk-Sedation-Dentistry-Stephen-North-ebook/dp/B074PTDDJD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504145557&sr=8-1&keywords=tusk+and+sedation+dentistry
Instead of two separate posts, since I read these two books one after the other, I thought it would make more sense to combine their review into one post.
Breathe is a collection of short stories from Layden Robinson that are very difficult to pin down. Surreal horror with a perhaps bizarre slant might describe some of this work, though even that perhaps doesn’t quite encapsulate what these twelve shorts are all about. Free form poetry? Perhaps. The utterings of a madman? Quite possibly.
There is a preponderance of adjectives and adverbs slathered freely throughout these tales of nightmare and perhaps waking dreams. Perhaps there are too many-some jarring and disruptive, as is the flow and pacing in much of these tales. These are not stories for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Vampires, assassins, mannequins, giant tarantulas, and serial killers abound in stories of failure and perhaps redemption, though there are as many uncontrolled laughs bursting forth as there are profound meanings, or so it seemed to me.
It’s fair to say that this probably isn’t a book that will be everyone’s cup of tea. It is something you have focus on, glean and decipher as you can, and determine what meaning there is for you. I won’t lie and say I was satisfied with every story-on the contrary, some left me frustrated and exasperated. Perhaps that is the point. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with some of these tales. Certainly, there is meaning to be found, but whether it will resonate for you will be determined if you are receptive to letting your mind get bent a little, then a little more, with each written word.
Check it out for yourself here: https://www.amazon.com/Breathe-Layden-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00LD8JYLE?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top
Chameleon is a standalone short by Layden Robinson that is as surreal and trippy as his short story collection, Breathe, though it is more cohesive and compelling from my perspective. It is a magical journey of discovery-a quest, if you will, that is perhaps partly dream and partly reality, or maybe entirely acid trip. Regardless, it is an adventure that challenged the main character at every turn and did the same with me the reader. Demons, the devil, loss, tragedy, hope, peace, and redemption are things that come to mind here, though interpretations will vary. This isn’t an easy story to review or even describe, except perhaps as an enchanting fever dream that pokes and prods at you because as soon as you think you have a fix on where it is going, it jars you and changes course. The pace is brisk but the taste of each section, or compartment of this short story, leaves a flavor on your mouth, whether it be bitter or a vague hint of sweetness. And then the taste changes when you turn the page once more.
Chameleon can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Chameleon-Layden-Robinson-ebook/dp/B00KHB71QI?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top
I shared not too long ago that a short story of mine had been sitting in limbo for years. Originally intended for an anthology that was never published, it went through several gyrations with other potential homes and publishers. Long story short, my self-help guide for the Apocalyptically-challenged has arrived and appears in the “Zombies Galore” anthology, just released this week by Knightwatch Press. It appears with several other tales of zombie goodness that are definitely worth checking out for those who craving for the undead is only equaled by the undead’s craving for living flesh. Well, and even those who aren’t quite that hungry. My contribution is a guide book rather than a short story, though it will regale the reader with exciting bits and pieces of stories of survivors who learned how to cope with both the flesheaters and warmbloods who tend to make themselves pests during the end days. So go on an check it out. I have posted two cover images below, because there are separate links for the kindle and paperback versions of this book. Just click on one or the other and it will shoot you over to Amazon where you can acquire this wondrous tome of zombie gory-goodness and guidance through the treacherous parts of the undead apocalypse. And here is a list of the contributors so you can see what you are in for:
- “Monday Matinee Madness” by H.G. Bleackley
- “Cinnamon Road” by A.A. Garrison
- “Son of Anubis” by Christian A. Larsen
- “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Zombie Slayers” by Patrick D’Orazio
- “Pascal’s Wager” by David Johnson
- “Birthday Boy” by T. Fox Dunham
- “The Palace of Dead Rock Stars” by Theresa Derwin
- “Road Whore” by Timothy Frasier
- “Fire Team” by Al Halsey
- “The Dripping Nose That Wouldn’t Wipe” by James S. Dorr
- “The Last Line of Defence” by J.S. Lawhead
- “So They Ain’t Yankees” by Melanie Browne
- “Life Sentience” by Kaye Inglis
- “The Chicken in Black” by Nathan Robinson
- “Zombie: Death Day” by Johnny Andrews
- “Hungry” by Nicci Murphy
So give it a try. I think you’ll come back for seconds.
