Thursday, February 28, 2019

I'll Make You Fall For Me

In this short story placed in ancient Rome, Valerius, a self-styled investigator of wrong-doing currently undergoing a bout of amnesia, looks into the murder of a high-born woman whose body was found in his brothel.

THE KALENDS OF MARTIUS by Jerry Gerold is like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, set in Roman times, with a touch of Jerry Springer for good measure. Don't misunderstand me, it's an interesting short story, but the ending made me laugh. I'm not sure if the author intended to create the moment of dark humor or not.

Let's just say, Valerius should probably have learned to keep it in his robes.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Take Us All

Shrouded in Mystery



The locals call it Isla de los Perdidos.
Island of the Lost.
According to the legends, those who venture onto the shores of this cursed island never return.


Abandoned

Valarie DeNola and her sister Julie have chosen to ignore the legends and the warnings. They have been selected to lead a team of explorers to the island to discover the mystery surrounding it. But once ashore, they become cut off from the outside world, and what they discover is something they could never have prepared for.


Inhabited by Death

Now they must fight against an unknown presence that is picking them off one by one. No one can be trusted, and when even nature rises up against them, all seems lost. Their one hope is the extraction team they know is coming.


But will any of them survive to see it arrive?
INFERNAL by Cheryl Low is a frightening mystery-thriller. The storyline moves at a slow pace for much of the novel, but with such well-developed characters and backstories, the death crawl works well. However, even I must admit there was a moment when I wondered if Val would ever make it onto the island. The heavy emphasis on the sharks threw me off, and I wondered if I misunderstood the book description.
The ending is everything. All the details I assumed were just page filler turned out to be pieces of a complicated and terrifying puzzle. Suddenly, the scenes with shark frenzies and howler monkeys made perfect sense. Much like the characters pushing through the jungle, readers need to push through to the big reveal. The last chapter is an absolute mind-blower.

Low did such an excellent job mixing folklore and supernatural elements with science, I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday Tunes: Art of Anarchy


I simply don't believe it's possible to enjoy a good book without the proper music playing in the background. While I listen to all kinds of music, hard rock and metal will always be my go-to genres, especially if I'm reading horror stories. Movies have soundtracks, why not books? Some authors will provide a list of the songs they listened to while writing, but the music which fuels creativity is not always the same sound which sets the mood for reading.

This week's Tuesday Tunes are brought to you by the rock band Art of Anarchy, and, just like the horror genre, this band is no stranger to controversy...but I don't give a crap about any of that. You shouldn't either. The fact remains, after two albums with two different lead vocals, the soul of their sound remains intact. I have no doubt the third album created by Moyer, Thal and the Votta brothers will still blow us all away.

Their self-titled album, with frontman Scott Weiland (R.I.P.), is reminiscent of the grunge genre, but so much better. Ironically, I'm well-known among my friends for blaming the downfall of society on the grunge movement in the 90s, but I can't deny the power of the deep lyrics and killer riffs of AoA's debut album. It's as if they took the heart of grunge and used electric fire to forge it into something wicked and wild.

I love their second album, The Madness, even more, which surprised me. I hated Creed, back in the day. The music definitely makes the man, as AoA breathed new life into Scott Stapp's vocals with this album release. Too bad the band can't find a frontman who appreciates the fire of AoA, instead of pissing on it...but, again, I recommend not giving a crap about those details.

My point is, between the two albums, Art of Anarchy is an excellent choice for background reading music for just about any story. I've played these albums for horror, steampunk, supernatural and many other sub-genres of fiction...for both novels and anthologies, but AoA really blends well with a solid book series.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 25, 2019

Given Decision to Live

Ten contestants were sent to a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean, where they'd be left to fend for themselves for a number of weeks, as part of a new reality television show. After a quick weekend learning basic survival skills, these people were dumped on the island's shoreline with basic rations, basic tools and equipment they could use to document their journey. Also tucked in the supplies were radios with which to communicate with the show's producers if they needed evacuation at any point. The purpose of the show was simple: See if modern man and woman still had the skills to survive away from the comforts every day life now provided them...

... But when things go wrong they quickly learn that they're very much alone and part of a much, much darker reality television program.


