Friday, December 14, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 1

All across the world, people suddenly vanish in the blink of an eye. From their cars during the rush hour commute. From the shopping malls. Their homes. Their beds. Even from the arms of their loved ones. Airline pilots. World leaders. Teachers. Parents. Children. Gone. Steve, Charlie and Frank were just trying to get home when it happened. Now they find themselves left behind, and wishing they'd disappeared, too. Trapped in the ultimate traffic jam, they watch as civilization collapses, claiming the souls of those around them. God has called his faithful home, but the invitations for Steve, Charlie and Frank got lost. Now they must set off on foot through a nightmarish post-apocalyptic landscape in search of answers. In search of God. In search of their loved ones. And in search of home.

Take the Long Way Home by Brian Keene is a novella featuring a personal POV of the Rapture. The entire storyline takes place within one night, and those left behind, with a few exceptions, waste no time turning into absolute savages. The violence goes far beyond people exploiting the breakdown of society, into pure madness. Steven is one of the few who survives the first night, but what he witnesses will certainly inflict a special kind of pain and suffering of his soul.

While this novella has the quality storytelling I've come to expect from Keene, the subject matter is sure to offend some readers, regardless of their religious/spiritual beliefs or non-beliefs. For those who do take issue, I strongly recommend they read the author's note at the end. I think Keene is more than fair with his handling of the religious aspects, without using his characters to manipulate readers into any specific mindset.

With all that said, this is a very entertaining novella, which is sure to appeal to many horror fans.

As always,

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Wailing Is Wonderful

Duncan was nine years old on 5/5. The day the extra season came.

He had just got used to the reversed seasons in Australia when Nova began, shoving boring old Autumn out of the way and pushing in between it and Winter. A new season of unrelenting starshine and luminous nights. 

For Duncan, it was the most exciting thing ever! All the rest of the world wanted to know was: when will Nova end? 

And will the world end with it?

Fifth Season by David Wailing is a fantastic sci-fi short story. I love the logistics behind the cause of the extra hot season of constant light. Duncan is the perfect character to convey the changes of daily life, as well as the transformation of Earth. While nothing is written about aliens, I thought the hinting at something unnatural is a fascinating touch.

Nineteen Seventy-Steve is a sweet story, involving an abstract form of time-travel, and I cried over the ending. Happy tears, but tears nonetheless. Time warp, indeed.

Drabbles is a collection of flash fiction, which is also included. Each drabble is more a moment of amusement than anything else. The very last story is an absolute delight.

I've read some of Wailing's other work, and I continue to enjoy his writing style, regardless of which genre he is fooling around with. The author is an artist with words.

As always,

Friday, December 7, 2018

Maggots In The Lair [Interview]

Horror author Patrick James Ryan first made an appearance, here at the Lair, back in May with his novella, The Maggots Underneath the Porch. The story, while entertaining, is so very graphic and gross, I gagged at a few scenes. Naturally, I thought, who better to interview for the month of Halloween?

Unfortunately, life happens, and this interview took much longer to arrange than expected. To avoid possible spoilers, I recommend reading the story first.

Without further delay, here is the Master of Maggots...

(Patrick: First, let me express my sincere appreciation to AstraDaemon's Lair for the gracious interest in interviewing me! I am honored!)
Patrick James Ryan, author

Q. Why maggots? Seriously. How does one decide to write such a sick story?

LOL! I know! Pretty nasty! So, there is a story behind the story on this one. I always wanted to write a “coming of age” story like Stephen King’s novella, The Body that translated into the popular film, Stand by Me. The 70’s have always intrigued me. Great movies. Great music. A generation that predated Cell phones, Cable TV, and the oversaturation of technology.  1975 marked the first year of a major summer Block Buster movie and it left an indelible mark on culture and future movie making. Of course, I’m talking about JAWS. So many of my older cousins regaled how they collected baseball cards, engaged in the super cool fad of collecting beer cans, played Little League Baseball, and they still speak with a twinkle in their eyes about first seeing JAWS on the big screen in the theater. I had my time period. All I needed was a story. One evening there was a show on Animal Planet about Myiasis ~ a real condition where flies transmit their larvae into living hosts. In some cases, this happens to humans who have neuropathy in their extremities and in underdeveloped countries.  So, I thought how would it fly (pun intended) to write a story about a nucleus of kids circa 1975 and the rich culture of that year, set against the horrible backdrop of a large person getting  Myiasis to the point where a gigantic-carnivorous Maggot is unleashing hell, death and destruction…and The Maggots Underneath The Porch was born!

