Monday, September 26, 2016

Honest Reviews of Dark Moon Digest #23 and Broken Worlds

Amazon typically does not allow authors to review anthologies to which they have contributed. With that in mind, here are honest reviews for two more collections that feature my work.

Title: Dark Moon Digest #24
Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
Editor: Lori Michelle
Number of stories: 8
Pages: 100
Price: $2.99 Kindle, $7.95 for paperback.
Theme: non-themed horror stories
My story included: Reunited, about a radio announcer who is dangerously close to losing his job--and his sanity--until he resorts to drastic measures to revitalize his morning show.

I love the cover art by Allen Koszowski. It reminds me of the interior art of vintage Weird Tales. It's so good I wish the text on the cover had been kept to a minimum.

My favorite stories in this issue were "A Constant Effort to Bind the Pieces Together" by Joshua D. Moyes. This is an excellent story that brought back memories of Theodore Sturgeon's "It" but with a darker focus. "Shifting Sands" by Shannon Lawrence was another favorite, with a beautiful and haunting opening sequence. Matt Andrews' story was also good, and Jay Wilburn provided a thought-provoking non-fiction piece.

I give this issue a B. It's a magazine worth buying every issue. You can order a copy here.

Title: Broken Worlds
Publisher: A Murder of Storytellers
Editor: Jack Burgos
Number of stories: 34
Pages: 286
Price: $4.99 Kindle, $12.99 paperback
Theme: broken worlds, societies, families... a mix of horror and some sci-fi.
My story included: The Way It Will Be, featuring a gifted local newscaster whose words become truth every evening. But who's writing his scripts? And for what purpose?

The cover art and layout by George Cotronis is really good.

My favorites were "The Wailing Women" by M.R. Ranier, "Good Enough for Jeorgia" by John Biggs (more people need to read his work, he's an undiscovered talent), "Exodus of New Sodom, South Georgia" by Franklin C. Murdock, and "Nice Guys" by Adrean Messmer.

One of, if not THE best, story I've read in several years is included in this anthology. It's called "The Cords of the Neck" by J. Robert Shelton. This author doesn't have a web presence, doesn't appear to be on Facebook, and remains a mystery (to me.) I am told this is his first published story. If true, that in and of itself, is remarkable. The story has a strong "voice" and I've never read anything quite like it. Post-Apocalyptic carnival barkers vie for non-existent customers in this quirky, macabre tale.

I give this one an A-. There were a few stories I didn't care for or found confusing, but overall, a very enjoyable anthology. If I lost my copy, I'd buy it again just to have J. Robert Shelton's story.

You can order a copy right here.

I'll be back again soon with two more reviews. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Honest Reviews of Taboo (and) HWA Poetry Showcase III

Amazon typically does not allow authors to review anthologies to which they have contributed. With that in mind, here are honest reviews for two more collections that feature my work.

Title: Taboo (A Morpheus Tales special issue)
Publisher: Morpheus Tales
Editor: Sheri White
Number of stories: 12
Pages: 52
Price: $2.99 Kindle, $5.73 for paperback from Lulu.
Theme: horror stories examining taboo subjects
My story included: Questions Still Unanswered, in which a man seeks answers about his wife's death from his uncooperative step-children.

This seems like a short magazine, but the print is quite small so you DO get your money's worth. The shiny cover on the paperback diminishes the cool artwork by Lubi (it's much darker than the picture). Speaking of "darker," these stories strive to be collectively darker than a typical horror anthology.

My favorites were "Four Locks" by Adam R. Shannon, a historical horror tale with a great ending, "Apron Strings" by S.K. Harrison, and "The Witch Finger" (cleverly written POV) by Brent Michael Kelley.

Rating: I give it a B+
Here's a link to order the ebook. Paper copy is here.

Title: Horror Writers Association's Poetry Showcase, Vol. III (2016)
Publisher: HWA
Editor: David E. Cowen
Number of poems: 51
Pages: 96
Price: $7.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle
Theme: horror and dark-themed poetry
My poem included: Ant Farm Necropolis, about a deceased man whose spirit is trapped in a plastic ant farm from his childhood.

First the bad: I don't care for the cover at all. Also, there's an instance of the word "airing" used instead of "erring". "Airing on the side of caution"? Oops.

Now the good: I admit I have to read poetry aloud to increase my comprehension. This is a very good collection with a number of highlights and only a few I didn't care for. My favorites were the poems by Bruce Boston, Chad Stroup, Chad Hensley, Davide Camparsi (his piece, "Playground" is my favorite in the collection), and Janet Leach.

I give this a B+ and recommend the Kindle version.
You can order it right here.

Title: The Beauty of Death
Publisher: Independent Legions PRess
Editor: Alessandro Manzetti
Number of stories: 41
Pages: 587(!)
Price: $6.99 Kindle
Theme: Death from all perspectives
My story included: Building Condemned, in which a man makes improvements in an oddly-familiar asylum. He wants to put everything right but time is running out and something is working against his efforts...

The only reason I have not read this is because it's a Kindle ebook only and I prefer reading paper books. For the rest of you who aren't so ingrained in their reading habits, this book should be a "must have". Reprints by horror legends Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite, Ramsey Campbell, John Skipp and Edward Lee. New stories by Nick Mamatas, Tim Waggoner, Rena Mason, John F.D. Taff, Maria Alexander, and many more!