THE ISLAND by Matt Shaw is a great suspense-thriller, but it is considerably tamer than the stories Shaw is infamous for. To be brutally honest, the author scares the crap out of me with the stories spewed from his dark mind. I felt the need to ease into Shaw's violent creations, and this novella is a terrifying but safe way to get familiar with his writing style.

The plot reminds me a little of the movie, The Condemned, but the turn of events are not as predictable as you might think. I love the fast pace of the action and I'm glad the author didn't waste a lot of space on the character's thoughts and feelings. I knew it would be a mistake to get attached to any of the contestants.

The format of the story deserves a special round of props. Shaw did an amazing of job of creating the sensation of watching an actual television show, without being gimmicky about it. The very ending had me screaming bloody murder and downloading more of Shaw's stories.

I highly recommend Matt Shaw to horror fans, but only the serious ones. If you're just a casual visitor to the horror genre, stay far away from Shaw...no joke.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Afraid of the Sins

"I see the darkness in you. I can see it behind those bloodshot spiderwebs. It's trying to crawl out. Are you ready to confess?"

"Confess to what?! You know nothing about me."

"And yet the eyes never lie. It's there. Let me show you..."


A GOOD PAIR OF EYES by Matthew Buza is a crime drama mixed with supernatural horror, and the story scared the crap out of me with the vivid descriptions. Someone unexpectedly walked into the room while I was reading this, and I jumped about a foot off the couch. Buza has a serious talent for terror.

I've never heard of this author before, but his creation is definitely making my Top 2019 list. If you like movies such as The Grudge or Unfriended, you're going to love this short horror story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 23, 2019

And It Goes Like This...

The only thing more frightening than driving down a deserted stretch of road in the middle of the night is realizing that you’re not alone.

It’s 1996 and high school sweethearts, Zoe and Stefano, are enjoying a valentine’s night in when Zoe realizes she is about to miss her midnight curfew. Worried about losing her car privileges, she jumps into her Ford Escort and begins the long and dark drive home. Meanwhile, Stefano is caught off guard by a troubling psychic premonition of blood – lots of blood.

As the clock ticks down to midnight, Zoe comes to the bone-chilling realization that she has a bigger problem than answering to her strict father about the time.


THE GARAGE by J. Dispenza claims to be based on a true story. The author uses a few close-calls to build up the suspense, which made me a nervous wreck. (I had something similar happen, when I used to work nights as a DJ.) For the life of me, I don't understand why Zoe didn't lay on her car horn as soon as she arrived on her street. Clever use of misdirection...I couldn't have predicted the ending, if my life depended on it.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 22, 2019

Just The Working Life

Patch thought he'd find peace when he came back from the war. But he soon discovered the Tri-Counties held dark secrets that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Soon after starting his new job at the town's metalworks plant, a group of government officials began conducting experiments on employees, including Patch.

What the drugs did to his body didn't compare to the real reason behind the experiments.

Isolated in a secret location, a small group of residents became victims of a twisted government plan and a creature beyond nightmares.


THE PLANT by Paul Sating barely resembles the story description. The setting is post-apocalypse, and the Tri-Counties are cut off from everything else. Patch hears a couple talking about how bad things have gotten, and shares a story with them. He never gets into specifics about anything. No details are given regarding the experiments. The description of a mystery creature is minimal. 

Granted, it's meant to be a prequel to a novel, but the general vagueness doesn't tempt me into reading The Scales.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 21, 2019

In The Zone

Larry Hawthorne has been set up to take the blame for a colossal screw up at the prestigious finance company for which he works. 

With the help of a dusty old Dot Matrix printer sending him cryptic messages, he begins to formulate a plan that will take his enemies down and ensure his meteoric rise to the top.


DOT MATRIX by Jack Binding elicits sympathy for Hawthorne from the get-go. The author does such a great job of describing the characters, I wanted Baker dead too. The unfolding of events is dark and captivating. Unfortunately, Hawthorne should've taken the printer home with him...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

It's Just A Question

When Alex Peterson touches people, he gets flashes of the terrible things they've done. When he admits this in a game of Truth or Dare, his friends dare him to touch the creepy neighbor, who may be a murderer.