Q. Do you prefer any particular writing style or does it depend on the subject matter in each story?

I prefer thrillers/horror/suspense. Horror is very eclectic and transcends many genres, including suspense, drama, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, irony and mystery. There is something very instinctive and feral about the emotions of fear and terror that hits strongly and impacts our psyche as human beings in all of the aforementioned genres that all contain elements of “Horror.” Horror is both arousing and revolting simultaneously. Part of us does not want to know, but we can’t help wanting to see if the Boogeyman is in the closet, what caused the creak on the stair step in the wee hours of the morning, and if the heavy breathing coming from the woods is a monster wanting to lash out at the person strutting down the path. Horror conjures the powerful mental conflict of “Fight vs. Flight” like no other genre. It pits good versus evil. While a cliché, the term Truth is stranger than fiction is very true and sometimes horror gets too close to the morbid reality of life. However, having said all that, my current work is MUCH more mainstream and should appeal to a wide audience.

Q. Tell us about your other work.

My first publication was a collection of 13 short stories and 14 short verse poems (Story-Poem-Story-Poem, etc.) titled, Blood Verse. It is a diverse compendium of stories that has been well received by reviewers and readers because of the eclectic nature of all the stories.  They are mainly horror/thriller stories, but many contain high suspense, irony, and even a little bit of humor. My second publication has proven to be the most commercially successful, The Night It Got Out. The story started out as another short story and just continued to grow. It was a deliberate attempt to grab readers by the throat with a sheer action thriller, fraught with enough blood and guts to make them want to keep flipping the pages. While I have strong protagonists and antagonists, I intentionally did not develop them to some reader’s satisfaction as I wanted the Monster to drive the story and lead the action. I am proud of it because I think the plot and premise are rather unique. Fans keep asking for a sequel and I am doing one in 2019: The Night They Got Out!  

Q. What inspired your love of horror? Books, movies or real life? How has it influenced your own stories?

Initially, movies like JAWS, Alien, The Exorcist, Halloween and The Thing I found to be mesmerizing and riveting. However, real inspiration set in with the terrific prose of authors like Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Ira Levin, James Herbert, Robert Mccammon and many others.

Q. Is Halloween only once a year for you, or all year?

Well, as a supposed “Horror Author” one would think it would be year round for me. However, being very Irish, St. Patrick’s Day dominates the first quarter and quarters three and four typically get consumed by the kid’s sports/activities and then the Christmas Seasons hits!  I do absolutely LOVE Halloween though!

Q. What can readers expect from you in 2019?

A second short story collection titled, Out of the Shadows will be released by my publisher, Nicholas Grabowsky at Black Bed Sheet Books in January. I am also working on multiple projects at present. One is a mainstream Detective novel set in Philadelphia that will be engrossing to a wide spectrum of readers. Another is the first in a series of 10 novels about a Warrior who fights demons from Hell (I can’t elaborate or it will let a big cat out of the bag!) On the backburner is a medieval Martial Arts thriller that I think could evolve into a movie. A sequel to The Night It Got Out as mentioned above. Last, but certainly not least, I am writing a biography on my Martial Arts teacher who has had one hell of a life and his story will make for an incredible human interest book!  

My apologies to both my viewers and Patrick James Ryan for the two month delay with this interview...expect to see more of this author in the Lair in 2019!

As always,

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Don't Bring A Schlong To A Knife Fight

Clarke has had a rough week.

His girlfriend told him it was over, his drug dealer is trying to kill him, and he's being followed by that nasty bird everywhere he goes. 

Now he's hell bent on settling the score and teaching every last one of them that he's not a man to be taken lightly... especially the beady-eyed pigeon that has taken more from him than his pride.

Lennon & Motz bring you an exciting, horrific, fast-paced story, packed with violence, gore, mutilation... and angry birds!

No one is safe and nothing goes unseen beneath the watchful eye of The Pigeon.

