Wednesday, February 28, 2018

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Dear John, A Letter To The Undead by Michael Kelso is a personal account of how a zombie outbreak begins in one city. Jonathan is sharing his story from a prison cell. Although he appears to be a type of survivalist, open to the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, his preparedness doesn't do him any good. I found this story to be more realistic than many other undead scenarios.

I think you'll be seeing more of Kelso's work in the Lair this year...


I can't help but wonder how many of us could easily end up in Jonathan's situation. All it takes is one wrong decision or one moment of hesitation and even the best laid plans come tumbling down. Do we really know what we would do in his situation? Really?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Undead Fairies

Soar among the redwoods in this bite-sized adventure with Chloe, the recently divorced fairy inventor. She's the one who'll discover the encroaching zombie horde, but what will she do when she does?

Fairies Versus Zombies by Wendy Fisher is the story of a zombie outbreak among the fairy folk. I love that the main fairy, Chloe, has a prosthetic leg and marital problems. I enjoyed the lengthy battle and the alliance with the wasps. However, even with zombie fairies, I wouldn't categorize this as horror...not for adults...I think this story, while appealing to a wide age range, should be marketed towards the young adult fantasy readers. 

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 26, 2018

THIS STORY Is Abandoned

Lisa has nowhere to go. 
She’s been kicked out of her apartment in Queens by her alcoholic boyfriend and has no other friends in the city. A co-worker tells her about a house on Staten Island where she can live in rent-free, but Lisa comes to realize the price that comes with living in an abandoned house. 

Abandoned by Carol McMahon is a ghost story without a ghost. The lengthy set-up, with the building's condition being described over and over, is completely unnecessary. The descriptions of the nighttime activity is terrifying, especially since Lisa lives by herself. The ending is confusing and doesn't offer any explanation of what was happening.

I would have enjoyed some connection to Grace...maybe she knew there is something evil in the building and she deliberately invites people to stay at the apartment to feed whatever is in the building. Alas, not the case.

As always,
AstraDemon

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Modern Fable

Be Careful What You Wish For by A.C. Hutchinson is a fantastic short story with dark humor. I thought it was funny...David had a gift, abused his gift and paid for it. Envisioning his table visitor as Samuel L. Jackson made it even better. The author did a fabulous job describing the characters. Hutchinson took a couple of common themes and twisted them together to form a modern fable.


This story is going to be added to my nominee list for Top 2018 Short Stories. We need more modern tales like this. While I love the classics, Aesop's Fables aren't as popular as they once were and sometimes adults need reminding of those valuable lessons.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kindle Spamming

After a hundred of years of overpopulation and resource scarcity on Earth, the Generation program dispatches its first ship. The large vessel, Generation-01, is destined to colonize the Trappist system, 40 light years away. In transit, however, the crew encounters an unforeseen difficulty, jeopardizing their dreams for a new future. Will they find a solution, or will Generation-01 be pulled into the depths of a massive star?

Gen-01 by Zachariah Wahrer has an interesting concept, but this flash fiction piece pales in comparison to Wahrer's other short stories. It seems like he wrote a few pages of "story" just to advertise his sci-fi novel series. I chose the story to be entertained, but now I feel spammed.


This type of bait and switch is happening more and more with Kindle stories on Amazon, with both short stories and novels...readers expecting a decent story, only to be greeted with promos from the author. Granted, authors can do whatever they like with their e-files, but it's ridiculous when the advertisements take up more space than the actual story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 23, 2018

Dark City, Part 3 of 3

WARNING: I strongly suggest you read my review of the first story, Dark City: Dark Night, before you read this review, as well as the second story, Dark City: Darker Night.

Dark City: Darkest Night by Abe Evergreen takes place two years after the second story ends, followed by several time jumps, two years each time. Most of the focus is on Yima's survival training. As she becomes a teenager, she starts to act out. The ending sucked, mainly for the lack of details of the night's events.

I don't know what in the hell happened to the author. Evergreen did such a great job at building suspense and orchestrating intensely devastating scenes in the first two stories, but the third installment is a fart in the wind compared to the previous events. It didn't help that Yima comes off as a spoiled, ungrateful brat.

I didn't mind the time jumps when I thought they would lead to some serious action, but that never happens. What a disappointing ending to the trilogy.


