Posts Tagged ‘Anthology’

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl.

March 19, 2019 - 7:42 am No Comments

So my time has come on the blog tour to showcase New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl. Here is my review

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl

Published by Solaris on 12th March 2019

239 pages

As soon as I read the blurb for this anthology, I knew that I wanted to read it. It ticks all the boxes when I look for an anthology, horror, sci-fi and fantasy. With any anthology I go in with an open mind, I know I won’t love every story but I can guarantee I can find some new authors who I will go onto purchase their work.

New Sun has 17 short stories that will introduce you to various cultures and religions, creatures from other realms and so much more. Each story was completely different and you will change genre from one story to the next.

For the purpose of this review, I will write about the ones I really enjoyed.

 The Fine Print by Chinelo Onwualu: The story about how one man wants to change the rules to protect his son. As you read this story, you learn how much Nuhu’s community rely on the Djinn for survival. The idea of the perfect woman (Spells) being got from a catalogue enforced the town’s need. The descriptive style of the author enabled you to imagine the spells, the views of the men and the desperation and determination of Nuhu to break the contract.  

Unkind of Mercy by Alex Jennings: Alaina-Rose talks about Johnny the love of her life and the strange feeling that something is in the room with her. I love reading stories that gets your imagination working. The story written from Alaina-Rose’s POV, helps you see how these mysterious creatures are starting to affect her and lets you decide whether it is supernatural or extraterrestrial.

The Freedom of the Shifting Sea by Jaymee Goh: Mayang an unusual sea creature and the affects she has on a mother and daughter. I really enjoyed this story. Yes, Mayang was a sea creature, but it was a story about love and loss. This story was beautifully written. You are drawn into their lives and as this story is told over a long period of time, you see how Mayang changed the lives of Salmah and Eunice.

One Easy Trick by Hiromi Goto: Marnie has a bit of a belly but after a trip into the forest to collect mushrooms, it all changes. As I was reading this story, I did not know what had happened to Marnie and rereading it, I still do not know what she did. However, that did not stop me enjoying this story, my favourite scenes were when she went back into the forest and her conversation with a bear. Reading this reminded me of the Adipose from Dr Who.

Kelsey and the Burdened Breath by Darcie Little Badger: This was my favourite story. Kelsey and Pal, her spirit dog earn a living rounding up lost souls. Written in the 3rd person, makes you feel that you are following her step by step. Tracking down the burdened breath tested her skills. This is a paranormal thriller and I would love to read more of Kelsey and if there were a series I would definitely buy it.

I am glad I got to read this anthology and as expected I have now added more authors to my list to look out for. If you are looking for refreshing stories than pick up this book. 

Dark Places, Evil Faces volume II

January 31, 2019 - 10:55 pm No Comments

As part of LGBTQ+ month, author Lisa Vasquez answered my plea for an interview and books to review. The 1st book that was suggested was The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride. As I had read and reviewed this book we had to come up with another. As a writer of short stories, Lisa Vasquez has featured in quite a few anthologies. Dark Places, Evil Faces volume II is one of the latest publications featuring one of her short stories and an added bonus all sales from this book go to Rethink Mental Illness  

Following after my review is an interview with Lisa Vasquez.

Dark Places, Evil Faces volume II

Published by Dark Terror Publications on 26th October 2018

501 pages

This book consisted of 31 short stories, perfect for when you need a short burst of horror. Every story was different, with various lengths and subject matter.

Starting off my review is Lisa Vasquez’s story is Mazie Shade of Winter. George was a successful author, happy with his life, then tragedy strikes making him a widower. 2 years later, we join him whilst he is trying to finish his latest work. Battling a storm, there is something more sinister than forked lightning. Reading this story you can feel George’s sense of loss and the guilt he had for not being there. However, the further you go into the story, you soon realise that George has something to hide. As the storm intensifies so does the story. With the basement having history and the constant clicking noise, you could understand George’s fear. However, when the lightning lit up the basement, not only was George’s secret revealed but there were a few unexpected surprises waiting. A creepy story.

Other stories I enjoyed were:

Man of Renown by Terry Grimwood: Set in 1888, Emily was always in fear, whether it was from violent clients or the Rips, a sadistic group of men. On one hectic night, a quiet unassuming gentleman came to her rescue and started a very unusual friendship. As you read this story, you are transported to the Victorian streets, the descriptive writing has you imagine the sights and sounds and Emily works her trade. The ending was unexpected and could this be another explanation of the deaths at the time.      

