Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Shotgun Strange Stories Magazine Issue 1

Attention everyone there's a brand new magazine for those who love strange and scary stories, it's called Shotgun Strange Stories edited by David Wilson. It's available in print for only $4 and good news for those across the atlantic, I purchased the digital bundle which includes a pdf, epub and mobi copy for only $2 which as around £1.50 in sterling. Absolute bargain!

I'm reviewing the kindle version. There's so much more included in the paper version with really cool features such as word searches and illustrations. You'll be able to see this in the pdf copy if you go for the digital bundle.

Road Trip by Matthew Standiford

Greg is learning to live again after a brutal loss in his life. He's gone through a really bad patch but has come out broken but in one piece. As long as he has his dear wife, Kirstin beside him to guide him out of the darkness. This was a great tale to start off the first issue. I found this really moving and the ending tears you apart.

The Ordinary by Michael Carter

Road Trip is a hard story to follow but Michael Carter's tale, The Ordinary delivers! A dystopian tale about a broken society trying to survive in harsh times. This one sent shivers down my spine. 

Fertilizer by Ian Bain

This is a gripping tale which is dramatic form start to finish. A eager gardener soon regret unleashing a potent fertilizer in his garden which has far reaching consequences. I really loved this!

Roadblock by Christopher Powers

I've encountered Christopher Powers tale before int he critically acliamed Monsters Exist anthology by Deadman's Tome with his tale, Bitten. For me it was one of the stand out tales and Roadblock is equally as brilliant. A hit man takes the wrong job on the wrong night!

City Boy by Ron Clinton

Glen needs some time away from the city to reflect but finds that out in the country things are just as hectic. This tale was really fun to read and I loved the dark comedy within.

Diorama by Cody Daigle-Orians

I really liked this tale told through the perspective of a little boy who feels lost in life. He's all alone and has no one to fight his corner until he makes a friend. A really creepy story!

Red Mailbox by John Bender

Man this is a dark tale! A very original tale and I'm going to be avoiding all red mailboxes int he future!

We are Heros by Brodie Lowe

A really cool tale with elements of science fiction. Viggo, a young man working in a comic store has his day turned upside down when he receives a strange visitor.

 There's also an offering of really cool articles dealing with all things horror: 
Collecting The Macabre: 30 Years of Pursuing Books of Wickedness & Wonder by Ron Clinton 
‘Zisi’s B-Movie Reviews!’ By Christopher Zisi 

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Toroa by Erik Hofstatter

A lot of this tale is very shocking, some of it made for some very uncomfortable reading and I wasn't sure if I liked any of the characters, but I loved the book!

Toroa kicks off at Rochester Castle at the Medieval Merriment festival when Mahi, a young woman meets an enigmatic fire breathing stranger, Aryan, a young man completely free in life. Mahi, stuck in life and tethered to a cycle of shocking abuse can't resist his appeal.

Like a bird, the very creatures Mahi has a life long obsession with, he takes himself where he pleases, lives life with only one aim of being happy which reignites old questions inside Mahi. Who is her father and what is her Maori ancestry?

This is a tale about transformation, shocking and brutal. A very macabre coming of age story. I ended up hating Mahi but also at the same time I really pitied her. In the end she becomes a figure, sort of a dark god who comes to represent female suffering.

For me this was a very emotional tale as I ended up really hating a lot of the characters in this book, this is no good vs evil story, it is about the ugly side of human nature. All humans have the capacity for evil.

The ending is like the most explosive Jerry Springer episode ever so I can't say too much about it.

It would be cool to see a follow up to this as it's a very strong debut but also works really well as a stand alone novel.

About the Author

Erik Hofstatter is a dark fiction writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show. Other works include The Pariahs, Amaranthine and Other Stories, Katerina, Moribund Tales and Rare Breeds.


Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer takes on Tales From the Realm!