TAKING THE DARE by Gary Jonas begins with a fascinating hook: seeing people's guilty memories, quickly followed up with rumors of a child killer in the neighborhood. For some reason, one line in particular hit me like a strobe light, so I thought I knew what would unfold, but Jonas managed to surprise me.

This is only the second story I've read by this author, but I really enjoy his writing style, so far.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday Tunes: Aranda

Band of the Week: Aranda
Music Monday, Tuesday Tunes...when you keep the hours that I do, the days and nights run together, and calendars are for other people who live and die by the clock...but I'm here to discuss words, not numbers.

There is an undeniable connection between literature and music, with drama, fantasy and, sometimes, tragedy woven throughout both. Many people also associate Rock with all kinds of naughty stuff, but the music is so much more than attitude and appearance, just as genre fiction is so much more than plot twists and setting. Both provide a way to escape with a passion we can all relate to on some level.

Not The Same, 3rd Aranda Album
With all that said, this week's recommendation for your listening pleasure is ARANDA, from OKC. Not The Same, is their third release, but it's the album I stumbled upon while looking for something new to listen to, a few years back. I've been told the sound is very different from the previous two, but that's irrelevant to me. The tracks switch between moods and tempos rather haphazardly, which is kind of how I like my fiction...I've never been a fan of the predictable.

We Are The Enemy reminds me of scenes with groups in conflict. Don't Wake Me reminds me of the flawed personal traits of many characters in mystery-thrillers. Stay is uncharacteristically sweet, much like an unexpected happy ending. I could keep going, point is, every single song has its own flavor. Not surprisingly, this is one of my go-to albums when I'm reading an anthology featuring numerous authors with diverse writing styles.

I think flash fiction fans are the ones who will appreciate Aranda the most.

Keep listening...keep reading...keep checking back...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 18, 2019

Time Slips Away

Meet Rebecca and John, a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. Sometimes it takes counseling to appreciate your spouse. 


Other times it takes a ride through a giant time wormhole.

REBECCA by Austin Grisham is an unusual flash fiction story about a couple who are reunited after one hell of a rough patch. At first, I thought the narrator, John, was mentally unstable, until his reasons for his behavior are revealed. The airport scene made my stomach drop; the ending blew my mind away. Love the wormhole twist.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Unchain Me

Julian Kensi is about to start his first day in retail.

What he doesn’t know is that to his supervisor, Peter Smith, he is just another pawn to be used in his rise to the top. That is until Julian begins to act strangely.

As Peter attempts to learn more, his ruthless methods cause events to take a macabre turn beyond control. 

Insular a short story about one man’s life-long fear and regret. It’s a story about obsession, the power of a person’s imagination, and the terrible consequences once this imagination has been unleashed.


INSULAR by Jamie Stewart is an excellent short story, with the strangeness of a Twilight Zone episode and the suspense of a Ray Bradbury tale. The setting is extremely relatable, which is one of the most disturbing aspects. The concept of being so wrapped up in our own heads that we miss something very wrong happening right on front of us is also quite frightening.

What becomes of Julian pales in comparison to how Peter has been living his life. Stewart uses psychology in a rather diabolical way to shake up readers. This is exactly the story we all need to read, at least once.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Get Up Out The Way

All communications with The Tarican 4 Colony, a new Earth terra-forming project, were lost. No one in Earth Gov. could explain why. A joint military/civilian team of soldiers and experts have been dispatched to investigate the sudden silence, but will they be ready for what they are about to discover?

COLONY OF THE DEAD by Eric S. Brown kept me guessing about the source of the infection. The reveal towards the end would make another great story, perhaps a prequel. While the action and suspense are fairly solid, this zombie story didn't meet my expectations for Brown.

THE GUIDE is a bonus Bigfoot story. This flash fiction piece has a very dark ending, which makes the Sasquatch look like a kitten.

NO STINKING YANKEE is a bonus zombie story in flash fiction form, a moment in the Civil War with the undead.

I'm going to assume these stories were written before Brown nailed down his writing style because all three pale in comparison to the author's recent work in the last few years.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 15, 2019

There's Something Wrong Up Here

Built at the turn of the century, Stratosphere Heights Amusement Park had seen more than its share of grisly—bordering on supernatural—events before being torn down to make way for the highway interchange. But when the person who knows the place best can't be trusted to keep his story straight, who can separate fact from fiction? A dark fantasy from the anthology: Postcards From The Void.

