Sunday, 17 January 2021

Helminth by S.Alessandro Martinez

 







Rei would do anything for those she loves.

As her best friend, Abby, struggles to cope with the sudden loss of her husband, Rei and her closest girlfriends take her to a beautiful lakeside house nestled in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, hoping that a weekend of support from long-time friends will help Abby along her road of emotional recovery.

But as the young women get settled, Rei begins to notice there’s something wrong with the place. Could this peaceful, idyllic location be hiding an ancient evil below the waters of the lake? Or are the problems wholly within Abby herself, who seems to be losing her grip on reality? When unexplainable, nightmarish things occur, Rei realizes this weekend getaway may turn into their last outing.
 

New from Omnium Gatherum is S.Alessandro Martinnez's debut novel! I've read a few stories from Martinez over the years and was really excited to have the chance to read his debut novel.

I really enjoyed this novel about four friends who come together to help their friend. Abby, has been in a terrible accident, she's lucky to be alive but she's lost everything.

Rei, one her her best friends since childhood, is no stranger to utter loss and desperation, she's been through traumas of her own ad is determined to help her best friend overcome hers.

Rei's parents own a secluded country home situated right on the lake, it will be perfect for a weekend away with Abby and her other bets friends. Over the years they have drifted apart as adulthood as set it. But this weekend will provide them all with the perfect chance to reconnect and heal.

But of course, this is a horror tale and plans soo go awry! There is something strange with the house which Rei can't quite comprehend. Abby is acting strangely too, but that's to be expected after her ordeal, or it it being caused by something else?

They may not be entirely alone on their vacation. They've only gone for the weekend but it will feel like the longest holiday they've ever been on.

The tale starts off as a slow burner but it lets you get to know the characters who really drive this story. I really liked Rei who is always thinking of others before herself. 

But it doesn't take long for the creepiness to seep in, and it gets really creepy! When the tale comes together it's really terrifying. I don't want to say too much and spoil it for those yet to delve in to the terror of Helminth but it's a really fun but brutal read! 

About the Author


S. Alessandro Martinez is a horror and fantasy writer living in Southern California. His writings have appeared in several magazines and anthologies. He was first published in Deadman’s Tome with the story ‘The Corruption in the Deep’. He enjoys writing about all sorts of horror, especially about unspeakable creatures, body-horror, and supernatural terror. He also enjoys writing high fantasy. He has a fantastical world of his own creation filled with stories of mystical and terrible creatures, fantastic races, and powerful magic. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Bone Factory by Yolanda Sfetsos

 


Max Patella just wants to do her job, which includes dealing with cases the corrupt police don't want to dirty their hands with.


When she stumbles on a bunch of skeletons found in different warehouses, all wearing mysterious rings, Max finds herself in a dangerous and deadly situation that leads back to her...

I've become a huge fan of Demain Publishing over the years with their Short Sharp Shocks Series of little bites of horror and now it's time for me to check out their Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Series.

This time I'm reading The Bone Factory by Yolanda Sfetsos! In the crime ridden city of Lorn, ruled over by corrupt power and patriarchy, a young woman, Max Patella is trying to solve crimes the police don't want to touch. 

Whenever something weird goes down, Max Patella gets a call, and her latest case may be the strangest one she will ever have to deal with.

Inside the Dollhouse, a skeleton is discovered, it's presumed to be accidental but when the bones start to speak, Max knows otherwise. It's not long until more skeletons pop up, all within factories, all with strange rings.

No one cares about these victims, all women, and Max battles against time to find the culprit before more vulnerable women are slain. 

I really liked this tale. A great murder mystery tale with elements of fantasy. It's a tale I could definitely see continuing. The characters are great and I'd love to read more about their escapades.



Friday, 20 November 2020

A Seed in a Soil of Sorrow by Keith Anthony Baird

 


When the death cult calls ... what are you running from?


The path to the Viridian Chapter is paved with many sorrows. It's a sect which sits on the site of a brutal atrocity, and one which harbours numerous dark secrets. Leader, Hans Lehmann, is a visionary bestowed with remarkable abilities, with followers who are prepared to offer their lives in exchange for his promise of a utopia.

On the cusp of autumn, a lone seeker arrives to discard his former life and embrace his rebirth as a chapter disciple. Stark lessons within a strict regime are the lure for those who have been traumatised by their uncaring past. The promise of a doomsday ascension through the waste of flesh proves at odds with a union between two souls who must flee the confines of the commune, if their love is to stand a chance of being fully realised.

But will the inner circle elite discover this betrayal and exact a terrible retribution, or will they escape the clutches of the sect's unstable originator and lift the lid on the culture of violence within?

