Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Candy For Valentine, available only from Changeling Press, is a wonderful erotic interlude running about 35 pages. The story begins with Valentine Carter attending a romance convention. For the men reading this think DragonCon but full of romance. Valentine is the author of "The Blog Bitch" and is well known in the romance book community for trashing books on her blog instead of praising them. She has been invited to take part in the convention but soon finds herself snubbed by everyone there. There are feelings of anger and revenge in the air. Just when it seems nobody will have anything to do with Valentine a Pierce Brosnan looking gentleman offers to buy her a drink. Even after she introduces herself he stays and seems to enjoy her company. Drinks, handcuffs, a ball gag and a chance to do the mattress mambo with Pierce? What woman could possibly turn down that opportunity?
Valentine might wish she had turned down the opportunity. Before long we discover that romance writers and fans aren't the only ones attending the convention. There is a vampire in their midst and he needs to feed.
Women will love the romantic aspects of this story. Men will love the erotic aspects of this story. This isn't a story for the kids. Michele writes erotica in ways that men will enjoy. I secretly think she's the editor of Penthouse Forum. Or at least has a letter or twelve published in Penthouse.
I was able to get vampires, a little Valentine's Day romance and incredible sex writing in one great story.
Something I really enjoyed was that Candy For Valentine comes in electronic form. This means I was able to put it on my PDA and read it on the go. I plan to order more stories from Changeling Press because of this.
In reading the story I couldn't help but wonder if I wasn't being sent a message. Blogger, reviews, revenge. Hmmmm.
A special note to the male readers: This is another one of the writings your woman wants you to read. There are some great tips in here.
Special "Thank you!" to Michele for allowing me to quote the following:
The gorgeous brunette sat on the bed, dressed in nothing but bra, panties, cuffs, and gag. Woo-hoo! He was mightily impressed by this surprise.
"You are way more than awesome," he said.
Her brown eyes looked glazed and wild. Oh, baby. She was different from his usual donors. Maybe Steven and Eve had realized he needed to change it up. He was a rarity in a world filled with rarities—a vampire who could only feed when engaged in a sexual act.
PS: Don't forget you can win a Jeff Strand autographed chapbook at the contests page.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
It's not often an author creates a character that I can so easily identify with but Jeff pulls it off with the main character, Alex Fletcher. I so easily identified with Alex that when something bad happened to him in the book I wanted to hit the author with my copy. Don't worry, I calmed down. Jeff Strand is in no danger.
If you are more familiar with Jeff's humorous work then you are in for a shock. Pressure doesn't have his sense of humor in it. This is a straight forward suspense novel that will put you on edge. If you are not familiar with Jeff's funny side then look at The Horror Contests page where I'm giving away an autographed copy of his "Funny Stories of Scary Sex".
The story takes place in four phases during the life of Alex Fletcher. Each phase deals with the pressure he experiences due to his interactions with Darren Rust. Remember the creepy kid in grade school that you just knew would grow up to be a psycho? That's Darren. It's made pretty clear at the beginning that Daren just isn't right.
Phase I - Sneaking out to peek in the back door of a strip club. Playing card games when you should be studying. Dreaming of growing up with your best friends and learning that one of them just might be crazy.
Phase II - Going to college. Meeting girls. Running into the grade school friend you thought was crazy. Learning that with the right amount of pressure he can get you to do what he wants, no matter how you really feel.
Phase III - You finally got rid of your "friend", matured and found yourself happy in life. What is that your daughter brought home from the playground? Didn't your "friend" have something like that? This cannot be happening.
Phase IV - Friend or not, this has to end. Now. No price is too high when you have suffered this much. It's time to put the Pressure on your so called friend instead of allowing him to put it on you.
Don't be surprised when you see yourself in this book. Don't be alarmed when you relate to the characters and know their pain. Be terrified when you realize this could happen to you.
Yes this made the re-read list, but not too soon. I need time to get over the emotions from the first reading before I read it again.
