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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All Aboard

The last thing Dawn remembers is being alone on her bed, waiting for her husband to come home. Now she’s in total darkness, on a cold concrete floor. And there seems to be something with her.

Ghost Train by Joshua Scribner (an author who has been previously featured at the Lair here and here) is one of the best short stories that he has ever written, and the most original ghost story I've ever read. The suspense is perfect. PERFECT. Once the mystery behind the ghosts is resolved, Dawn's last moments are bone-chilling. I wouldn't mind the same story retold from her husband's perspective.

Ghost Train is a truly frightening ride.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Choose Your Poison

It's been six years since the dead rose up from their graves to walk among us. In that time, the rules for survival have been altered dramatically. They are about to change yet again, as Alex and Eve, while scavenging for supplies, make a startling discovery that will forever change the rules of engagement between the undead and the living.

MUTATION by Michael J. Evans is one of the very best zombie stories I have ever read, period. The fantastic use of suspense had me sitting on the edge of my chair, literally. The two main characters, Alex and Eve, make a startling discovery while scavenging, which changes the rules of engagement between the undead and the living.

If zombies aren't your sub-genre of choice, check out my review of another Evans story, For The Preservation of The Species. Once you're familiar with the stories of Michael J. Evans, you'll realize he doesn't think much of the survival of the human race...however, horror fans will enjoy every sickening moment.

One of my favorite aspects about Evans' writing style is his ability to create scenarios that have never crossed your mind, but, once they have, his storytelling will leave you questioning your will to live, should you find yourself in one of his life-altering nightmares.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, November 13, 2017

Never Text And Drive. NEVER.

Speed Bump by Sam Galbraith left me feeling so sick...nothing like real-life horror to bring the pain. In this case, the author had two layers of drama and suspense in the form of a bad relationship and a woman who texts while driving. One mistake leads to another. Poor Meatloaf.

I definitely recommend this story to all readers.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Executioners Return

After one hundred years of silence, The Hand of Death is on the radar again – and Franklin is assigned to deal with the situation. Part of a team, they discover it’s not just Jorick who’s involved, but also the Tormentor, Kateesha. In a battle against legends, what can go wrong? Celebrate Shades of Gray’s eighth anniversary and read the attack on Oren’s den through the Executioner’s point of view. 

WARNING: This story contains spoilers for the novel Shades of Gray. Not recommended as a stand alone.


Franklin: The Promise by Joleene Naylor is another story set in the world of Amaranthine. This particular tale contains crucial spoilers, so, if you haven't read Shades of Gray, but you intend to, go read the novel first. Usually, it's safe to read Tales of the Executioners as a mini-series, but this is an exception. You have been warned.

After reading the other stories in this mini-series, I could appreciate the Executioners' roles even more. Naylor has put an incredible about of thought into the details of her Amaranthine creation. I've read a few other series with multiple full-length novels, as well as short story features, but very few can come close to the complexity of this vampire world.

Most of the time, the Executioner tales have been a mix of drama, suspense and even romance, but this time, the story is quite horrifying and the ending nearly brought me to my knees.



A cartoon vampire on the “haunted house” advertisement catches Greneth’s eyes. Then, a couples-only discount sweetens the deal, if he can find someone to take. Griselda seems the perfect choice, but when she starts asking silly questions – like just what is a haunted house, anyway? – and talking about so-called real ghosts, he wonders if he’s made the right choice.

Greneth: Halloween Hijinks by Joleene Naylor began somewhat light-hearted and slowly turned into a dark and guilt-ridden situation. I don't understand why the female vampires in these stories give the males such a difficult time about most everything. I'm thinking it has something to do with the time period they lived in as humans. The interactions between the Executioners give away more about the characters' personalities than their inner thoughts. A sociologist could have a field day in the Citadel.

I enjoyed the haunted house setting, rather than the typical assignment setting. I would like to see more origin stories about the female vampires.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Is This A Joke?!