Several years ago a good friend of mine over at the now defunct Library of the Living Dead Press was looking to create survival guide that would be chock full of semi-serious and totally comedic advice on surviving the zombie apocalypse. I decided that it would be my responsibility to create a guide that would be the end all of self-help zombie slaying manuals. So in plagaristic fashion, I decided to swipe from one of the best known self-help guides available to create my very own “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Zombie Slayers” replete with cited examples of said successful zombie slayers personal tales of victory over the undead. This wasn’t so much a short story as a down and dirty guide to not only zombie slaughter, but how to live high on the hog during the apocalypse.
Unfortunately, the tome that this wondrous guide was supposed to be a part of never was published and as such my guide book sat dormant for several years. Then some other good friends of mine who had published “Zombies Gone Wild” (which one of my shorts of a more comical sort appeared in entitled “What’s Eating You?” about zombies with eating disorders) wanted to create a follow up to that delightful little anthology. Unfortunately, that particular antho was shelved as well, leading me to believe that fate, or some giant zombie loving super being was doing their super mightiest to prevent my guide from ever seeing the light of day.
But fear not! “Zombies Gone Wild, Part 2” has been transformed into “Zombies Galore” and is being published by Nightwatch Press. In fact, it is getting a big unveiling on August 30th. Now I can’t attend this unveiling, but rest assured that I will be sharing more information on where you can find this delightful book that will be filled with my helpful guide as well as many other exciting tales of zombie gore and glamour. So stay tuned. But for now, check out this announcement to whet your appetite: http://exlibrislarsen.com/2014/08/20/zombies-galore-anthology-launch-set-for-august-30-in-walsall/
We With Daisies Lie is a short story/novella about one man’s journey during the first few days and months of the zombie apocalypse. Told in first person, it sticks with tradition, bringing nothing new to the table as far as the undead are concerned. Whether you get bit or not, when you die you turn and the undead are slow moving. The main character meets up almost immediately after the dead start to turn with a group of three younger kids led by a bully. They search for places to survive and they overcome several incidents with the dead while dealing with turmoil within the group. The living continue to be a major threat later in the story as the character grows stronger and more equipped to handle himself with the undead. With new friends in tow, he tries to lead them to his grandparent’s farm and the fallout shelter they had made during the cold war, which is filled with enough supplies to last them several months.
The author makes a solid attempt at developing his small group of characters, though the length of this tale does limit most of them from being more than archetypes. The main character and Emily, the girl he grows attached to, are the most fleshed out. There were some good components to this tale, including the brief conversation the main character has with an ex-girlfriend on the phone after things go haywire. She is surrounded by the undead in her sky rise apartment in New York City with no way to escape. The blunt suggestion the main character makes was startling but at the same time made all the sense in the world. Emily’s work on a poem was a nice touch as well. There was also something that stretched believability related to an incident surrounding a stab wound to the gut. I won’t provide further details, but suffice it to say it was a stretch buying what happens. Otherwise, the story is a pretty straightforward analysis of how people cope with unbelievably horrible circumstances and what they must become to survive. There were some typos and missed words here and there-the story could have done with another editing run through, but overall, it is a quick read with definite entertainment value. The author shows solid promise here and I look forward to checking out his other works.
We With Daisies Lie can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/We-Daisies-Lie-Matheus-Macedo-ebook/dp/B00M4M32IY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408377720&sr=8-1&keywords=we+with+daisies+lie
Alien Apocalypse: Payback concludes the three short story/novella arc of the Alien Apocalypse serial. Leon Weber has faced down the alien enemy and figured out its weakness, has saved his son and discovered that not all of the alien’s offspring are inherently evil. With a desperate plan in mind, he wants to defeat the alien once and for all, or die trying.
Like the other installments in this tale, the odds are stacked against the slim bits of humanity that still remain, especially as the alien entity continues to evolve and works at creating genetic mutations to do its bidding and find the few humans remaining so it can feed. But Leon has discovered one of its very few weaknesses and has a slim chance to exploit it.
This was a satisfying series. The author has created a rollicking science fiction tale that is dark and filled with despair and yet could easily be translated into a good old fashion alien invasion movie for the masses. It was a fun and easy read and I would recommend checking out all three installments since all three are fairly cheap on the kindle and are a fun, if quick, ride.