Tobias, a young man barely 23, runs form the pain of his old life looking for a way out. He travels across Europe where he meets Han, a father figure like no other who takes him in when he joins his sect, The Viridian Chapter. All he expects in return is complete surrender.

This is a great short story that I found really disturbing and truly horrifying. The horror pure psychological. I just think there's something really creepy about cults where vulnerable people are taken advantage of, their lives and even minds changed forever. 

It's a really gripping tale, I easily read this is one sitting. I've read Keith's work before so I knew it would be dark! He's a master at pulling you into a tale. 


Sunday, 15 November 2020

Interview with Dan Coxon, author of Only the Broken Remain

 



Today I’m chatting with Dan Coxon, an author I greatly admire. He’s been a part of the British horror/strange fiction scene for many years. He’s been at the helm of the legendary Tales From The Shadow Booth anthologies as well as the multi award winning anthology, This Dreaming Isle, and now he has his debut short fiction collection Only The Broken Remain coming out with Black Shuck Books




1)   Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a writer and editor based on the outskirts of London, probably best known for editing the anthology This Dreaming Isle (shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards and the British Fantasy Awards). I’m also editor for Unsung Stories (Best Independent Press, British Fantasy Awards 2018 & 2019), and a freelance editor at Momus Editorial. My short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Nightscript and Not One of Us, and the anthologies Nox Pareidolia and Humanagerie, among many other places. Earlier this year I had a mini-collection, Green Fingers, published by Black Shuck Books, and they’ve just published my first full-length collection, Only The Broken Remain. Oh, and I bake a mean loaf of bread.

 

1)   Tell us about your new story collection, Only The Broken Remain.

Only The Broken Remain is a collection of stories about people who are marginalised or excluded in some way, sometimes through no fault of their own, sometimes as a consequence of their actions. I’m really interested in these types of characters: people who have been worn down by life and cast adrift, but somehow find the strength to carry on regardless. There’s a quiet heroism in not giving in. So you’ll find stories about a disenfranchised immigrant worker who forms a pact with the local foxes, a social misfit who finds his ideal job failing in front of a circus audience, an accountant who has embezzled funds and loses herself – literally – while on the run in Australia… I’m sure you get the idea. Some are previously published, while a handful are new and original to this book.

 


1)   What is it that drew you to British folk horror?

Part of what I do is folk horror, for sure, but I’m generally interested in weird fiction and the uncanny. I suspect the success of This Dreaming Isle will see me tagged as ‘the British folk-horror guy’ for a while, but that was really something that grew out of a specific situation, at a specific time, and I think flogging it for years to come would be a mistake. When I first started work on that anthology, we were in the midst of the Brexit vote, and nobody knew what the future held for Britain, whereas now… well, actually we still haven’t a clue, have we. But there was a sense in which folk horror was examining and reframing the ways in which we view the past, and I really liked that about it. It felt like the perfect antidote to rampant nostalgia – a timely reminder that the past was actually a dark, dangerous place, and not at all the ‘green and pleasant land’ some politicians seemed to be hankering after. That said, folk horror bleeds through into lots of other genres – ghost stories, for example, could be said to be both uncanny and folkloric – so I’m not quite done with it yet. I’m just keen to keep it as one possible tool of many, rather than the entire toolbox.

 


2)   Do you write in other genres?

I’ve written science fiction before (with only moderate success), and had a story in a ‘Year’s Best’ body horror anthology once (I don’t write body horror usually, although I do love early Cronenberg). For many years I was trying to write ‘literary’ short stories, so my earlier work tended to avoid any of the horror genre trappings – it was much more down-to-earth and mundane. Strangeness started to creep back into my fiction about six years ago, though, and I think it’s here to stay. I won’t claim that everything I write will be horror, but it will certainly all be odd and unsettling in some way. In fact, some of the stories in Only The Broken Remain are probably weird fiction rather than horror or folk horror. I prefer to let each story lead me where it will, rather than trying to impose genre ‘rules’ on it.

 

3)   How have you been spending your time during lockdown?

This is going to be a very dull answer, so I’ll keep it short. Looking after my kids, home schooling, learning to bake a really good loaf of bread, fighting the weeds at my allotment (and losing), putting up a shed, painting a shed, utterly failing to organise the chaos inside a shed. I’ve not had much time to read or write – at least, not as much as I’d like – but there’s been some of that too. Plus trying to earn enough of a living to stay afloat. My freelance editorial business is my main source of income, and the cashflow can be erratic at the best of times – lockdown was a challenge. One that I seem to have navigated so far, thank god.