STRATOSPHERE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY by Antonio Simon Jr. is a clever piece of flash fiction. This story provides the perfect example of an unreliable narrator. I love how the story variations overlapped slightly, hinting at a bit of truth here and there, with a plausible explanation of the narrator's mental state.

If you enjoyed the author's short story, NO THANKS, you'll enjoy this one as well. Both stories emphasize a questionable state of mind.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 14, 2019

To The Rescue

Scholarly John Fiore has long sought to preserve the literary heritage of the fallen Empire in a library, a library funded by the proceeds of his life as a mercenary, assassin, and adventurer. His most recent assignment is to rescue Adriana Cimino, daughter of a lord of the Narrow Sea, from the lecherous Talassos, prince of the serpentine Naga.

LORD GIOVANNI'S DAUGHTER by Matthew W. Quinn would make a good video game, complete with half-serpent guards and rescuing the damsel in distress. Unfortunately, this tale doesn't work well as a short story. Plenty of action, but barely any dialogue, and no character depth, making it difficult to feel anything for Fiore or Adriana.

I don't know if it's the genre or the plot, but this is nothing like what I've come to expect from Quinn. The author's horror stories are much better than this fantasy piece.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My Eyes Are Burning Red

Ten years ago they swore revenge on the man who killed their comrade. Finally, a violent solar storm is plunging the world into darkness and giving them their chance.

When a solar storm knocks out all electricity for twelve hours, Cassie and Anders know that this might be their last opportunity to kill Michael Essien. Massively wealthy and surrounded by the strongest high-tech defense systems that money can buy, Essien lives at the top of a skyscraper in London. But the coming storm means that all his systems will be out of action for the night.

Setting out to gain vengeance, Cassie and Anders know that time is against them. They mount a daring, high-risk assault on the skyscraper, pitting their wits against whatever defenses Essien can scramble together in time. For one night only, the playing field is leveled. Will Essien's luck hold, or will the notorious gun-runner finally pay the price for a murder he once committed in the Middle East?


LIGHTS OUT by Amy Cross is a mix of suspense and drama, centered on two specialists keeping a vow they made to one another, after a mission goes terribly wrong. The POV alternates between Anders, Essien and Cassie, with a bit of Randall tossed in. Anders and Cassie think they'll be doing the world a favor by taking out Essien, as well as finally putting the past behind them. Essien, knowing he has enemies in London, expects Randall to provide security during the power outage. Randall is a wild card.

About halfway through, a major flashback reveals exactly what happened with Essien, but I still wasn't prepared for the shocking ending. Some scenes, particularly the ones with Cassie and Essien, are so intense, I didn't think I could keep going without breaking down.

Unlike most of the author's stories, there are no supernatural elements...just some people trying to tie up a very messy loose end with some calculated brutality.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ran Away Crawling

Discover the secret origins of the "drink of the gods" in this dark fantasy fable by best-selling author Brian Keene. Chalco, a young Aztec boy, feels helpless as conquering Spanish forces near his village. But when a messenger of the gods hands him a key to unlock the doors of human perception and visit unseen worlds, Chalco journeys into the mystical Labyrinth, searching for a way to defeat the invaders. He will face gods, devils, and things that are neither. But he will also learn that some doorways should never be opened and not all entrances have exits... Tequila's Sunrise. Take the shot and open the door... if you dare. Deadite Press is proud to present this author's preferred edition of Brian Keene's long out-of-print novella, which contains material not included in previously published editions. Also included in this edition are seven bonus short stories: Dust, Burying Betsy, Fade To Null, Golden Boy, Two-Headed Alien Love Child, That Which Lingers, and Bunnies In August.

TEQUILA'S SUNRISE by Brian Keene is a story of opportunity. While mostly a slow setup, this tale has an ending best appreciated by hardcore Keene fans. I strongly recommend reading the author's previous work, before attempting this story.

BURYING BETSY is a flash fiction piece about a family trying to keep a little girl safe in a very extreme way.

DUST  is a post 9/11 story.

FADE TO NULL uses flash fiction to describe the deterioration of an elderly woman's mind.