Christmas with the Dead by Joe R Lansdale: Christmas time and Calvin wanted to decorate his house. What was different this year was the town was populated by Zombies. One thing I enjoyed when I was reading this story was the unusual way the people were turned. This was a story of survival and remembering the dead. A new friendship is formed and a festive ending.    

Red Shoes by Andrew Lennon: Following Kurt and his vicious fixation with red shoes. This story is told over one night as we follow Kurt following his next victim. Whilst on his journey, he reminisces about his victims. The tension builds right up to the end as you are waiting for him to strike.           

An Acquired Taste by Pippa Bailey: Detective Pascal is in charge of an unusual case. Men are found in their beds naked and in a coma. Their only mistake was to be in bed by themselves, asleep and having a window open. Whilst we knew who was behind the attacks, it is only when a specialist joins the team do the details come out and you can see the struggle that the Detective has in believing the facts. Fast paced fantasy.       

Daddy’s Little Girl by Dale Robertson: Hayley’s parents were separated, all she wanted to do was stay with her dad. After finding an unusual box at a car boot, events start to unfold. The story draws you in with how sweet and innocent Hayley is. As you are reading the story, the true horror of the box is revealed and whilst the ending was to be expected the build-up wasn’t.

As well as the short stories there are two touching tributes. Lisa Vasquez writes a moving tribute to Draven Ames and Wrath James White writes a tribute to Jack Ketchum and after both tributes, there is a chance to read a short story by Draven Ames and Jack Ketchum.

As mentioned this book is for charity and with its bumper pages, you will surely find a short story to please you.  

Carry on to read my interview with Lisa Vasquez     

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Originally from Chicago, I implanted to Houston in 1996. A lifelong horror fan, I was raised on silverscreen horror (Universal Monsters, Silent Films) and Godzilla. My earliest memories are watching them with my (step)dad and him explaining the magic of special effects to me. I have been writing since the fourth grade and it’s the way I express myself, exorcise demons and fears, and address issues going on in current events (let’s face it, humans are the real monsters).

Currently, I run Stitched Smile Publications, and it’s one of my biggest accomplishments. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, how much we’ve given back, and the family we’ve formed.

Why horror? What is appeal of the genre to you as both a fan and as a writer?

Horror is designed to make us uncomfortable. It makes us think based on fear, stress, and triggers. If you want to know the real person, put them in a horrific situation. As a writer it allows me to venture into dark corridors of the mind, and as a reader, I get the thrill of not knowing what the author has in store for me.

As LBGTQ+ fan and writer of horror, how did you when you first became immersed in the genre and found that representation that you could identify was few and far between?

I honestly feel people are still afraid to address this issue. It’s still the “unknown”, it’s still a very real and raw subject matter. As much as we don’t like to believe our faith or moral upbringing plays a part in it, it does. Those things are like barbed quills. Removing them is painful. Anne Rice was brilliant in her application of these characters, and that’s when I realized there was a serious lack of it, elsewhere.

How did you discover authors that wrote about characters that you could relate to? Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?

I discovered Thomas Harris and Hannibal in my high school years, I think it was. Such an impact he had on me!  This likeable monster wasn’t in an unfamiliar form (eg; Frankenstein, Dracula), he was human. What he went through broke him-absolutely ruined him. I began to wonder, what causes a human to transform into such a creature?

Other than horror I thoroughly enjoy dark fantasy. New worlds, new creatures, expanded creativity … it’s all nicely packaged and wonderful.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

Horror has terrible associations with it. I think people call to mind the most graphic and terrible things in their memory when they encounter it and it sticks to their brain like a tumour. Education comes only when they expose themselves to more reading and accepting things like Paranormal, Crime, Sci-Fi, and dark fantasy all have elements of horror in them. Look at the movie, ALIEN. How frightening it was when it came out and yet people don’t associate it with horror like they do THE EXORCIST. Truthfully, they are all cousins in my opinion. When they box horror into a tiny container, they forget there are many more masks it wears.

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

Oh, political horror has been around for ages, only more veiled because the author-and the people caught with the material-feared punishment from their government. With our freedoms now, it’s much easier to speak out without mincing our words. Looking at 1984, for example, or THE LOTTERY, we can see how those same fears apply now. I love THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE because the author took actual real news headlines and used them to create a tale in which we had to come face to face with what we’ve done to ourselves and each other. My hope is we open our eyes and see it for what it is, not just fiction. Where do I see it going in the next few years? Wherever the real fears are. In the 50s it was nuclear war and invasions. Horror is simply a mirror … a big, dark, ugly mirror and we are its reflection.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

The books I love and have had to replace several times are Thomas Harris’ THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS series, PATIENT ZERO by Jonathon Maberry, BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman, and Anne Rice’s THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES.

Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN had a huge hand in influencing me, Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, and Emily Bronte’.

Films I’d say impacted me? Definitely ALIEN, DRACULA, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, HELLRAISER, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, GATES OF HELL … geeze I can go on but those are just off the top of my head.

In recent years there has been a slow but gradual diversification within the genre, which new LBGTQ+ writers do you think we should be paying attention to?

We have our eye on Steven Stacy and have published works by Carmilla Voiez. Some of her work is off the charts and the books she’s published have beautiful artwork to compliment her words. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you who else to look out for because I don’t read authors based on their sexual preference or gender. With that said, I would like to see more of them making debuts. The outlet for expression is powerful. Let their voices be heard, not because of their sexual preference but because they tell a kick ass story! My hope is we will see more women, LBGTQ, disabled, and minority writers come into their own so we don’t have to label them and protect them from being swept under the carpet.

How would you describe your writing style?

I am my own worst critic, and I think that’s true of most authors. I still have a lot of growing to do, but I think my style is a mish mash of macabre and gothic.

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

I was deeply touched by John Palisano’s review of THE UNFLESHED, TALE OF THE AUTOPSIC BRIDE. I was extremely vulnerable when I released it and seeing someone like him give it praise made me feel validated in way.

Negative? Oh yeah, I had two girls review it and say it made no sense and it raised my hackles a little but I got over it rather quickly. My writing isn’t for everyone, I’m ok with that. Just say you didn’t like it. When people poke fun at it to appear “witty” in public, I find it to be another form or bullying. You can criticize a work intellectually. Unless you’re a comedian and that’s your job…stick to your day job.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Editing. Uggghhh … that’s why I hired Donelle (Pardee Whiting)

Are there any subjects that you would never write about?

Never say never. I try to avoid certain subjects but if the story dictates it, I’ll have to confront it. The skill is in how you tread along the delicate nature of some subjects. Yes, horror is meant to be uncomfortable but for me personally, I feel some subject matter is too much. What others write about is their own choice.

Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?

The truth is I teach and mentor. If you can open yourself to learning from others and be a real scholar, you never stay stagnant. You understand life is about learning and giving back. Fill the pitcher so you can refill it.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing? Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you attempted to break through the barriers that are so often in place against LBGTQ+ writers?

The best advice is to write for ME. Hone your skill, listen to feedback, but never try to fit a mold. And as AJ Brown says, “keep it simple”. As for breaking the barriers for LBGTQ? Be brave, be true, and never apologize. You have a voice. Unleash it. I also suggest networking. There’s strength in numbers. Teach acceptance, not tolerance. You don’t have to be “tolerated” … you have a right to be yourself and to be proud of it.

Many CIS white male authors use LGBTQ+ characters in their works, what’s the mistake that they make when trying to portray these characters?

They assume, and it’s dangerous. You’re assuming what you see, what you’ve heard, what media portrays is how things are. Research means talking to people who live what you’re writing about. If you continue to portray people in a false light you offend them and perpetrate lies. Never assume what a person has walked through and felt. Ask them.

Moving on to getting your work read by unwashed masses, what do you think is the biggest misconception about LGBTQ+ fiction?

That it’s porn. I think it’s the simplest way I can put it.

There are as number of presses dedicated to LGBTQ+ fiction, do you view these as a good thing, or do you think they help to perpetuate the ongoing exclusion from mainstream presses?

It’s good until it boxes them in. Sometimes, you have to put yourself out there, expand your audience, and take a risk. If another publishing house wants your work, it’s a step forward. Take it and run!

And here is the million dollar question do you agree with movements like this and things such as Women in Horror Month? If so how would you like to see sites such as Ginger Nuts of Horror tackle diversity?

Women in Horror and LGBTQ is as important because it says, “we support these writers into our world”. When someone of influence like GINGERNUTS OF HORROR stands up for others, people take notice. I always say, “If you aren’t condoning it, you’re supporting it” when it comes to negative behaviour. Then again, I’ve always stood up for those who have little to no voice. We are all human, we are supposed to be evolved and past all this bullsh*t. If people put more time and energy into learning their craft and writing, there would be less time to allocate to negativity.

The most common phrase you hear when people object to active movements to encourage all forms of diversity is “I don’t care about the sexuality, gender, color etc etc of the writer I only care about good stories” what would you like to say to these people?

You won’t get a chance to read all the good stories until you care.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favorite child, and who is your least favorite to write for and why?