 

4)   What book are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which is just as great as I remembered, and even more weird. She’s wonderful at those adept little touches that just throw you off-guard with a couple of words. That’s true mastery.

 

5)   Who are your favourite authors?

This list tends to change with the seasons, but at the moment I’m very into Robert Aickman, Jeff Vandermeer, Joel Lane, Paul Tremblay, Alison Moore and Robert Holdstock. I’ll always have a soft spot for Iain Banks, too.

6)   How would you describe your work?

Strange fiction, of every flavour.

 

7)   Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read lots, write lots, and try to keep moving forward all the time. There’s a tendency to write something that you’re convinced is great, then sit back and try and place it somewhere. It’s important to send work out for publication, but you should always be working on the next thing – that’s how you improve. Also, don’t listen to too much advice. What worked for someone else might not do it for you.

 

8)   In the future, do you have plans to write a novel ?

I’m actually about 30,000 words into one, but then lockdown got in the way (see earlier notes regarding home schooling, work, etc.) I’ll be going back to it at some point soon, and who knows, I might even finish it. By the time I’ve done the edits, found an agent and sold it to a publisher, you might see it around 2025 sometime. In the meantime, though, I have two new anthologies slated for next year (one fiction, one non-fiction), so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.

 


Friday, 13 November 2020

Only The Broken Remain by Dan Coxon

 


I could see into the room well enough, but there was nothing there. No furniture, no ornaments. A rusted sink streaked with black and grey. An empty light fitting. Nothing more than a thick layer of dust on tired linoleum, forming a furred carpet that stretched undisturbed into the empty room beyond… There was no neighbour. It occurred to me for the first time that I might be going mad.

A young man joins a circus where the mysterious ringmaster is more interested in watching him fail. An immigrant worker forms an unlikely alliance with his housing estate’s foxes. A fraudulent accountant goes on the run, but loses herself in the dry heat of Australia.

This debut collection from Dan Coxon unearths the no man’s land between dreams and nightmares, a place where the strange is constantly threatening to seep through into our everyday reality. Populated by the lost and the downtrodden, the forgotten and the estranged, these stories follow in the tradition of Thomas Ligotti, Robert Aickman and Joel Lane. Because when the dust has settled and the blood has been washed away, Only the Broken Remain.

“Dan Coxon’s subtle, delightfully dark tales creep up on you from the shadows, then refuse to let you go. I devoured these stories about crises of identity and reality being undermined after glimpsing something inexplicable from the corner of your eye.”
—Tim Major, author of Snakeskins and Hope Island

“Coxon writes stories filled with surreal, precise menace. Only the Broken Remain gripped me throughout.”
—Aliya Whiteley, author of The Beauty and The Loosening Skin


Only The Broken Remain by Dan Coxon features 14 fabulous stories that I guess you could classify as weird horror with a British flavour. However I think Dan Coxon is one of those rare writers that are hard to pin down and define.  The award winning author has been published in many prestigious magazines such as Black Static, Nightscript, Not one of Us, Unsung Stories and many others. He's also the editor of the critically acclaimed Tales From The Shadow Booth anthologies as well as This Dreaming Isle.

This collection, which I immensely enjoyed, features a motley crue of down and outs, people who once lived like us but had something about them irreparably broken. Yet they are still unwilling to give up, choosing instead to forge a survival when and where they can find it. 

Most of these stories start off sounding normal and mundane but when you look closer you realise there is something not quite right. All these stories united by a thread of cold anxious dread seeping in through the pages. Darkness is always underfoot and there's no telling how it will strike. It's a quiet sort of horror that creeps in slowly from the edges of normalcy but once it has you it is final. 

These stories exert a powerful realness, that they could happen to anyone, they warn that any one of us could slip through the cracks of society and find themselves lost and alone.

I loved the attention to details in these stories, Dan Coxon paints a really vivid picture full of atmosphere but keeps the pace moving quickly. 

I really enjoyed all these tales but my stand out favourites were;

Stannislav in Foxtown

Previously published in one of my all time favourite magazines; Black Static. This tale features a disenchanted immigrant, Stannislav moving to the UK for want of a better life but ends up working in a chicken shop.  Mistreated each day by his boss Mr Sharples, starving and abused he forms an unlikely friendship, and in numbers there is strength. 

Only The Broken Remain

Possibly the darkest tale in this anthology. This was creepy from the first word. Allison the young woman of the tale had been to hell and back and would be on the road to recovery if it weren't for the fact she can't any sleep. Her new neighbours are the source of some strange night-time activities and when she battles with her agoraphobia to go and knock on their door, she realises there is no next door. But where are the noises coming from? 