BUNNIES IN AUGUST is a soul-crusher...I struggled with this one...we always have baby bunnies in our yard.

THAT WHICH LINGERS is the creepiest haunting story I've ever read.

TWO-HEADED ALIEN LOVE CHILD...I can't stop laughing...

GOLDEN BOY is a modern, albeit twisted, version of King Midas.

Overall, this is an interesting mix of stories, proving Keene is more than just a basic horror author, but I think readers will have to familiarize themselves with his novels, before reading any of his shorts.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 11, 2019

Music Monday in the Lair

Many authors like to include a list of music they listen to when writing their stories...a sort of soundtrack. I've decided I would begin sharing some of the music I listen to when I read the stories I'm reviewing. Welcome to Music Monday in the Lair!

For the record, I listen to many different genres of music, but, just as I prefer horror to other literary genres, I will always prefer Rock over anything else. Unfortunately, there was a long period of time when the Rock genre disappointed me...I thought I'd have to be satisfied with my collection of 70s, 80s and 90s albums, cassettes and CDs (yeah, I'm that old). Then something amazing happened: Rock remembered how to kick ass again, instead of whining about life.

Over the last four or five years, many great Rock albums have been released, and I've found several bands to be the perfect background music for my reading marathons. Some have impressed me more than others, but they've all impressed me one way or another.


To begin, I present to you, Adelitas Way. Now, if you're looking for stats on the members or a history of their music, go find a music blog. I'm simply bringing up a couple of their albums which I listen to on a regular basis, while tearing through the latest round of horror stories.

Although Getaway is not their first album, it is the first time I listened to anything by Adelitas Way, and it blew me away. Their lyrics are down and dirty like songs from Guns N Roses and Mötley Crüe, but delivered with a smooth style reminiscent of bands like Sleeze Beez and Shotgun Messiah. With tracks such as Bad Reputation, Filthy Heart and Sometimes You're Meant To Get Used, the band establishes they are not here to play nice. Getaway flows with darkness and personal demons, setting the mood for those storylines centered on a character readers love to hate.

Their most recent album, Notorious, is just as badass as Getaway. The first track, Notorious, is like the silver tip on boot headed directly for your face: you are going to feel it, and it is hard. Other great tracks include Ready For War, You're Not The Only One and Vibes...a perfect backdrop for any character-driven story.

Adelitas Way has already had some of their music featured in several forms of media ranging from the WWE theme song to the soundtrack of Saw 3D, but I'm hoping more movies in the horror genre will use this band in future soundtracks.


Check back next Monday for more music suggestions to accompany your next reading session!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Stay With Me 'Til The End

Officer Norman was only a teenager when his quiet neighbourhood fell victim to a brutal serial killer's bloody games. Too young to help, but not too young to feel helpless. Now, twenty five years later, as he patrols his beat, he can't help but wonder about the killer. A killer who is still out there, somewhere. Haunting memories of a case never to be solved . . . or is it?

THE SECRET LIFE OF MY IMAGINARY FRIEND by horror authors Andrew Lennon and Stephen White would make a fantastic crime-thriller movie. The serial murders are revealed through flashbacks, as the narrator is on his way to a concert. The half-time show leads to such a wicked twist, I had to reread the ending three times to make sure I understood what had happened.

I love being caught off guard.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 9, 2019

There's Fault In Our Design

OFF TRACK by Joshua Scribner is western-themed piece of flash fiction with a supernatural element about a bounty hunter and a man with a price on his head. When the two come face to face, a few VERY significant details are revealed about the two men, but it's the dialogue which steals the scene.

Flash fiction is more of a moment than a story, a glimpse of characters, but Joshua Scribner has once again mastered the moment with a one hell of a glimpse.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Night Is Still Early

Western Romance. Young woman sets her sights on a man, ignoring the fact that he doesn't want to get married.

FRISCO by Abe Evergreen is nothing like the stories I am used to reading, not even the romance novels I used to read in the distant past, so I'm not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. I kept expecting something supernatural or violent to happen.

I suppose I could describe Frisco as a coming of age story, but not much is revealed about the main character, Chita, even though the story is told through her POV. In fact, very few details are revealed about anyone or anything: Jackson Jones (her love interest), her family (aside from owning a large ranch) or Frisco (the town she's in).

