Sunday, March 31, 2019

Powerful and Captivating

Two men awake within the confines of an electrified chain-link fence. Machine guns point at them from every direction. Fanged beasts stalk the outside. An hourglass shows they're running out of time. They have no idea why they're here.


CONDUCTORS by Joshua Scribner is food for thought, soup for the soul, and incredibly captivating. The psychological element is intense and the emotional aspect had me in tears. While this story is not like Scribner's usual pieces of horror, this is certainly one of his best.


I usually try to limit reviewing an author to once a month, but there are many Scribner stories I haven't read yet. The author just released several more this month, so expect to see a lot more of Joshua Scribner in the Lair this year.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Not WIthout An Invite

Mom and Dad are gone. Someone's at the door, and they keep coming back.

NO HARM by Joshua Scribner is a supernatural flash fiction piece. The story is a bit like a modern fairy tale, but I'm not sure what the moral would be...don't be rude?

Scribner puts a lot of detail into the "offer," considering the story is only a few pages. I wouldn't mind seeing the visitor again in another story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, March 29, 2019

Governess of the Grotesque

Fresh from the convent, Beryl Seaton accepts a position as governess for the Brooks family. When she arrives at the family's remote house, however, she discovers that a terrible secret is waiting for her in the nursery. Something so horrific, it chills Beryl to her core. Yet her desire to help is so strong, and so genuine, that Beryl nevertheless struggles to look after their son.

What happened to Stephen, to leave him the way he is? What happened to the previous governess at Grangehurst? And what causes the sobbing sound that seems to drift through an empty room? As Beryl's own account of the horror continues, she asks the reader to heed her warning: do not read the twenty-eighth chapter of her story.

By the time she uncovers the awful truth about the family, and about little Stephen, it might be too late for Beryl to ever leave.


STEPHEN by Amy Cross almost made me throw up. Some of the descriptions are so graphic, I retched a few times. The story is told as flashbacks being written down by Beryl. I think she had to be mentally unstable from the very beginning, to stay as long as she did at Grangehurst. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the nuns wanted Beryl out of the convent because they felt she might harm them. She didn't come across as a naive young girl, she seemed to be quite psychotic.

While the story held my interest and the descriptions are extremely detailed, I have a few issues with this novel. First of all, there seems to be a lot of droning on from Beryl, which could have been cut down, without ruining the story. Second, I enjoy horror which frightens me. This didn't frighten me, I simply felt repulsed. If you take away the grotesque scenes, there isn't much else to the storyline.

Last but not least, the author's writing style is drastically different from any of her previous work. I understand short stories would not be written the same way a novella or novel would be created, but Cross appears to put more effort into her smaller works. I do not recommend this one.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Humanity of a Monster

PALLOR MORTIS by Yolanda Olson is the story of the Bride of Frankenstein, told from her POV. Elsa's narrative comes across more as a combination of a family drama and coming of age than any kind of horror. The suspense is fairly decent and Olson does a quality job of staying true to the themes presented in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The author also emphasizes the difference between her relationship with her "brother" as opposed to their "father," emphasizing the "abominations" as having the more human connection. The ending is ironic considering Elsa had finally found her voice and refused to be a victim.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wicked Wednesday: A Kai Collection

LIVING NIGHTMARES by Christopher Kai is a collection of five short stories, some of which were previously featured at AstraDaemon's Lair.

THE HEART COLLECTOR is a solid horror short filled with suspense and desperation. Janine is a waitress who gets creeped out during her work shift, but still stupidly walks down a dark alley after the bar closes, by herself. I expected a vampire, but Kai delivers something more terrifying.

THE PERUVIAN DOLL is a frightening piece of flash fiction. Bryan's friend is a cop, but nothing in his career could've prepared him for the horror he finds in Bryan's bedroom. The descriptions are grotesque and the action is surreal. In the end, a life-altering decision must be made. Not the doll story one might expect.

CRUEL MERCY is a heart-breaking short story. Kai creates a connection between reader and mother by reflecting on all the things she did in order to keep her son alive. One has to wonder if she really felt she made difficult decisions or if, in fact, she continually chose the easy way out of every bad situation.

A TASTE OF DEATH centers on a Roman general who would make Caligula look like a nice guy. The supernatural element added a surprising level of intensity. Once again, Kai fooled me with misdirection. I never know what kind of ending the author will deliver, but it's what I enjoy about his short stories.

FRESH MEAT is a horror story about a young man named Joseph, who takes an ill-fated road trip with his friends, Angela and Charles. Most of the story is told from Joseph's POV, until the very ending, which is revealed through a news clipping.

At first, I thought I was reading yet another story with a Wrong Turn theme, and I was very nearly disappointed with Kai, as I've come to expect more from his storytelling. However, the author delivered one hell of a surprise which left me floored. A great way to end this collection.

I think horror fans will enjoy all of the stories in this collection, especially the ones who don't have much free time for reading. Unfortunately, the author hasn't written anything new in a few years, but I'm hoping he will return the genre with more wicked creations.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tuesday Tunes: Saint Asonia


This week's Tuesday Tunes centers on the Canadian-American band, SAINT ASONIA. Their self-titled debut album has a late 80s/early 90s sound to it. With tracks such as Better Place, Blow Me Wide Open, Even Though I Say and Waste of Time, the album sounds like a movie soundtrack with a roller coaster of emotion. Naturally, I found Saint Asonia to be the perfect backdrop for my nocturnal reading activities.

