Waltzing Matilda…

May 26, 2021 at 11:47 pm (horror, Links, writing) (, , , , )

I’m making my first appearance in an Australian anthology. My horror short story “I Have no Beef with You” appears in Colp Underground, now available on Amazon. This is Colp’s ninth collection and is described as an exploration beneath the surface presented by ts authors. So grab a torch and venture in…

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Spring Blitz 2017 – The End Is Nigh

May 2, 2017 at 9:40 pm (horror, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

My blitz is all over now but the waiting. I do already have a couple of acceptances (and multiple rejections).  I should have posted this wrap up on Sunday, but I beg off based on illness (I had a cold), taxes (I had to finish them up) and gardening (we planted this weekend.)

I had meant to write this following review up as soon as I finished the book, but all the things I mentioned above got in the way. Besides, I find writing a review is something better done once I’ve had a chance to mull things over.  And so, I’ve been mulling.

The first thing I want to say is that Zeroes, by Chuck Wendig, was a breath of fresh read.  After having read a handful of very formulaic Sandra Brown thrillers, which while entertaining on a basic level, had seriously flat and repetitive characterization and even reused the “father gave daughter up for adoption but regretted it later” plot line, I needed something with substance.  Zeroes had substance, and then some.

First of all, I always judge a book by its characterization, and the characterization in Zeroes offered novelty and depth.  The cast was diverse.  While one of the protagonists…perhaps you could call him the protagonist-in-chief, because there were technically five protagonists (six if you want to count Harris who perhaps is more of a strong secondary,) is very much a white male everyman, he certainly doesn’t “save the day”.  In fact, he is heavily reliant on the diverse other characters in his hacking group and would have gotten nowhere without them.  There’s a rocky romantic thread with the exceptionally competent Aleena and the “buddy” component with DeAndre, and even the aging mentor/father figure in Wade.  While in essence none of these plot elements are original, what makes them different are the strengths and weaknesses of the particular characters and the out of the ordinary dynamics involved.

And then there’s Reagan – the best part of the book for me.  She’s the character I both loved and hated the most.  She’s the one I could identify with even though in some ways I despised her…someone I could have been if my life had taken a different turn at some point.  She’s callous, brash and unapologetic.  She’s also clever, creative and conniving,  Plus she’s broken.  All the protagonists are in some way, but you can see it most in her because she’s brutally honest about it.  Her most notable shining moment is my favourite part of the book and without it, the story would have been lost.

I can forgive a book with a weak plot line as long as the characters are good, but I didn’t have to in this case.  The plot had oodles of dark intrigue and thrilling action with enough complexity to keep me interested.  And I have to say that I loved the little introductory chapters for each of the characters.  It gives you a chance to properly “meet” them before jumping into the story, so that you actually care what’s going on.

I picked up this book out of curiosity because I follow Chuck’s well-written blog.  Now I will probably go out of my way to read more of his books.  This one was a winner.

Here’s one of the recent release of one of my flash fiction stories from a prior out.  Check out “Pure Mime” at Body Parts Magazine.

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April Blitz – Day 6

April 7, 2015 at 2:02 am (writing) (, , , , )

I sent two darker tales out over the last couple of days. One went out to a venue I’ve tried a few times before with no luck. I haven’t submitted to them in a long time. They ask for writing credits and I have many more now than I did the last time I submitted so maybe that might improve my chances. Only time will tell.

I have had a couple of friendly receipt e-mails for earlier submissions from this month. One sounded particularly positive, so we’ll see how that one pans out.

More later…

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Oh – The Horror…

September 1, 2012 at 12:19 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , , )

I was a little offended by a recent headline regarding the movie “The Possession” in one of our local papers. It read: “Scary Stuff but Don’t Call It Horror – Jeffrey Dean Morgan Says The Possession Is a Film about Character not Gore.”


Since when has the definition of horror been “gore, without character?” I looked up the definition of horror according to Merriam-Webster and this is what it said:

1) a : painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay <astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me — H. G. Wells> b : intense aversion or repugnance

2) a : the quality of inspiring horror : repulsive, horrible, or dismal quality or character <contemplating the horror of their lives — Liam O’Flaherty> b : something that inspires horror

3) plural : a state of extreme depression or apprehension

No mention of gore there whatsoever – but they do mention character.