What is the most dire situation have you been in? Jaffrey Concoost is just starting to build a life in the city when an unlikely event takes place, he and the rest of the employees gets to be part of an act of crime. With only a single reason to hold on to dear life, will he be able to continue his journey, to buy a house, a new car, and make his dreams come true?

Three Dead Bodies by Damien Cords is another editing nightmare. I found this story looking using an Amazon horror search, but this is a drama at best. Impossible to relate to the main character in any way, as his thoughts are all over the place. Describing the antagonist as a "mysterious black man" over and over shows a serious lack of effort. I could go down a list of writing atrocities, but I'd rather move on to the next item on my list.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bloody Hell, Hire An Editor

Steve is out for revenge.He has endured three years of bullying at his place of work. So arriving unannounced at the Christmas works do and armed to the teeth he makes sure this will be a Christmas they will never forget.

Bully by C.S. Hassall is a difficult read due to multiple editing and formatting issues. I'm not sure if the author tried to write a legitimate a story or just bang out a revenge fantasy. Steve definitely comes across as a disgruntled employee, but Hassall spends more time describing the setting than revealing his character's thoughts and feelings. A flashback would have given the story more depth.

I think this story had potential, but it appears the author published a rough draft.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Off The Beaten Path

After dark. In the park. A warning ignored.

What could go wrong for two college students looking for a little alone time off the beaten trail? After all, they're not hurting anyone. Right? The inhabitants of the Clearing would disagree.




The Clearing by A.M. Rycroft is a thrilling piece of flash fiction. If it wasn't for the warning sign spotted by the couple, I wouldn't have guessed who the inhabitants would be. Even when they did make their appearance, I was still caught off guard. I loved the ending, but the story left me with so many questions. I think Rycroft needs to send more characters into The Clearing or write another story centered on the security guard...maybe the same story, but from his perspective.

Rycroft is definitely an author I will have to keep on my watchlist.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Don't Touch The Wildlife

Sarah would do anything for the tiny newborn orphan creature she found. The only problem is what to feed him when it turns out he has a taste for flesh.

The Foundling by Renee Lee is a frightening story for many reasons. Elwood, the creature, is terrifying, but Sarah's nonchalant attitude to his disturbing characteristics is possibly more frightening. I love the originality of this story, but I felt Lee spent too much time on Sarah's inner thoughts and not enough time on Elwood and his supernatural nature. The author sort of breezed through the creature's interactions with visitors to the house. I would have like to read more about Thomas and his alone time with Elwood.

All in all, the story is an excellent reminder to leave wildlife in the wild.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Backup Plans For Backup Plans

Insurance by Matt Darst is a short piece written for charity. All proceeds will be donated to Stand Up To Cancer. The story is a blend of science fiction and crime drama, and well-done at that. Every bit of this time travel journey came with a surprise, avoiding the typical clichés and plot devices. Usually, I have trouble following the timelines of stories in this sub-genre (no pun intended), but Darst does an excellent job of connecting the dots for the reader to travel along.

Of course, when I read something I enjoy this much, I always want more, but I feel pretty strongly that Darst should create a full-length novel for his character Lash. Seems a shame to create something so elaborate just for a short story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, November 6, 2017

Should've Put The Trash Out

House Warming by Ryan Arnold is a flash fiction piece filled with more than one horror. I had a pretty good idea of what Mason had really been up to, but I wasn't prepared for the turn of events. I expected something along the lines of a haunting, but this is much worse...not unlike The Grudge. I'm really impressed with how much story Arnold fit into just a few pages. You could read this in a matter of minutes, but the visuals will stay with you for a long time.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Never Stray

The Beast In The Cave by H. P. Lovecraft is something I decided to read just to take a break from modern horror. Just being lost in an underground cave would be enough to terrify me, but the narrator is soon surrounded in darkness, seemingly hunted by something. The ending is almost a relief, until one realizes that Lovecraft ended the story before the situation is truly resolved.

