Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sequel to The Wish Doll

In this, the sequel to "The Wish Doll" we meet John Bender, a veteran detective who thinks he has seen everything. But now he has this new case, a murder, and the suspect, Todd Forrester, has already admitted it to it-but now he claims it was all just a work of fiction. The story he tells is truly a bizarre one, he claims a "wish doll" grants wishes-at a price. 

John thinks he is full of it. He's seen head cases like this before. Or has he?


THE WISH DOLL: THE NEXT CHAPTER by Austin Grisham is the sequel to The Wish Doll, so don't read any further unless you've read the first story.

I didn't expect this story to be much different from the first one, but Grisham surprised me with one hell of a gut punch. I sincerely felt the ground drop away as I read the ending.

At this point, I think Grisham needs to do whatever is necessary to make The Wish Doll a movie. Horror fans are going to love this new sinister demon!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 29, 2019

Who Is Responsible?

Todd had always wanted to write professionally, but despite numerous attempts could never sell any of his stories. Frustrated, on a whim he decides to try using an exotic artifact, a "wish doll", to give him a story that a publisher will accept. What he doesn't realize is what he will have to do in return...

THE WISH DOLL by Austin Grisham is a short story which brings up the question, "Who is the real monster?" Readers will have to decide if the wish doll makes bad things happen, or if the people using the wish doll are the true source of evil. While a dark tale of caution, GRisham made me laugh with the ending (in a good way). I can't wait to read the sequel!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday With Scribner

I'll admit, I'm trying to catch up on all of the short stories by Joshua Scribner, so you'll be seeing a lot of the author in the Lair this spring...

PICTURES FROM THE POOP DECK is a flash fiction short that is a combination of Christine and Alexa. The exchange between characters is clever and suspenseful, but the ending hit me like a reckless driver.

Scribner has definitely upped his writing style this year.

IT STINKS! is another flash fiction thriller from Scribner. I don't know what inspired this story, but it's absolutely fantastic storytelling! The thought of a man developing such an unusual type of superpower is mind-blowing. The ending is a great climactic finish!

ONES AND ZEROES took me by complete surprise. When I hit the twist, the story became quite a wild ride. I thought this would be a purely psychological short, and I enjoyed the plot so much, I'd love to see a full-sized novel featuring Nick at his new job.

This story has raised my expectations for future Scribner stories. The author is going strong in 2019!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Careful What You Wish For

Weird things happen at Jupiter Falls. Terrifying ghosts haunt the forest. Mystical beasts walk freely at night. As everyone tries to deal with several supernatural incidents, a strange man has arrived to terrorize them.

THE LIGHTS OVER JUPITER POINT by Joe Jones is a short story featuring a mix of theological and supernatural elements, creating a rather horrific night for all involved. Not only did the author keep me captivated throughout the story, but Jones also impressed me with the turn-of-events at the very end.

If you're looking for a story with terrifying characters, I recommend this one for a quick horror fix.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 26, 2019

Tale of the Haunted Monastery

THE ROAD TO KYOTO by Rebecca R. Pierce follows four samurai with four sisters forced into an abandoned monastery by an unexpected snowstorm. As soon as they enter, it becomes obvious there are spirits within, but they do not know if they have been welcomed or trapped.

Pierce has created a thrilling mix of folklore, horror, mystery, and romance. I love the story, but the POV switches between all eight characters are not marked at all. While I was able to follow the changes, some readers might struggle a bit with the storyline.

I want to recommend this tale to readers ages 14 and up, but some of the violence is graphic and sexual in nature. However, the content isn't as bad as what one might find in some TV shows or movies, or even the nightly news. Just consider yourselves warned, and proceed with caution.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Living Are Worse Than The Undead

GYPSY by Mick Franklin is a flash fiction story about a gypsy woman who has lived a horrible life, surrounded by people who brought her nothing but pain and misery. She manages to change her fortune, only to have everything torn from her in a zombie outbreak.