Alien Apocalypse: Payback can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-Payback-Dean-Giles-ebook/dp/B00LBEQ7EW/ref=la_B005AQTGUY_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406760050&sr=1-9
Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic is a short story that I picked up free for the kindle. Set in the not-so-distant future, we are introduced to Linc Freemore, who works for a company dedicated to the war effort. A war that appears to be occurring between the United States (or perhaps, more generically, the “West”) and the oil rich countries of the Middle East. The U.S. is actually being bombed in this war and gas has reached around $10 a gallon. Linc is just trying to finish a project so he can get a day off, but his day starts off dealing with some gang violence and saving some school children who are almost ran over by a runaway car that was shot up. Gangs have grown more courageous and willing to assault just about anyone, and later that same day Linc discovers that first hand when he comes to the rescue of a girl on a rural road who is being chased on foot by another biker gang. Linc’s cowardly coworker flees, forcing him to take action and improvise ways to keep the girl safe and to stay alive.
The story is short, sweet, and to the point. Better yet, it was a free introduction to the Linc Freemore saga and it appears that the second short story is also available via the kindle.
This short tale was a fun introduction that can somewhat stand on its own, though the author made sure to give you reason to want to check out what is next. Linc is probably more than what he appears to be given his willingness to jump into a fight and become the hero. A simple corporate schmo he is not. The bits and pieces of the near-apocalyptic world the author has created is interesting and fairly plausible, which in some ways makes this story somewhat tantalizing. A precursor to the world of Mad Max and company, where fuel is rapidly disappearing along with civility, law, and order? Perhaps.
Oil To Ashes 1: Picnic can still be (at this time) picked up for free at http://www.amazon.com/Oil-Ashes-Freemore-Apocalyptic-Science-ebook/dp/B00F6KB7I8/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406757781&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=oilt+to+ashes
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death is a compendium of grim short stories, each with their own interpretation of the title of this work. No one is safe here, with a rogue’s gallery of villains that range from the tragic to the demonic that all lust for blood, flesh, and the demise of all who cross their paths.
I read the paperback version of the book, which note that there are 4 bonus tales vs. the electronic version. I will provide a brief synopsis of each tale without providing any spoilers.
Deadly Mistakes tells the tragic tale of a man out for revenge after a clerical error at a law office that lets a murdering monster free to slaughter his wife.
Turn of Events turns the tables on the traditional sad tale of domestic violence.
Stalkers Beware provides some new ideas of how to deal with all those pesky groupies if you are a rock star.
Hope of a Future takes a look at a bleak apocalyptic future where hoping for even the most simple things can make things even more grim.
Game Gone Wrong mixes science fiction with the very prevalent fear of the government watching your every move, and doing whatever it takes to find out what you know.
Mystery Meat is a simple tale of a meat packing facility trying to find out where several bins of prime cuts of meat came from that no one knows about…with morbid results.
Father’s Revenge is a succinct, blunt tale of a father’s revenge when his wife betrays him, as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Innocent Blood starts out much like the previous tale, but with the desire for revenge going dreadfully wrong.
On Account of Bacon speaks of how unspeakable tragedies can occur for the most innocuous reasons…or in this case, thanks to a delicious breakfast meat.
Evil Mountain asks the question ‘what do you get when a werewolf, vampire, witch, zombie, and dragon walk into a poor, innocent villager’s hut?’ Nothing pleasant, I can tell you that much.
The Heart of Heroism tells the tragic tale of Billy Jack, a mentally handicapped man-child who simply wants to be a superhero and gets his chance when the zombie apocalypse starts up in the tenement he lives in with his overbearing father.
Historical Significance is a traditional ghost tale with a demonic twist.
Memories starts out asking the question ‘Have you ever heard a rabbit scream?’ and goes deeper down the rabbit hole from there.
Overall, this set of macabre tales are solidly written, though some are stronger and more compelling than others. Each share a very fatalistic perspective, though they range from the gore splattered to the sinister. Hope of a Future, Innocent Blood, Evil Mountain, and The Heart of Heroism were my favorites of the lot, while a couple of the very short tales didn’t do it for me, like Turn of Events and Father’s Revenge. When the author works with more than a page or two, she is able to craft characters that are real, vivid, and accessible.
Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser/dp/0615858163/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-2&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (paperback) and here: http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Pathways-Murder-Rebecca-Besser-ebook/dp/B00E1LPQZS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401418967&sr=8-1&keywords=twisted+pathways+of+murder+%26+death (kindle).