I specifically enjoyed listening to this album while making my way through the sci-fi/horror trilogy, When They Came, by Lair favorite, Kody Boye. What's a better combination than an an alien apocalypse and a rock supergroup? Not only does Saint Asonia give an extra depth to the terrifying and thrilling scenes created by Boye, but some of the tracks almost seem tailored for certain characters.

Words, whether they're set to music or printed on a page, can take anyone on one hell of a trip. Together? A ride you won't forget.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Otherworld...It Hates You

You never want to trip and fall into the Otherworld. Blaine found out many years ago that the town of Castle Santos sits close to another world beyond the veil. He slipped, once, but that was enough to change his life.


A stranger arrives on the eve of the Witching Hour and seeks to steal Blaine back to the Otherworld. But he must stall long enough to put a plan into motion to escape their clutches forever. Can Blaine weave a childhood tale to enthrall his would-be captor and escape final judgment?

THE PICKING TREE by Zachery Miller is a thrilling mix of horror, fantasy and folklore. Before I get into this review, I recommend reading The Shopkeep first, just so you can appreciate some of the details of this novella.

The story is told mostly through one long flashback. Young Blaine is a Stephen King fan, and loans his dad's copy of IT to a girl he likes. Little moments like this offer a lot of insight into Blaine's personality and his way of thinking (during his childhood), which really sets the mood. Much like the the kids in King's book, Blaine is terrorised by two psychotic bullies, and one of his escapes leads him into a frightening landscape. He soons finds himself moving back and forth between worlds.

As an adult, Blaine has found a way to avoid the Otherworld, and he has become a writer. However, he's suffered years of PTSD and he comes face to face with the source of his nightmares. He uses what he learned as child and his storytelling skills for one final confrontation. The ending had me completely freaking out, right up to the very last sentence.

I think this story is good enough to entertain both old and young horror fans, ages 14 and up.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Bloody Kisses

Unaware of the vile task his partner in crime has planned during their last heist. Shane Clemis finds himself lost in a maze of darkness. While Don Williams tries to assault the woman who they think is sleeping in a bedroom upstairs.


Little does Don know, the woman is not as defenseless as he expects. And when he opens her bedroom door to attack. He finds himself in a world of pain that there is no escaping from.


Neither man can resist her. And only one will make it out Before Sunrise.

BEFORE SUNRISE by Shawn Weaver is a great vampire short, but the story looks like a rough draft. I think the author should polish it up because preternatural fans would really enjoy the surprise ending. Weaver succeeds in adding a new twist to the subgenre, and I wish the story had been longer.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, March 23, 2019

These Monsters Can Fight

Abandoned by his family, Enoch Bryant now lives in a rundown orphanage with other teenagers just like him. He loves his friends, even if the teachers are terrified of them. They're members of the rising plague generation. Each bearing their own extreme genetic mutation.

The people in the nearby town hate Enoch, but he doesn't know why. He's never harmed anyone. Works hard and doesn't make trouble. He believes one day he'll be a respected man.

But hatred dies hard. The tension between Enoch's world and those of the "normal" townspeople is ready to burst. And when a body is found, it may be the spark that ignites a horrifying revolution.

ONE OF US by Craig DiLouie is a very emotional drama set in 1984. The horror element is the way the characters treat each other: deplorable. I've often commented in my reviews about the definition of a monster...DiLouie wrote an entire novel about the debate over what defines a monster. As someone with a sociology degree, I can appreciate the academic and theological conflicts between the various groups. As a mother, I found myself often crying throughout the novel.

I cannot fathom shunning children based on a genetic mutation, even though people do much worse over much less in real life. (I'm crying as I type this.) Brain's POV, particularly his birth experience, just about broke me. Parents refusing their own babies, putting them into Homes, where they are mistreated and sometimes tortured, is heart-wrenching. While reading, I felt so awful for the plague children who only wanted to be loved, but the concept is not a work of fiction, and that is the soul-crushing aspect.

I felt something for all the characters. Whether it's the plague kids who just want friends and the freedom to make happy memories, the human kids who are trying to wrap their minds around the decisions of their parents' generation, or the people who continue to make everything worse on a daily basis, every single character has a depth to them.

The sheriff is a great choice to use as the center of the story. Between his professional and personal experiences with the plague kids, he ties all the levels of the conflict together, helping both characters and readers make connections they might otherwise overlook.

I'm sure this is a stand-alone novel, but I would not object to a sequel with the plague kids as adults. Not only do I recommend this book to fiction fans, but I would love to see One of Us become a part of recommended reading for libraries and schools as well.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Friday, March 22, 2019

The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

THE ART OF WAR by Sun Tzu is something I have read to help give depth to a character in an ongoing WIP. Although the book is an ancient Chinese military treatise, the strategy within can been applied to all areas of life, not just warfare. I'd like to clarify, this is not a review of Sun's Tzu's ability to write, but rather a suggestion to use this book as a way to navigate daily life issues.