I'll never understand why an author would change his or her writing style before a series is completed. I'm not even commenting as a reviewer...as a reader, I almost feel betrayed. Maybe I will start calling this Gimple Syndrome.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dark City, Part 2 of 3

WARNING: I strongly suggest you read my review of the first story, Dark City: Dark Night, before you read this review.

Dark City: Darker Night by Abe Evergreen is the second short story in a dystopian trilogy. The city is overwhelmed by mutating flu viruses, with scientists unable to keep up with the demand for vaccines. Hoarding is a crime, but also a necessity to survival. I really like the way Lamp thinks, but his sister just pisses me off. I couldn't get over her level of denial and how she puts Yima, Lamp's niece, at risk with her stubbornness.

I enjoyed this story even more than the first one. Life in the city has steadily deteriorated since Lamp last ventured out for medicine, and the desperation makes for a very intense situation. I hope the third story reveals what is going on inside Lamp.


There are details which suggest the Dark City flu mutations are taking place in the future, making Evergreen's series a science fiction nightmare with the realistic horror of illness, mass hysteria and the collapse of society. I had no idea I would be sucked in like this when I picked up the first story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Worse Rental Ever

Cabin For Rent by Seth Tucker features a creature not often portrayed in the horror genre. Tucker takes a risk by writing the story as a one-sided conversation, but the unusual POV and the accompanying flashbacks create the perfect level of suspense. The author has definitely added something captivating to the folklore of cursed cabins.


I almost passed on this story because the description seemed kind of cheesy. This experience with Seth Tucker has encouraged me to look beyond the book covers and descriptions. He has also given me another reason to stay out of dark water.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Build A Snow Fort Instead

sNOwMAN by Karen A Foster is a brilliant mix of suspense and family drama. This is also the most horrific thing I could have chosen to read this time of year (winter). The way Foster described the snowman and little Amy's reactions to the creature had me freaking out any time someone went near the wretched thing. There are plenty of "no No NO!!" moments to keep readers in a heightened sense of panic for the duration of the story.

The ending is unexpected and the final page is devastating. Foster couldn't shock me more if she showed up at me door and slapped me in the face. I've always enjoyed Foster's work and I'm happy to see she hasn't lost her touch.


I've been slowly building a list of nominees for Top 2018 Short Stories, and Foster's story is definitely making the list. I'm not sure if being a parent makes me more susceptible to these types of stories, or maybe I'm on edge because of all the snow in Michigan...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 19, 2018

When All Your Choices Suck

Last Supper by Eric A. Shelman is the short story of Phil, a man who finds himself trapped in a building, surrounded by the undead and out of supplies. As he contemplates his choices for survival or death, he flashes back to his final moments with his family, before they became sick and infected. No details are provided about the outbreak itself, the story is strictly told from Phil's experience. While his choices seem limited and somewhat predictable, the ending comes as a brutal surprise.


Sometimes a character is so annoying to me, I don't really care if the person lives or dies. I'm not sure if it's due to a lack of interest in the story or the author did a great job creating a believable situation.

The fact is, most people are not going to be highly skilled survivalists, with backup plans for backups plans and the ability to quickly adapt to any situation. Under those circumstances, it stands to reason some characters are not going to be very interesting.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Sunday, February 18, 2018

A MUST-READ FOR ZOMBIEPHILES!!

Psychopomp by Erik Lynd is a great addition to the zombie genre. Lynd manages to blend horror and mythology in a chilling tale about a mortician who is confronted by a talking corpse. Del is one hell of a character and I think Lynd could write a mini-series centered on the guy and his occupation.

This short story is one of the best I've read so far in 2018.

It's been a long time since I read a zombie story with such an original twist, although, some may argue that the mythological element is not a new concept, I still think Lynd should get major props for bringing the two genres together in this story.

Even if zombies aren't your usual cup of tea, horror fans really need to check out Lynd's creation!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Using Violence To Make A Point

Pretty Little Thing by Steve Wands is shocking, frightening and a brilliant mix of horror and science fiction. There are a few scenes with graphic violence and strong sexual content, but I thought it emphasized what a monster the husband is and drove home the inner rage building up in the wife.

The Good Wives Club is a truly terrifying concept. Given current events in Hollywood, I think this story is going to strike a chord with quite a lot of people. Steve Wands delivers more than one throat punch with this short story and redefines domestic abuse.