The Becoming: Brothers In Arms is a prequel novella to The Becoming series of zombie apocalypse books by Jessica Meigs. It introduces us to the brothers, Theo and Gray, who were introduced to the main characters in the first book of trilogy. It provides another perspective on the beginnings-the initial days of the virus and provides a more detailed understanding on these two peripheral characters to the main storyline found in the trilogy.
Theo, the older brother, is a paramedic who is on call the night that the infected come back to life. Not the best profession to be in when the accident victims who appear to be dead are trying to tear into your flesh. Gray is the younger brother who Theo feels more than just a brotherly obligation to. Ever since their parents died, he has been taking care of him. Especially since Gray has severe asthma attacks. Gray is working as a mechanic but is shooting pool at a local bar with a friend when things go haywire.
Most of this quick read takes place on the first night, where the two brothers face off against several harrowing experiences against the undead, while they do their best to survive long enough to reconnect with one another. The pacing is solid and the story could serve as a standalone first night of the apocalypse tale, thought it bridges the brother’s experiences from their initial experiences up until they meet with the rest of the characters from the trilogy.
For those who have read some or all of Jessica’s Meigs’ trilogy, reading this tale is a nice way to learn more about a couple of interesting characters. For those who haven’t ready any of her work, it is a nice brief introduction to her take on the zombie apocalypse.
The Becoming: Brothers In Arms can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007K1KO26/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
I guess if I had waited a day I would have seen the link for the new anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media, Roms, Bombs, and Zoms. But I was excited and had to share the cover art. Well, I’m going to do that again, but this time if you click on that cover art, you will be directed to Amazon where you can purchase this wonderful new anthology (complete with my short story “Until The End”) for the low, low price of $3.99. 21 authors writing about stories with those three little words driving the tale.
Check it out:
Dedicated to all those clueless in romance,
dropping bombs without intent,
and for those brave zombies of heartache,
who love and rise again.
When hearts rot, fuses ignite.
Super geek gets the girl, a righteous preacher and his undead wife, fantastical zombies, the tantric art of zubbing, mindless hive workers, and traditional flesh eating walkers, this anthology has a bit of everything. Our twisted tales pull you into the darkest of darks, where hope is lost, and sustaining life is no simple feat.
Twenty-one authors congealed romance, bombs, and zombies into stories that are diverse, witty, and occasionally gut-wrenching. Travel through time to walk in alternate histories, visit magical realms, and face down pestilence that will literally rot your insides. This collection is sure to warm your cold, dead, heart.
Earlier this year, a friend requested that I take a look at a new publisher and the anthologies they were looking to publish. She was going to be editing one of these tomes and thought I might want to try my hand at the writing a story for it. Evil Girlfriend Media is a new publisher of novels and anthologies and the book my friend thought I might be interested in submitting a short for was intriguingly entitled “Roms, Bombs, and Zoms.” In fact, it was clear that EGM likes titles with three rhyming words. Other anthologies they have coming out: “Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps” and “Witches, Stitches, and Bitches.”
The criteria for writing a story for Roms, Bombs, and Zoms was simple. It had to include those three concepts: Romance, a bomb of some sort (literal or figurative), and of course, my favorite slouching dead things, zombies. Simple, huh? Well, not when you aren’t used to writing romance. Sure, I’ve written about relationships in my stories and even have a story written that has a bit of an erotic slant to it, but romance? This was a new genre for me to tackle. So of course, because I am always up for a challenge, I proceeded to come up with an idea and write a story….but not until about two weeks before the deadline for submitting a story occurred. I was able to squeak in under the wire with my submission, which was a bit longer than what the publisher would have liked (thank God for editing!), but there you have it. I had written my first romance. I guess the fact that the story also had zombies in it was like a security blanket for me…because, you know, I have this thing for zombies. No, my story does not have zombies falling in love, but they serve as a very traumatic backdrop to the love story I created. More shocking than the fact that I had written a romance was that my story was accepted. Honestly, I didn’t know I had it in me, but you are a better judge of that than me if I truly did with this effort. My story is called “Until The End” and I am quite happy with the results. I hope you are too.
Today, EGM released the cover for Roms, Boms, and Zoms. It is very sharp and has wet my appetite for the book itself. I am looking forward to the book’s release, which will be next month. I will share the links to where you can check this book out via Amazon and elsewhere once it is released. But for now, check out the cover and stay tuned for more details!