You can apply the advice within to everything from professional and personal relationships, political and social change, and any time in your life you face a struggle to achieve your goal(s). However, there are some ideas which are simply irrelevant in modern times, but most of the book is still applicable, centuries later.

The Art of War easily falls into the realm of common sense. Think outside the box. Do not take the bait. Recklessness leads to destruction. Not knowing who you are is a defeat in itself. For some reason, this wisdom is better received from a dead guy than your own friends and family.

If nothing else, Sun Tzu provides some excellent food for thought.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Waste

Late one night, a stranger wanders into a diner off the interstate highway. He orders coffee, takes a refill, and steps back out into a downpour. The waiter knows there’s something off about his visitor, but he has no way of knowing just how otherworldly this stranger is until the authorities call him in for a recorded statement the next day. Just who – or what – is the mysterious Company Man?

COMPANY MAN SIGHTING #1 by Antonio Simon Jr. is a flash fiction piece in the style of a transcript, and it is the worst thing I've ever read by this author. I don't see a point to this story, at all.

To be fair, this was written years before the other Simon stories I've read, so at least I know his writing style has greatly improved.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Under The Gun

What would you do if someone jammed a gun to your head?
Let Larry live the experience so you don't have to.
But the real question is: would you have his reaction?
SINCE I HAD A GUN TO MY HEAD by Gary Jonas is an extremely disturbing flash fiction piece. I felt extreme sympathy for Larry, considering the post-traumatic stress he suffered from. The ending shocked me.
This is not horror, as much as a personal drama. While I appreciate the attention Jonas gives to a very real problem, I prefer the author's paranormal stories far more.
As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Night Fell

A curtain of blackness has overtaken the planet, bringing despair and hopelessness with it. Two men stand on the threshold of the last lit door. Can they protect it from what lies in the darkness?

THE DOOR by Kenneth Buff is a bit like bizarro fiction, strange and horrific. I felt like I walked into a movie, about halfway through. I don't really understand what is happening, but the imagery kept my attention. The gruesome concept is so random, I wish the author had written a longer story.

While there isn't much detail about the two survivors, I could totally relate to their desire to go out fighting.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, March 18, 2019

Music Monday: Through Fire

Lots of people would agree, listening to some good music while reading can add an extra level to any fiction genre. Just as a musical score enhances a movie, the right album has the ability to transform a story into a very personal experience. I've often found myself thinking of specific characters when I hear a familiar song, particularly with certain bands.

This MUSIC MONDAY centers on THROUGH FIRE, one of the best things to come out of Nebraska, and a band I often play during my reading marathons. (For example: Caught by Lisa Moore, Need To Find You by Joseph Souza) As a matter of fact, I reviewed their album, BREATHE, in a 2016 post.

Just as the words of a novel evoke all kinds of thoughts, depending on the plot, the tracks on Breathe evoke all kinds of emotions. Whether it's a dark edge or a haunting melody, Through Fire presents several soundscapes throughout the album, inviting listeners to put themselves into someone else's mindset.

Unlike other bands, Through Fire isn't trying to help you work through your feelings, they're just providing a heavy release. With a mix of soulful vocals and clever riffs, Breathe creates an anti-mainstream sound which is certain to appeal to those who are sick to death of "formula" albums.

Whether you're looking for something just listen to or something to play while you're reading another mystery-thriller, be sure to check Through Fire.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Hardest Part

Harrison Phelps never expected to see a ghost emerge from a pond and speak to him. Nor did he expect it to follow him to the Sullivan House, where he is forced to spend the night due to a blizzard. She haunts his dreams and seems to possess the eleven-year-old Elizabeth who lives in the house with her younger brother. It becomes apparent to Harrison that this girl, and perhaps the boy, have both been sexually molested by their father, who’s body was lost at sea. His spirit, however, is a different matter.

I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU by Jerry Gerold is an interesting ghost story filled with family drama and murder. Although the storyline held my attention, the characters had zero depth to them, and failed to invoke any emotions from me.

While I enjoy reading the author's work because of his unusual plot twists, Gerold seems to struggle with maintaining a balance between the interaction of  his characters and the action throughout his stories.

This is not his best work. However, I do recommend Gerold's Reclamation series. I'm looking forward to reading the fourth book, coming soon.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Escape From The True False World

Years ago, Cady was involved in an accident, one that claimed the life of a young woman, but due to a technicality, he was cleared of any charges against him. Once free, he fled to the other side of the country, hoping to start fresh.


Now, he's on his way to meet his girlfriend's uncle, her only living relative. Nervous doesn't begin to describe how he feels. He's terrified his worst nightmare might come true—that they'll question him about that accident. He'll soon learn there are worse things to be worried about.
First, there are the centipedes…
Second, there's the prison cell…
CHILOPODOPHOBIA by Paul McMahon is a terrifying suspense-thriller, so well-written, I felt like I was suffering the effects of the Pink. (Being cryptic to avoid spoilers.) I'm not even sure if Cady is entitled to any sympathy, having drank a six-pack before getting into a car accident, but I couldn't stop myself from cheering him on. His determination under such terrible circumstances is commendable.