The writing style and plot is so extremely different from anything I've read by Evergreen before now, I'm not sure why he bothered to write this short at all. I hope the author has decide to stick with science fiction.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, February 7, 2019

It Really Really Really Could Happen

Terraling is a science fiction short story about a man from Texas who is abducted and finds himself amongst strange creatures from every corner of the Universe, and he's the reason they've made their intergalactic journey.

TERRALING by S.O. Bailey is more like a documentary than a story. Kind of like a show you'd find on Animal Planet, where the camera follows a specific mammal for a prolonged period of time. In this case, the show would probably be called Species of the Universe...and this particular show provides commentary on a male Homo Sapien in captivity.

The ending is extremely disturbing, and leaves several unanswered questions. I think the author needs to either continue this as a mini-series or extend it into a novella. I want to know more about the setting.

I don't think this is Bailey's best work, but I appreciate the mix of anthropology and science fiction. I recommend reading the author's other short stories before attempting this one.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

They're Killin' To Keep Runnin'

CONCURRENT WITH PAVLOV'S DOGS...

From breakouts in the monster lab to his role in the zombie apocalypse, follow Dr. Crispin and his team of werewolves through three eras of mad scientists, abominations, and a deadly new adversary. 


...THERE WAS DOG YEARS 3: RETURN TO MOREAU LABS

Dr. Crispin’s covert team of genetic runts hunts down an old enemy at the source of the zombie outbreak.


RETURN TO MOREAU LABS by Thom Brannan and D.L. Snell is the third story in the prequel series to Pavlov's Dogs, although this one takes place during the same period of time in which Ken and Jorge (human survivors from the novel) realize the dead won't stay down. While Crispin's motivation for sending the Dogs to the mainland on a rescue mission is finally revealed, and Greco's journey circles back to the beginning of everything, the action doesn't seem as thrilling as the fighting in Dog Years 1.

However, I did enjoy seeing the gRunts in action, a nice change from the focus on Kaiser and Mac. I would love to know more about Street, the female Dog. I think she needs her own novelette, as I'm sure the authors could weave some interesting scientific differences based on her sex.

You don't need to read Pavlov's Dogs to enjoy the Dog Years, but I'm glad I read the novel first to appreciate the history of Kaiser, Mac and all the others. Not really werewolves, but a hell of a twist on the shapeshifter genre.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Kept in the Dark and Waiting

26 YEARS BEFORE PAVLOV'S DOGS...

From breakouts in the monster lab to his role in the zombie apocalypse, follow Dr. Crispin and his team of werewolves through three eras of mad scientists, abominations, and a deadly new adversary. 


...THERE WAS DOG YEARS 2: PEDIGREE

The genesis of Alpha McLoughlin and Theta Kaiser is revealed, putting them in conflict with Dr. Crispin’s pet revivification project.


PEDIGREE by Thom Brannan and D.L. Snell takes place four years after the horrific incident in MOREAU LABS. Unlike the action in the first prequel, Dog Years 2 focuses on the psychological drama Kaiser and Mac must face as boys. The history of their biological mothers is revealed in bits and pieces, highlighting what kind of  a twisted monster Greco is. If you thought Crispin is bad, you are in for a shocking and vile backstory.

While Pedigree isn't as long as the first novelette, the authors keep up the intensity with the manipulation displayed by both Crispin and Greco. Crispin's discovery about his partner towards the end makes for a chilling cliff-hanger.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, February 4, 2019

Death Draws Near

30 YEARS BEFORE PAVLOV'S DOGS...

From breakouts in the monster lab to his role in the zombie apocalypse, follow Dr. Crispin and his team of werewolves through three eras of mad scientists, abominations, and a deadly new adversary. 

...THERE WAS DOG YEARS 1: MOREAU LABS

Dr. Crispin and his arch-rival are forced to use a frightening technology when zombies break out in the monster lab.


DOG YEARS 1: MOREAU LABS by Thom Brannan and D.L. Snell, the first prequel to Pavlov's Dogs, takes place 30 years before the events in the novel. A younger Crispin is working on a reanimation virus, while his counterpart, Greco, is working on a way to control a biomutation project. Someone lets Crispin's patients escape his lab, and the virus spreads like wildfire.