Overall: I can't rate it because I haven't read it (yet). If you like horror and own a Kindle, getting this anthology is a no-brainer.

Here's a link to order.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

An Honest Review of Shadows Over Main Street (and) Abstract Jam #3

Amazon does not allow authors to review anthologies if they have contributed a story to that anthology. With that in mind, I wanted to post some honest reviews here on my blog for books to which I contributed.

This week, I'll review two more titles.

Title: Shadows Over Main Street
Publisher: Cutting Block Books
Editors: Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward
Number of stories: 20
Pages: 211
Price: $13.95 paperback, $4.99 Kindle
Theme: Small-town Lovecraftian terror
My story included: Estranged. A young woman who grew up in Innsmouth reminisces about her childhood and reflects upon her estrangement from her father, who came to look upon her as a freak.

This title was available for a short time in 2015 but the publisher closed their doors. What a relief to have Cutting Block pick this title up! The cover is slightly altered, as is the interior layout (the font is a little bit on the hard-to-read side for these eyes), but otherwise the stories are the same. This anthology is great. I read it cover to cover twice. In reading the reviews posted on Amazon, one story that gets mentioned repeatedly as one of the reviewers' favorites happens to be one of the stories I enjoyed the least. Just goes to show how subjective fiction can be. Very evocative cover art by Luke Spooner.

My favorites stories came from Nick Mamatas (with a story I believe is called "Octopus Salad", but the title is in Greek). This story has one of the best closing lines I've read in years. More favorites: Brian Hodge ("The Stagnant Breath of Change"), Mary Sangiovanni ("The Floodgates at Willowhill")--liked it even more upon a second reading, Cameron Suey ("The Crisis")--breathtaking action in this one, and Jay Wilburn ("Boss Cthulhu")--funny and creepy. Even narrowing it down to five was a struggle. I also applaud the editors for going the extra mile and commissioning interior artwork from five different artists.

Overall: I enjoyed 16 of 20 stories, which rarely happens. I give it an A.
Here's a link to order.

Title: Abstract Jam (Issue #3, June 2016)
Publisher: none listed
Editor: Samantha Leng
Number of stories: 15
Pages: 179
Price: $7.58 paperback, $1.45 Kindle
Theme: quirky short stories
My story included: Sprat

I admit I was not familiar with this market before selling "Sprat" to appear in their third issue. I was missing out! This is not a genre magazine, nor is it literary. The story selection is eclectic and unique. The stories are something quirky, sometimes gritty. Some are hilarious, some are heartbreaking. Some are very down to earth while others are speculative/imaginative fiction.

My favorites were "Fishbowl" by A. Katherine Black, "Somewhere East of Santa Fe" by Christian Riley, and "An Absent Member" by Charles Wilkinson. That story is nearly worth the price alone. Ever read those Rudyard Kipling stories that begin with a group of men sitting fireside at an exclusive club, cigars and scotch in hand, and then one old fellow begins to relate a shocking story of adventure? Wilkinson takes that familiar trope, stands it on its head, and punches it right in the junk. It leads off the issue, and with good reason.

I give Abstract Jam a B+.
You can order a copy here.

Friday, September 2, 2016

An Honest Review of: Now Playing in Theater B (and) Morpheus Tales: The Best Weird Fiction Vol. 5

Amazon typically does not allow authors to review anthologies if they have contributed a story to that anthology. With that in mind, I thought I'd post some honest reviews here on my blog for books that fit this category.

This week, I'll review two titles.

Title: Now Playing in Theater B
Publisher: A Murder of Storytellers
Editor: Adrean Mesmer
Number of stories: 27
Pages: 235
Price: $12.99 paperback, $2.99 Kindle
Theme: Grindhouse-inspired, B-movie horror stories
My story included: Four Houses Down, on the Bad Side of Town. Clive's home is for sale. But as the tour of the house unfolds, and more and more of Clive's strange and surreal memories are revealed, the prospective home buyer comes to realize something is very wrong.

I like the simple, yet eye-catching cover art by AP Sessler. The theme being what it is, there are some familiar themes and topics but nothing that I'm tired of reading about. I think overall, this anthology had fewer knock-me-out-of-my-chair-they're-so-good stories, but it also doesn't have any duds or stories marred by multiple typos. Personal favorite stories: The Lovely Thing by Lisa Finch and Tiny Town by Amber Bierce.

Overall: I give it a B--much like the movies the anthology pays homage to.
Here's a link to order.

Title: Morpheus Tales: The best Weird Fiction Vol. 5
Publisher: Morpheus Tales via Lulu
Editor: Adam Bradley
Number of stories: 20
Pages: 109
Price: $7.64 paperback, $3.99 Kindle
Theme: very short fiction (weird, horror)
My story included: Solitary Man. A prison guard visiting his comatose son tells the story of a famous writer who is serving a life sentence in solitary confinement. Of course, all is not as it seems...

I like the change of pace from cover artist by Matthew Freyer. Really disconcerting--in a good way. All of the stories are rather short, with the longest running 8 pages. Most of the authors do a good job within these constraints. These stories are reprints from three old issues of Morpheus Tales. There was only one story that was, for me, a chore to read. Among my favorites were: Business is Business by Lee Clark Zumpe, The Depredators' Club by Deborah Walker, and When the Letter Came by Matthew Acheson.

Overall: I give it a B. It's short, but also cheaper than buying all three individual issues.
Here is a link to order.