While not the horror story I was expecting, Roxy is an exceptional character. I would read an entire novel about the woman. Seems a shame to only give her a few pages to tell her story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Better Off Dead

After completing a research mission six thousand light-years away, the SSC Adara and its crew are ready to return to Earth. However, their interstellar journey does not go as planned and the ship crashes on an unknown planned. Andri and his fellow survivors must find a way to get back home.

THE LAST BITE by Darren Rodriguez is a great sci-fi thriller, but the story would flow so much better with the help of an editor. The POV is first person, but lacking the emotion you'd expect from someone in that particular situation. Everything is explained, kind of like a lengthy synopsis, rather than allowing the reader to experience the nightmare as a science fiction adventure.

If the author included the POVs from the other survivors, and offered more background information about the planet and native species, I believe Rodriguez would have enough for one hell of a novella. *POSSIBLE SPOILER* My theory is the predatory aliens hunt other species traveling through wormholes. However, I'm still trying to figure out the connection to the Protela planet.

In any case, Rodriguez has the potential to become a fantastic sci-fi author if he puts more effort into character development and the details of the setting.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Island Dystopia Should Have Its Own Mini-Series

PHILOPHOBIA by Sin Ribbon is a short story about a man attempting to resurrect his wife. I had no idea how the fear of falling in love tied into the story, especially since I expected something along the lines of a modern day Dr. Frankenstein. When the true horror is finally revealed, I felt completely unprepared for Fetter's secret.

Ribbon does a great job setting up the terrifying twist with a narrator who lays out Fetter's past like a small town, backwoods legend. I'm so intrigued with the town itself, Ribbons could probably create a few more stories with the townsfolk, particularly with Mrs. Becca's church and Lisa Common.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 22, 2019

Music Monday: Billy Idol



"If your world doesn't allow you to dream, move to one where you can."
~Billy Idol

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

MUSIC MONDAY returns with none other than one of the coolest gents to blend storytelling and music, Billy Idol. By now, it should be obvious I consider myself an 80s child, and Idol's albums have been the soundtracks for a lot of great memories from my youth. I'm happy to say, the artist is still providing a killer sound for all my literary journeys with his album, Kings & Queens of the Underground. I missed this gem in 2014 because my local DJs have perpetual hard-ons for GNR and Metallica, but I've played the crap out of this album since I discovered its existence.

Unlike some aging rockers, Billy Idol has managed not to trash his vocal chords, and his lovely voice sounds just as sultry and powerful as ever. With this album, his lyrics reflect his personal growth, while the music retains that rocking beat which made him iconic. I'm particularly pleased to hear Steve Stevens has paired up with Idol once again. Took me quite a while to stop playing Save Me Now on repeat, but I did eventually listen to the rest of the album.

KQU is a far better album than Cyberpunk and Devil's Playground. Even though all the songs have something to offer Idol fans, my favorite tracks, Save Me Now, One Breath Away, Postcards From The Past, Nothing To Fear and Love And Glory, left me feeling like I had traveled to a world of leather, sweat and a damn good time.

My reading recommendations to accompany this album: the anthology DEADSVILLE (13 tales of horror), the anthology TIMES OF TROUBLE (time travel sci-fi), and the novel PROJECT HINDSIGHT (mystery-thriller).

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 7 of 7

MAMA'S TEA by Joshua Scribner is only a few pages, but manages to be a very sinister piece of flash fiction. Two brothers drink their mama's tea, after her death, for the "courage" to follow through with their mother's special instructions. The suspense flows through this family horror as the tea flows through the boys.

Not much is revealed about Mama or the ingredients in her tea, but Scribner gives the readers enough tidbits to make the imagination run wild. I'll probably crap myself, if I hear someone whisper "pumpernickel" in the dark.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 6 of 7

BACK ROADS by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction about a guy driving home from college during a snowstorm. Every time Carter sees a cross on the side of the road, a new "passenger" joins him inside his vehicle. It's unclear if they know the driver is aware of their presence, but he can hear them plotting to attack, which causes Carter to drive rather recklessly.

There is more than one supernatural twist to this story, and while this short is entertaining as-is, I wish Scribner had given more background on the characters involved. Seems such a shame to use such an original idea on only a few pages.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 19, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 5 of 7

MARY'S CORN by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction piece about a corn field being used in more ways than one. The supernatural aspect is so interesting, it's a pity there isn't more to the backstory.

