Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Show And Tell

They belonged to Ella. Nobody else could see them. Her bag of secrets; her buttons. 


All she wanted was a friend. Someone she could trust, talk to and play with. She found Peter. And eventually he would ask about her buttons too. They all wanted to see them, her little secrets.

They will all disappear in the end.

Bag of Buttons by Mark Lumby is a short story about a disturbing young girl with serious psychological issues and then some. As sick as her fascination with the other children is, her interactions with Tom are somehow far more sinister. With each reveal of Ella's secrets, I became more fearful for anyone around her. I can't help but wonder what her parents are like. The ending left some loose ends, but when you travel into darkness, you can only see so far, for so long.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Under Pressure

Bali. The Indonesian island for bargain bartering, friendly locals and good times. A holiday hotspot for tourists wanting to let go and indulge in the pleasures on offer. But when there are hundreds of thousands of tourists, there's money to be made. And when there's money to be made, there's the potential to make a fortune. Even if that fortune is built on crime. 

For one Australian traveler, becoming a mule while staying in Bali is worth the cash on offer. A few jobs transporting packages is easy enough. But when the packages and pay become increasingly larger, so do the risks. 

It's already too late for the mule. He decided his future when he agreed to the job. Now the only decision he has left to make is how bad his future will be.


Mule by S.A. Tawks begins with a young man struggling to get through airport security with drugs inside of him. Most of the story is told in long flashbacks, returning to present time every once in a while, as he waits to board his plane. The hook is instantaneous as readers travel along with his memories of drug dealing in Bali, in order to find out if he is successful in transporting the drugs without getting busted. The character remains unnamed throughout the story.

As the character justifies and defends his decision to get involved with Brad and his drug network, his inner struggles with morals, guilt and the loss of a friend in a similar situation are almost enough to elicit sympathy for the character and his ongoing predicament. Almost. The fact remains, the young Aussie chooses easy money, as well as indulging in heavy drinking, drug use and sex with strangers, when he knows damn well the consequences will catch up to him.

There is no backing out...the best he can hope for is minimizing the damage to his life, unless he meets his death by making the wrong choice.

Tawks does a great job of blending action and suspense for this crime drama, and captures the fear and danger involved in this underworld. If you enjoy stories such as Mules, I definitely recommend this novel as well.

As always,
AstraDaemon 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

There's A New Monster In Town, His Name Is Tommy

I first stumbled across Elias Witherow at the Creepy Catalog section of Thought Catalog. That is where I discovered the scariest monster I've ever encountered in the horror genre: Tommy Taffy. Freddy, Pinhead...even those goblin things from Phantasm don't compare to The Third Parent, so when Witherow finally released a full-length novel featuring the terrifying visitor, Tommy, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was excited because Elias Witherow is an excellent story-teller who could put the Crypt Keeper to shame, but the Tommy Taffy stories truly gave me nightmares for months. I didn't even want to answer my door whenever someone knocked.

No one knows where he came from. No one knows what he wants. No one dares ask about his strange physical abnormalities. For a quiet suburban neighborhood, things are about to change. And it starts with a knock at the door.

Follow his rules. Don't call the police. Listen to his lessons. That's what Jack and his family were told. Held captive in their own house, they must face a growing storm of mental and physical trauma as they try to just stay alive.

But even if Jack can survive the horror of his childhood, will his tormentor ever leave him alone? And who is he really?

Who is Tommy Taffy?


The Third Parent by Elias Witherow is not the same story featured at Thought Catalog. As a matter of fact, there is a point in this story that refers to the first Tommy Taffy tale in past tense, so it's established that this Tommy nightmare takes place after the first one. Unfortunately, that means Tommy has been terrorizing more than one family for decades. I was well aware of Tommy's perversions and brutality before I began this story, but readers who are not familiar with the monster Tommy Taffy need to mentally prepare themselves...it's not so much the level of violence, as much as the sick logic Tommy applies to his "lessons." If you think the horror genre has lost it's edge, I dare you to read this.

I wrote about Elias Witherow back in May of this year, but I thought this time I would invite him into the Lair for an interview...

Q. How did you end up writing for the Thought Catalog?

A. They actually reached out to me a while ago and asked for permission to post some of my NoSleep stories. I agreed and I kept in touch with their editors. When the time came to publish my first book, I approached them to see if they were willing to do that. They agreed and I’ve been publishing with them ever since.

Q. Have you written for any other websites or magazines, etc.?

A. I mostly stick to T.C. and the NoSleep reddit. I’ve submitted things in the past to a couple magazines, but nothing really came of it. I write a lot for the NoSleep Podcast though, and I’ve worked on the Darkest Night Podcast as well.

Q. What is the first story you ever published?

A. The first short story I ever published was this little piece of flash fiction called “horse/8min”. It wasn’t much, but it made it into the final cut of my short story collection that I published about a year later. 

Q. Do you consider yourself a horror author or do you just write stories that happen to scare the crap out of other people?

A. I think I do consider myself a horror author. But there are many aspects of horror besides the clich├ęs we are used to. I like to write about horrible things. What shape or form they come it can vary drastically. Like the book I’m working on now wouldn’t be considered by the genre as “horror”, but there are some truly awful things that happen in it.

Q. Where did the idea for Tommy come from?

A. I’m honestly not sure where Tommy Taffy came from. I remember I was driving one day, not really thinking about anything, and he was suddenly there. Everything from his laugh, to his personality, to how he looked…it all was just…there. And I knew I had to write a story about him.

Q. Have readers seen the last of Tommy or is there a chance he will be terrorizing another generation on a different street?