Looking for a good scare that doesn't involve vampires, ghosts, ghouls and/or the wolf man? This is the story for you.
Special "Thank you!" to Jeff Strand for allowing me to quote the following from Pressure:
If it's ok with you I would like to quote the following:
I motioned for Jeremy to stop. We stood there for a moment, listening to the sounds coming from the bushes. They weren't loud, and I couldn't quite tell what they were.
They sounded sort of....wet.
Jeremy put a finger to his lips, and together we began to walk toward the bushes as quietly as possible.
The wet sounds continued, vaguely reminding me of my mother peeling the skin off a raw chicken.
Jeremy held up three fingers, counting down.
"Gotcha!" Jeremy shouted as we simultaneously pushed through the bushes.
Darren cried out and threw up his hands.
A few drops of liquid hit my face.
There was a moment of absolute chaos, as Darren frantically scooted away from us, and Jeremy's face registered pure horror at what he saw, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by a smell that was far worse than the dumpster outside the strip club.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
E-Macabre brings us eight short stories within fifty-two pages. There is a little something for everybody here and it makes for a great introduction to some authors you may not have heard of before. At least two of which you will see again here later on. Because these are short stories I don't want to give away too much in the reviews. I am only providing a synopsis of each story. Each story is well written and provides quality entertainment.
You might want to read this on Valentine's Day as some of the stories show how quickly love can lead to horror.
Mortichinery by Michael A. Arnzen: What price would you pay to preserve the remains of one you love? A widower wishes to preserve the final moments of time he spent with his wife and a mortician presents him with that opportunity. Michael does a great job of giving you the setting, characters and action right away. No wasted text in this story.
The Foundling by Angeline Hawkes-Craig: A cold night, a kind heart, a cross bound infant. Angeline does a great job in describing the era and setting of the story. At what point is evil born? This story examines that question and provides a couple more questions for the reader to explore. I feel there is a back story to this one waiting to be written.
Sunrise Revival by James S. Dorr: A preacher, a farmer and the casting out of demons. My parents took me to a revival once as a child and it scared the hell out of me. After reading this story I think that may have been what my parents had in mind. I think there is a story following the action of this one waiting to be written. I really liked the fact that the story kick started my imagination at the end.
The Sweetness of Your Heart by Ann K. Schwader: Which is more horrific, what one does in life or what happens to one in death? Reading this story made me think of works by Poe and Stoker. Ann's style of writing in this story matches the time frame the story takes place in. It's almost poetic. Love is in the air.
The Kinds of Things You Talk About In Arkansas Truck Stops by David Acord: Just the twist that fans of Quantum Leap have been waiting for. A life renewed or a chance to fix another life? Although painful it does seem like a promising proposition, as long as you don't mind blood in your eggs.
Residual Fumes by Margaret L. Carter: Horror of the supernatural. There are a couple of lessons in this story. 1 - Don't leave the car running in the garage. 2 - Beware of revenge from beyond the grave. What scares me most about this story wasn't the supernatural element but the fact that I read about situations like this in the news on a regular basis. Reality meets fiction in a horrifying way. What price must be paid for love?
Lost Souls by Kat Yares: This is the second widower story in the collection. Remember the irritable old man that lived down the street? He was always alone and just creepy. Ever wonder what made him that way? To learn the answer might cost you your life. Nothing leads to horror faster than love.
Sharks in a Sea of Red by Jason Brannon: The final story of the collection and another story that shows how quickly love can lead to horror. A broken heart, a sharp knife and a thirst for revenge. What more can you ask for? Well, there is the undead.
A special thank you to Jason Brannon for allowing me to quote the following from "Sharks in a Sea of Red":
Burton shivered at the thought of what was going to happen to him. He had watched those wildlife documentaries too and remembered the way the sharks thrashed and flailed in the water at the first signs of blood. He wasn't sure how accurate a description it was for the undead, but just the idea of it made him wish for a quick death.
