Monday, December 31, 2018

Dirty Secret

They call him The Tailor, a nightmarish fairy-tale creature called upon by parents to deal with unkempt children. When it's inadvertently summoned by an up-and-coming rock band during an all-night jam session, their routine practice turns into a night of terror as The Tailor tries to clean up The Filthy Habits' act.

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS by Sebastian Bendix is a terrifying twist on golem folklore. I don't want to reveal any spoilers, so I can't write much about this story, but this would make a great SyFy movie. The ending is the scariest surprise of all, and the epilogue is the perfect final stitch.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quilt Reveals Guilt

When Angie Berg suspects her husband is having an affair, it has an impact on every aspect of her life. Confiding in her boss, Angie learns Carol's husband had also been unfaithful, and it was the reason for their divorce. Carol wants to help Angie get to the truth, and she has the means to do so --- a handmade Amish quilt. Thinking her boss has gone off the deep end, Angie accepts the gift in the spirit in which it had been intended.

Later that night, still plagued with doubts, Angie figures there's no harm in throwing the quilt on the bed. What does she have to lose? What she discovers is worse than she imagined, and now Angie finds herself in mortal peril as she tries to figure out what to do next.


THE ONE WHO LIES NEXT TO YOU by Russell Coy is a chilling mystery-thriller. The office scene, with Angie and Carol discussing a work incident, is a great way to connect readers to Angie's state of mind. The conversation Angie later has with Ryan is some great foreshadowing, but nothing prepared me for the horrific secret he has been hiding. While there are a few cringe moments, such as Angie watching the video with Ryan RIGHT NEXT TO HER, the ending is fairly satisfying.

I wouldn't mind reading another quilt story by the author.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Worst Birthday Present EVER

The antique waist coat was an impulse buy, and at the time it seemed like the perfect birthday gift for Ryan. Little did Julie know, however, there was something else at work that day---something sinister---compelling her to make the purchase. From the moment Ryan slipped on the jacket, Julie realized something wasn't right. The changes were subtle at first, but as they grew more extreme, Julie knew she needed to find out more about the jacket, and soon she's pitted against supernatural forces in a race for Ryan's life. Would she be able to figure things out in time to save him, or was she already too late?

COATTAILS by Joshua Rex kept me guessing throughout the story. Not only did I wonder about the coat, but the mysterious ring adds to the suspense. Unfortunately, readers never really learn anything about the history of the coat or the ring, which might have been fine, if there hadn't been so much emphasis placed on the two items.

I think I might not have minded the loose ends quite as much, if the story also included Ryan's POV, as opposed to being limited by Julie's outside observations.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, December 28, 2018

Baby Back Ribs

Children are disappearing from the streets of West Hollywood. The police are clueless, but Christopher Driscoll suspects he might know who is responsible. The trail leads to a local new hot spot that has become THE place to eat. Has the owner been serving up finger-licking good baby barbecue, or has there been a HUGE misunderstanding?

TOLERANCE: A WEST HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRE NOVELETTE by Hal Bodner immediately grabbed my attention with the preternatural characters scattered among the human characters. About halfway through the story, the fate of the missing children becomes a bit predictable, but this is one of the rare times a little predictability provides a shocking reveal at the end.

On a more personal note, I found Christopher to be one of the most annoying vampires I've come across in modern fiction. While I'd love to read more about Bodner's version of West Hollywood, I hope the author gets rid of Christopher.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Movie Madness

Movie theaters are a magical place, and the Downtown Nickelodeon is no exception, as junior film archivist Muriel Sharpe is about to find out.


Tasked with the job of going through the old theater's archives before the building is demolished, Muriel doesn't hold out much hope of unearthing anything rare, but what she finds is a treasure trove out long-thought-lost films. Acting on instinct, and against her better judgement, she threads up the old movie projector and inadvertently awakens the magic of the old Nick. She's swept away in a passionate romance, dodges bullets with an infamous gangster, but nothing could prepare her for the horror the theater unleashes with Shriek of the Harpy, and soon she's in a fight for her very life as she tries to escape the one place she considered to be a safe haven.

SHRIEK OF THE HARPY by Sebastian Bendix is the story of cursed film being discovered by a film archivist. The story is broken into segments by Muriel's journal entries. The first half of the story seems largely unnecessary, and may lose some readers with the slow setup.