Crispin attempts to rescue his lab assistant while piloting one of two Dogs created by Greco, but loses himself in the sensations of the battle against the undead lab employees. The two scientists not only get to field test their projects, but they inadvertently involve a third project.

The action is absolutely spectacular. Reading this story felt as though I was experiencing a virtual reality horror game, navigating through different levels filled with the undead and other monstrosities. I highly recommend this scifi-thriller!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Riding On The Tide [Interview]

Recently, I reviewed RAGE, the fourth book in the DEAD TIDE series by Stephen A. North. I began my journey with North and his undead series back in 2013, when I was still writing for The Zombiephiles. You can read the first interview here.

I can't emphasize enough how Rage is the best book in the series! Not only has the author continued to keep outcomes unpredictable, while revealing more personal details about the mentality of each character, but he also creates unforgettable connections between the survivors. (Ex: there is a major reveal about Trish's past, concerning her husband's murder.)

North has come a long way as an author, and I wanted to give readers another reason to begin the Dead Tide saga. I invited the author to the Lair this weekend, for our second interview together...

I know I asked you this once before, but would you elaborate on where the idea/inspiration for your Dead Tide series came from.


Stephen A. North, author of Dead Tide series
I was sixteen or seventeen when I saw the original Dawn of the Dead at the Midnight Movies. Blew me away.  Not a perfect movie, but there was a lot of good in there. My friend Dave was there with me, and at the time I wondered what adventures I might be able to explore in that world. Literally decades later, I discovered a publisher who was actively seeking zombie novels. I was forty years old at this point (roughly 14 years ago now), and I wondered if I could write a zombie story. I’d written one novel and self-published it at this point (Beneath the Mask). I decided to go for it, and wrote it with the express purpose of trying to be published with Permuted Press.

I am a great admirer of the present tense style of writing used so effectively (to me) by Richard Monaco (in his Parsival series). He’d alternate POV characters (in 3rd person in some of the books) and I loved it so much I used in it Dead Tide. I wanted to be different, and think I succeeded.

The sad part was the previous owner of Permuted Press rejected my book (Dead Tide), and said that it didn’t really excite him. I was crushed, but didn’t give up. A man named Michael West (Dr. Pus) was starting up his own publishing house (The Library of the Living Dead) and he wanted Dead Tide for his first book! The book did well, and I went on with the series.

My friend, Dave, a real life homicide detective, helped me by being my beta reader, and giving me insight that helped me portray certain elements of the story realistically. Bottom line is Dawn of the Dead inspired the story, Richard Monaco provided the framework I’d use, and Jacob Kier gave me a reason to take a chance. The story was published elsewhere first by a wonderful man who believed in me (Michael West, aka Dr. Pus and The Library of the Living Dead), and later by Jacob.

So glad I took the journey.

Do you have a specific number of books in mind for the series, or are you letting your characters decide how to continue the Dead Tide saga?

There should be at least one more book. I’m also considering a possible spin-off. So, the answer is there will be at least five books. If any surviving characters still have a story to share, there could be more. I’ve also entertained the perhaps strange notion of exploring what would have happened to these characters if the zombie apocalypse had never happened. I suppose many of them would never enter the story if this happened.  

Within the last year, Mel Smith, author of the zombie comic, Dead Ahead, filed a lawsuit against Fear The Walking Dead for having an “identical premise” of a group trying to survive the zombie apocalypse via boat. Considering that Dead Tide has characters battling over a yacht, how do you feel about an author claiming infringement over a common bug-out plan?

I have only seen an episode or two of Fear the Walking Dead, and I’ve never heard of Mel Smith. I think I’d have to see the second season of FTWD and read Smith’s book to judge. Without doing either, I’d lean towards no infringement. Are the two stories that similar, or is it just escaping the Zompocalypse by boat? In my story, it just makes sense to me. Zombies have a hard time getting to you out on the water.

What do you think sets your Dead Tide series apart from other zombie series?

Well, it is the only zombie series I know of set in Tampa Bay, and it alternates POV characters with each chapter. There is a large cast of characters.