It's not always about Cthulhu and friends...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Details Will Kill You

The Old Callow House by Nathanial Edwards has a serious formatting issue that is sure to turn off many readers, which is a shame because this is one of the best abandoned house stories I've ever read. I had no idea why the previous owners disappeared or what would happen to the three teenagers who dared to explore the inside. When one of them has an epiphany about the floor plans, I freaked out as much as the character did. I wouldn't mind reading another story centered on this house.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, November 3, 2017

Behave On Those Field Trips

Shiny Happy People by Kelly Martin left me with so many questions, I wish she would write another story about Charlie Parrish...perhaps, a prequel. In any case, this is a great suspense story that took me for a quite a ride. I would recommend it to any reader, but I think fans of Stephen King will really love the nod to one of his classics. As a child, I remember being warned to be cautious around the carnies...after reading this, I may never set foot in a carnival again.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Kept His Ass Closed" (sic)

The Penn by Christina Charles is another fine example of why authors should use a professional editor. I don't care if it is a short story...this took some serious effort to read through to the end. This could have been a decent revenge story if more effort had been put into the writing process. I can't tell you how hard I laughed when I read "kept his ASS closed" (instead of eyes) in a prison story!

I wouldn't recommend this one to any reader. It's as if the author didn't care enough about her own work to attempt to clean it up.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Below Ground = Death

1975 Year of the Zombie by Sean T Page actually begins in month nine. There is a definite divide between the Marines and everyone else. Even with the tremendous amount of supplies and the many layers of security, bunker fever sets in and increases the level of suspicion and conspiracies among the various groups within the underground compound. Survivors begin to disappear from the steel sanctuary, and a technician is tasked with finding the missing people. During his search, it becomes obvious the bunker fever is much worse than anyone can imagine.

While I appreciate the originality of the story and the unexpected turn of events, this is not necessarily Page's best work. I miss the action and horror I enjoyed so much in Meta-horde. I think Page's creative writing skills are best enjoyed in the form of a novel, rather than a short story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trick or Treat? Trick. Definitely, Trick.

28 Seconds Later by Duncan P. Bradshaw lost me on the first words, "Comrade Slutsky," but I read it anyway. The story takes place in 1984, within a secret Russian facility performing scientific experiments on their Olympic athletes. During an inspection, it becomes evident that something has gone terribly wrong.

The author spends a considerable amount of time describing the laboratory. I was nearly a third through the story before any action took place. Phrases such as "Kung Fu Chopping" and "renowned fornicator" also cranked up the cringe factor. I'm not even going to bother discussing the spy modeled after Sean Connery's James Bond. Apparently, Bradshaw likes to blend comedy with horror, but I wasn't amused...or frightened, for that matter...just painfully aware of how long it took me to get through this short story.

What I thought would be an interesting conspiracy theory zombie tale turned into The Three Stooges meets Day of the Dead (the original with the underground bunker). I'm sure some of my cheesier friends might find Bradshaw's work mildly entertaining, but it's not something I'll be recommending.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, October 30, 2017

Karma With A Coin Flip

Wooden Nickel by Simeon Gregory is a brilliant short story. The build-up is slow, but completely worth reading through as the true horror of the wooden nickel is revealed. I don't know if Gregory intended Stan's backstory to be funny, but I laughed myself into tears, only to be gut-punched, kicked in the face and stomped on by the ending. I felt thoroughly destroyed after discovering what the boys brought upon themselves. Moral of the story: be kind to others...you never know how a coin toss will turn out.

I reviewed Badger by Simeon Gregory back in August, and the stories are so radically different, it's hard to believe it's the same author. I'd love to see Gregory keep the writing style used in Wooden Nickel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Beware of Shortcuts

Warm Shelter: A Ghost Story by Rich Hawkins left me more confused than terrified. I'm not sure if something supernatural happened to Alex or if he just suffered from drug-fueled hallucinations. The descriptions are intense; I felt the cold, smelled the rot, but, if there is a point to this story, it remains lost on me. I don't think Alex deserved to have his life ruined because he took a shortcut in an attempt to get to work on time. I'm not convinced that any kindness would have made the slightest bit of difference to the vagrants. I think anyone who crossed paths with them were going to be screwed.