Since the beginning of the year, I've been including the thoughts and impressions that occur to me as I read these stories. For example, a story might resurrect a memory...sometimes I have seemingly random thoughts triggered by an aspect of a story. Every once in a while, I write a little more about the specific story, in addition to the main review.

Pretty Little Things scares the crap out of me. It's not even a matter of whether or not something like this could be implemented - just the idea that there are people like Douglas who would jump at the chance to use technology to force their will on others.

Let's face it: it's already happening in other ways...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Word of The Children


Children of God: Poems, Dreams and Nightmares From The Family Of God Cult is an astounding collaboration between Craig DiLouie and Jonathan Moon, featuring a fictional literary collection written by cult members coping with PTSD through writing. Do you understand? These two authors created The Family of God history and the cult's surviving members, complete with personal backgrounds, individual traumatic memories and their own voices. Take a moment to let that level of creativity sink in.

Fictional or not, the diversity, both in form and tone, of each entry is exquisitely crafted...intense, dramatic and heart-wrenching. Not to mention, the great detail and research put into the introduction of this masterpiece. I would even venture to call this historical fiction, as the stories within are strikingly similar to The Family International led by David Berg, and the Journal of Self by Kathleen Adams, which is referenced as a healing tool is a legitimate form of self-help.

The days leading up to the mass suicide and murder of the cult's followers, as well as the final day, are laid out through the haikus, sonnets and song lyrics of the surviving members. Some have finally turned away from their former family, while others can't seem to let go, even after the torture and killings they've witnessed. Through the eyes of children, parents and the elderly, readers are shown how these lost souls were brought into the fold.


While this book is a work of fiction, the authors based the characters and events on real events involving past and present cults.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Throwback Thursday: UK Zombie

The Bitten Man by Edward Chilvers takes place in the UK, and is told from the POV of a father trying to find a safe place for his son. This piece of flash fiction is similar to The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but instead of fighting cannibals, they have to fight zombies…um, wait…same thing? Hmmm…

Chilvers manages to pack of variety of action within a few pages, as well as write an unexpected ending. Not to mention, throughout the story, the father does some questionable things that will no doubt shock many readers, but I respect how unconditionally the character puts his son’s safety first, above all others.

The Bitten Man is a juicy bite perfect for zombiephiles without much free time.


You can always count on the zombie genre to find something else that is worse than death. Never underestimate the desperation of a loving parent. While this story was originally published a few years back, Walking Dead fans might find the situation all too familiar.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Chicago Horror: Jason R. Davis [Interview]

Jason Davis has become a regular here at the Lair. Whether it's spiderszombies, or a bad case of the runs, he's always managed to take these horror themes to an unimaginable level of terror. When I first read his debut novel, Inside The Mirrors, I had no idea it would become the first novel in a series centered around Chicago cop, Rob Alletto (although I was later informed by Davis that his trilogies are part of the same series).

Inside The Mirrors (The Guardian Book 1) Alletto believes moving to a small town would lead to a safer environment for himself and his family. Before long, he discovers that there are things far worse than street criminals, when an evil spirit attempts to possess Rob's neighbors through their mirrors. At first, my interest in the story would increase and wane in intervals, depending on the chapters, but as the POV switched around between characters, the suspense grew into terrifying levels. As the various POVs converged, Davis orchestrates a thrilling ride through hell for his readers, in the clever disguise of small town drama.


Into Darkness has the same writing style as the first book, but the second installment is full of unexpected situations, some of which left me a bit confused. After what Alletto went through in the first book, I'm surprised his references to the experience are so few and far between, as well as incredibly vague. Granted, at least a year has gone by in the timeline within the series, but Alleto seems to have buried his early memories of his family's troubles in the town of Standard. Readers are almost better off not reading the first novel.


With the second story, the series moves on from a supernatural menace into a theological battle of good versus evil...sort of like The Stand by Stephen King, but on a much smaller scale. There are so many thought monologues by Alletto throughout the storyline, the suspense is constantly disrupted and the action comes in brief spurts with little to no thrill. The ending felt rushed and glossed over. Having read a number of stories by Davis, I feel he could've done better with this novel.


I thought it would be best to bring Davis to the Lair to explain what he's been attempting...