If people out there are convinced that horror is all about gore, nothing about character, it is no wonder the genre has a bad rep. Funny, considering that the reason I love the genre so much is because it is cathartic, focussing in on the human condition, on people struggling in the face of fear and malevolence, sometimes successfully but more than likely not. It’s rarely pretty, but it can be very realistic, and sometimes quite deep. Some of the best characterizations I’ve read have been in horror stories and plenty of my favourite horror tales haven’t involved any gore whatsoever. It is not a defining feature. Fear is. The darker side of humanity is, or in some cases monsters created to embody some of our worst traits, but I think whoever wrote that headline, as well as the actor he was quoting, were terribly misinformed and could use some education on the topic. That, or they are purposefully choosing to define an entire genre by what they consider its worst elements – hardly fair, and I doubt they define their preferred genres in the same way.

Horror lacking character? Go read some character-driven Lovecraft, or some of my favourite King works like “It” or “Misery”, for some classic examples of horror with oodles of character. Those stories would never have existed without it. There are also plenty examples of newer horror novels, large press and small, that are teeming with character.

Mr. Morgan goes on to say other disparaging things about horror before discussing the movie with the journalist interviewing him. I have a feeling that Sam Raimi, director of this movie, would object to Mr. Morgan denigrating the genre. Sam Raimi has a significant horror-loving fan base, people who consider his name synonymous with horror. These fans are the very people Mr. Morgan was dismissing as lovers of a lesser thing. If you don’t want to be associated with horror, why accept a role in this kind of movie, directed by a horror legend? Watching the ads for this movie on TV, I can say without a doubt that the marketing is being geared towards those who are looking for the next great horror movie. But Mr. Morgan would have you think this is the equivalent of a spooky Shakespearean play brought to film. It’s not.

So please, Mr. Morgan, take some time to learn about the genre you are rejecting before displaying such prejudice. Horror is definitely not without character. But people who speak or act on prejudice, and with a sense of elitism, are.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Chivalry is Dead

May 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , )

Chivalry is Dead – Edited by TW Brown

One would expect a zombie anthology with a male focus might have significantly more action, violence and gore, and less emotional content than its all female equivalent, but it turns out this is not the case. Many of these tales are just as touching and heart-felt as the stories in its all female companion anthology “Hell Hath no Fury”. The opening story, “Daddy’s Little Girl” is a prime example of this, its plot centred on a father-daughter relationship in the face of a zombie apocalypse.

Not all of the stories were that multi-dimensional. Some were exactly what you would be anticipating, even smacking of chauvinism in some places (but that isn’t necessarily a reflection of the author or his opinions; I’ve included moments like that in my own stories, for the sake of realism – I’ve run into instances in my own life, so I can guarantee you they exist.)

For the most part, the tales were entertaining, some very dramatic, some humorous, some downright scary – a good assortment in my opinion. My favourites included the piece by Mathew Munson, “The Life and Times of a Zombie”. The dark humour really appealed to me – perhaps because we are both civil servants we have similar senses of humour – and the perspective was…different. I also really enjoyed Chad Rohrbacher’s tale, “Camp Victory” – I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the tale when I was asked to write the intro. It shows the extremes some parents will go to for the sake of their children and I liked the backwoods feel to it. But the story I loved the most was “Saving Mirabel” by Jerry Enni. It sucked me in and I was thoroughly rooting for Charlie by the end, sympathizing with his plight.

While there were a couple of stories that weren’t quite my thing, on the whole I felt this was another excellent anthology from May December Publications and I would definitely recommend it to lovers of the zombie-genre.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Four for One

April 25, 2012 at 1:43 am (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , )

Four in the Hole – Edited by TW Brown

Unlike an ordinary anthology, a book that combines four tales of this size really doesn’t have the type of presentation that merits a single review. In this instance, I think these four tales could easily stand on their own, so I’ve decided to review each tale separately, rating them based on individual quality and impression.

The Deadlands – by Bill Blume

Reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode (or the intro to more than one zombie movie) Paul awakes in his hospital room to find no other living soul around and is forced to venture out in search of others. Hunting for a working vehicle, he runs into Philly, a bit of a head-case who fills in the gaps about the devastation surrounding them, what caused it (the Avatar Light) and the resulting Deadlands. Paul seems to be a sort of a neutral character, a lost everyman type, and this accentuates Philly’s eccentricities all the more. The presentation allows us to be curious, and the reader soon discovers that Paul is not as normal as we think. From here, the story progresses into a series of jarring and mysterious events, with a lot of action (and zombies) involved. While interesting, I found the tale was a little more chaotic than I would have liked. The beginning had a good lead-in/build-up, but I felt as though the amount of information contained within the story would have been more suitable in a longer venue, and the ending didn’t seem entirely conclusive. I enjoyed the story nonetheless and I still consider it worthy of 4 stars.