This is a perfect story for people who complain about not having enough time to read.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 4 of 7

CELLMATE by Joshua Scribner is centered on a prisoner who realizes his fellow inmates will inflict all manner of pain and suffering, once they discover the reason he has been imprisoned.

However, during his first night, he's visited by a ghost. The ghost wants to escape, but needs to hitch a ride within a physical body. The two work together to create a distraction before they attempt to flee.

The ending caught me off guard, but I'm not that impressed with the rest of the story.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 3 of 7

SEROTONIN by Joshua Scribner features a mix of an Old World legend and New World folklore. I can't go into detail about the characters involved, but I think readers will appreciate the battle of wits in this creature feature.

Whenever I read stories like this one, I'm reassured the author is indeed a horror fan just like the rest of us. While the ending is swift, Scribner managed to surprise me.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 2 of 7

NOTHING HAPPENED by Joshua Scribner is told from Marsha's POV as she struggles to understand the source of her boyfriend's nightmares. Chase doesn't have skeletons in his closet, but the ghosts on his property are bad enough.

The ending is a terrible shock. I feel sorry for the little girls.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 15, 2019

Spring Screams With Scribner: Day 1 of 7

IN YOUR HEAD by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction story about a little boy who finds an escape within his mind, but Collin isn't alone inside himself. Someone has been watching and waiting.

This is a family drama with a supernatural twist, and, even though it's only a few pages, Scribner digs deep into the feels with this tale.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Human-size Cow Pie

Justin managed to get the day off work. He has plans to make the most of it. Drugs, booze, hookers - total degradation. There's just one problem. Those damn flies!

FLIES by Andrew Lennon is a short story about a schmuck who is a jerk to everyone around him...and he keeps seeing flies. Lennon has a talent for creating unpleasant characters, while keeping readers interested in the fate of those characters.


While the ending is a bit predictable, I still got a kick out of seeing Justin's day fall apart. I'm not sure what the deal is with the guy talking to "Kevin," and that irked me a bit, but I still enjoyed the quickie with Justin.

STRANDS by Shaun Hupp is a bonus flash fiction piece about arachnophobia.

LITTLE ANGEL by Norman Turrell is another bonus story about a new father adjusting to a nightly ritual.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Monster vs. Monster

It’s Halloween. For the residents of Denison Street that means face paint, costumes and swapping horror stories. Or at least it used to be. 

Last year Logan Conway went missing while Trick or Treating. The police have no clues, no suspects and no leads. 

Some say The Reaper Man did it. 

Others say he’s an old wive's tale. Logan’s mother, Jane, disagrees. So much so that she’s invited The Reaper Man back again.


TRICK OR TREAT by Jamie Stewart is an interesting twist on a classic monster. The story is told through the POV of two different mothers, one with a living son, one with a dead son. The discovery flashback is gruesome and heart-breaking.

This is more a revenge story than anything else, and Jane does not disappoint. I love how she took on the role of another classic horror character in order to make her final stand.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Writing On The Wall

The mother of an eight-year old autistic boy, Sonya has fought an uphill battle for survival in her hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria, but has managed to take care of her son against almost impossible odds. The safe haven she had found in her marriage to the successful advertising executive Anton, has started to falter after he has lost his job and she has become the sole supporter of the family, and she can only watch as her ambitious husband gambles their savings away in a desperate attempt to become rich.

When Anton responds to an ad on the internet and gets a job as the caretaker of a luxurious mansion in a rural part of the country, Sonya sees this as an answer to her prayers. As soon as they arrive at the mansion, however, Sonya starts to get an anxious feeling about the whole thing, especially after meeting the eccentric owner. 

They quickly learn that their new home is anything but ordinary when a message inexplicably appears on a wall, promising them riches if they perform a simple act. They perform the act out of curiosity and a reward is instantly delivered. When a second message appears – raising the stakes and increasing the promised reward – Sonya begins to realize that they are dealing with very sinister forces, intent on some scheme for which the three of them are the perfect victims. 