"Can't we talk this over?" he asked, screaming as Tanya shook her head 'no' and cut him once on each cheek with the tip of the knife....
Be sure to try and escape the cage by playing the online game The Cage: The Game at Jason's website. It's a very interesting promotional tool for his new novel The Cage.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
In an alternate universe a cosmic virus has mutated the super heroes and super villains of earth into Super Zombies! With a hunger that no super sized meal could match the zombies have turned the human race into the ultimate meal. Is it Soylent Green? Is it the Twilight Zone book "How To Serve Man"? Nope! Just good old fashioned zombificaiton.
The story starts with Magneto, who hasn't become a zombie, trying to get to the space station where the last of the humans are but the zombies are hungry and after him. The human race has already been eaten and Magneto is just too tasty a morsel to pass up.
Look! Up in the sky! Is it bird? Is it a plane? It sure isn't Superman because this isn't DC. Ok, the comic fans out there got that joke. It's actually the Silver Surfer. Will he destroy the zombies? Will he become the next item on the menu? What happens to a zombie Captain America loses the top part of his head? When the hunger takes over Bruce Banner does he politely ask for treat? No! HULK EAT!
Some zombies keep horrific secrets. Like the one keeping a human alive so he can sneak a snack every now and then without the other zombies knowing about it.
In this five part story we see the Marvel Zombies, both heroes and villains, have to overcome the same obstacles to feed their hunger. It's easy to both boo and cheer the characters in this story as it progresses. Having a twisted sense of humor I had no problem laughing when the zombies learned how to recycle. I loved the ending where other people had hoped for a different outcome.
If you are comic fan you are probably already aware of Marvel Zombies. If you aren't then you have just found a way to revisit your childhood comic collecting days with a new horrific twist. If you have kids you'll earn bonus points with them for buying a comic.
What could be scarier than seeing the heroes you knew would always be there to save you transformed into eating machines with you on the menu?
Spider-man loses cool points in this story. He can't get over the fact that he ate his wife and aunt because he's a zombie. I know, I know. There is Freudian joke in there. It's still funny to see him all broke up about it though.
The one thing I really wanted to see, but didn't, was a zombie Professor X in the background saying "Brains. Braaaaaaiiinns!" That would have been funny.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
In 1965 Ray, Tim and Jennifer were drinking at the local campground when Ray decided to get some attention. He pointed out two young women camping just down the hill and wondered aloud what it would be like to kill them. Before long he had his answer along with two people who would do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.
Four years later we find Jennifer depending on the drugs and alcohol to help her make it through the days and clinging to Ray in a search for love. Tim is in love with Jennifer and clinging to Ray for the drugs and some sense of guidance in life. Ray is pleased as punch to have these two hanging on his every word and action. Ray is the king of the teens and the bane of the local police force. Nobody was ever charged with the murder of the two campers but the local detectives have no doubt it was Ray Pye. The problem is they could never find the evidence needed to arrest him. Everybody knows Ray is dangerous and thinks it's only a matter of time before he proves it.
Jack Ketchum has the ability to scare readers by writing about the kind of people they see every day. I can think of a guy I went to high school with and another I did factory work with that could have easily been Ray Pye. I've worked with people like Jennifer and Tim. Jack's characters aren't just words on paper. They leap off the pages and become real to you. You will care how the characters feel, you will worry about what is happening to them and sometimes they will simply scare the hell out of you. How well are the characters developed? I took an extended break at work while reading The Lost to see what was going to happen next to the cat in the story.
Like the other work by Jack Ketchum I've read this book is on my re-read list. It's not as graphic as Off Season or Weed Species were. I think it would make a great introduction to Jack's writing for those that might have held back because of the graphic depictions in some of his other work.
This book is like a roller coaster. You have the initial jolt to your system as the cars begin to leave the station, the nerve wracking climb up the first hill not knowing what to expect, the terrifying thrills as you are propelled through the ride and finally returning to the station knowing that you are ok but unsure about the people around you.