Q. Where are you from? Has that influenced your writing at all?

A. I’m from the Midwest, central Illinois to be precise. I grew up in a couple of little towns in the area, but the one that I consider home is Wenona, IL. Now, has this influenced my writing at all? Definitely. So much of the world of Inside the Mirrors and Into Darkness is set in a fictionalized version of Wenona. The slag pile that is referenced in Into Darkness, the coal dump, is real, and the stories that are told in Into Darkness are the same ones I parents would always tell me to keep me from playing there. Which of course never worked.

Q. Why did you choose to be an author? What is it about the horror genre that appeals to you?

A. I don’t know if I ever chose to be an author, it has just been a part of me for as long as I can remember. For my tenth or eleventh birthday, my parents bought me a typewriter. I don’t know why, but I guess if they bought it for me, I must have been asking for it. I know since I had it, I would wake up early in the morning and start pounding away stories while listening to my dad get ready for work.

As to the horror genre itself. My mom would always watch horror movies when I was growing up and never cared if I was in the room to watch them or not. I remember when she was watching Aliens I ran out of the room gagging. I ran all the way out to the front yard and thought I was going to lose my lunch on the front porch.

I was such a scaredy cat growing up. I was afraid of everything, wouldn’t walk into a room without the light on and was terrified of our pantry as I was sure there was a dragon living inside of it. I was an only child but had bunk beds. At night, I would debate between which bed to sleep in, if I slept in the top one, I would be eye level when Dracula came to eat me, but if I slept in the bottom one, then I could bunch myself up in the corner and he might not even see me sleeping there.

I don’t know when it was, but after a time, I just got tired of being afraid of the horror genre and of being afraid. At the time, Nightmare on Elm Street was a big thing and Freddy Kruger was what terrified me the most. So, I started watching the movies over and over again. I started watching them in the day, and as I got braver, started watching them at night. I started watching more horror films. I moved on from reading the Hardy Boys books to reading Fear Street, and from then to Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I turned my fear into an obsession to conquer it. Through time, I started to enjoy them, and now the horror genre has become a part of who I am.

Q. Do you write for entertainment purposes only, or are there deeper messages within your stories?

A. Both. I write to entertain, but I always try to bury layers into my work. A strong theme lately has been to battle bullying, but often times there are other elements dealing with unfairness in the world. When I first started writing a series of truck driving stories, I did so as a way to bring awareness to some of the problems I saw in the industry, things like that as well.

Q. You have more than one series…which one is your favorite and why?

A. This is complicated. You said I have one series, but that’s not completely true, at least not yet. I have two trilogies, but both trilogies are a part of the same series, just their storylines are only barely touching for now. The third book for both trilogies will work as something that will be akin to a two part story. When one trilogy ends, it leads into the ending of the other trilogy, which is the end of the beginning to the Edge of Darkness series / universe that I am working to build.

Right now, it is complicated to explain, but I hope once the books are all out there, people will understand and enjoy all the working elements. I am writing them, and working at the balance of keeping it so each book compliments the others while not having to rely on any of them for story elements. It’s tricky, but fun.

Later this year, I do have a young adult series that I am working on that is called “Dream Chasers” with the first book titled, “Here There Be Dragons.” I’m having a lot of fun writing it, but it is side project so I am keeping my focus on my next adult horror novel. Sadly, that book is not a part of either trilogy as I wanted to take a break before continuing work on “Tangled Webs.”

Q. Is your experience within the horror community limited to literature or do you have experiences in other areas, such as film?

A. Well, I went to college for film and video which brought me initially into the world of independent film-making. I was writing scripts and directing short films. At the time, I was learning about film festivals and how they helped independent filmmakers get discovered, but realized quickly that there weren’t that many of them that showed or featured horror films. So, it 2004, I founded the Chicago Horror Film Festival and directed the festival for ten years until I stepped down and Willy Adkins took it over. During my tenure, we expanded, and I founded the Indie Horror Film Festival.

Q. Do you ever imagine yourself as one of your characters? If so, does that affect how you develop them within the story?

A. I feel a connection with Rob Alletto. I think that is why he has become the cornerstone to the two trilogies I am currently writing. He is a good guy, doesn’t drink, smoke, and above all, his driving force is to take care of his family. He tries to help others whenever he can, and is an overall good person. He’s someone I strive to be, and while he has his demons, he works to get through life while dealing with them.