The ending is a little vexing. There are a couple of loose ends, but not as bad as a cliff-hanger. I think maybe I became just a little too attached to Cady. Last but not least, the centipedes made me sick to my stomach.

If you enjoy stories with characters who must overcome physical and mental obstacles in order to survive, you're going to love McMahon's version of an escape room.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, March 15, 2019

Made More Waves Than The Ocean

1911, Canton. It is the eve of the historic Hsinsai Revolution, when China shifted from the Qing Dynasty to the short-lived Republic. Asia is overrun with foreign businessmen of questionable character. Political upheaval is on everyone's mind. The country’s economic future is uncertain.

And there was a girl who witnessed it all.

She had many names, Ling Yoo, Ling Ling, Little Sister, and Alice. She was a girl from a simple background, toiling away in the world's oldest profession, but ambitious, and she worked hard to educate herself. A little person stumbling through history, observing from the sidelines. Her story should have been lost forever.

Torn between love for her homeland and the love of a wealthy British merchant, how can she remain true to herself and find her destiny?

And there is a ghost. A shadow of a figure follows her and her decisions, questioning her every step. Is it a warning…or a vision?


THE GHOST OF LOTUS MOUNTAIN BROTHEL by Ray Hecht is best described as a coming of age story with the deepest twist I've ever read. I've read a few short stories by Hecht last year, but I had no idea he was capable of writing something with this much emotion and personal insight. Although this story is not as polished as Memoirs of a Geisha, the raw storytelling is so much more engaging, especially with the way Ling Ling interacts with the various people in her life.

While heavily based in Chinese history, Ling Ling's struggles are relatable in any culture. Who hasn't grappled with self-identity and working to achieve life goals? I appreciate the way Hecht focuses on the main character's mission to educate herself, rather than get mired in the details of her profession.

When the author finally unveils the mystery of the ghost who visits Ling Ling, Hecht reveals his talent for transforming historical politics into a spiritual awakening, which transcends space and time.

If you enjoy novels by Lisa See or Tracy Chevalier, I think you'll enjoy this novella.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When The Change Came

Gabe Dunnit watches from the cockpit of his sailboat as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge explodes, concrete and shrapnel crashing into the saltwater miles away. He tries to communicate with the civilized world and finds it impossible either by cellphone or radio. He moves toward land in hopes of finding other people and an explanation as to why every bridge to the mainland has suffered the same fate as the Skyway.

He finds a young, but very capable teenage girl and her injured mother, companions in his new existence as a survivor and sometimes reluctant protector. There are soldiers in black trying to kill him and anyone else they find in the evacuated areas bordering Tampa. There are civilians looking for blood on the streets. taking advantage of the abandonment of civilization and murdering at will.

They’re looking for a way out, for a safe place, for a Way Home.


WAY HOME by Wayne Lemmons is frighteningly realistic. Gabe happens to be at sea and off the grid when some mystery event results in the Tampa area being cut off from the mainland. He meets a few others who are left behind after the brief evacuation, but no one knows what exactly has taken place. They are being hunted by Black Ops soldiers who sound American, but they think the States may have been attacked by another country. Lemmons creates a struggle for survival, which isn't difficult to imagine, and that is the most terrifying aspect, in my opinion.

I think the characters are believable for the most part. Gabe has no direction or purpose until he meets Sandra and her daughter, Bree Anne. The two females are trying to locate another loved one. While I can accept a young person being able to think outside the box more easily than adults, Bree seems a little too perfect. I'm not a fan of convenient skill sets. I prefer to see characters struggle more, rather than continually get lucky.

Unfortunately, I can't comment on the ending because there really isn't one. Gabe and his group of survivors have a destination and plan to get there, but the mystery soldiers in black are still an ongoing threat. Lemmons never reveals what happened on the day of the mass evacuation. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up novel to justify the time spent reading Way Home.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Not Today

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of. 

And that's exactly what Arthur Rosenbaum was looking for -- the perfect woman. One who was, like him, a romantic, one who was old-fashioned...one who was pure. That was important because good little girls didn't do bad things. But Arthur had learned there were plenty of bad girls out there, bad girls who pretended to be good. Those girls needed to be punished. And he needed his faith in love restored. So all that nasty flesh became the pages upon which he "wrote" his stories, the fairy tales that mad him happy again and restored his faith in true love. Once the story was done, he was free to continue his search for the perfect woman. 

And then he meets Rowan, a "special" young woman who possesses a child-like innocence. She is perfect in every way, and Arthur feels as though he has finally found the one. But Arthur is about to realize that no fairy tale is complete without its villain, its evil witch... Its big, bad wolf. And to win the hand of princess he must first defeat this adversary. The question is, at 55 years old, is he up to the challenge?


THE GRIMM REAPER by Barlow Adams is a great mix of folklore, crime drama and, of course, horror. At first, I thought this would simply be a story about a serial killer because of the intense brutality. However, the author crafts Arthur's twisted quest into a macabre fairytale complete with a princess and a curse. The result is a chilling reminder about stranger danger.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tuesday Tunes: Phil Rossi [Interview]

For the past few weeks, I've been featuring various bands for Music Monday and Tuesday Tunes, always emphasizing the similarities between music and fiction, especially the connection between hard rock and horror. This week, I've decided to do something a little different...