Hey Guys just wanted to share with you the latest review for Tales From the Realm by Aphotic Realm. For those who don't know this is a collection of the finest 20 tales to be published on their website. (There's so many more great stories on there so do check it out!) This collection features a tale by yours truly, The Forgotten House.

You can read the review in full here

If strange and sinister fiction is your thing then do check out Aphotic Realm's amazing magazines; so far there has been Apparitions, Banished, Classified and the latest, Dystopia. They are available in paperback to purchase now.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

I was really blown away by this collection from Apex Publishing. It's not often that I come across a collection like this where each story is superb. This is horror fiction at its finest, which isn't surprising as his work has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, The Dark, Shadows and Tall Trees, Nightscript, Shock Totem and Gamut (plus many more.) He also received a Shirley Jackson nomination for his debut collection; Greener Pastures.

I was a couple of paragraphs into the first story, Beside Me Singing In The Wilderness, when I realised this was a really special book.

"I've come home to this nameless mountain pouring blood from it's bowel."

It actually took me a really long time to read this as I almost didn't want it to end. This collection is one of those books that you will want to read over and over. Firstly for the enjoyment of outstanding horror and secondly to try and find out how Michael Wehunt spell binds his readers to the page.

I really liked his signature style of writing, its very visual and I felt like I was watching his stories rather than reading them - pure genius!

Each story is very different in regards to its themes, style of horror and tone. Some are really moving particularly Devil Under The Maison Blue and The Dancers and others really creepy! Greener Pastures really scared me and its not often that fiction really scares me unless I'm reading Adam Neville.

My stand out favourites include; Beside Me Singing In The Wilderness, Greener Pastures, The Devil Under The Maison Blue, Deducted From Your Share in Paradise and Dancers.

In the future I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more stories by Michael Wehunt I can sink my teeth into, and fingers crossed for a second collection of horror!

The Mound - Out now in Blood Moon Rising Magazine

I'm pleased to announce my story, The Mound, is appearing in the latest issue of Blood Moon Rising Magazine. This is an excellent free to read online magazine devoted to all things horror!

In this issue there are 13 stories, dark poetry and lots of special features such as interviews, book reviews and feature articles.


Monday, 16 July 2018

New Review for Tales From the Realm Vol 1 by Aphotic Realm

I was lucky enough to have one of my short stories, The Forgotten House, included in Aphotic Realm's Best of Anthology. There's a great line up in here and its a truly great anthology. Featuring 20 tales of dark and sinister fiction.

So far the reviews for Tales From the Realm have been fantastic, and there's a new one from Maura Yzmore, you can read it here from her blog.

Tales from the Realm out now Amazon UK Amazon US

Friday, 6 July 2018

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-soaked by Christa Carmen

I first came across Christa Carmen is issue 5 of Unnerving magazine with her short tale, The Red Room. It really stood out to me amongst the others and I thought here's a new voice in horror. So obviously I jumped at the chance to get a sneak peak at her upcoming debut collection Something Borrowed, Something Blood-soaked.

With this collection of tales she does not disappoint. I had a lot of fun reading through this.There are thirteen tales inside and not one of them was a dud. Stand out tales for me include; Lady of the Flies, The Girl Who Loved Bruce Campbell, This Our Angry Train and Souls Dark and Deep. Although they are all very good!

There's a lot to like about this collection, not only can Christa Carmen entertain you for a few hours with dark tales they are also really thought provoking and stay with you long afterwards. Her stories delve deep into all forms of darkness, the grit of human depravities and the things which no mortal can explain. You get the sense that Christa has lived many lives.

A lot of people say that monsters aren't creatures which creep at night but they're amongst us and very much human as illustrated in Wolves at the Door and Bears in the Forest. This tale really stood out for me. The tale of a young mother trying to create a better life for her daughter but everything is stacked against her, even the people who's job it is to help.