Baddavine 

Set in an isolated small community somewhere by the sea, this is British folk horror at its best. One day a father and daughter hear a strange whisper when they spend the day at the coast. At first the father thinks it is just childlike imagination but then he starts to hear it too, so does the rest of his small village. Baddavine, the voice rasps over and over again. It drives them mad and one night they all go together to challenge the intruder.

Rut 

Down and out Cedric works at a pub, terrorised by Gary Chiltern and his gang. Each day gets a little harder but he needs this job. Gradually he is pushed away from society and starts to find refuge in the local woods that have a rich history with his family. It's the perfect haven until Chiltern spots him going there alone one night...

All the Letters in His Van

A couple embark on a walking holiday with the intent to relax and get a break from their crumbling attempt to start a family of their own. They end up up getting lost but thankfully find a quaint little village to rest in. 


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3 edited by Matthew Weber

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the 'Double Barrel Horror' anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers. This time around, your fate lies in the hands of Christine Morgan, Mark Matthews, Theresa Braun, Calvin Demmer, Glenn Rolfe, and Robert Essig.

This is quite a unique horror anthology, it features six super talented authors who each contribute two tales of darkness rather than one. I really liked this concept as I felt you got to see more of the author. This technique could have failed badly if they could only produce one great tale and one not so great but each tale was fantastic. There wasn't one story that I didn't like which is rare for me. 

The first author featured is Christine Morgan with her two tales; Eye See You and Sharp Obsidian. Eye See You is a thrilling tale that descends into madness. A young girl develops an unusual phobia after a trip to Disney Land with her grandparents. What I really liked about this tale was that after a while you too will share in her phobia! A great start to an epic collection.

Sharp Obsidian Christine Morgan's second tale is wildly different. It is a dark fantasy tale inspired by Lovecraft of two siblings being hunted in a dark land full of horrors. Very otherworldly, very cool!

Next up is Robert Essig I really loved his two tales. The first was From Unclean Spells, the tale is about a man trying to get into the record books with the loudest burp ever recorded. From this point I was hooked I've never read anything quite like it. This tale was gory gross and just all out WTF Dude combined into an amazing ride. I get the feeling that this tale was just as fun to write as it was to read.  His second tale Fuel for the King of Death went down a really creepy route. A man heartbroken form his disastrous relationship decides to visit a museum he loved as a youngster. Of course being a horror tale, it is no ordinary museum and now he is to play a vital part in its upkeep. 

Wicked Smart Carnie by Mark Matthews was a really neat tale with extra grit. A man had something taken from him when he visited a fun fair in his youth. Now he has come back to take back what is his. Whilst I really liked Wicked Smart Carnie I absolutely loved Goodwin my god this was so dark and powerful. I don't want to say too much about it and ruin its impact when you read it but it was absolutely amazing. 

Next up is Theresa Braun a writer with great talent! Her first tale Stillborn is about a young nurse trying to make headway in her career. She is given a considerable advantage when the highly respected Dr Reynolds picks her out to be his protege. However there is something weird going on in her hospital her suspicions fully ignited by a strange woman claiming her babies had been stolen. This was a great mystery tale that has a really terrific ending.

Homecoming her second tale blends Scottish Horror with romance. What I really liked about Theresa's tale were that they were quirky and dark.  A young man is in heaven when he meets the lovely of his life, Melanie. She's so perfect that he decides he will propose during their idyllic holiday in Scotland will he get the outcome he wants?  

Highway Hunger by Calvin Demmer was a really fast paced action tale with a splattering of horror. Dudley starts a new job, removing road kill from a long stretch of highway. It's a fairly easy going job yet it comes with rules that cannot be broken under any circumstances. I really loved this tale from beginning to end.

Motel Madness really blew me away. This is a horror tale that never lets you go. This one genuinely scared me! It's a classic nightmare situation of waking up somewhere you did not expect to find yourself and also having no idea how the mishap unfolded. A brilliant tale of human corruption and the will to survive no matter the odds. Epic!

Glenn Rolfe is the last author to be featured with his two tales The Guide and The House on Mayflower Street both of which I really enjoyed. The Guide managing to be both poignant as well as creepy and after reading Motel Madness I needed it! However his second tale The House on Mayflower Street had no tender moments and was pure horror. I really loved this tale. I just can't resist a haunted house!

The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories

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I finally got round to reading this one and I'm so glad I did, this is a superb collection of 18 diverse horror tales. I liked every one of these and there were a few that I thought were really outstanding.