Television singing sensation Calvin Hubbard has been caught with his hand in cookie jar. An illicit affair with a contest judge costs him not only the competition crown, but his musical credibility as well. Fleeing the media fallout, Calvin exiles himself to the backwoods town of Harvey, Virginia. With a little solitude and a lot of cheap beer, he plans to write the next great rock and roll album and resurrect his career. But Calvin doesn't know that a man has just been buried alive in the woods outside of town, and that this quiet murder is just the first in a string of macabre events. As the town goes silently mad around him, Calvin is unable to abandon the record of his dreams. Drunk on inspiration and blinded by an inexplicable lust, he careens headlong into the maelstrom, only to discover that he may be the town's only salvation. Something is alive in the trees—an ageless, nameless evil—and it's coming for everyone in Harvey. Now Calvin has to decide whether to run or to stay and fight… if it isn’t already too late.

HARVEY by Phil Rossi is the perfect example of horror and music coming together. Not only is the main character a musician, but so is the author. The story itself has a supernatural riff that flows through the mystery surrounding a recent killing spree. What begins as a crime-thriller quickly develops into a blistering mix of folklore and savagery.

Rossi does a stellar job of drawing readers in on several different levels at once. Why would someone bury their drinking buddy alive? Why did Calvin flee to a small town in the middle of nowhere? What in the hell is Jeremy's malfunction? Why do the police keep finding dirt everywhere? Harvey is literally the root of all evil.

You don't read Rossi's stories, you feel them.

Instead of featuring a band this week, I thought I'd bring Phil Rossi into the Lair...


How did you get involved in the horror genre in the first place?

My relationship with horror goes way back. Back to when I was just a kid—I'm talking around 10 or 11 years old. I came across a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark at my Elementary School Book Fair and, begrudgingly, my parents picked it up for me. I don't think I slept for a month or more after my first read through. I devoured that book in spite of the monsters it placed outside my bedroom window and under my bed. A little later, I started watching HBO's Tales from the Crypt series. My buddy Vinnie and I would watch it together every Sunday night. And I'll tell you this, some nights the walk home---just across the street and up my dark driveway—often turned into a full out sprint. In the fifth grade, I started telling my friends ghost stories at recess and at birthday parties, and that routine continued through middle school. I loved drawing my friends in with the little (and probably silly) stories I used to tell. It was more than once that my pals would come to me the next day and tell me they couldn't sleep the night before. Always put a smile on my face. In this day and age, my parents probably would have been on the receiving end of a lot of phone calls from the other parents.  I don't remember those stories too well, just fragments and images, really—but some of these fragments have made their way into my stories and books as an adult. 

Unlike other writers who usually go with the typical author blog, you’ve found a way to utilize podcasting for your story-telling. Does that make creating new stories easier or more complicated? Is there more pressure in writing when working with so many different forms of social media?

The short answer—it definitely makes things more complicated, but I don't think in a bad way. Podcasting my fiction certainly adds more steps and many more hours to the process, what with recording narration, editing that narration, and adding score and sound effects to some of the stories. The production piece takes a lot of time, tenderness, and love and though it often leaves me red-eyed and weary, I enjoy it immensely. In terms of the social media piece, for me it's a choose your battles wisely scenario.  There are an overwhelming number of social media channels out there.  I've picked the few platforms that work for me and focus on those.  Most recently, Instagram has become my preferred social media outlet, but I still utilize Twitter and less so, Facebook.

Your music appears to play a big part in your creative process. Some authors have “soundtracks” compiled for certain writing projects…did you decide just to create your own music to set the mood for your stories?

From my first podcast novel, Crescent, music has played a pretty prominent role. In part, yes, I created my own music to set the mood and atmosphere for certain passages.  But in other ways, it became a way for me to explore those parts of the story from a wholly different perspective. The marriage of music and prose has continued on since those early days. More than once the song-writing bit has influenced, changed, or even spawned new sections of narrative altogether.  In some cases, as with a some of the stories on Patreon, the music is not featured in the story itself, but rather as an extra—a musical interpretation of the story. Joining these two creative disciplines—music and writing—has also been a way to make sure I get that music fix in my life, too.  I found out—the hard way—that I can't live with just one or the other.  If I had the bandwidth to create soundtracks for every project—standalone or integrated in the podcast, I would do just that.



How much of Harvey is based on your own life? Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?

There's a common adage which I'm sure you've heard—write what you know.  For me, that's less of an instructional imperative and rather just what happens during the creative process—sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously.  In recent years, I have drawn on some pretty difficult and personal situations in my writing and that's been a hard thing for me to do. It's been a way to face some tough emotions and events that I'd otherwise drop into a lock box and kick into the ocean, and it's a useful tool in creating characters and happenings that are sincere and real. I'm still figuring that all out. Ha!  As for Harvey, there are some aspects grounded in my own life—specifically from my experiences as a performing musician and as song-writer and others simply based some of the sights and sounds nearby. 