Q. Do you think setting is crucial to a story? Do you have any difficulty creating new situations within the horror genre?

A. Setting is very crucial depending on the story you want to tell. Horror can be found anywhere. You give me a character in heaven and I can give you a horror story with him or her. As to creating new situations, I don’t feel like I have an issue with that. My biggest issue is finding the time to write all the stories I want to tell. I have ideas for my next six novels, but need to complete what I’m working n now to get to them. That is part of why when I explain my series’, that it gets so complicated, because as I’m thinking about them, I’m thinking about the next six books and how they are going to relate and how large of an impact one book will have over the other.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. My main focus is on “Dead Friends” and “Here There Be Dragons.” “Dead Friends” is about Lizzie Rogers who just inherited a curse from her uncle and now anyone close to her dies just to come back and haunt her as a corpse only she can see and hear.

“Here There Be Dragons” is the first book in a young adult series about teenagers who go into other’s dreams and keeps the nightmares from hurting them. HTBD is the first book in the Dream Chasers series.

I’m also writing, but not focused as heavily on it, the third book in the Invisible Spiders trilogy, “Tangled Webs.” I took some time off of it as I wanted to do something on a smaller scale with “Dead Friends,” which is a book that follows just one character rather than a large world book like TW.

Q. Will you be appearing at any of the conventions this year?

A. Doubtful. I took last year off as my son was born at the end of 2016, and I plan on doing much of the same for 2018. I love spending time with him as much as I can, and I am not ready to split my time between convention and family. When he gets old enough, I will start doing conventions again, but for now I’m taking a break. I’ve been so heavily involved in the convention world since 2004 that it is nice to take a couple of years off.

Q. Where can fans find more information about your stories?


A. The best place to find anything about me is through either my web site, www.jasonrdavis.com, my Facebook page, https://facebook.com/HAjasondavis, my amazon author page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JUD7JXE and my twitter @Iamjasondavis. 


Many thanks to Jason Davis for the interview!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Too Much And Yet Not Enough

April's Rest by Jack Littlejohn has an incredibly long setup. A large portion of the story is spent emphasizing Jason's depression, which could easily be covered by a paragraph or two. By the time anything of significance happens, the story is nearly over. When the source of the mysterious events is finally revealed, the ending is rushed. More over, the epilogue is drawn out and includes a lot of information which, again, focuses more on Jason than the story plot.

I think the author would be better off turning this into a flash fiction piece which focuses on the oak tree and the history of the house, rather than focusing on Jason.


I'm tired of explaining why editing can make or break a story, so I'm just going to post this:

http://kodyboye.com/publishingservices/
http://kodyboye.com/publishingservices/
As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 12, 2018

Slaughter Sisters

Unseen by Rebecca R. Pierce is far better than I ever would have expected...the story's description doesn't do it justice. The wagon train with a family of pioneers is the perfect setting for what is to unfold. Pierce blends folklore and suspense into a brutal and devastating coming of age confrontation for 16 year old Charlotte. While sympathetic to what her sister endured, I'm not entirely convinced of Rachel's role as a victim. Sometimes monsters create new monsters.


The very first fiction books I read on my own were anthologies of folklore and mythology stories. I noticed right away, the pretty creatures were usually the most dangerous. While those stories were, and still are, labeled fantasy, the myths and legends were often filled with horror and tragedy. Moving on to horror from fantasy, with a stopover in science fiction, made sense to me.

As a result, I love authors who find ways to take the old world folklore and mix them with the new world horror. Unseen is a great example of ageless fiction: a story that could easily be told at a campfire in the Old West or at a slumber party in 2018 and equally frighten both audiences.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Running On Empty

Release by Alexandre J Wynne is a glimpse into the daily struggle of Ellen, trying to outrun a pack of wild dogs in  a post-apocalyptic world. She is alone after her father is killed by feral dogs, but she eventually finds a new travel companion. Unfortunately, the dogs are still tracking her down.

There isn't really an explanation of what happened to the world or how long ago everything fell apart, but the vagueness allows the reader's imagination to run wild. Ellen's isolation, both physically and emotionally, is absolutely depressing, but adds to the overall setting.

I just wish there had been something more to the story. Reading this is like scraping an empty can for one more bite.