When the books were sold to Permuted Press, the decision was made to ditch the present tense in favor of the more common past tense narration. Initially, it had that difference also. The present tense is immediate, and I still use it when I feel it’s appropriate, but not any longer in the Dead Tide series.  

For the sake of continuity, I have self-published Dead Tide Rage in the past tense to go along with the three published by Permuted. The books are also famous/infamous for having short chapters (but I tried to transition away from that due to ‘some’ reader complaints).  

Is there a specific message or theme you’re trying to impress upon your readers?

My many years of retail, and in six years in the Army Reserve left a indelible imprint on me that people aren’t just one thing.

The guy who cheats on his wife still loves his kids and his wife, but for whatever reason he just can’t resist temptation, or the outraged woman consumed by hate may one day find her way back to letting go, or the lonely little boy might give his all for a friend who loves him.

People aren’t just one thing.  

How do you keep track of so many characters? When I picture you writing, I imagine you have a board filled with post-it notes connected by yarn…or a white board with a flow chart…

Every time I wrote these books I’d work in a circular fashion. I’d re-read what I wrote previously then come back around. I was constantly re-reading what I’d written to keep it straight.

I did keep track of when to come back to a character with a list that would show when to return to that character. For instance it might show this progression: Tracks; Keller; Trish; Daric; Julie; Foster; Mills; Sid; Johnny; then come back around to Tracks.

I also tried to stay in the same time frame. It was a challenge at times, but a joyous one. I really had fun writing these books!

What can we expect from you in 2019? Any conventions coming up?

There will be a short story collection for sure, and I’ll see if I can get paperback versions out for both the collection (tentatively titled ‘Laments of the Damned’) and Dead Tide Rage.  I’d also like to finish ‘Undead in Vegas.’  I suspect that it may reach novel length.

I’m guilty of having too many ideas and not enough time. For the first time in my adult life I’m in the position of doing whatever I want (when not working my real-world job), and sometimes I take time to do things I wasn’t in a position to do before.

I look at these distractions in a positive light. New experiences may help my writing. I hope my readers will find that to be true. I certainly have more projects than I have time for.

I would love to go to Texas Frightmare. Never been, and many of my writer friends seem to enjoy it.  So far, I have no definitive plan for any convention. I’m open to suggestions or requests.

Thanks for coming to Lair! I can't wait for the fifth Dead Tide book!

Thank you, Ursula.


If you're still not sure you want to commit to an ongoing series, I encourage readers to check out North's short stories. I'll be reviewing TUSK AND SEDATION DENTISTRY in March. In the meantime, you can find my other North reviews here.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Cold Night

13 year old Justin and his single father begin to build a bond over their first deer hunting trip together. Finally, something they can both relate to. The morning trip doesn't go so well for Justin and they leave empty handed. He's A little freaked out from his odd experience in the woods, but his dad ensures he's safe and calms him down. His spirits are lifted when he finds out his uncle has killed his first deer of the season not far from where they hunt. A few days go by before they head out for an evening hunt. He's feeling much more confident this time. Little does he know, this hunt will change his life forever.

THE MAN IN THE WOODS by John Wilber is full of strangeness. I kept making wild guesses throughout the story: I thought Justin would find out his dad sold his son to his boss to be prey, I thought there might be a werewolf in the woods...I even thought Justin might be seeing his future self.  None of what I imagined is as terrifying as the ending. Sometimes the smallest moments contain the most horror.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Shadows of the Night Are Unleashed Again

If you could have anything you wanted, once a year, in return for completing a simple task, would you do it? What if that task, was to let all of the demons out of hell, for a night of fun and carnage? Meet the GateKeeper.

THE GATEKEEPER by Kevin J. Kennedy is a flash fiction piece told from the POV of a drunk. A demon offers him a once-a-year job, in exchange for one wish every year. The concept is very interesting, but more is revealed about the character's drinking problem than anything to do with the Gate.

I wish the author had offered the POV of one of the creatures coming out of the trap door, followed one for the night or something along those lines. Instead, Kennedy wastes space on a sex scene, which has very little to do with the plot. As a matter of fact, aside from the brief erotica, the story is basically just a prolonged job description with no real action or dialogue.

This story has tremendous potential, and I hope the author considers revising the concept into something longer with more details about the various creatures, besides physical descriptions.

As always,
AstraDaemon