Stagnant Waters – by Bennie Newsome

This lone vampire tale of the four begins by giving us a look from the vampires’ perspective. Two of the undead are eying what they suspect is a trap – a boy, Scotty, out after hours. The boy’s father comes to his rescue and a battle between man and vampire ensues. At the end of that fight, it is assumed that the vampires have been decimated. This assumption is wrong.

Enter Jayden, a boy terrified of vampires, subject to nightmares and not convinced they are gone. When the vampires return, Jayden is left to deal with them, with the help of his friend, Tunisha and other area children. Little do they know how strange things will get from here.

I really loved this story. It has a cold, quiet suspense, mixed with a good dose of humour that eases you into the tale and then grabs you and shakes you when you least expect it. It’s a fun story, and the twists offered, as well as the delightful ending, makes it all the more amusing, – 5 stars.

The Night We Didn’t Go Home – by G. R. Mosca

Katie and the other kids are on the school bus headed home when their trip comes to a sudden halt because of what they think is an accident on the road ahead. The driver leaves the bus to investigate and comes back the victim of a frightful transformation. The children are now trapped, terrified and unsure what to do next. Their solution? Abandon the bus and set off on their own…

This was a refreshingly original approach to a zombie tale, with a convincing variety of unusual characters and a combination of youthful energy and fear. It had realistic dialogue, good pacing and an enjoyable level of action. There is sufficient gore for my tastes and I was pleased with the ghoulish ending – 5 stars.

Road Kill Counting Book – by Pat Steiner

Tommy, and pregnant Gail are on the road. After Tommy accidentally runs down a dog, he gets out to investigate and they stop for a pee. A run in with a strange boy and an unexpected accident leaves Gail in a very bad position and when Tommy comes to her aid they are beset by zombies. Although they make their escape, Gail is now in labour and Tommy has problems of his own.

I enjoyed the colourful characterization and Steiner’s descriptive style (the zombie scenes were gruesomely gory), but I would have preferred a clearer picture of what was going on. There were mentions of rescues and family members (her Papa included) and zombies, but none of these things seem to come together in a cohesive manner until late in the story, possibly because Gail seemed to be mentally challenged and much of the story was from her PoV. The details become clear towards the end of the tale, via Tommy’s memories – I just would have preferred more clarity sooner. I give this one 4 stars as well.

As a whole I say all four combined rate a 4.5, but leaning slightly more towards 4 than 5. I think stories of this length, longer than shorts but less than a novel, require a careful balance. You need enough story to extend beyond the limitations of a short, without dragging elements of the tale out for too long, but not a story fit for a novel squeezed into a shorter form. Overall, this was a good read.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Zero

April 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

Zero – Edited by TW Brown

Until now, my favourite anthology from May December Publications has been Midnight Movie Creature Feature, but it has been knocked out of top spot by Zero. There were only seven stories in this book, longer short stories and novelettes, so chances were that this anthology was going to be either a hit or a miss. In my opinion, it was a hit. I went in expecting the stories to be fairly similar, typical viral outbreaks leading to the zombie apocalypse but all seven stories were very good, and for the most part, delightfully original. If you prefer the more traditional zombie tale, there were stories included that would appeal to you, but there were also tales with a good dose of humour and a range of causes for the apocalypse – from curses, to technology , to animal attacks. One of the stories even offered up a chilling alternative history.

All I can say is that I was glad that the stories weren’t longer than they were, because once I started one, I found it terribly hard to put down the book until I finished that particular tale, and I’m a very busy lady. They were well written and gripping, presenting wonderful multi-dimensional characters and all in all, they were amazingly clever. I can’t even pick out a particular favourite or two because each offered something appealing and unique. The first two stories, Morning Show Host and The Zombie Curse, both had me laughing, one of my preferred traits in a zombie story. They were a nice light-hearted lead-in for the anthology. The next, Termination Papers, was solid traditional zombie fare, followed by a disturbing tale, The Scientific Method, which strayed into stranger, but equally enjoyable, territory. William added an element of frightful science fiction to the anthology, and the last story, Quietus, was a terrifying grand finale. Thanks to that tale, the starlings in my backyard now make me jumpy

I actually had to fight off my mother-in-law just to finish the book, because it caught her interest right away when she glanced through it while visiting; she wanted to take it home with her that evening. I made her wait to allow me the opportunity to finish it, but next time she drops by I’ll let her borrow it, because I think this anthology should be shared with as many horror fans as possible. May December seems to have a knack at rooting out great talent. I’ve even managed to convince my husband, who is not a horror fan, that it’s well worth the read. A firm five stars for this one.