When I see how bad the violence is in my country, with laws and punishments in place, and how little impact the deterrents seem to have, I wonder just how savage people would become if society ceased to exist. I'm not even thinking of the obvious criminals...I'm thinking of the "well-behaved" people who might have a complete personality change if they thought they could get away from anything.

The Purge premise isn't quite what I have in mind either. Those who purge don't have to face any legal consequences, but they still have to face the people they know the next day. If life as you know it is completely over and there's no one left to answer to, how much do you think you would change in attitude alone?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Fragmented Fiction

Theatre of Death (An Acid Suite Story) by Craig Lea Gordon is full of descriptions and not much else. I would expect a story which boasts "uncompromising story telling" to present readers with something more than bits and pieces of flashbacks. There is zero explanation of this dystopian society, and so little information about the characters, it's hard to feel anything for any of them.


I read stories and often wonder what the author is trying to accomplish. Correction. I read stories with glowing reviews and wonder if that's all it takes to make the author happy. I wonder if they expect to build a writing career with only positive reviews.

How can a review help an author improve if the reviews are just filled with catchy generic blurbs or a regurgitation of the story's description?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 9, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday: Bit of Bizarro

Child of Mine by Emrys Apollo is a flash fiction piece centered on a woman's first pregnancy, which quickly becomes a waking nightmare, lasting for days. Laura is certain she is not imagining the terrifying events, but there is the possibility Laura is suffering from hallucinations. While the writing style is quite rough, the author does a good job of keeping readers guessing until the end.


This story would be better categorized as bizarro fiction, rather than horror because of the grotesque details. Unfortunately, this genre is difficult to nail down, but there are a few key elements to help identify such stories:

1) the plot is surprising
2) the story is strange, as in weird
 and
3) resembles those cult films that aren't big with critics, but still manage to have a huge following

Something most bizarro authors deal with is being accused of crappy writing in general, which isn't helping the genre gain in popularity. Remember that one English professor who told everyone genre fiction is garbage? That same professor would probably describe bizarro fiction as some made-up label to describe writers who can't write decent prose.

Some bizarro stories are more entertaining than others, but none of them are boring.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dystopian Flash Fiction

Dark Mirrors: A Story of Alien Invasion by John Walters gives a glimpse into a young girl's choice in prison, during a war the humans are losing. Based on the description, I thought this story would be more focused on Bethany. However, the author spends most of the story describing everything from the POV of Margaret, a military officer of some importance. By the time readers learn anything about Bethany, the story is over, with a rather abrupt ending. After making such a big deal about the nature of the war, the ending felt unresolved...incomplete.


I try so very hard to go into a story without any expectations, aside from wanting my imagination fed. Sometimes a story leaves me wanting more because I enjoyed it so much. More often than not, a story leaves me wanting more because the author only fed me scraps of information.

I'm often reminded of something an English professor told me, "Don't introduce a gun into your story, unless the gun is going to be used at some point." It drives me crazy when an author includes unnecessary details, but refuses to reveal more about key details, giving readers tidbits of information resembling a breadcrumb trail leading to nowhere.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mirror Week Continues...

Your Death Mirror by Raitt Emmel Hall is a flash fiction piece about mirror which reveals how a person will die. The group of friends who decide to take a look have mixed reactions, so everyone splits up and goes their separate ways. Even with the foreshadowing, the author still managed to surprise me in the very last moment. Not exactly frightening, but still upsetting.


From a reader's perspective, I think foreshadowing is one of the most difficult elements an author uses in a story. Too much and the suspense is ruined; too little and readers might lose interest. I've even seen some clever authors use foreshadowing as a form of misdirection...some detail mentioned more than once, so you know it's significant, but not in the way you thought. Just one more thing to love about story-telling.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Ultimate Illusion

Death Mirror by Cameron Terence appears to be a mild horror story, with some foreshadowing...but appearances can be deceiving. Dean is a rather tedious fellow, about as interesting as his tuna sandwich, who suddenly find his reflection disturbingly independent and hostile. The pace is annoyingly slow as the author drags out Dean's daily thoughts and activities; the action comes and goes in spurts. However, the unexpected turn of events makes it all worth while. I will admit, the author is a damn genius. He planned out every detail perfectly. Well played, Terence. Well played.