However, this would be the perfect story to read if you were fighting the flu and full of cold medicine...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, October 26, 2017

I Bet It Was A Monday

Chicago Undead 3: A Bad Way To Start Your Day by Shawn Weaver is another story set in the windy city overrun with zombies. Unlike the first two, however, this installment is told from the perspective of a dead man who doesn't seem to grasp that he is deceased. In some ways, it's totally sick, with rather graphic details including entrails and such spilling all over. In other ways, it's freaking hilarious. Not only did the main character have crap luck before being killed, even as one of the undead he can't catch a break.

The fourth story will be called Field Trip and I'm hoping it will follow the students who appear in this story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, October 1, 2017

More From Tales of the Executioners

Dismas: Prayers of the Damned is another book in the Tales of the Executioners mini-series by Joleene Naylor. When I reviewed several of these stories, during the summer, the tales were listed as being in a particular order within the product description of the actual Kindle download. Since then, the author Joleene Naylor has clarified on her website: "It doesn't matter what order* you read the stories in - each is a stand alone short! *Due to the difference in publishers, stories may appear in a different order on Amazon." I wish she had clarified that from the beginning of the series. Just goes to show you can't always trust the product descriptions.

Dismas is currently my favorite executioner tale. I love the mix of conflicts swirling around Dismas. He struggles with issues of loyalty, spirituality and self-discovery. I've never been a fan of Kateesha, so I enjoyed seeing her displaced. Naylor uses the perfect balance of drama and action to lure readers further into the world of Amaranthine.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Thursday, September 28, 2017

When Something Bugs You

Harold was always a man with a plan. Out of the house after high school, and take the world by storm. But the storm fought back, and now Harold is right back where he started. All the way back to the room he'd occupied as a child.
But he's not alone in that room. Something resides there with him, and it's had a dozen years on its own. A dozen years to grow. A dozen years to multiply. And now that Harold is back, he'll have to face his worst nightmare.
And if he loses, it might just be his last night on earth.


Jitters by Ken Stark has such vivid details, I cringed through most of this story. Even though Stark's writing thoroughly grossed me out, I have to give him props for his realism. If you have a bug phobia, this story will absolutely traumatize you. I have a bug phobia and Stark gave me nightmares with this horrific battle between man and cockroach. This story makes the cockroach scene in Creepshow look mild. The ending offers no peace of mind.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Wildlife is Really Wild

On their way to a cabin in the woods, Momo and her three friends are concerned that the nearby one-road town does not appear on GPS. If they're not careful, neither will they.

Reclamation Project by Jerry Gerold is a truly creepy story deserving of a sequel. The set-up is a little slow and some of the interaction between the characters is unnecessary, but by the time the horror is revealed, Gerold has transformed the cabin-in-the-woods setting into a terrifying new experience. I was expecting deranged country folk or a hidden government experiment...I wasn't prepared for the sick twist Gerold delivers. It almost seems a shame to use such an original idea in a short story format. This could be an exciting new series...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Flight of the Butterfly

A once-thriving theater is rumored to be haunted by little Clarissa Salem, a young ballerina who disappeared from inside her dressing room many years ago. Now dilapidated and closed down, this theater is no longer visited, at least not to see the performances. One young girl double-dog dares another to spend the night in this theater. That is a perfectly safe outing for these two young girls, right? Unless little Clarissa is still hanging around.

In “The Hunger,” a butterfly wakes up to find that nectar from flowers no longer holds any interest for her. A strange new craving has taken over.



Dance For Me by Lisa Binion is a serving of two stories. I have no idea why the author thought it was necessary to have an introduction for each short story...instead of reading the stories with zero expectations, I was reluctant to read them at all because of the intros. Author notes should be placed at the end.