Each of these stories are really different but equally compelling. I can't say there was one I didn't enjoy. Some of them made for uncomfortable reading with their darkness but it's a collection I really love. I can't wait for more from Christa Carmen. This is a really exciting time for Women in Horror!

Thanks to Hook of a Book for allowing me a sneaky preview before the official release date in August 2018

About the Author

Christa Carmen's short fiction has appeared in Fireside Fiction Company, Unnerving Magazine, Comet Press' Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Volume 2, Outpost 28 Issue #2, Third Flatiron's Strange Beasties, Alban Lake Publishing's Only the Lonely, DarkFuse Magazine, Tales to Terrify, Ghost Parachute, Black Ice Magazine Volume 2, Dead Oaks' Horror Anthology Podcast, Horror Hill (Chilling Tales for Dark Nights / The Simply Scary Podcast Network), Weasel Press' The Haunted Traveler, Mad Scientist Journal, The Eunoia Review, Blood Moon Rising, Danse Macabre, Wolfsinger Publications' Just Desserts, DreamFusion Press' The Book of the Macabre, Devolution Z Horror Magazine, The J.J. OutrĂ© Review, Prolific Press' Jitter, Literally Stories, Fiction on the Web, Corner Bar Magazine, pennyshorts, Anotherealm, and Dark Fire Fiction. In 2016, "Four Souls of Eve" was published by Frith Books as a standalone eBook. Her work won Best in Genre, Thriller/Horror, in wordhaus' 2016 Trick or Treat Fall Story Contest and “The Goblin’s Abettor” won The Haberdasher’s Monster Mash Slash Fiction Contest in 2017. 

Christa has additional work forthcoming from Outpost 28 Issue #3, Quantum Corsets' Her Dark Voice 2, & Space Squid. Her debut fiction collection, "Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked," will be released in August 2018 by Unnerving. 

Christa lives in Westerly, Rhode Island with her husband and a beagle who rivals her in stubbornness. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in English and psychology, and a master's degree from Boston College in counseling psychology. She is currently pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing & Literature from Harvard Extension School. Christa works for Pfizer in Clinical Trial Packaging, and at a local hospital as a mental health clinician. When she's not writing, she is volunteering with one of several organizations that aim to maximize public awareness and seek solutions to the ever-growing opioid crisis in southern RI and southeastern CT.

Tales From the Shadow Booth Volume 2 - Edited by Dan Coxon

The Shadow Booth edited by Dan Coxon, is a new journal of weird and eerie fiction and after reading the excellent Fortune Box by Madeleine Swann I have gotten a taste for weird fiction that is hard to classify.

This is the second volume from ShadowBooth. I haven't read the first yet, but after I finished this I immediately downloaded the first instalment.

Volume 2 features 12 short stories by many authors you will recognise if you' re  a fan of creepy horror fiction. I have to say the range of styles and subjects in this volume is huge. All tastes are catered for. This is a really impressive collection.

My ultimate favourites included; We Are the Disease, Monkeys on the Beach and Cave Venus et Stella. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the others,  it's just that this anthology has a very strong line up.

Buddy by Mark Morris

This was delightfully creepy creepy, particularly the descriptions of  Buddy. For me this is a slow burner but the wait is worth it. There are things that Heather wants to put behind her and Halloween marks an important milestone for her, one year since she lost her unborn son. Can't get over it can't forget it, she tries to move on but it's like he's there and he wants something from Mummy...

We are the Diesease by Gareth E.Rees

This one really worked for me. I also think it could be made into truly terrifying film.
 What we continue to do on our little blue planet never fails to shock at scare me. Whenever I read a distopian tale I always wonder how far off these ficitonal scenarios will differ from what will happen eventually. There's a great foreboding atmosphere pulsing thporugohut this tale. This tale felt really claustopohic and there's something about epedetions to the wilder climates of our planet such as the Artic that really scare me. What do we really know about these places? What could be lurking htere in wait?