I feel like I've been put into place by Cameron Terence. I allowed myself to become overly confident in my ability to predict how a story will play out. What I thought was foreshadowing was bait. I fell for it. The author took me for a ride, tossed me out on my ass and hit me with the car, so to speak. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

The Girl In The Mirror by Stephanie Marino is a novella about a troubled boy confronted by the ghost of a little girl. Rose used to live in Kyle's house, and haunts him through the mirror in his room. He also struggles with bullies at school and an alcoholic mother who has alienated Kyle from his father. As his personal life falls apart, strange things begin happening around the house. Soon Kyle finds himself in the center of a battle between his mother and Rose, as he is being torn apart from the inside out, desperate for help.

I love stories with multiple layers. The Girl In The Mirror is a great example of blending real life trauma with supernatural chills, not to mention the coming-of-age theme. Marino keeps her readers captivated and horrified with a great balance of turmoil and suspense.


One of the reasons literary horror has remained popular through the decades is the use of social issues to propel stories. A monster and a nightmarish setting can only take a reader so far, but incorporating current events gives a story the much needed texture to transform it into something the reader can experience.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Building Character With Characters

Mirror Mirror by E.J. Bennett is a damn creepy story...sad and creepy. A young girl loses her parents in a car accident. As if that isn't traumatizing enough, she has to go live with her aunt, only to be tormented by evil entities dwelling in the attic. I wish a little more had been revealed about her Uncle and his time in the attic, but her struggle to stay alive is intense, to say the least.


I'm loathe to recommend a horror story for a specific age range. When I was in grade school, I was already reading Stephen King. I remember the public librarian asking me if my mother knew I read such books. Probably not, but I had long since outgrown the choose-your-own-adventure books, and the fantasy authors just weren't doing it for me anymore.

Then again, I know some parents have all kinds of reasons for restricting what their children read. Kind of ironic, considering the lyrics of the music many of those same kids are allowed to listen to, or the graphic video games they're plugged into. I end up with mixed feelings...wanting to recommend a story to all horror fans, but not wanting to scar young imaginations.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Devil Is A No-Show

The Devil's Mirror by Jon Lawton features a honeymoon ruined by an antique mirror. A lot of time is spent emphasizing how long the couple had been searching for a mirror, with other unnecessary details. Once they finally return to their hotel room with the mirror, the supernatural moments are few and far between. More attention should've been placed with the mirror, rather than the banter between husband and wife. the ending is very predictable and somewhat rushed through.


When you've read as much horror as I have, it becomes more difficult to find stories without predictable endings. In fact, it's an added bonus if an author is able to shock or surprise me with a turn of events. I don't even mind if I guess the correct outcome, as long as I am uncertain throughout the story. I suppose it's the difference between an author who reveals events indirectly, as opposed to giving a play by play without any mystery or suspense.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 2, 2018

Not Really A Mirror Story

The Mirror Man by M.S. Dobing is a day by day story about a man's mysterious illness, compounded by ever-increasing confusion. Even though I think I know what took place at the beginning, I am still unclear about events. I'm not sure why this book is listed in the Amazon horror search. There was nothing frightening about it and the suspense is limited. When Stevie realizes what is happening to him, readers should also be enlightened by the author.


I planned on doing a mirror theme for the first week of February, but this story isn't really centered on a mirror...there just happens to be a mirror in the story. I use the Amazon search engine to find short stories to review while I'm reading through a full-length novel, and it's vexing to look through a specific genre, such as horror, only to be misled into choosing a story which doesn't really fit the genre. Horror is full of variety, but the genre requires much more than being vague.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Reflecting On Reflections

Mirror Lake by Craig Milton recalls the terrifying moment a young boy realizes the reflection in the lake is something more, something sinister. Unfortunately, as an adult, Carl has forgotten the childhood horror and he pays a severe price for losing his grasp on that memory. The setting, the pace, the suspense...everything is well-written, and the ending is so mind-blowing, I sincerely hope the author turns Mirror Lake into a novel.


This story reminded me of the many bad dreams I used to have about dark water, usually in the form of lakes. One in particular stands out because there were other dream people involved. They were enjoying typical water sports, such as water skiing and riding jet-skis. The entire time, I'm freaking out on shore because I just know something dangerous is lying on the bottom of the lake...many somethings...bigger than boats. Sure enough, people were getting dragged below so fast, everyone else just thought they had fallen into the water. Until the screaming began...no one ever pays attention until the screaming begins...

As always,
AstraDaemon