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The Blurb on other People’s Words – Vampires Aren’t Pretty

April 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , )

Vampires Aren’t Pretty – Edited by T. W. Brown

Vampires are trendy and, in my opinion, overdone at the moment. You can say the same thing about werewolves, thanks to books like Twilight, and zombies are everywhere too (a guilty pleasure of mine, because I find them funny and darkly appealing no matter how prevalent they are.) I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy these stories as a result, despite their promise to return to the darker nature of the vampire. The monsters of old have become overly humanized in modern day tales, glossy and suave, with less of a bestial nature than one would expect from blood-sucking monsters.

I’ll begin by saying that all of the stories were well-written and I found them entertaining, but I didn’t find the vampires as monstrous and terrifying as I was hoping to see, based on the premise of the anthology. Many of the vampires were physically pretty and their ugliness was more one of spirit, cruel and sinister. I wasn’t surprised to see Twilight satire, considering the “anti- sparkly vampire” vibe of the book, but I would have liked to have seen it kept to a single story, rather than two focussing significantly on that series.

As with all anthologies, some of the stories stood out more than others. The ones I liked the best, and stood out for me were:

Tempest in a Sewer by Gail McAbee – The opening story managed to capture the scary old school vampire feel despite presenting it in a modern age setting. The main character was colourful and spunky and there was a dark, foreboding ambiance throughout the story. And it had bats – I like horror stories with bats when you are trying to evoke that classic vampire feel.

Vampire Ritual by Greg Austin – A futuristic tale with teeth (pun intended). The vampires here were vicious and horrible, with lipless twisted mouths and fangs that dripped brown ooze. This story gave me a good case of shivers, as well as a satisfying round of “ewww-yucks!”

Dark Carnival by Mary Parker – I loved the way this story combined the eerie carnival mystique with the traditional monstrous vampire. I wish more of the stories had been just as chilling in their approach to focussing on the frightening blood suckers. The response of the crowd watching events unfold was priceless – and more bats.

While I do recommend this anthology, and all of the stories have something worthwhile to offer, I don’t think it met the mark it was aiming for 100%. I think if you look at this as an interesting assortment of vampire tales, each with their own special flavour, you’ll probably enjoy it more.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Ten Silver Bullets

February 28, 2012 at 4:31 am (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , )

TEN SILVER BULLETS – Edited by Adam Millard

I have to admit, while I love zombies, I’m not a big fan of werewolf and vampire tales. They aren’t as funny as zombies and the cheesy shadow of bad paranormal romances hangs over them like moldy brie. That being said, if they are presented with original plotlines and story twists, the traditional horror monster genre tales can be a pleasure to read.

I liked this anthology, and there were good reads in it, but I didn’t love it. I found there were more stories directed at the traditionalists who are looking for the savage transformation in the city or woodlands with some sort of fight/chase scene and howling at the moon – great if you’re not looking for surprises. If you are a die-hard werewolf fan that wants that typical blend of fur, blood and snarls, you’ll love this. For me, while a couple of the stories really struck a chord, it was more of a four star collection. Here are some of the highlights:

BLOOD MOON – R.S. Hunter : The Louisiana ambiance gave this some extra flavour, and it was a well-written tale. I’m not a big mystery lover but this was clever enough to win me over.

COMPTIME – Rebecca Snow : Introducing a supernatural element to an office always makes for fun genre fiction fare. This them is not as common as the inner city chase/fight scene, and Ms. Snow is a favourite of mine, so I did get a kick out of this.

RHODESIAN NIGHTS – Douglas Vance Castagna : I liked the integration of the dog into the tale. Castagna offers up some amusingly colourful descriptions.

PAWPRINTS ON A HEART – Zoe Adams: A romantic power-struggle brought to life. Lots of violence and a mix of supernatural creatures.

THE STRENGTH OF A PACK – Rebecca Besser : Probably the sexiest story of the group, and plenty of exploration of the senses in this wild tale.

YOU SAY CURSE, I SAY TOMATO – Suzanne Robb : One of my favourites, because of the humorous content. A real spin on the typical werewolf story.