Meat Coma is a short story that takes place in the aftermath of a zombie uprising. More technically, these are the infected-not undead, but with all the same symptoms. These ‘zombies’ don’t eat endlessly. Instead, they eat until sated then switch off, more or less, going into a ‘meat coma’ for time, until they get the urge to hunt once again. Of course, scratches and bites infect others, but with such limited predatory instincts, the infected are rounded up with comparative ease and efforts are made to find a cure for them.
This story takes place in remote farmland where two families live. One neighbor has lost his wife to the infected while the other family has lost their daughter. They get together one night to discuss the grieving process and how they can cope with such horrible losses. But it’s clear from the beginning that there are ulterior motives at play and everyone has their secrets. This short story uses the backdrop of a zombie invasion to tell a tale of base human needs and desires that uses its backdrop well. A quick read, it brought a twisted smile to my face.
Meat Coma can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ENLO9MW/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Blood Verse is Patrick James Ryan’s first published work and is an anthology of horror tales interspersed with poems. Each poem follows the same format of rhyming couplets-there is no free verse poems in the mix.
As is usually the case with most anthologies, you reach into the goody bag and aren’t sure what you will get each time, especially when there is no set theme. That is the case here. Certainly, each tale has a horror bent to it, but they range from the supernatural to the more ‘regular’ every day type tales of serial killers and grim misfortune. Kudos to the author for giving the reader a diverse set of shorts and poems with some unexpected and entertaining twists.
The good: the author does a solid job of backing up his stories with decent research that allows him to provide us with a book rich in diverse locales and plotlines. It’s clear that effort was put forth to give each tale some heft and a solid background that makes them feel more real. Though not every story has that ‘blink with surprise’ type ending that readers often expect, when they do happen here many were quite satisfying and enjoyable. There are some genuinely entertaining stories on these pages that I enjoyed a great deal. I know the term ‘fun’ is not always associated with horror, but I had fun reading them.
The challenging: I’m not going to say the ‘bad’ because that wouldn’t be fair to the author, because while some of the shorts found here didn’t resonate with me, they were still solidly crafted. I could see the potential in most of them and I admire the author for putting together a very diverse compendium of tales and taking some risks here and there. They just didn’t all hit the mark for me. One of the reasons is that there is a healthy dose of tell vs. show mixed into several of the stories. It is a challenge all authors face-attempting to avoid making the yarn they are spinning feel more like a newspaper account of what is happening. They instead want to give the reader a feeling of immersion, as if they are experiencing everything alongside the characters. The author does accomplish that immersion in many cases, but in some instances it wasn’t there. There were also some typos throughout, noticeable but not a major distraction.
While some stories just didn’t click for me (Pain and the Boxer, Desert Death, Hair as examples) others were very entertaining (Bus Stop, Road Rage Bigot, Walking the Dog, Elevator…among others) and that is what reading an anthology is all about: finding those gold nuggets that make reading a mix of different tales well worth the time, which Blood Verse succeeded in doing for me. Chances are, if you are a horror fan, you will find a few solid nuggets in this book as well.
Blood Verse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988659034/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
The Girl From the Blood Coven gives the reader a short story introduction to Brian Moreland’s novella, The Witching House. Back in 1972, a slaughter occurred at the old Blevins House in Texas. A blood drenched girl stumbles into a bar in the nearby small town and the sheriff must go investigate when she tells him “they’re all dead”. What he finds is both shocking and does a very effective job in setting the stage for the novella that follows. We are given hints at what supernatural darkness is at work within the old stone house and its gore splattered walls. They are tantalizing, disturbing hints, but left me intrigued and hungry to find out more.
The Witching House takes us 40 years into the future and we are introduced to Sarah Donovan, a timid girl who recently started dating Dean Stratton, an adventurer who loves exploring old buildings with his friends. Taking a chance, Sarah agrees to go on a trip with Dean to check out an old haunted house in rural Texas where 25 hippies were murdered 40 years earlier. Their heads were severed in many cases, and others hung themselves, but in some other instances, the bodies of the victims were never found.
The quartet enter the house with the assistance of a local guide and find that the old stone house isn’t just a creepy old place, but seems to be an almost living, breathing entity that seems bent on their destruction. Whether it is the house itself or some dark unknown menace it is clear something hungers for their flesh and blood.
I’ve read Brian Moreland’s two previous novels and was impressed by his ability to spin a horror tale. There is a certain level of dread that builds in his works that is based both on his talent as a researcher who provides his readers with a very detailed and vivid world and a knack for creating suspense with solid pacing. This story is simpler than the historical horror tales he has crafted previously-a ghost story that still has a depth to it because of the believability of the characters and the underlying secrets that are causing the horror to take place.