However, if readers stick with it, the action finally kicks in around the halfway mark. While Muriel's battle for survival is entertaining, her character doesn't have much depth, so I didn't really care what happened to her. The ambiguity surrounding the harpy film is a nice touch. The ending reminded me of the movie, In the Mouth of Madness.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Pack of Outlaws

Juan “Tezcat” Medina is about to take the law into his own hands. Having lost his wife and daughter to a gang of outlaws, he's been given the chance to have them back with him. All he has to do is kill the six men who robbed him of his family. But there's something different about this gang of outlaws, something Tezcat isn't aware of until it's too late and he's forced into a showdown with evil.

FULL MOON IN THE WEST by Dominic Stabile is a tale of revenge in Mexico, complete with werewolves. Tezcat makes a deal with a witch to bring back his wife and daughter from the dead, but she leaves out a key detail. The action alternates between shooting, biting and clawing.

Tezcat frustrates me, as he keeps flipping between wanting revenge and wanting peace. His sister is far more impressive, doing more damage than any of the men. Watson, the Sheriff, comes off as a real jerk, claiming the werewolves have to answer to his authority. The Sheriff shares a flashback, which only makes me question his logic even more. Not sure why he thought he could make werewolves answer to the Law.

While I enjoyed the story (and I usually dislike anything with a Western theme), I think the author should consider turning this into a novella or full-length novel, in order to include more details about the Pack of Outlaws. At the very least, I'd love a prequel about the original deal the outlaws made.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 12


In the long-awaited follow up to DEAD SEA, it has been several months since the disease known as Hamelin's Revenge decimated the world. Civilization has collapsed and the dead far outnumber the living. The survivors seek refuge from the roaming zombie hordes, but one-by-one, those shelters are falling.

Twenty-five survivors barricade themselves inside a former military bunker buried deep beneath a luxury hotel. They are safe from the zombies... but are they safe from one another? As supplies run low and despair sets in, each of them will find out just how far they're willing to go to survive.


ENTOMBED by Brian Keene is a bloodbath, and the undead are just a background detail. Basically, the bunker survivors turn on the one guy, Peter, who saved them all, at the beginning of the story. He is also the one who wanted to bring food supplies with them, before sealing the blast doors. Not only did everyone rag on him to seal the doors without grabbing the supply cart, but they also refused to fight a few undead between the supplies and the group. As far as I'm concerned, they all got what they deserved.

This is not a sequel to DEAD SEA, but a separate story which takes place during the same outbreak in the same Keene world. You don't have to read the first novel to appreciate Entombed, but it does offer an explanation of why there is never any hope for the survivors. There is a lot of action, and no one dies the same way.

Who will you root for?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, December 24, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 11

In 2003, Brian Keene's The Rising revived horror literature's dormant obsession with zombies. In 2007, Brian Keene's Dead Sea knocked that obsession on its ass... The city streets are no longer safe. They are filled instead with the living dead, rotting predators driven only by a need to kill and eat. Some of the living still struggle to survive, but with each passing day, their odds grow worse. Some survivors have fled, frantically searching for a place to escape, even briefly, the slaughter around them. For Lamar Reed and a handful of others, that safe haven is an old Coast Guard ship out at sea, with plenty of water between them and the zombies. These desperate survivors are completely isolated from the dangers of the mainland. But their haven will soon become a deathtrap, and they'll learn that isolation can also mean no escape! Deadite Press is proud to present this Author's Preferred version of Keene's over-the-top cult classic, which includes never-before-published material!

DEAD SEA by horror author Brian Keene has always been one of my all-time favorite zombie novels. This book is the reason I became a fan of Keene in the first place. The author has quite a talent for taking a hopeless situation and twisting the waking nightmare into something much worse than hopeless. I thought I had become desensitized, until I read Dead Sea.

The main character is a young gay Black man named Lamar, and the story is centered on his POV. Throughout the book, he often wonders why anyone bothers to keep fighting when they are very likely to die a gruesome death...and then come back as the undead. I love the thought process of this character. Unlike many of the other characters, Lamar is always trying to think ahead, instead of just reacting to the danger around his group.

Dead Sea is one of the horror novels I recommend as a general go-to horror novel, but this is also the Keene story I recommend to introduce new readers to the author.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, December 23, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 10


Go back to the beginning of the end of the world...