Authors often have a common theme in their various stories. Your theme seems to be psychological, i.e. screwing with reader’s minds, more reminiscent of the horror genre in the 80s and early 90s. Is this deliberate or do you ever write something so off-the-wall, you wonder where it came from?

The psychological horror of the early 80's and 90's and some newer entries—I'll go with film as an example--like Hereditary and the Conjuring have always been my favorite. That's how I chase my own scares and those are the kinds of scares I like to deliver.  It's deliberate in the way that this is my preference and this is what I know best. Have I ever written something so off-the-wall, I wonder where it came from? Sure. This does tend to happen. My story the Hand of Glory completely went of the rails on me and I love it.  So. Yeah. While my tales have a psychological bent, they can also get down-right visceral. I think sometimes that juxtaposition in and of itself can be chilling. Hereditary utilized that juxtaposition in a way that was both delicate and unforgettable, creating a truly disturbing experience—Scene from that flick still pop into my head unexpected. The sticks with you on both of those levels.

Do you think you’ll ever expand your storytelling into film? Is that something you would like to do eventually?

Absolutely. I would love to do that at some point. I love film—such a powerful medium. Ten years ago, I sold the film rights to Crescent and even wrote my first screen play, so I have just a wee bit of experience there—enough to know I enjoy it. I've also done some film scoring work for another superb author and film talent Jack Kincaid(Edict Zero). I loved the process.  So, we'll see what happens in the future. I would totally dig finding someone to work with on short films as a start.

Why should readers consider supporting your Patreon? What do you think horror fans would enjoy the most about your site?

The depth of content.  There is a deep back catalog of stories and new stories every month. There are also the "story extras."  I think this sets me apart from other campaigns because these extras aren't just eBook version of the stories, bonus behind the scenes episodes, or cover art and the like.  The extras are put together specifically to enhance the atmosphere of that month's story. A photo of the murder house. A voicemail from the missing woman. A spooky video transmission. All of these fun, little extras build the mood and anticipation leading up to the day that new story drops. I try to do this as often I as I can.  It takes some extra time but, in the end, the listeners really seem to enjoy it. Beyond that sort of extra, there are also musical extras—the soundtracks mentioned previously. There are the eBook versions of the stories. Podcast production session videos. Signed books.  The Discord community. The list is even longer than that...but I think you get the idea.  In 2019, via the Discord community I'm going to start doing what I'm calling "Fire-side Chats" which will be real-time, audio discussions with my pledges from select reward tiers utilizing Discord. I'll be recording these sessions and making them available as podcasts as an additional reward.

What are your plans for 2019? Will you be making any convention appearances?

I'm looking into some conventions, including Northern Virginia's All Star Comic Con, but I haven’t made any firm commitments yet. It's a matter of what's in the budget, really. I say that because I'm releasing the follow-up to my earlier book Eden this year (and soon) first as a podcast but then as a print and eBook, and of course there are costs associated with that process. I've got some new podcasts concepts that will be coming to life in 2019, including a podcast about the writing process—not nuts and bolts type stuff—but what it's like to be a writer that also has a full time job, side jobs, kids, wife, dogs, bills, stress and so on.  Real life, essentially.  And I just might be collaborating on something in the realm of True Crime.  I plan to continue my horror gaming streams on Twitch as well.  Twitch has proven to be a fun outlet and a remarkable way to not only connect with my existing Patreon pledges but also bring new pledges into the fold. Talking about my stories while under the nail-biting pressure of Resident Evil or The Exorcist VR has been a pretty wild, challenging, and downright fun thing to do.



You can find out more about author and musician Phil Rossi on his Patreon page.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, March 11, 2019

Split Into Something Else

A dual novella featuring ORPHEUS AND THE PEARL by Kim Paffenroth and NEVERMORE by David Dunwoody. Double the terror, double the fun!


ORPHEUS AND THE PEARL
In 1920 Massachusetts, Dr. Catherine MacGuire is mysteriously called to the home of the famous Dr. Wallston, to assist with some medical emergency that defies even his skill. The life-threatening problems she finds there have less to do with broken bodies than with warped souls, and it will take all of her skill as a healer to fix them.

NEVERMORE Malcolm Witt died in his sleep at 11:07 PM. Four minutes later his body rose and walked from the room. Malcolm watched it happen.

And so begins 24 hours of a life-after-death struggle to save his friends, forgive his love, and put himself to rest - body and soul.


ORPHEUS AND THE PEARL by Kim Paffenroth is a pleasant reminder of the psychological element the author brings to his horror stories. If I didn't know any better, I would think Paffenroth channeled both Freud (1919 essay, The Uncanny) and Jung (archetypes) while constructing his characters and their dilemma. Even Dr. MacGuire's reference to Greek tragedies struck a chord (Aristotle's Catharsis). You don't have to be familiar with any of these literary references to appreciate the anticipation of something tragic happening before the end of the story. However, Paffenroth delivers the most terrifying blow in the form a light whisper. Pay attention to the tiny details.

NEVERMORE by David Dunwoody is one of the best damn zombie stories I've ever read, and, yet, Dunwoody has created something much more than an undead tale. The author takes common motivators such as love, betrayal and revenge, mixes them with the supernatural and the result is a thriller worthy of the big screen.