Dance For Me took forever with the set-up. Never a good idea to spend that much time building up a short story. By the time something supernatural takes place, the ending is rushed and sloppy.

The Hunger is quite original, with the story being told from the POV of a butterfly. It's a piece of flash fiction, which is disappointing. Rather than waste space on intros and the doll story, I wish the author had written more about the butterfly's new thirst.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Beauty of Horror

Senna Collins is a normal girl from a small town full of whispers and sideways glances. For the past few weeks, all of those whispers have been about her failed declaration of love for a girl at school. Senna wants to hide out in the cornfields until it all blows over. 

To make matters worse, a carnival has set up in a field near town. It’s too awkward for Senna to go with her friends, but if she stays home, she will be an outsider in every conversation for weeks. She’ll have to check it out, alone. There’s just one problem, this is no ordinary carnival. 

One of the acts is bringing the dead to life-literally. Senna soon finds herself in the center of a madhouse of carnies and townspeople. Will she capture the heart of an exotic necromancer, or is the relationship dead from the start?



Rogue Taxidermy by Sarah Doebereiner is a coming of age story woven with elements of horror and the supernatural. I never expected this much depth from a short story about a girl and a carnival.  The similarities and contrasts between Senna and Aves are a beautiful way to show how we perceive ourselves versus how others perceive us. The nature of Aves' "puppets," while horrific, add another layer to the issue of identity. I am floored by this story.

I sincerely hope the author considers writing a full-length book about Senna...this character could easily command her own series. We need more stories like this in young adult fiction for the readers who feel they are on the fringes of society. Well done.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Retch Out

Somewhere down the road he's there alone.Traveling endlessly. Waiting with deadly patience for his next lift. Biding his time until another stops for their bitter judgment. Thumb out, soles to asphalt. Who will offer a ride.... to the Night Walker......


Night Walker by Tyler Dibert is a story about a rich man making a very bad decision in the middle of nowhere. The pace is awkward and rough due to a lack of editing, which ruined what could have been a great story about judging someone based on their appearance. The ending lacked any real terror, just some gore-filled images.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, September 15, 2017

SLURP!!

The residents of Sunnyville Living are disappearing. It’s a nursing home owned by Lillian and Robert Williams, but it is no ordinary home for the elderly.

Henry Carlson is a quiet elderly man who lives as one of the many residents of the nursing home. He notices the healthy residents passing unexpectedly.

Something isn’t right.

One night Henry awakes to witness something horrifying happening at the home. It’s terribly heinous and the authorities must know to put a stop to it.

Will Henry be able to get away and get help before it’s too late?



Sunnyville Living by Maddox Asher would have been better as a piece of flash fiction. Too much time is spent on Henry's reflections, and by the time any action occurs, it's too predictable. A good idea, but poor delivery.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tim vs. Tammy

A little, just a little bit-- that's all Tim Hanely needs to tide him over until next month's check comes in. So when Marv agrees to let him do some cleaning up behind his supermarket, Tim believes he's found the break he needs. 

But when the sun goes down and the doors lock, Tim finds out he's been hired to do more than just clean...



Wrapped By Tammy by Michael McCord caught me off guard. This story is the Maximum Overdrive version of a grocery store. Tim, a self-proclaimed bum with a drinking problem, is the main character, but Tammy is a scene-stealer. I'd love to know how Tammy ended up at the grocery store in the first place...there's a history there, begging for a prequel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dinner and Dessert

TWICE THE CHILL - Two SHORT Horror Stories by Rachel A Olson

FAMILY DINNER

Sometimes it's hard to believe there really are creatures that go bump in the night. Bey had spent his entire life running through the woods and never once saw anything to convince him there were creatures worth fearing. When his littler sister, Chensei, whines about the trip home at night, Bey only mocks her. Until she disappears beyond the treeline.