What I liked about this collection were that the stories all stood out, each one's an individual. There's a huge range of horror from straight up splatter punk to folk horror and deep psychological all united by a dark thread. There's something in here for everyone. I really enjoyed this collection and actually felt a bit sad when I realised I had gotten to the end!


Can't wait for the next instalment!


Suds and Monsters by Christopher Stanley 

Beware the wrath of an evil step-mother. This tale will leave you terrified of everything, including the kitchen sink. A great story to start off this amazing collection of horror tales.


The Debt  by John Haas

When Gary Jones wakes up he doesn't know where he is. He has no recollection of the night before. He fears his weakness for alcohol has lead him to a dark place. Gary has a debt and now its time to pay it back.

I don't want to say too much about this tale and spoil it but I will say this was one of my favourites of the collection. A really powerful tale, it deals with some really dark grim subject matter but yet the ending is satisfying.

Old Gods by Sue Bentley 

This tales reminds me of Indiana Jones except the expedition has gone very wrong. Two treasure hunters decide to loot the bounty of ancient gods whom have been long forgotten. Problem is, they have little understanding of the ancient tribe's customs and rites.

Curious if Anything by C.C.Adams 

One day a ghost turns up in a man's bathtub, he's not scared just curios if anything. He spends the next few days trying to figure out who the ghost was and what it wants with him. I loved this tale from beginning to end. Creepy and unsettling the ending is as brutal as an executioner's axe.

Cancer the Crab by Lewis Williams

Nature fights back when a fisherman takes too much, doesn't he know the sea can be a very cruel mistress when vexed?

Worse Things by Molly Thymes

A series of gruesome murders displaying the infamous grisly techniques of the bloodthirsty Vikings all centre around one man. A dark tale of what people will do to accumulate power.

Believe and Be Justified by Felix Flynn

A worshipper is about to meet his god blinded by religious fervour. It is the pilgrimage of a lifetime. He will do anything it takes to prove himself before the eyes of the almighty.

The Haunting of April Heights

I really liked this one, I'm a sucker for haunted house tales. This one is set in 1980's Britain. A young woman after a bad break up moves into April Heights a run down tower block on a council estate plagued with high crime and deprivation, but it offers a great view of the city and her best mate Sooz lives just next down. Even after warnings about the previous occupants she's eager to move in. She loves her new flat but her dog isn't so keen. 

Angel by Jo Gilmour

Daddy and daughter are united in their fight against the curse of sinners wreaking havoc upon Earth. Daddy calls her his "Little Angel" and she will fight for him until the very end. A really powerful tale.


Murder-abilia by Adam Meyer 

Another one of my favourites. A collector becomes enthralled with a set of grisly murders in his local area, before he knows it he's in too deep after a lucrative opportunity from a local detective. 

The First Circle by Sue Eaton 

I loved this strange little story. I could really relate to the ever growing problem of what to buy your other half for their birthday. The longer you're together the harder it gets, you have to think more creatively which is exactly what happens in this tale. This wife makes a bad decision when she buys a very strange object for her husband.

The Barber by P. Sessler

This tale starts out innocent when a barber takes on an apprentice for his expanding business but descends into gore and macabre desire for the ultimate customer satisfaction. 

Luna Too by Jess Doyle 

A brilliant folk horror tale. Luna goes on holiday with her parents to a remote cottage named Ty Dewlin. The caretaker explains in means Warlock House named after the War Lock who once built and lived in the cottage hundreds of years ago. It is a cottage with some strange superstitions.

Roxy by Victoria Faust

A farm girl forms an attachment to one of her animals but all too soon it is time to say goodbye. Let me tell you this, it's no ordinary farm! A deeply unsettling tale. I loved it!

A Little Death by Ryan Harville

A man's life is thrown into chaos by the untimely death of his beloved wife. He cannot cope without her and soon becomes lost in his own world. Can anyone save him? 

Gamer by Richard A.Shury 

A dark tale of obsession and murder, what really goes on in your kid's bedroom? Remember computer games aren't always just games, sometimes they're gateways.

Cecily by Colette Bennett

Forgotten by his mother during childhood a man grows so lonely he will turn to anyone for love and affection. His virtual assistant Cecily is there for him in ways he can't imagine.

Lily's Kids by Florence Ann Marlowe

This was my absolute favourite from this amazing collection. Jimmy and his younger sister Katie go off exploring in their local neighbourhood when they come across an abandoned barn perfect for a secret den. When they get closer they realise it's not as empty as they first thought. Inside are three strange children that make the twins from The Shinning look cuddly and cute. 

Scythe by Jeremy Megargee

A slow building tale of terror made all the more terrifying when you realise what the shadow is!