I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS by Kresten Forsman is a novella about a small family chosen to live in a mysterious house. The circumstances which brought them to the estate are sketchy at best, but the couple are having financial difficulties due to the husband's gambling addiction, so it's an offer they can't afford to refuse. The mother is struggling to keep peace in the marriage, despite the malicious messages appearing in the house, for the sake of her autistic son, but she soon finds herself forced to make a life and death decision.

While the supernatural elements involving the house are thrilling and suspenseful, much of the story is unnecessary filler. While Sonya's background is somewhat relevant, the constantly explaining of this and that brings the pace of the story to a crawl. This plot would have worked much better as a short story.

The ending is somewhat abrupt and leaves the reader with many unanswered questions about the owner Iavan, as well as the history of the house and the village. Overall, more drama than any kind of horror.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Shout At The Devil

BLACK WATER by Haldan Black is a supernatural horror short about a boy fighting the devil. The author attempts to mix voodoo with folklore, but the story is such a sloppy mess, I can't even believe this is the same author who wrote A Good Boy.

Some of the issues: underdeveloped characters, overused stereotypes, and no follow-up on any of the decent parts. Black should've have just picked one angle, such as the train track ritual and focused on that, instead of bringing in so many elements and haphazardly tying them together.

A Good Boy was written after Black Water, so at least I can say the author's writing has improved.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Scraping At The Mind

WITHIN by Joshua Scribner is a flash fiction piece about a hypnosis session. Even though the story is being told through the patient's observation about her past self, I felt her terror as she begged to be allowed to leave. Even though she obviously survived the traumatic event, the suspense building up during her childhood memory is absolutely nerve-wracking. The final confrontation is extremely creepy.

This is a perfect example of Scribner's talent for turning little details into big nightmares.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Coming of Age, Literally and Figuratively

Opopanax flowers are not supposed to turn your mother into a demon.

OPOPANAX LIGHTHOUSE by Jerry Gerold has very little to do with Connor's mother turning into a demon. The story seems more like an excuse to write a sex scene with young characters. They backstory with the flowers might have been interesting, if the author had bothered to invest more effort into telling the tale. Lot of potential, but Gerold lacks focus in this one.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 8, 2019

A Cat Named Buckshot

A newly married couple suffers a near-fatal car accident on a dark and twisty road. Injured and lost, the newlyweds find they must rely on a cat to get them to safety.

THE CAT ON ALPINE ROAD by Keith Knapp begins with a gruesome car accident, which triggered an awful memory of a roll over (I was lucky enough to walk away from). Funny how something so straightforward and realistic could be more traumatizing than any other horror I've read lately.

This short is full of suspense, and the cat, Buckshot, is magnificent. If you love the cat, General, from the movie Cat's Eye, you'll enjoy Knapp's story. I LOVE the ending.

As always,
AstraDaemon


Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Good Idea Down The Toilet

Mel has special abilities some would even say "super powers". She saved Ten people from a collapsing building. The eleventh person died. Now Mel is in prison. These are harrowing but also exciting times. We have found proof of life outside of Earth. While she witnesses this from prison, something goes horribly wrong and she writes about it. This is her short memoir.

I DON'T BELONG HERE by Edgar Ribon is an extremely isolated account of some sort of invasion. Absolutely nothing is revealed, not even Mel's powers. Between the lack of details and Mel's erratic journaling, this flash fiction piece has very little cohesion. The author had a good idea, but the presentation ruined any chance of being entertaining.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Worse Than Potholes

Every road has its price; every choice has its consequences: a professional kidnapper gets more than he bargained for when his latest abduction leads to terrifying supernatural encounters on the Florida Turnpike.

TOLL ROAD by Antonio Simon Jr. is a short story about a kidnapper battling supernatural creatures after his latest job goes horribly wrong. There is a lot of action and the ending surprised me in more ways than one, but there's also a lot of unnecessary details. If the author removed the filler and cut it down to flash fiction, the horror scenes might have more of an impact.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, April 5, 2019

Soul Searching

SHEPHERDS ON THE HILLS OF ETERNITY by Gary Jonas is a fantastic metaphysical story! I thought I would be reading a vampire story...I suppose in some ways it is, but the author has put an interesting twist on this particular predator.