I don’t have a least favorite … and I can’t choose between my children. They are all so “alive” to me. Each one has a purpose and if they didn’t, I wouldn’t have spent all the time to cultivate and create them.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

THE UNSAINTLY. Even though its no longer in print as I re-edit/rewrite it, it was my first finished novel length piece and taught me the most.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

I worked very hard on THE UNFLESHED: TALE OF THE AUTOPSIC BRIDE and I feel it’s the best I’ve put out so far. I have a lot of short stories, but I feel I got to shine a little in THE UNFLESHED.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?

“Condemn me to my belly, I’ll still walk all over you.” THE UNSAINTLY

Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

THE UNFLESHED is my last book. It’s dark, speculative, alternate history. It’s my homage to Mary Shelley and to date, my darkest tale. I’m working on a few pieces at the moment. Next up for release is a book of collected stories with several other powerful women (Jae Mazer, Jessica Raney, Donelle Pardee Whiting, and Ashley Davis) called UMBRA about dark magical creatures. Each author submitted a novella sized story to complete this work and it should be out in summer 2018.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

I’m still in “fangirl” mode over BIRD BOX from Josh Malerman. He took horror back for me and made it simple: the unknown. You never know in the book what the “monster” is. It’s brilliant. I wasn’t fond of ANNHILATION. Just wasn’t my cup of tea, even though I know others really loved it.

What’s the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?

I get a lot of great questions in my interviews, I’ve been lucky. I wish someone would ask me what the single most important thing is for authors. It’s reviews. The rest comes after. Yes, some want to be the next Stephen King, some want to be the next JK Rowling, some want to be rich, others want a big publisher to grab them. The truth is, none that happens if we don’t have reviews or word of mouth. Reviewers like yourself and GINGERNUTS are the only way we can survive and deserve the respect. Authors can get entitled and feel their work is worth you dropping everything “right now”. In this industry, if you’re not genuine, it’ll come back and bite you in the ass. People, especially authors, don’t easily forget. It’s a cutthroat industry, when you step on others to get ahead you burn a bridge. Popularity is fickle. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and your work because your work is all you have to show for everything. Integrity is how you operate when no one’s looking. I just want to be able to look at myself in the mirror every day and be happy with what I see. I want my kids and their kids not to be ashamed of the person I am. It has nothing to do with fame, or fortune, and everything to do with my reputation.

Thank you, Yvonne and Gingernuts for this interview and supporting the authors!

Collected Christmas Horror Shorts (Collected Horror Shorts Book 1)

November 15, 2018 - 4:33 am No Comments

Collected Christmas Horror Shorts (Collected Horror Shorts Book 1)
Published by Kevin J Kennedy on 30th November 2016
260 pages

It’s still only November and TV is awash with Christmas ads so to get me in the mood than reading an anthology of Christmas Horror shorts. With a mixture of 24 stories and poems, this book will certainly bring some Christmas cheer to Horror lovers. With so many stories I will still be writing this review on Christmas Eve so for time purposes, I am going to pick the ones that stood out for me. This was a difficult choice as they were all good reads.
Naughty or Nice by Veronica Smith: The story of Robert whilst he was working one night at Kmart. You notice as soon as Halloween has passed the shops start to sell Christmas merch and the Kmart was no difference. The story has killers that are unexpected and whilst they start out quite comical, it isn’t long until you know they mean business.
All Naughty, No Nice by Michael A Arnzen: What happens if Santa still spread his magic in a zombie world. This story had a sense of sorrow to it as you knew how despondent Santa was
Merry Fuckin’ Christmas by Kevin J Kennedy: What starts out with a regular guy preparing for Christmas soon changes into a tale of revenge. This story was heartbreaking and what one tragic accident can result in. The killings were described in detail and will have you thinking what would you do.
Hung With Care by Ty Schwamberger: A family gets a surprise from Santa. I enjoyed the Bad Santa and the real reason why Santa visits on Christmas Eve. The unique decoration above the fireplace completed the story
Killing Christmas by Andrew Lennon: We all know people like Jeff, in fact, I am like him. I get fed up how Christmas comes earlier every year and as soon as Halloween is over Christmas is rammed down our throats, but what happens to Jeff, does have you worried.
The Last Christmas Dinner by Christine Bergling: For Susan, preparing Christmas dinner is one of the busiest times of the year. This story builds up to a surprise ending and you are drawn into what you think is a happy Christmas celebration.
Whilst I have not mentioned the others, that doesn’t mean that I did not enjoy them. There are plenty of stories that will keep you busy over the festive season, and whether you like Christmas or not this book will please horror readers whatever your taste in horror is as this book cover most of the sub-genres. I have the all the collected short stories and I find it is a good way to read authors work that I have not come across.