Both stories are examples of the familiar becoming unfamiliar -- the heart of true horror, but the two are nothing alike. Paffenroth and Dunwoody use a similar element to show how human behavior can be predictable and unpredictable at the same time, while remaining original in their storytelling.

An excellent pairing!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Ready For Abduction

ILLEGAL ALIEN by Matthew W. Quinn begins with a battle between two alien species, bringing the fight to Earth. Immigrants from Mexico are abandoned by their guide, only to find themselves facing a bigger threat than the desert heat or border patrols.

Quinn takes two popular topics, completely unrelated, and uses science fiction to mix them together, resulting in an intense struggle for survival. I'm hoping readers can leave politics behind and appreciate the story as simply a great piece of sci-fi.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Pray Really Tight

Many people have secrets. When your husband leaves after you lie down to sleep, what do you think he gets up to?

DIVINE DEATH by R.P. Healy is just as violent and graphic as his other stories, but the editing has finally improved. I keep returning to Healy's work like a rubbernecker to an accident. I just can't believe what I'm seeing. I return because I can see the lost potential underneath the gore.

I think Healy could write a solid crime-thriller if the author would stop focusing so much on shocking the reader with torture porn. The ending of this story is as gut-wrenching as when the killer cuts open his victim. The big reveal is the most frightening aspect of the entire story.

I really don't think I can keep reading Healy...the author's writing style is too much like A Serbian Film.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Gift of Science

When a man clones his daughter, members of his family begin dying.

SHE'S NOT MY SISTER by Abe Evergreen is a sci-fi crime-thriller. Kyle tries to appease his estranged wife by creating a clone he names Annie, but succeeds only in enraging and alienating his wife and daughter, Alice. While the storyline is predictable and somewhat cliché, I had to know how the story would end.

I think Evergreen should've made this a novella, with more character development and more details about the biolab.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Treasures Buried Soul Deep

Toothsome Tales:
Tusk---He's a dentist who likes a little adventure in his free time. She's his sexy neighbor with a thirst for the macabre stories behind the treasure he's collected over the years. It all starts with the words, "At heart, I am a collector of things..."
Sedation Dentistry---The zombie virus is loose and Doctor Ost's next patient has a little problem with tooth decay...


TUSK AND SEDATION DENTISTRY by Stephen A. North are two stories with a tooth theme. Tusk is a short story with one hell of a flashback to a frightening tale of exploration. Sedation Dentistry is a flash fiction piece about an appointment gone wrong.

I didn't think much of the second story...it's not the quality of story-telling I've come to expect from North. However, the author has something horrifying and amazing with the first story. I would love a longer version. The discovery in the cave is absolutely captivating.

If you're looking for more short stories from North, I recommend his other double-feature, Like A Man and Purchase Order #2113-21A.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Man of Colours

Addison Inquisitor awoke on the island with only the clothes on his back and a pack with a few days of supplies. Suffering from amnesia he desperately wants to find who he is and where he belongs. With the aid of a curious service robot, he begins to explore the island and also try to learn the truth about himself.

What he finds is nothing he would ever expect...


A MAN LIKE ME by Austin Grisham took me on an emotional ride. I felt sorry for Addison being stranded, elated when he discovered Andy, and excited as they appeared to form a genuine bond. When the true nature of Addison's plight is revealed, the ending impressed me beyond words.

I would love for Grisham to revisit this story and expand this piece into a novella or full-length novel. At the very least, I would love a sequel.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Are You Ready To Go?

The Collision is the worst disaster in human history. So far…

In the near future, an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider causes an enormous explosion, known as the Collision. The blast flattens a huge chunk of central Europe and punches a massive hole in the Earth’s surface. Over the next decade, unspeakable horrors pour from the rift: vicious creatures with a taste for human flesh, a terrible scream that drives all who hear it insane, a phantom entity that feeds on fear and paranoia, and a nightmare train from the pits of hell, to name but a few. This onslaught of terror causes the collapse of civilization and threatens to wipe humanity from the planet.

World’s Collider is a unique concept in short fiction, where all eighteen original stories are part of a common narrative, recounting the disaster and its aftermath. A true novel by many voices, including Steven Savile, James Moran, Aaron Rosenberg, Trent Zelazny, Jonathan Green, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Kelly Hale, Richard Wright and a host of new talent.

Fifty million people died in the Collision. They were the lucky ones…


WORLD'S COLLIDER, edited by Richard Salter, has been out for several years, but this anthology is still one of my favorite sci-fi/horror collections.

"An anthology posing as a novel? Or possibly a novel posing as an anthology."

I highly recommend reading the intro first, which explains the concept behind this anthology and is nothing short of fantastic. Salter did an amazing job of putting it all together. World's Collider is not only the best anthology that I read in 2012, but it's one of the most remarkable story collections I've ever read.

The individual accounts within this anthology, written by multiple authors with diverse writing styles, with various POVs and locations, create a mind-blowing larger story about a dimensional rift that opens in the middle of Europe.

While it reminds me slightly of the presentation of World War Z, Salter takes it even further by constructing a novel with short stories written separately within the same setting. Salter's introduction explains his painstaking process.