The Pigeon by Andrew Lennon and Christopher Motz should come with a warning about the graphic violence. Clarke hasn't had a rough week, he IS the rough week...for everyone unfortunate to cross paths with the maniac. At first, I thought Clarke to be merely a jilted lover who lost his mind, after losing something near and dear to him, but the authors fooled the hell out of me.

With the introduction of Greg and Tracy, and their falling out, the story line appeared to transition from psychological-thriller to crime drama, but, again, Lennon and Motz took me out at the knees with Tracy's long walk home. The ending resembles something like a Jackson Pollock painting, but with blood, pus and pigeon crap.

As terrifying as Clarke and his rotten friend are -- the rattlesnake shake in the diner is the most horrifying thing I've ever read -- you know who frightens me more? Lennon and Motz. Sickos.

Can't wait to read more of their work.

As always,

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

He Squeezed

Squeeze by Joshua Scribner is about a young man who feels compelled to squeeze a tennis ball, 24/7. Rather than take the hard road to uncover the reason for Ollie's obsession, the doctor convinces the mother to take the easy road. Too bad no one knew what that road would lead to.

Scribner is my favorite flash fiction writer. In just a few pages, he uses a basic setting with simple characters and manages to create some of the most powerful and horrific dramas I've ever read. This story is also quite relevant on a social level.

As always,

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Blood Runs Cold

Mickey Bannon is an artist living in Chicago who specializes in a type of anamorphosis (seeing hidden shapes and pictures in random places). Amidst caring for his disabled son and coming to terms with a failed marriage, he receives a call that his father has been killed in a logging accident in northern Minnesota. 

Upon his arrival in his hometown he begins to experience terrifying and unexplainable occurrences that push the boundaries of his sanity. Soon he must face the reality that his father may not have been the man he thought he was. 

And there are other, darker forces waiting for him as a powerful snowstorm bears down, trapping him with secrets that are far from dead.

Leave The Living by Joe Hart had me guessing from beginning to end...what secret was Mickey's dad keeping? What kind of dark forces were waiting for him? The incident in the morgue set the tone for the story, but the paranormal activity in and around the house served as misdirection while increasing the suspense by ten-fold. I forgot that evil comes in many forms.

I read this story during a freezing night in December, and I recommend this as perfect reading material for winter. I could feel the chill seep off the pages as the horror unfolded around poor Mickey. Joe Hart once again uses his superb story-telling to remind readers, blood does, in fact, run cold.

As always,

Monday, December 3, 2018

Far Too Basic

When Sandra catches her husband doing the unspeakable, she takes her daughter and runs away to her mother's house. But after an unexpected car crash, she's stranded in the Colorado wilderness as a blizzard approaches. Her only hope is a homeless drifter named Damon. Together, they take shelter in a little church on the hill, deep in the woods, but there is something else lurking among the trees. 
Something hungry. 
Something that is creeping closer to the little church. 
The storm rages. Dozens of stranded people take shelter in the little church on the hill. But after Damon and Sandra discover the secrets the church is hiding, it becomes a battle for survival. The only way to make it through the night is to kill, or be eaten.

Take Shelter by RC Patterson is a winter zombie outbreak, which has little to nothing to do with Christmas. The writing is rough and could benefit from a professional editor. As is, the characters lack any depth, and the action is very basic in descriptions. I think this story has a lot of potential, if the author is willing to put in more time and effort. I also thought the scene with the crazy nun were completely unnecessary.

As always,

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Dead, Afraid and Alone

When Jerry leaves his old life in London behind and travels to Beijing to take up a teaching position, at first he is enchanted by the brave new world he finds waiting for him. However, things soon take a turn for the worse. Upon his arrival he learns of the mysterious disappearance of his predecessor, and after he moves into his new apartment he is plagued by strange dreams in which he shares the dwelling, and his bed, with a ghostly entity. Then things start going bump in the night, and Jerry soon finds himself embroiled in the kind of supernatural drama that had previously been unthinkable to him. 

An encounter with a fortune teller with a difference proves the catalyst for a new wave of terror and eventually, he is forced into the accepting the realisation that something else was waiting for him on the other side of the world, and perhaps even in the next world. What's more, his time is quickly running out. 

This is a new edition, revised version by the author. 