Something I enjoyed about this Dorchester release of the book was the cover. As the story progresses you will find yourself trying to guess exactly who the girl on the cover is. If you can find some of the special printings though, buy them.
The title "The Lost" was a great choice because it can easily be applied to all of the characters and settings in this novel. If you ever spend time in a small and dying town you'll see what I mean. Great choice.
A special "Thank you!"to Jack for allowing me to quote the following paragraph:
He still remembered that night four years ago as though it had happened yesterday. Specific events would come back to him at peculiar times. He'd be sipping a cherry Coke at the corner of a soda fountain waiting for Ray and he'd remember pulling up and finding them both gone and finding the note telling them both to stay put and he'd remember Jennifer's panic, not knowing what in the hell had gone wrong but both he and Jennifer scared to drive away, scared of Ray and just as scared to stick around some dead girl's body. Not knowing what to do, whether to load the tent and all their gear into the car or not and consequently not doing anything, just waiting by the cold remains of the fire.
Hopefully the movie adaptation of the novel will be picked up for large scale distribution this year. You can see more about it at www.thelostmovie.net complete with pictures, soundtrack clips and a message board.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Short stories should be like an afternoon quickie in the copier room. Quick, to the point and great fun. Both Sex Potion #147 and Werewolf Porno meet these requirements.
In Sex Potion #147 Melissa is a thirty something lady with a non-existant sex life. The good news is that she has encountered a gypsy selling a potion that will fix her problem. Sadly it works a bit too well.
"He wasn't good at murder-talk and truly admired those killers who could eloquently taunt their victims, or at least rant incoherently. Harold felt self-conscious about speaking during the process, but he wanted to say something so he stuck with..."
The title Werewolf Porno pretty much sums things up. It has a werewolf making a porno. Luckily for us Jeff does more than simply write a title. Carl is an unemployed werewolf that tries to drink away his sorrows in the local bar. One night he meets a porn director at the bar and after a few drinks finds himself explaining his condition. The pornographer has a wonderful idea for a film. Horror and hilarity ensues.
"Garry had assured him that his lack of a gargantuan phallus was okay, and that he wouldn't be expected to go at it like a seasoned porn star. 'You'll just lie there; she'll do all the work,' the director had explained. 'As long as the moon does the trick, we'll have ourselves the ultimate porno flick, a bestiality masterpiece beyond anything the world has ever seen!'"
Will these stories make my re-read list? You better believe it! Just like that quickie in the copier room this is something you will want to enjoy again and again.The other bonus to this chapbook is that you get three illustrations by Keith Minnion with it. Two different covers plus an additional illustration inside. I really like that it came in an envelope for storage that also has the titles illustrated by Keith as well.
The quality of some of these small publishers has really amazed me and White Noise Press is no exception. This chapbook is laid out well, there are no ink smudges and it's printed on quality paper. I really think some of the big publishing companies could take lessons from the smaller ones.
If you order this book you will not be disappointed.
Big "Thank you!" to Jeff Strand for allowing me to include quotes from the stories.
Friday, January 12, 2007
It turns out the book is a love story. Lisey Landon is the widow of writer Scott Landon the focus of the story is how she is coping with the loss of her husband two years after his death and dealing with her sisters. One sister has a superiority complex. Another tends to think the other three lie. Yet another seems to have given up on the family and the last one is crazy. The last one is the kind of crazy that uses sharp edges to bleed out the bad. I know this doesn’t seem to have the makings of a love story, but trust me, it is. There’s also Booya Moon but I’ll just let you read about that.
Does the book have the monsters, twists and moments of pure terror that Stephen King is known for? Oh yeah! But, you have to be patient. The first half is setup for the action that follows in the second half. You won’t see a monster or evil spirit or even a haunted desk lamp in the first half but you will read some great character development. You will have a feeling though that something very wrong is about to happen when you learn the story behind the Yum-Yum Tree and the grave marker for Paul that is illustrated on the book’s cover. The shovel on the cover will make sense too. Once you finish the novel spend some time looking at the cover of the book to see what’s there. It makes sense once you’ve reached the end. Also, the paperback probably won’t have the same cover. If you look at the paperback versions of SK novels on the shelves today you’ll notice the incredible cover art of the hardbacks is gone.