Waves by Dan Grace

"the blackbird builds its nest in me
song of flint cuts the heart of me"

I really liked the style of this tale, the stryle felt really natural which makes the content more creepy.
What starts off as a fun lad holiday of two logn term mates quickly descends into hellish conditions.

My Father's Face by Giovanna Repetto (translated by Amanda Blee)

This is a really cool tale full of mystery and a herat of darkness. A young man orphaned in childhood has important questions about his past which eludes him. No one wants him to know the truth, maybe his memories are repressed for good reason.

Ear to Ear by Aliya Whiteley

A tale which is most definitely eerie. I don't think I've read anything like this before. Barbara, a young girl from a small town will do anything to fit in.  She wants to be normal, just like them and when Mrs Eddison's book club decide to intervene Barbara follows their advice a little too closely.

Feasting;Fasting by Anna Vaught

This tale has a definite Angela Carter feel to it, if you haven't read The Bloody Chamber, do so. This is a haunted house tale like no other.

Keel by George Sandison

I really liked this tale the perfect blend of eerie and horror. A young man along with his friends go back to the site of their youth where their favourite festival was situated. It's all long gone now but every year they go and camp to remember the good old days, before the pain of losing Lewis.

What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata by Chikodili Emelumadu

This is set out like an article warning of the Mami Wata a supernatural water entity who takes human lovers. Except the article is really scary!

Good, Good, Good, Nice, Nice, Nice by Kirsty Logan

This was a really cool tale fusing horror and fantasy. Set in Scotland in a small forgotten town, the locals are undertaking an important task after the war. Harvesting babies form shark pouches to fight another war, bleak and eerie.

Monkeys on the Beach by Ralph Robert Moore

The whole time I was reading this tale I was scremaing at the family to go home! This was really scary I knew something bad was going to happen and the tension was unbearable.

Cave Venus et Stella by Anna Vaught

I think this has to be my favourite out of a strong bunch. A young carpenter is hired for work in a very strange street that although pristine in appearance seems deserted. Don't want to say too much about this tale and ruin it for those yet to read it but deliciously dark!

The Joanne by Johnny Mains

Samuel takes the voyage of his life aboard the Joanne. He definitely should have stayed at home!

Monday, 2 July 2018

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

I was sold on this book by the title alone, long have I been utterly fascinated by witches and powerful women. I thought it would be a tale about kick ass witches but was surprised to find it something else entirely.

This is a family saga, told in five stories about the descendants of  powerful Romani witches descended from, Ursule Ochiere. a powerful sorceress. A Secret History of Witches is told in five book; Nanette, Ursule, Irene, Morwen and Veronica.

It starts in 1821 and leads right up to the modern age with the outbreak of World War 2. This type of story reminds me of Winston Graham's Poldark saga series and if you liked those you will definitely like this book.

I would say this book leans more to historical fiction that fantasy that shows five girls coming of age when they find themselves approaching adulthood and having to make big decisions about their fates, choosing what it they want and just how far they are willing to go to get it.

The tale starts off in Brittany 1821 where Romani travellers adept in the old ways of  witchcraft are desperately trying to evade the fervent witch hunters who pursue them across Europe. Ursule Ochiere takes them to safety using her powers and from there we follow the tale of the Ochiere line through Nanette, the grand-daughter of Ursule, who escaped with her family by crossing the seas and building a new life as farmers in Cornwall.

Each of the five main female characters in this story are very different, some I warmed to whilst others I did not. As they grow into women and then discover their powers of witchcraft it was interesting to see how each woman was motivated, some just wanted to survive, others to protect,  others to find love, whilst others wanted everything they could get their hands on.

This is not a high octane book fuelled with suspense and intrigue but it is a rather sweet tale about mother daughter relationships and of coming of age and being your own person. I did find this book to be slightly repetitive as each character's tale read a bit like the one before but it was an enjoyable read.But if you want to read this to find out more about witches you may be disappointed.

This article was first published by The British Fantasy Society