Hell has come to earth as sadistic zombies rampage and massacre the human population. Reverend Thomas Martin has lost his congregation to the chaos but has found two wayward survivors to protect - Becky and John. The three of them have holed up in Martin's church in a desperate attempt for survival. But as supplies run low and civilization crumbles around them, Martin must come to a realization - God has abandoned them. But why?

Is there any chance of hope in this new world? Is there any chance for deliverance?

Modern horror legend, Brian Keene returns to his fan-favorite universe of The Rising with a tale of faith, loss, and zombies.

This special edition also includes two short stories that expand and explore The Rising mythos - "The Resurrection and the Life" and "The Siqqusim who Stole Christmas."


THE RISING: DELIVERANCE by Brian Keene offers some insight into the character, Reverend Thomas Martin, as well as what occurred inside the church before Jim showed up. However, Keene still keeps the specific fates of Becky and John secret, so this story would have been better off included in THE RISING, instead of being released as an afterthought. There's just not enough meat for readers to sink their teeth into.

THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE is Keene's version of the Book of John, complete with the inclusion of Ob. I enjoyed this story far more than the first one. Nothing like Ob taunting Jesus to create a dramatic biblical thriller.

THE SIQQUSIM WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS involves a couple of characters from THE RISING: SELECTED SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD. As soon as I realized who Ob's host body belonged to, I laughed out loud. Readers can't truly appreciate Keene's twisted mind, until they've experienced his dark humor.

While I appreciate the creativity which went into the last two stories, and I love the cross-references and connections to Keene's previously published menagerie of horrors, I think the author is just milking THE RISING series for more money. I'm glad Keene moved on from this series. I look forward to finishing his Levi Stoltzfus series in 2019.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, December 22, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 9

Brian Keene's seminal novel THE RISING and its sequel, CITY OF THE DEAD, revitalized the horror genre and gave zombie fans a new reason to celebrate. Since their original publication a decade ago, readers have hoped for a return to that universe.

THE RISING: SELECTED SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD is a collection of short stories set in the world of THE RISING, examining the history of the Siqqusim, the arrival of the first zombie, the fall of mankind, and the terrifying events that occur after CITY OF THE DEAD's conclusion. Featuring both new characters and beloved fan-favorites, this globe-spanning saga elevates the horror to new heights. If you are a fan of Keene's zombie mythos, you cannot miss this book!


THE RISING: SELECTED SCENES FROM THE END OF THE WORLD by Brian Keene is a collection of stories which take place within the same universe as THE RISING and CITY OF THE DEAD. If you haven't read those two novels, do not attempt to read selected scenes. Not only do the stories contain new characters, but they also include characters from the previously mentioned novels. Most could be described as flash fiction.

There is quite a variety within these pages, everything from typical horror scenarios to a few love stories. Some tales have some dark humor, others will chip away at your heart. Quite a few are connected to one another, due to migrating survivors and undead making more than one appearance.

One story in particular stood out from all the others: AND HELL FOLLOWED WITH HIM. Keene really went above and beyond with this tale of revenge. I would love a novella featuring the twist presented in this one.

I don't usually mention author notes in my reviews, but Brian Keene's notes are usually pretty entertaining stories themselves, and I really enjoyed his notes at the end of this anthology.

If you're a fan of THE RISING series, I think you'll enjoy this addition. If you haven't read the series yet, what are you waiting for?

As always,
AstraDaemon


Friday, December 21, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 8

The sequel to one of those most popular zombies of all time in a new, uncut, author's preferred edition!

In this sequel to THE RISING, cities are overrun with legions of the undead, intent on destroying what's left of the living. Trapped inside a fortified skyscraper, a handful of survivors prepare to make their last stand against an unstoppable, merciless enemy. With every hour their chances diminish and their numbers dwindle, while the ranks of the dead continue to rise. Because sooner or later, everything dies. And then it comes back, ready to kill.

Deadite Press is proud to present this uncut, Author's Preferred Edition of Brian Keene's seminal CITY OF THE DEAD


CITY OF THE DEAD by Brian Keene gives Ob and his army of zombies just as much coverage as the survivors. Not only do readers discover what has become of the characters from the first book, but Keene also reveals the motivation and plans of the undead. The sequel could have easily been titled, The Hunt.