Dead Reckoning and other stories by Dino Parenti

October 17, 2018 - 7:41 pm No Comments

Dead Reckoning and other stories by Dino Parenti
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing on 5th October 2018
226 pages

Regardless of whether I recognise the author, I always purchase any book published by Crystal Lake Publishing. Dead Reckonings and other stories featuring 16 short stories that some could be in the news today.
Like all anthologies there were some stories that stood out for me. From the seventies Two Boys in a Diner- Vic and his younger brother Jimmy are in a diner reminiscing about family, death and old times. As there is only 2 characters, you really get to know them and whilst brothers and brought up together, they are like chalk and cheese. It is not till the end that the true reason of their visit to the diner is revealed.
From the eighties Dead Reckoning- The story opens with a policeman being dragged by a priest on a horse. The story swaps between past and present with ease and as you read this story you find out exactly what the policeman had done to deserve this treatment and why the priest felt the need to dish out the punishment. This story does make you think, was either in the wrong, was their actions justified.
From the nineties Savior- Following a vet disfigured from war, trying to make a living and his fascination with a performer from the visiting fair. There was a feel of sorrow to this story. The main character was hidden away due to his serious injuries. When he performed with his disguise it reminded me of the elephant man and the prejudice that people had for him. Did he do the right thing, I am still undecided.
Jumping to the post-apocalyptic story On the Fickle Nature of Germination. A discovery of 2 ancient bodies trapped between the ice and the outbreak of a devastating flu. Is there a link. This story was one that could be more fact than fiction, as remains get excavated what diseases could be unearthed. This was a quick pace story just like the outbreak.
There was the odd story that I could not get in to, but this did not stop me liking the book. A nice touch was that some of the stories had a low-key link, either by an odd line or action which if like me you read the whole book from cover to cover you will spot straight away.
These stories had a mixture of genres, that would please the readers of dark fiction. Whilst I was writing this review I was checking on amazon to see his other published work and I am surprised that this was his first.

The Outsiders by Stephen Bacon, James Everington. Gary Fry, VH Leslie and Rosanne Rabinowitz

September 4, 2018 - 9:15 pm No Comments

The Outsiders by Stephen Bacon, James Everington. Gary Fry, VH Leslie and Rosanne Rabinowitz
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing on 4th May 2015
226 pages

For about a year I have read every new anthology Crystal Lake has published, however, having not read any of the early publications, I thought I would rectify this by reading The Outsiders. 5 authors writing about The Priory, a secluded estate set in the UK and home to a Lovecraftian cult and run by Charles Erich.

Opening with an introduction from Kevin Lucia, which sets the scene and gets you in the mood to sit and enjoy these 5 stories.

The Subprime by Gary Fry: Finance is a cut throat industry, but Lee at the age of 19 was doing well except for one thing he had a conscious. Mr Philips, his boss hopes to persuade him not to leave by inviting him to a dinner party at his home in the Priory. This is our first meeting with the folk at the Priory and whilst the author at the start made them seem pretty normal as the story continued you could sense they were itching for a kill.

Impossible Colours by James Everington: Michala Bruce is a community officer patrolling Exham and takes an interest in the Priory after Marty Young kills himself. The story describes the effects of the cult, strange flashing colours and the residents being more in a trance. Telling part of the story through Marty’s journal enabled the reader to see both sides of the story and you are left wandering what happened to Michala.

Stolen from the Sea by Stephen Bacon: Ryan was the salesman for the Priory, getting donations for the cause and persuading to join them. A chance meeting with Natalie starts out as friendship, but when Ryan’s son tragically dies their friendship turns into so much more. Written with sensitivity this story looks at grief and religion and regardless of the religion, people will question their faith at times of sorrow.

Precious Things by VH Leslie: Petra and Bernard both retired, moved into the Priory. Married for a long time Petra was used to Bernard’s eccentricity and his love of rocks kept him busy for ages. But when he started locking himself in his study for a long period of time and having secret meetings with Charles Erich, she became worried. This story built up to a dramatic ending and showcased the power of love that Petra had for her husband

Meat, Motion and Light by Rosanne Rabinowitz: Claudia was away at University when her mom asked her to return to the Priory. Reluctant to give up her freedom, she went home to find out what was going on. Following Claudia’s story, you get an understanding that her childhood was not fun. More was written about the creature and the effects it had on the residents. With references to characters and incidents from the previous stories this was the perfect story to finish this anthology.

This was a quick read and whilst it is horror, it wasn’t usually from the creature that lived under the grounds. These stories showed the good and bad of human nature and the effects of the cult on everyone who encountered them. A good read which enabled me to get my fix of short stories