I really liked the creative way Stephen handled profanity in this novel. It’s still not a novel for young kids and it would easily earn a PG-13 rating if it was a movie. Why not an R rating? Because Stephen does a wonderful job of not pouring buckets of blood across the pages. Yes, there is blood. Yes, there is death. No, it’s not done in a gorefest fashion. The two most graphic moments are no worse than what you would see in PG-13 movies today.
It’s a good read and I think any Stephen King fan will enjoy it.
BOOL! The End!
Sunday, January 7, 2007
When I first saw I'm The Vampire, That's Why by Michele Bardsley I thought "Chick book!" and picked up a Jack Ketchum book instead. After I finished browsing the bookstore and found my wife and saw she was reading the cover and told me that I would really enjoy it. She's never done me wrong in book selection so I bought it. I am so glad she did.
Jessica Matthews is a single mother of two. Her husband left her for a younger woman and then died in a car wreck before she could finish divorcing him. Now she has to raise her young daughter and teenage son in a small town that is getting smaller every day as people move out.
Just when things seem their worst Jessica suddenly finds her life filled with vampires. First the one that bit her. Then the one that thinks he is her soul mate. Then the RVs full of vampires coming to town because they need a new place to live. If that's not enough it seems that ten other people from her small town have become vampires too. It couldn't possibly get worse. Could it?
Yes! Especially when she finds out she won't get to outlive her husband's mistress because she's now a vampire too. But that's not enough. While the vampires that have come to town seem friendly enough there is another group hunting them. These vampires, the Wraiths, want to take over the world. If having vampires move in with more vampires chasing them isn't enough, where are the werewolves that show up going to stay? Things were bad enough when Jessica was a single mother of two with PTA meetings. Now she has to deal with all of this and convince her children that she isn't a monster.
Jessica is a great leading character. I thought of her as being an example of "Girl Power" at the start of the book but by the end my thoughts had changed. She is a great example of "Mother Power." She stands up for herself and is not afraid in the least to make her opinion known. Although she quickly adapts to being a vampire with all of the benefits she never fails to put her children first in everything.
This isn't your typical vampire book. Nor is it your typical romance book. It's a wonderful combination of the two. Michele does an incredible job of mixing the horror of vampires with the challenges of motherhood and a wonderful sense of humor. The level of romance is perfect. Not too much for most men and not too little for most women.
Michele Bardsley does a great job of breathing life into the various characters and you will not find yourself confused about which character is doing what. Each is unique and important in his or her own way to the plot.
The book comes in at 321 pages. I read it in two days completing 182 pages in the first day. It's not often I find myself with a book that I literally cannot put down. The story is direct, entertaining and fast paced. How much did I enjoy this book? I loved it! It's on my re-read list. I am looking forward to reading more of Michele's work.
For all of you men out there still thinking "Yeah, but it's a chick book!" Trust me on this one. Buy this book. Read this book. Learn from this book. There are some tricks in the sex scenes that your lady wants you to learn. That's right, I said sex scenes. I can almost hear men rushing off to the bookstore now.
In discussing I'm The Vampire, That's Why how can I not help but quote another masterpiece? “It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”
I want to give a big "Thank You!" to Michele Bardsley for allowing me to quote the following:
"I couldn't scream. I couldn't lift my arms. I couldn't open my eyes. But I felt my body again, every aching, pain-throbbing inch of it. The heavy, smelly thing pressing my limp body into thorny branches and noisily smacking against my throat grunted and rolled off. Dry grass crunched and leaves rattled as it moved, growling and groaning like a well-fed coyote. I didn't flicker an eyelid for fear it would try for a killing blow, though if the state of my neck wound was as bad as I thought, I was dead anyway. Then I heard the sounds of bare feet slapping against pavement and realized the thing was running away. Fast.