Once again, the humans are forced to run a gauntlet in order to stay alive, but, this time, they must navigate a privately owned skyscraper. With birds and bats attacking from above, rats trying to work their way in from below, and Ob's army overtaking the city, there appears to be no place to escape to. The human race will only be able to survive if they leave science behind and accept a new way of thinking.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, December 20, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 7

The classic that helped start a pop culture phenomenon - back in print and UNCUT!

Since it's 2003 debut, Brian Keene's THE RISING is one of the best-selling zombie novels of all-time. It has been translated into over a dozen languages, inspired the works of other authors and filmmakers, and has become a cultural touchstone for an entire generation of horror fans.

THE RISING is the story of Jim Thurmond, a determined father battling his way across a post-apocalyptic zombie landscape, to find his young son. Accompanied by Martin, a preacher still holding to his faith, and Frankie, a recovering heroin addict with an indomitable will to survive, Jim travels from state to state and town to town, facing an endless onslaught of undead hordes, and the evils perpetrated by his fellow man.

This brand-new, author's preferred edition, restores nearly 30,000 words of material that was cut from the original edition. These new chapters, which have never been seen by anyone before now, expand the original story, adding new depths to characters and more horrific situations.

You may think you've read THE RISING, but you haven't read it all until you read this edition!

Deadite Press is proud to present this uncut, author's preferred edition, which also includes a lengthy essay by the author about the novel's genesis and history.


THE RISING by Brian Keene is a metaphysical twist on zombies. The first time I read the original version, I didn't like the undead. I was into viral, unthinking zombies at the time Keene's novel was first released. As much as I love the author's work, several years went by before I would even consider giving the novel another chance. I'm glad I did.

The nature of the undead is bad enough, and pretty damn hopeless, but the military has also turned on the survivors, using them for slave labor and other atrocities. Sounds typical of this genre, but Keene's version of a zombie apocalypse is anything but typical. The author switches POVs as well as storylines, until several characters converge on the location where everything began, adding multiple layers and tragedies to battle mankind has no chance of winning.

Readers will get road rash of the mind trying to hold on to this savage ride with Keene and his undead nightmare. Best strap in tight.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 6

For the employees of Big Bill's Home Electronics, it's just the end of another long workday-until a gunman bursts into the store and begins shooting. Now, with some of their co-workers dead, the hostages are disappearing one-by-one, and if they want to survive the night, they'll have to escape... THE CAGE.

Deadite Press is proud to make Brian Keene's hard-to-find, ultra-violent novella THE CAGE available to a wider audience. Also includes three rare bonus stories: "Marriage Causes Cancer In Rats," "Lest Ye Become," and "Waiting For Darkness"


The Cage by Brian Keene is all about the unknown. Not knowing who the stranger is, not knowing what he's doing with the electronics, not knowing what is happening to the employees when they are led, one by one, from the cage. They can't fight the unknown, they can't plan for it...Keene takes a risk keeping his readers in a holding pattern, but the risk pays off as the imagination runs wild, wondering what in the HELL is on the other side of those warehouse doors.

Marriage Cause Cancer In Rats reminds me of the stories played out in Tales of the Crypt.

Lest Ye Become is more of a sci-fi flash fiction piece than horror.

Waiting For Darkness is creepy AF.

All of these stories focus more on the monsters which mess with our heads, rather than physical horror.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 5

There was no warning. No chance to escape. They came suddenly. Naked. Bloodthirsty. Sadistic. They descended upon the Pine Village Apartment Complex, relentlessly torturing and killing anyone they could find.

Fearing for their lives, the residents of the complex must band together. A young trans woman, a suicidal middle-aged writer, a lonely Vietnam vet, a newlywed couple, an elderly widow, a single mother and her son, two on-the-run criminals and the serial killer known as The Exit. Eleven strangers. The only thing they have in common is the unstoppable horde that wants to kill them. If they are to make it through the night, they must fight back.


The Complex by Brian Keene is told through various POVs of the apartment tenants, revealing backstories for each character, as well as referencing events and characters from the author's short stories included in Scratch and Jack's Magic Beans. I couldn't help but feel the tenants could be people I've crossed paths with in the past, giving the story a more personal feel and amping the horror of their battle for survival.

I urge readers to pay special attention to Javier's POV, as it offers some insight into the supernatural entities from Keene's stories, such as Halves. There are just so many great elements in this novella, but I don't want to give away any spoilers. As entertaining as the horror is, I am most impressed by the sociological aspects, particularly Stephanie's last words.