Bonus content: 

Inside Apartment 14F (essay)
Little Dead Girl (short story)

Apartment 14F by C.M. Saunders is one of the best ghost stories I've ever read in my entire life, particularly because of the shocking ending. I wanted to know more about the history of the ghost and her agenda, but I'm just as happy to be left wanting more. I love the way the author built up the suspense by revealing the paranormal occurrences taking place in the apartment as Jerry waits in line to see a fortune teller.

The short story, Little Dead Girl, has a major discrepancy, which disrupted the flow of the story. One minute the main character, Jeff, mentions waking up to the ghost being in his apartment, the next minute he is stating she can't follow him into his apartment. (Which is it, Saunders?) The ending is bizarre, yet somehow predictable.

There is also an essay by the author between the two short stories, explaining how Apartment 14F came into existence. I didn't read all of it...after just a few paragraphs, the essay began sucking away the enjoyment the story gave me. The essay seemed better suited for the author's website, not an addition to the content. Not sure why Saunders felt the need to discuss the history of writing a short story, in any case.

If you're a fan of Asian horror, you definitely need to read Apartment 14F.

As always,

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Bikers, Worms and Zombies

Following a major pandemic, the country is in ruins. West of the Mississippi River is a hellzone known as the Deadlands.

Here, bioengineered Corpse Worms rain from the blood-streaked sky, reanimating the dead. And here, atomic weapons have created legions of mutants, primeval monsters, and wild chaotic weather patterns.

Enter: John Slaughter. Hardcore outlaw biker. Blood member of the Devil's Disciples. A very wanted man. Captured by the army, the feds want him to lead a gang of his old bikers across the Mississippi and into the nuclear wastes of the Deadlands.

His objective: Snatch a high-level biologist who is being held at an old NORAD fortress by a paramilitary terrorist group. It will mean a raid into territory swarming with the living dead, mutations, and sects of psychotic survivalists...not to mention the Cannibal Corpse motorcycle club, blood enemies of the Devil’s Disciples.

His incentive: his brother is being held at a federal prison back east on charges of sedition. If Slaughter does not bring back the biologist, his brother will be executed.

The drawback: An ancient, diabolic evil has claimed the Deadlands and is in league with Cannibal Corpse. And unless Slaughter can stop it, it will pick its teeth with the last bones of the human race.

Cannibal Corpse by Tim Curran will have you puking your guts out with the graphic gore of this fantastic post-apocalyptic story. If the cause of the undead – parasitic worms – doesn’t make you squeamish, the vivid details of the “wormboys” most certainly will.

This story takes place after “worm rains” have infected both the living and the dead, with reanimated corpses overwhelming most of the United States. The east coast is the only place that is remotely safe, but it doesn’t appear that will last much longer. Desperate for a cure, the military sends in John Slaughter, a hardcore biker, out west to find a cure.

In addition to the undead, there is also a militia group terrorizing other survivors called the Red Hand that want to settle a personal score with Slaughter. As if that wasn’t enough, Slaughter and his fellow Devil’s Disciples (what’s left of his biker gang) have to travel through nuke sites now populated with an array of mutants. To top it all off, it appears that some demonic entity has taken an interest in Slaughter’s talent for violence. Slaughter basically has to ride through hell for something that might not even exist.

This is the most graphic and violent piece of horror that I’ve ever read – definitely not for anyone with a weak stomach. I have no idea how the author could live with these images in his head.

As always,

Friday, November 30, 2018

Poetry For Your Brains

In your hands is a poetry journal written by an undead poet, recounting his firsthand experience during the zombie plague. Little is known about the author before he turned into a zombie, but thanks to his continued writings in this journal - even after his death - you can accompany him from infection to demise. Through the intimate poetry of haiku, the zombie chronicles his epic journey through deserted streets and barricaded doors. Each three-line poem, structured in the classic 5-7-5 syllable structure, unravels a little more of the story. You'll love every eye-popping, gut-wrenching, flesh-eating page!

Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum is something I discovered whilst perusing my local bookstore for some other zombie lit. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the haikus formed an actual story, about a guy having a real bad day at work, instead of just being a random assortment of undead poetry. Another bonus was the size of the book: easy to carry with me in my bug-out bag without taking up much room. It would also make the perfect gift for any zombie fan this holiday season.

As always,