I, PONTIANAK

Everyone hates and fears monsters, except for when you’re the monster. I never asked for it, and honestly I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed it. But I am what I am, and I can’t change it. Hell, I can’t even control it. My name used to be Anastasia, and I am a Pontianak.



Twice the Chill by Rachel A Olson contains two great horror stories. Family Dinner seems like a typical "scary woods" story, but the ending is brutal and brilliant. I, Pontianak paled in comparison...while it is original, it lacked the shock factor of the first story. I think the author should consider switching the order of the two.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Waste of My Time

The world is a dangerous place to live, we all try to belong to this world and we all try to follow the rules, unluckily for us every nation has a different set of rules and the boundaries of where one rule ends and one rule begins is smudged over.
Everybody wants an exotic holiday but they do not want to conform to the lands laws or religious views, what happens next is a true life horror story.
It is down to us writers to paint the world in a different light, to create and recite stories that are easy to read and easy to understand, the world is a dangerous place to be but between these pages of this book the horror will not bite back at you.
The author brings you five short stories that will shake your soul and will have you keeping the bedside lamp on at night.


The World is Dangerous by Darren Hobson begins with a ridiculously long introduction, which is completely unnecessary, and not unlike a sermon. Mist and Snowfall, the first story, takes forever to get to any action and has a crap ending. Look What Daddy Did To The Sky, the second story, is worse than the first and read more like a history report. Corner of the Eye, number three, is far better than the first two and appears to take the form of sleep paralysis, but appearances can be deceiving. Lavender Girl, the fourth, is another meandering story. Impaled, the last story, is bitter and misogynistic.

Overall, none of these stories were frightening in anyway, and the author should've hired a professional editor, although I doubt any editor could've helped much with this steaming pile.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Girl Deserved More

A short story of the macabre.

At Jeff's urging, Liz reluctantly agrees to a weekend-getaway in the Pocono Mountains to work things out. But when a mysterious little girl suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Liz's nightmare is just beginning.



The Girl in the Glass by T.A. Bradley has a great buildup of suspense surrounding the mysterious girl in the road, but the ending is too rushed. I'm not sure how to categorize this story because more time is spent describing the car wreck, rather than the history behind the girl. By the time anything truly frightening happens, the story is over. I wish the author had been more focused when writing this piece.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Too Much

Standing before a precipice of her own making, the cost of a life hiding behind beauty are required to be paid in full. Could it be that the currency one acquires will not suffice on such a fine day? Would the bill collector relent, if sufficient favors are traded, to accept soiled foreign notes?

A glacier hewed mountain bears witness to the cold passage of time’s resolution where some live the lifespan of a Mayfly. Others, far older, have known the rise and fall of such as these.



A Fine Day by Jeff Hayes is better than the description, but still a bit of a disappointment. I don't think the subject matter necessarily qualifies as horror (I fund this story through a Kindle horror search). The way the eating disorder is described is clever and the relationship interesting, but the story is too wordy and drawn out, so the good parts are lost in a sea of adjectives.

I think Hayes should redirect his efforts to a literary drama. The main character deserves a full-length novel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cheryl Has Had Enough

Eaters: The Resistance by Michelle DePaepe takes this zombie series to another level by mixing horror with science fiction. I haven't seen a genre mash-up like this since The Omega Dog, and I think it's an excellent shift by the author. If you're burned out on the whole zombie-apocalypse-changes-average-person-into-warrior scenario, you need to check out the Eaters storyline. Unlike most undead novels, the infected do not take a back seat to the survivors and the "bad guys" and "good guys" often change roles depending on the day's events.

This sequel takes place a few months or so after the first book ends. Cheryl has reunited with people from her past, although the reunions are not what she expected. Fort San Manuel gave her sanctuary after her brutal journey from Colorado to Arizona, but all good things must come to an end, especially when Cheryl realizes she has more than one threat to deal with. As the former insurance agent continues to fight for her life, acquiring as many new skills as she is able to to increase her chances of survival, Cheryl learns how the world-wide outbreak began.