A. I’ll never say “never”, but for now I think Tommy has to go away for a while.

Q. Do you have plans to turn any of your other short story series into a full-length novel?

A. Well, I did that with my short story “Feed the Pig”. I turned it into a full length novel called “The Black Farm”. As for the other short stories? Yeah, I’d love to. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but I’ve been kicking around some ideas. The hard part is picking one.

Q. Do you have any career plans/goals as an author?

A. The dream is to write full time and support myself purely from that. If I could do that, I think I’d be the happiest guy in the world.

Q. Who or what influences your writing?

A. King was a huge influence, from a literal standpoint. As he is with most of us. Other influences stem from personal experiences I’ve had or things I’ve witnessed growing up.

Q. Do you have any writing rituals, such as playing specific music or anything else to set the mood?

A. Yeah for sure. I always put on some dark ambient music before I sit down to write. I can’t do anything with lyrics and prefer some kind of groaning undertone while I work.

Q. What would you like your fans to know about you? What do you want to tell new readers discovering you for the first time?


A. I want my fans to know that if they have any questions or comments or just want to say hi, then feel free to message me on my author page. I’m a pretty friendly guy, I promise haha. I love talking with readers and hearing about their experiences. It’s great fun and I like feeling connected to my base. As for the new readers? Just finish the book/story before casting your stones haha.

Thank you for stopping by, Elias!


As a matter of fact, The Black Farm is on my personal reading list, so we will definitely be seeing more of Witherow in the near future.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Heartbreaking

Sean T. Page is a regular here at the Lair. I recently discovered that he's written a couple of shorts I hadn't read yet. I began this month with 1975...seems only right to include another of his stories, Embarrassment, before November ends, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner.

This flash piece begins with a pregnant Tracy, shunned by her Irish/English family because Glenn, the baby's father is Black. There's so many levels at work here, from the issue of teen pregnancy to racism to family drama, and then Page throws in a paranormal twist.

I'm still crying...

Bless these authors who use their talent to help others.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Date Night

Cinema 9 by Simeon Gregory is the third story I've read by this author, and this is definitely my favorite of the three. Badger is okay and Wooden Nickel is brilliant, brutal story, but Cinema 9 has me in such a twist, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go to a movie theater again. Not only did Gregory offer up a setting any reader can relate to, but he created an original monster with terrifying abilities. I have so many unanswered questions, but I always enjoy an author who leaves me wanting more.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, November 17, 2017

Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Art of Labat

When searching for stories on a site such as Amazon, many readers pass over titles without even reading the book's description, simply because of the cover. Whether it's an overused stock photo, or a lackluster illustration, a bad cover lowers the author's chance of making a good first impression. In a bookstore (yes, they still exist), where books are often faced out, the front cover determines whether the customer turns the book over to check out the summary and quotes on the back.


The cover is kind of like a snapshot of the story within...the first step in setting the mood for the reader. If the cover doesn't appeal to readers or connect with them in some way, some readers will approach a story with a bad attitude and possibly be more critical of editing issues, etc.. Regardless of genre, most folks will agree: illustrations capture the imagination better than a photograph.


With that in mind, periodically, I will be breaking from my reviews and interviews to feature some of the best visual artists I know...

New Orleans, Louisiana has a reputation of being one of the most unique cities in the U.S., with a history steeped in a rich blend of art and culture, so I'm not surprised that someone as talented as L.M. Labat comes from such a place. Labat has been previously featured as an author, here in the Lair, but her talent reaches far beyond the written word. Not only did she design her own cover for her book, The Sanguinarian Id, the novel also includes several of her illustrations within.


Whether inspired by her own struggles of a broken family life, her near-death experiences or just images sprung from the dark corners of her imagination, Labat has found a way to weave together her knowledge of medicine, psychology and the occult into visual artwork that captivates and enchants the minds of viewers, showcasing her various techniques. Her labors in literature and illustrations serve as a coping mechanism for her ongoing nightmares, as well as entertaining many horror fans.

If you are an author or publisher looking for an artist for your next book jacket, or just a collector of interesting pieces, you can contact L.M. Labat at her Facebook page for more information.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Kings of the Dead

Kings of the Dead (Revised and Expanded) by Tony Faville opens with Zombie Hunter Cole explaining how the zombie apocalypse began nearly a year prior, with the swine flu mutating into a zombie virus. This character actually acknowledges the existing zombie genre, and describes how that affected the survival preparations of his group. The story is divided up by dates, so it’s easy to follow the timeline; Cole is essentially writing journal entries.

I love reading zombie novels by authors who pay attention to what the zombiephiles discuss in the realm of “What If,” but when the characters are so well-prepared as Faville’s, it makes for a slightly boring apocalypse scenario. The first two dozen pages didn’t have much action, so I began to resent Cole for rambling about how awesome his survival group was, until he mentioned they came across some zombies that were running just as fast the survivors. In the beginning, he had made it a point to say that they were shamblers – great hook by the author, but I felt like it took too many pages to get there.

Over a few months time, Cole’s group has to move their location, one of their members is displaying unusual behavior even though he does not appear to be infected, and they have reason to believe the military is actively using chemical warfare in an attempt to stop the zombie hordes. What begins as a slow trickle soon gushes into some gut-wrenching gore, and suspenseful battle scenes.

Faville has created an interesting balance between the struggle for survival, and the desire for a “normal” life, with elements of deviancy such as cannibalism. The story is filled with twists and turns, and his imagery ranges from breath-taking to repulsive. None of the gore was overdone, as is the case in some novels where it’s tossed in just to shock the reader. Slow to advance, the story does evolve into a more familiar horror thriller, complete with complex character relationships, and a bloody payoff for patient readers. (And, I LOVED the reference to “The Postman.”)

As always,
AstraDaemon