I would love, LOVE, a follow-up story strictly from Hannibal's POV. Better yet, have Hannibal and Javier team up in a story of their own.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, December 17, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 4

April showers bring May flowers. But as the rain-swollen creeks recede, the residents of one rural Pennsylvania town learn that April showers bring something far worse than destructive floods and property damage. This year, the April showers have brought a crypto-zoological nightmare named Scratch, and only pain and terror follow in his wake.

This novella from award-winning, best-selling horror writer Brian Keene also includes a bonus short story - "Halves".


Scratch by Brian Keene is one of the few stories I've read which genuinely concerns me. I've encountered some mind-blowing oversized creatures lurking in the Missouri River in South Dakota, and I've read about bull sharks making their way into freshwater creeks, as well as other real-life examples of nature resembling the monsters in American folklore, so Keene's story about the nightmare living in a Pennsylvanian stream is just too damn believable for me. I will be keeping a close eye on the tree line in the flood zone behind my house during our next rain season, just in case. Once again, the author's talent for blending fact and fiction results in a rather frightening piece of horror.

Halves is a short story about the usefulness of an outdoor cat. Reminded me a bit of General from Cat's Eye, but the suspense is much more intense, and I enjoyed the POV of the parent.

I also appreciated the little nods within each tale to some of Keene's other stories.

Keep checking back for more Days of Keene! Reviews are being posted on a delay due to more than one family emergency this month.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, December 16, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 3

It happens in a split-second. One moment, customers are happily shopping in the Save-A-Lot grocery store. The next instant, they are transformed into bloodthirsty psychotics, interested only in slaughtering one another and committing unimaginably atrocious and frenzied acts of violent depravity. Only Jack, Sammi, Angie and Marcel seem immune to the insanity that has infected the rest of the town. But can they stay alive long enough -- and trust each other long enough -- to unravel the secret of Jack's magic beans... Deadite Press is proud to bring one of Brian Keene's bleakest and most violent novellas back into print once more. This edition also includes four bonus short stories: "Without You", "I Am An Exit", "This Is Not An Exit", and "The King, in: YELLOW".

Jack's Magic Beans by Brian Keene opens with, "The lettuce started talking to Ben Mahoney halfway through his shift at Save-A-Lot," and, if you've ever worked in a grocery store, it's not that difficult to imagine the produce telling you to kill the customers. Although, I do have to admit, Keene's level of savagery between the customers and employees far exceeds any Black Friday rioting. I love how quickly the author throws the reader into the brutal action, from kicking and stabbing to running people down in the parking lot.

Without You is a morbid version of the saying, "Till death do us part."

I Am An Exit has a slightly predictable ending...not the usual shock and awe I've come to expect from Keene. However, this story features a character who connects many other stories together.

This Is Not An Exit is a sequel to the previous short story. This one is surprising.

The King, in: Yellow makes me think Keene channeled Lovecraft.

Not a bad mix, but I prefer Keene's longer stories.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, December 15, 2018

12 Days of Keene: Day 2

From Grandmaster of Horror, Brian Keene, comes a pandemic tale of survival and terror.

When a freak storm hits, time is the enemy as a government-created super virus gets loose and spreads through the quiet little town of Godfrey, Illinois. But the virus isn't the only threat. There are mysterious forces at play and disease is just one instrument of fear.

Previously out of print and never before available as a stand-alone, this new edition of WHITE FIRE has been revised and expanded, and is considered the Author's Preferred Version.


White Fire by Brian Keene has one of the most spectacular storm descriptions I've ever read, with the tornado being a rather extreme version of foreshadowing. The author hooked me with the unusual pairing of Captain Tom Collins and private contractor Phil McLeod, daring to break away from the stereotypical males usually found in the horror genre.

Having read Take the Long Way Home prior to this story, I'm under the impression Keene has developed a skill for weaving theology within horror, without being too obvious. Adding this extra element takes the author's terrifying tales beyond the realms of psychology and sociology, showing readers how a virus can devastate mankind physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

You don't read a Keene story, you experience the nightmare. The only happy ending is being able to move on to his next story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bad Influence


Have you ever wondered why people do bad things? 

One man's desire to find out why turns into an obsession after his wife and unborn child are killed in a drive-by shooting. What Josh discovers defies all logic and reason. But now that he knows the truth, is he about to become the next victim of a random act of violence?