Keeping in mind, over a year has past since Cheryl went camping with Mark, as well as what she went through in the first book, it's not that hard to believe how much she's changed. After losing so much, I can also understand why she is struggling to hold on to what she has left from her previous life. However, I'm concerned she is not going to last much longer if she doesn't find a balance between what she wants for herself and what she wants for everyone else.

I hope DePaepe doesn't take as long to release the third installment.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Friday, September 8, 2017

Insurance Agent Vs. Zombies

Eaters by Michelle DePaepe follows the survival of Cheryl, an insurance agent returning from a weekend camping trip with her fiancé, only to discover a deadly virus outbreak that is mutating the afflicted.
God help us if this is how the zombie apocalypse goes down…zombies are bad enough – zombies that are capable of coordinated attacks and basic problem-solving are an early invitation to put a bullet in your head to avoid the inevitable. The zombies begin as infected people with an insane craving for rotting food, but eventually they attack and eat non-infected people as well, and there is a rumor that the virus has gone airborne.
I loved the development of Cheryl; in the beginning, she is very dependent on her fiancé, who has just returned from a tour of duty in the Army, but she quickly learns to adapt to the horror around her. There were a few twists that I wasn’t expecting, concerning her interactions with some of the other survivors. It’s always refreshing when an author can write something original, and not predictable.
I read this in one sitting, and nearly flipped out when I reached the end and realized this was the beginning of a new series. I will be reviewing the sequel, The Resistance, in the next day or two, so check back this weekend!
As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, September 7, 2017

What's With Guys and Basements?

Don't Ask About The Guy in The Basement by Jason Ingolfsland is a disturbing story about a new house with a catch: there's a guy in the basement and he has an unbreakable lease. The couple buying the home are desperate, so they accept the house, creepy guy included. Unfortunately, the husband becomes obsessed with his downstairs neighbor and his marriage begins to crumble. The ending is a superb twist.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Penzig Should Put People in the Basement More Often

Guy Wakes Up In A Basement by T.L. Penzig reminded me of another story I read earlier this year about a guy waking up with amnesia, Pursuit. However, this story is far better than the other. Penzig uses everything from setting to suspense to dark humor to bring readers into the mind of Arthur, the guy who wakes up in the basement. When Arthur receives additional injuries during his exploration, I swear my head hurt too.

The ending is outstanding. The dramatic identity reveal could have sufficed, but Penzig goes above and beyond with a sinister discovery about Arthur's predilections and his "so what" attitude, complete with smugness. This story would've made the Crypt Keeper proud.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Death In The Streets

The Watcher by A.L. Butcher is a tale of Jack the Ripper, told from the killer's POV. I wouldn't necessarily categorize this as horror. There's no build up of suspense, no mystery, just a graphic description of another brutal murder by the Ripper. I will give props to the author for painting such a morbid, visceral slaughter, but it takes more than violence and gore to be truly frightening. Even with a glimpse from the victim's POV, this is more of show-and-tell than anything else.

In the future, the author might want to think about including more personal details about characters, to elicit more of a response from readers.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, September 4, 2017

The End of Life

Horror author Stephen A North recently released a double-feature, Like A Man and Purchase Order #2113-21A, two short stories about apocalyptic and dystopian survivors. North is best known for his Dead Tide series, but he has also written a few science fiction stories as well.

Like A Man begins like a scene from Scarface and evolves into an action-packed invasion unlike anything I've read in a any horror or sci-fi story. While not much is revealed about the character Rudy, he is someone I still rooted for. The description of the enemy is fantastic and I wish North had saved such a creation for a novel, or even a novella, rather than such a brief thriller.

Purchase Order #2113-21A is a mystery, right up to the very end, but fascinating the entire time. Usually, I'm frustrated when I only know what the main character knows, but, in this case, the lack of information makes the fight scenes feel more desperate. I think fans of Warhammer 40K might get a kick out of this sci-fi story.