If I have a criticism of this tale, it perhaps has to do with the character Otis, who I wanted to understand better, especially given his ominous yet sad existence. There was more to him-I could feel it, and wish I could have gotten to know him better. This is a minor quibble though, as this tale is another solid effort from the author that did not disappoint.
The Girl From The Blood Coven can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Girl-Blood-Coven-ebook/dp/B00CI3WCEO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374729375&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+from+the+blood+coven
The Witching House can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Witching-House-ebook/dp/B00CJ96E78/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374728045&sr=8-1&keywords=the+witching+house
Death In The Times of Madness is Michael S Gardner’s compendium of short stories, many of which have a zombie slant to them, as that is his first passion in writing. He’s also published a novella and novel that are zombie-centric too. There are some stories here that diverge from that path though, giving the reader a bit of diversity, though the author ‘sticks with the scrip’ and doesn’t move too far off from what a zombie fan will enjoy. From tales of personal woe to stories that are far grander is scope, the author explores some interesting topics and provides the reader with some moments that really resonate.
Of course, not every story packs the same punch and not all of them were hits in my opinion, but overall, this collection showcases an author who has grown as a writer over the past few years, with his ability to craft characters and stories getting sharper and stronger with time. Some of the tales have no message, just provide simple entertainment, while others pack more emotional heft and lingered in my mind after their completion. Overall, this is a fun, easy-to-read collection of mostly zombie tales that shows the talents of an independent author who continues to get better with every story he writes.
Death In The Times of Madness can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481228196/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
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
Well, I didn’t have to wait too long for this. I was just sharing the link to the audio version of Comes The Dark and now, already, there are links available for the ebook versions. Permuted Press just published this over on Facebook:
The long awaited Permuted reissue of Patrick D’Orazio‘s hit novel COMES THE DARK is now available in the Amazon Kindle and NOOK stores. The original edition has received over 50 four and five star reader reviews between Amazon and Goodreads. Permuted’s edition has been completely re-edited and includes bonus “Dark Tales.”
Well, it’s been a great ride I’ve been on over the past few years. The Library of the Living Dead was very good to me when it gave me a shot as a new author. I think I was pretty good to them by producing a trilogy that sold a few copies here and there. Good enough that when the time to part ways with the Library was upon me, Jacob, the owner of Permuted Press, was very interested in re-releasing my novels.
It’s been an interesting journey, with a lot of twists and turns. Of course, many of them occurred before the first book was ever published, but there have been quite a few since then. Some ups and some downs, including a gaff with the kindle version of Comes The Dark occurred that required some quick thinking. But all’s well that ends well, and that situation ended well. But now my books are in someone else’s hands, and I’m pretty excited about what’s to come. I miss the Library, and I miss Doc, my old publisher, but it has gone by the wayside, and I doubt, sadly enough, that it will ever publish something new again.
Comes The Dark is being re-released with new edits and new content in paperback, ebook, and audible versions by Permuted press this month. The same will be the case with the two sequels, which are coming in March and April. Some things I have added that weren’t included in the original Dark Stories-some freshly written, some dug up from the crypt where I keep a lot of old, dusty things that just need a little bit of a cleaning up before they’re ready to go. Well…not everything should see the light of day from that old crypt, but this stuff I feel deserves to get a good looking over by someone other than me.
I have to admit, what I’m excited the most about the re-release of this trilogy is that they will be available in audio form. You see, for those of you who don’t know me personally, you may not understand why this is what gets me so excited. But if you do know me and my family, and know my son, Zack, you’ll understand why. I guess that makes me nervous for the book’s release in audio format as well-when your boy tells you that you’re his favorite author, but he hasn’t even read any of your stuff yet…well, that’s a lot to live up to.
I’ve been informed that the ebook version of Comes The Dark will be ready to go in the next few days. Once I have a link, I’ll be sharing it. The paper version of the book will hit roughly around 2/26/13, as will the audio version. The great news is that the link is already up for ordering the audio version of the book, and my guess is it will be the same link for the other versions as well-just click on the option you prefer. So if you have a desire to check out my first book on tape (heh, I’m old enough to remember when they were on tape!), click the cover art below and pre-order your copy. I’ll be posting again when the other versions are available as well, so stay tuned!
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