I don't remember how I disentangled my sorry self from the bushes. I have vague memories of the roses' too sweet scent as I crawled across the street and collapsed near my knocked-over garbage cans.
For those who know me, meeting my end amid the muttered curses and spilled refuse was not a great shock. But, shock or not, it was still a crappy way to go."
Now that is a great way to get a story going.
Friday, January 5, 2007
Essentially you have two short stories, Hornets & The Pumpkin Boy, along with a novella, Orangefield. Each of these stories were published on their own originally and that's how they read in this book. While there are small elements that connect them along with the monster "Sam" aka: Samhain. Horrorween won't be on my re-read list but it's ok. Consider it to be safe horror.
Because we have three stories I'll cover them individually.
Hornets - What happens when a writer suffers writers block? Does it affect just the writer or those he loves? How much is he willing to trade to great stories again? The writer in Hornets has to write a horror story for children but has hit the block. It's only after his wife threatens to leave him that he has the idea to conver Samhain, the Lord of Death, to a spooky but friendly children's character named Sam. This explains why he isn't referred to as Samhain much during the rest of the book. A good short story.
Intermission - Samhain talks with a dark force/power that needs him to set it free.
The Pumpkin Boy - Sci-fi horror. There is what appears to be a boy with a pumpkin for a head wandering the fields of Orangefield. Young Jody Wendt sees the Pumpkin Boy and can't help but follow him in the hopes of learning more about him. A police officer from Hornets reappears in The Pumpkin Boy to help connect to the two stories but to also serve a vital role. Where does this Pumpkin Boy come from? Why does he lead small children from their homes and across the pumpkin fields? What secret does the new detective in town keep that can answer these questions? Like Hornets this is a good short story, especially if you like a bit of sci-fi / technology thrown in with your horror.
Intermission - Samhain talks with a dark force/power that needs him to set it free.
Orangefield - This is the most graphic of the three stories. The name of the town all three of the stories have taken place in. Very little in common with the first two stories and stands on it's own. Sam really takes on the monster role in this story with the various ways he motivates people to do his bidding. To set the dark force free three suicides are required. It's not specified why three or why they have to be suicides. Why not sacrifices of loved ones? There is also a time line continuity problem with one of the characters. In two days he will go from raving lunatic to a level headed, as level as he can be, after being arrested, processed by the court, presented to a judge, then experiencing shock therapy, talk therapy and medicine therapy. All within two days? It's a bit much. Of all of the characters to appear in this story I found The Pumpkin Tender to be the most realistic but that is probably because we both have a military background.
Afterward - Samhain talks with a dark force/power that needs him to set it free.
I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. It seemed too predictable plus it was a very open ending for a sequel. Speaking of which, a sequel was written. It seems Al comes back to Orangefield a few times to tell stories. Nothing wrong with that. Look at how many stories Stephen King got out of Castle Rock.
The book is a nice distraction and easy to read. Hardcore horror fans will want more but for the casual reader it's a nice horror treat.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
I mentioned in the Off Season review that "I hate it when a book, or movie, or anything uses artwork for promotion that doesn't match the actual product." This applies to commercials as well. The television spots for Primeval promote a "serial killer" with over 300 victims. The commercials make references to Jack the Ripper and other murderers in history. They even point out the story is based on actual events.
Here's the problem. The "serial killer" in the movie isn't a person. It's a crocodile known as Gustave. Does this mean we can call the shark from Jaws a serial killer? What about the dog from Cujo? As long as we are using labels the wrong way why don't we starting calling him "Jack the Lover" instead of Ripper?
The "actual events" the commercials hype? You can read the truth at the BBC News website.
If a movie requires misleading marketing to get people into the theaters it makes me wonder how bad the movie really is. Had the advertising been more truthful I might have gone to see it, but advertising this misleading guarantees I won't.
I just wish that The Lost was playing in theaters nation wide. Now that's a movie I want to see.