If you haven't read the first three books in the Dead Tide series, I suggest you do so soon because the fourth book will be featured at the Lair in the near future.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Parents Never Believe The Kids

The Stain in the Stairwell by A.P. Sessler is such an excellent, original short story, I would LOVE to see it made into a movie. Sessler mixed in all the elements crucial to a truly terrifying nightmare: mystery, suspense and children...of course, the "monster" is exceptional. In hindsight, Sessler is quite clever with his use of seemingly insignificant details. I strongly recommend that everyone reads this twice to truly appreciate the author's writing style.

Reading The Stain in the Stairwell is much like falling down the stairs: the beginning is slow, at first, but, as you pick up speed, you know the ending is going to mess you up.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, August 25, 2017

WTF Did I Just Read?!!

The Assignation by Edgar Allan Poe is one of his stories that I've never read. I thought it would be a good idea to read a classic, but it left me feeling a bit like a troglodyte trying to decipher hieroglyphics. From what I understood, as the narrator is returning home in a gondola, a woman accidentally drops her baby into the canal, but a stranger is able to rescue the child. The woman arranges a rendezvous with the hero, but this proves to be fatal for all involved.

The ending might be confusing for those trying to figure out what happened to the narrator...I suggest paying close attention to the very beginning of the story, before the narrator mentions Venice. Even with this hint, I think readers will wonder why in the hell Poe bothered writing this story. If I remember correctly, he is referring to an affair of Byron's, but using allegory instead of being direct.

This story is also known as The Visionary. Some people think this is Poe's best work...I am not one of those people.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Road Rage Gone Wrong

The Stranger by Kathy Dinisi is basically a crappy mix of Jeepers Creepers and Joy Ride. The beginning is good enough to hook readers with a photographer trying to get home within a specific amount of time, but it goes downhill quickly after that. There isn't enough suspense to elicit any fear. There's not much to the main character either, so I didn't feel anything for her. Maybe if the author had stuck to real-life horror instead of involving the supernatural angle, I might have felt something.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Family Secrets

In the Night by Melanie Rosa is a fantastic horror story. I had no idea what to expect. I thought maybe some Purge type of stuff happened after sunset, but, when I read about the camping trip, the story took on a supernatural feel and became truly frightening. The pace is absolutely perfect, and I love how the family secret is revealed...at night.

Whenever I read anything, my brain instantly converts words into moving images with no effort from my conscious mind. Reaching the end of the story is kind of like having the power go out just as a scary movie scene is beginning. I can't help but feel the ending is a tiny bit of a cliff-hanger. I would definitely love to know more about Jack's family. Maybe the author could write a follow-up short from Alice's POV.

As I've implied before and will likely again, stories with children raise the emotional stakes drastically.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Don't Feed Horses After Dark

Badger by Simeon Gregory would have worked better as a flash fiction piece. The author spends too much time describing Anton's drive home. I also think many of the relationship moments with J.J. and the parrot are also unnecessary. Gregory should have just started the story with a news report on TV about the accident, quickly followed by Anton checking on the horses. The outside scene, especially the ending is really entertaining, and I wish the author would have focused more on the action because his descriptions of the attack are grotesque and terrifying.

This story did make me think twice about taking my dog outside in the middle of the night.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Chirping of Beds

Terror By Night written by Vishual Persaud might have been a good story if not for the horrific lack of editing. I'm not referring to typos (although there are plenty)...the sentence structure and haphazard story line left me feeling haggard, not entertained. I swear, I'm not even entirely certain what the hell this story is supposed to be about.

At first, I thought it might be about night terrors caused by family dysfunction, then I thought it might be a story about demonic possession. Unfortunately, the writing style became so chaotic, by chapter four, I no longer recognized anything resembling a story form. The ending explains why nothing makes any sense, but I doubt many readers would bother finishing this story.

As always,
AstraDaemon