I think all readers will be able to relate to Steve's thoughts and feelings, as he faces an inner struggle on multiple levels. The ending is thrilling, and I wish the author had written an entire novel to include Brother Benjamin's personal history.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Book of Skin

The Battle of Lepanto left the Ottoman Empire's navy in ruins. Although Grand Vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha has overseen the replacement of every lost ship, he fears economic trends are against the Empire. 

Seeking an advantage over his Latin foes, the pasha seeks knowledge man was not meant to have, a quest that brings him face to face with the Great Old Ones...


THE BEAST OF BOSPORUS by Matthew W. Quinn is a Lovecraft-styled story, set in the Ottoman Empire. The alternative history is thrilling and horrific, and I wish this had been a novella instead. The flashback within the story is fantastic foreshadowing of the otherworld nightmare Pasha plans to unleash.

Life is what happens when you make plans, but death is what follows when your plans come undone. If you enjoy the Cthulhu mythos, I highly recommend this short!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Space Cowboy

NOBODY SMITH by Abe Evergreen is a short story about a smuggler trying to scrounge up the money to leave a backwater planet and make his way across the galaxy. Evergreen does a great job laying out the sci-fi setting, without dragging out the descriptions.

Even though the author doesn't reveal much of anything about Smith, I love the character's ingenuity. In fact, I wouldn't mind reading another adventure about Nobody Smith.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

No Self-Respect

Means To An End: 
When one restless spirit meets an indifferent one: Tammy's boss, Vic, is a married guy who likes a little variety. Tammy's husband is never around. Vic may get more than he bargained for. Tammy may be in denial about her true nature, but who knows the truth for long?


The Stupid Train:
Lou's hurt, angry, and probably not the sharpest tool in the shed. One night he decides to even things out with those who betrayed him.


MEANS TO AN END AND STUPID TRAIN by Stephen A. North is another double feature by the author:

Means To An End is one of those stories which makes you wonder what in the hell the author was thinking when he wrote it. I was expecting some sort of twist, but the story is limp like Vic.

The Stupid Train is a story I read once before, but I don't remember the first impression I had. This time however, I felt nothing for Lou. He spends far too much time standing in the yard, throwing a pity party for himself. The author could've cut out most of it, and made this a flash fiction piece instead. The ending is so abrupt, I'm wondering, again, why North wrote this one.

Neither story is as good as North's other short stories, and I would hate for someone to form their opinion of the author's talent based on this duo. I can only assume North was working out some demons when he wrote these two.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, April 1, 2019

Music Monday: Thrice


"Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends."
~Alphonse de Lamartine

"The high arts of literature and music stand in a curious relationship to one another, at once securely comfortable and deeply uneasy - rather like a long-term marriage."
~Will Self

This week's Music Monday feature is THRICE, an American rock band from California...specifically, their album, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere. The album was released in 2016, after a four or five year break. Unlike their previous albums, this one centers on more sociocultural perspectives, so it should come as no surprise, this became my go-to album for novels with community drama, political warfare and the struggle to hold onto one's humanity.

I have no idea how I stumbled upon this album, but Black Honey is the first track I heard, and, to this day, I'm not sure what impressed me more: Dustin Kensrue's vocals, the heavy sound or the dynamic lyrics. Other tracks, such as Stay With Me and Salt and Shadow, are the perfect songs to accompany the scenes in a story in which characters move heaven and hell for their loved ones.

One novel, accompanied by my choice of Thrice, is The K2 Virus by Scott Rhine. The author keeps the emphasis on humanity and the power of friendship, as the story follows the path of a deadly virus. I also listened to this album more than once while reading through The Living Dead Boy series by Rhiannon Frater. The series focuses on a young boy trying to keep his loved ones alive after an apocalyptic event. The kids in the books, with all their hang-ups, prove that age has nothing to do with using common sense, and the contrast between the children and the adults adds the right amount of drama.

Check back next week for another music recommendation for reading!

As always,
AstraDaemon