THE SOURCE by W.C. Jones is one of the best horror stories I've ever read! This novella has all the necessary elements for quality entertainment: drama, mystery, suspense and a touch of the supernatural. This is the kind of story I'd expect to see on a show such as Tales of the Crypt.

I love the originality of "the source," and, while Josh reflects on the details of his personal nightmare, I remained captivated from beginning to end. While the outcome is a bit predictable, the very ending is a great touch. I would love to see a longer story based on this one. Perhaps the author could write a story centered around Charlie.

I'm recommending this one to all horror fans as a must-read.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dark Fairy Tale

One wish and Blaze can have anything her heart desires -- no strings attached. She knows this is too good to be true, but the temptation proves to be too great for the young woman who only wants to dance. Because of her background, she knows she'll never be able to afford proper lessons and the opportunities that come with, but all that could change with just one wish.

What Blaze is about to learn, however, is that despite what she's been told, all things have a price. But is it a price she's willing to pay?


THE DANCE by S.L. Williams is more of a dark fantasy than a horror story, but I enjoyed the fairy-tale quality of the author's writing. The main character is developed just enough to create concern for her well-being, but not overdone in details.

Throughout the story, I was never certain who Blaze could trust and who was trying to harm her, and I didn't know where Williams would take the tale of caution. This is an entertaining version of the "be careful what you wish for" warning.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Just Skip To The Battle

The Mole People have long been part of New York City's mythology. An urban legend, much like the alligators in the sewers. But the Mole People are no myth; they are real, and they are being recruited into an Army of Darkness with one purpose: to claim the city for its own

Frank Burger, a NYPD homicide detective, and Harvey Goldblum, a paranormal investigator, have both uncovered the plot, but when they reveal the truth, will anybody believe them? Or will the lights of Broadway go forever dark and will the City that Never Sleeps become a playground for the undead?


THE FREAKS COME OUT AT NIGHT by Joseph Rubas is a crime noir with a vampire at the center. The pace is slow, which makes it difficult to get into the plot. I couldn't read this in one sitting, as I normally do.

The POV switches between the vampire, a couple of detectives, and an author with writer's block. The structure of the story reminds me of a Law & Order episode, with a few supernatural scenes tossed in here and there, and not much action, until about 3/4 into the novella.

Once Mr. Sewer Man unleashed his deadly tsunami into the streets of New York City, the story becomes quite thrilling, but it's too little, too late. Large sections seemed completely unnecessary. I don't know many readers who will stay with this story long enough to enjoy the ending.

I wish the author would've written the entire story in the style he used for the last 1/4.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, December 10, 2018

Urban Sleepy Hollow

The death of a Drug Lord's first lieutenant ignites an all-out war between two rival gangs, a war that has raged on for a year. Homicide detective Karen Oswalt realizes she has no chance of bringing peace to the streets unless she can find the murderer, but it appears to have been the perfect crime. No witnesses. At least none have come forward. But all that is about to change. With one phone call from an informant long-thought dead, Karen Oswalt and her partner are about to come face to... uh... well, face with the killer.

NIKOLIS COLE: THE LOW-RISE SAINT by Richard Black is so good, I gave a copy to a friend. Nikolis Cole is kind of like a modern day Headless Horseman mixed with Shaft, and I would definitely read another story with this character. I also enjoyed Detective Karen and the way she carries herself throughout the novella.

I've never heard of Richard Black before, but the author is definitely on my radar now. I highly recommend this story to anyone who appreciates horror mixed with an urban legend.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Supernatural Coyotes?

Three strangers, a wealthy divorcé in his brand new Mercedes and a young couple taking their first trip together, find themselves tangled in a messy accident and stranded on the side of a desolate desert highway. With one of them in critical condition, they call 911 expecting a quick response and experienced professionals to save the day. Instead, they're pulled into a sinister game with a cold-blooded, merciless dispatcher.

NINE ONE ONE by Kay Oliver is a chilling story with a strange ending. The car accident, in the middle of nowhere at night, is bad enough, but the mind games played by the dispatcher are truly sickening. There is a supernatural element to the phone conversations, and I can't help but wonder if the coyotes have something to do with all of it.

As always,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon

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 clichĂ©, 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,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon

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,
AstraDaemon