The stories themselves will both terrify and thrill sci-fi and horror fans, describing mankind's struggle to survive the onslaught of demonic entities spilling into our world from the rift.

If you enjoy novels such as Craig DiLouie's Infection series, or Read the End First (edited by Suzanne Robb), you will relish the nightmares within the pages of World's Collider!


As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, March 4, 2019

Music Monday: Failure Anthem


Ever been to a convention? Whether it was horror, sci-fi or simply a gathering of authors peddling their stories, you would be guaranteed to see the various subcultures which develop around certain genres. The same goes for music. Depending on the band and/or venue, you'll see the influence music has on people. So, it takes no stretch of the imagination to see how fiction and music work well together.

Maybe you're a novelist looking for inspiration, a reader searching for the right mood music or a musician trying to make a connection with the audience, words are everything to all three. Which brings us to the next installment of Music Monday...

FAILURE ANTHEM is the music feature for this week. When I first heard First World Problems a few years ago, I remember thinking the album forms a story of sorts, with each track functioning as a different chapter. I love how much effort the band puts into their lyrics. My favorite songs include The Ghost Inside, Paralyzed, Just A Wasteland and I Won't Say Goodbye. Definitely an album I recommend to everyone who enjoys high quality rock. Unfortunately, the band has suffered some setbacks with their lineup, but I'm still hoping for another FA album one day.

In the meantime, some very specific book titles come to mind when I think of which stories I enjoyed reading to the sound of Failure Anthem:

The BLOOD Trilogy by Ruth Miranda centers around a young man named Caius, a musician who discovers, through a traumatic event, he is not human. Miranda has a true talent for taking headlines, such as the battles with addiction and tragic overdose deaths of those in the music industry, and turning inner demons into supernatural creatures struggling with the same afflictions.

The Law Giveth by JE Gurley, the second novel in the Jake's Law series. In the first novel, Jake's Law, readers are introduced to a diabetic survivor, Jake, who creates a new system of law in a zombie post-apocalypse. The relationships Jake established in the first book and in the time since then have not held up well in the face of constant conflicts. Jake is more withdrawn than ever, but continues to attract new acquaintances to his way of doing things, following Jake's Laws.

Of course, readers may find other titles more suitable for the accompanying music of Failure Anthem, depending on how each individual interprets the songs.

Bottom line: if you haven't listened to First World Problems, you should ASAP.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Never Will I See The Sun Again

From author Andrew Lennon comes a new collection of eighteen titles, including short stories, drabbles and poetry. This versatile collection will have you fearing those noises coming from the attic, questioning whether you should enter that haunted house at the fairground, thinking twice before you stay in a motel on a desert-stricken highway. It will touch you emotionally when you witness a person’s struggles, their discovery of new friends, how they can triumph and live to see another day, raising their heads to create their own Ode to Death.

ODE TO DEATH by Andrew Lennon is an interesting mix of horror, in various forms:

MY ODE TO DEATH is a poem.

HOUSE OF ILLUSION is a carnival nightmare.

LUNCHTIME is a flash fiction piece...literally.

GHOST STORY had a ghost, but not much story.

NO SLEEP is another poem.

CARAVAN seems like a headline turned into a story.

BURIED is a flash fiction funeral gone wrong.

SANTA CLAUS COMES AT NIGHT is one of the most horrific stories in the collection.

DOG RACE is a tribute to Stephen King's Cujo.

TRYING TO WRITE A HORROR STORY is a tribute to Stephen King's Misery.

HIDE BEHIND A SMILE: poem.

VISITING TIME is a zombie story.

STRESS BLANKET is a soup for the soul moment. Not sure how it fits in with the rest.

RED SHOES is extremely sick and twisted, but very well-written, with a superb ending. The best story in the anthology.

NEW BEGINNING...more poetry.

THE SECRET LIFE OF MY IMAGINARY FRIEND would make a fantastic crime-thriller movie.

LOVER is brutal.

ONE NIGHT IN HOTEL is a chilling combination of the supernatural and crime drama.

House of Illusion, Santa Claus Comes At Night, Red Shoes and The Secret Life of My Imaginary Friend are all such fantastic horror stories, the four of them make this collection worth getting. However, I'm not really impressed with the anthology as a whole, but I still plan on reading more of Lennon's work in the following months.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Made A Fool

He is chained to her through his own choice. 
She is chained to him through no choice of her own.
A thick chain linking the two of them together by their ankles and kept in place with heavy-duty locks.
She knows why she is there. He has explained that once - and only once. Each subsequent time she asks, he simply tells her that she knows the reason. She knows there is no way out until he says so. 
For a time of his choosing, she is his prisoner and that is all there is to it. Yet - for the two of them - things could have been so, so different.


*DO NOT READ BEFORE YOU READ THE ISLAND*

Chained by Matt Shaw is not so much horror, as simply a revenge story. There isn't much action, and far too many thoughts and feelings. Shaw could have easily written this as flash fiction, in order to reach the ending sooner. The final scene caught me by surprise.

I felt a great deal of sympathy for the narrator. Not sure if Shaw is attempting to make a statement with this story, but sometimes fiction can be an eye-opener. I hope readers realize how much damage lying can do to someone's life.

As always,
AstraDaemon