US 20 – David Naughton-Shires : This one takes lycanthropy down the highway to the great outdoors. It pokes fun at the average yokel.

FOR OUR SINS: A FABLE – Brent Abell : This was an entertaining little fable with a strong fantasy component. This was another of my top three picks.

The editor sums it all up with a tidy little afterword.

If you are inclined to werewolf tales you’ll probably find this a great read and it does have its humorous moments.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Critters Galore

December 19, 2011 at 11:34 pm (horror, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

With this anthology, May December Publications offers a variety of monster tales that spans the spectrum of action, humour and horror, along with striking illustrations for each selection. It is interesting to see how many of the stories in the anthology involve themes of revenge and/or protective loved ones. I found something entertaining in each of the stories, even the ones that weren’t my favourites. It’s great to see an MDP anthology showcasing so many talented writers.

A Golem in Ozone Park – I think this story really captured the old time movie feel. Silvestri has a very visual approach to his tale. You can easily picture a wide-eyed Abby standing in the rain with an air of urgency, or the golem looming over his creator as he got to his feet. I could almost imagine the sound of bad special effect thunder and cheesy music. Probably one of the most culturally colourful stories I’ve ever read in a horror anthology.

A Zinger Must Die – I was a bit spoilt by this one, being a Haligonian myself, I could identify with the setting very easily. That being said, I felt as though I had stepped into the Twilight Zone with the introduction of cartoon characters, and I tend to “zone out” with any discussion of US politics, no reflection of Mr. Pelmuter’s tale-telling skills. There was an odd contrast of the complex language used to the nature of the tale – I would have expected a more simplistic language as a match with anything “toony”. There was also an interesting irony in how the Newfoundlanders, who can be sometimes larger-than-life, came across as more cartoony than the creatures themselves.

The Pit – This is an action-packed tale with a battlefield feel to it, a hardened hunter vs a man with a bestial nature. It was a fun story.

The Spine Tingling Tale of the Crystal Golem – I wasn’t sure how to take this story. It went from the classic campy intro, a la old cliff-hanger serials, to some cheesy dialogue (“honeybunches” and “love muffin”) with more modern camp, and all the characters having rock names, but I gathered that was all intentional for a spoof effect. It was amusing, but not really my type of horror humour.

Just the Two of Us – I loved the imagery in this (seeing ovals like leeches and the way the sunshine is described while Brandon is meeting with his mom – great stuff) as well as the fluid writing style.

Fish Boy – This story presents a monstrous case of people-watching that gets interesting once the discordant family dynamics are unleashed. Then the people-watching turns to something more shocking. I liked this because it was a horror tale with greater dimension.

And the Dark Growls Back – I loved this story and its real-life monster. It was a veritable thrill-ride, with plenty of surprises. It sucked me in and didn’t let go, because in addition to the unusual beginning, action and excitement, there was so much detail (including some serious gore). The ending was fitting as well. This was my favourite story in the anthology.

The Visitor – Another great read. It has a nice build up and good pacing. The characters are very realistic; one of the main ones is a sceptical curmudgeon and the other a bit blasé, although she proves caring in the long run.

Frightening Cliches – This was the type of tongue-in-cheek dark humour I expect to find in a horror anthology. The story was an entertaining, high-spirited romp, with puns and jibes at the stereotypical middle-aged couple. There were a couple of MDP Easter eggs thrown in there for good measure.

Dead Planet – This was a bit too “Flash Gordon” meets “Alien” for my tastes, but it did add variety to the anthology and the writing was technically good. There was plenty of action and some very scary moments. The Sci-Fi fan would likely enjoy this one.

Hayride – A bestial killer is terrorizing a part of Michigan and the residents there are attempting to fight the fear, participating in Halloween events as they always have. A smooth read with a wild twist.

Fish out of Water – This one had a steampunk/Jules Verne feel to it, with a hint of Lovecraft – a more intellectual horror. Once again, not my preferred version of the genre (although I did like the touch of Lovecraft), but it also added variety to the anthology and was certainly technically well-written.

From Rebirth to Reburial – This was interesting and intriguing, sort of “noir”, but it seemed more like an intro to a novel than just a short. There was a lot going on, the characters were introduced but clearly had much more to them and I wanted more background than could conceivably fit in a short.

North – The intro was a little heavy and metaphor-laden for me, but once I got past that, I really liked this story. Very original – a different spin on the usual bigfoot/yeti story.

Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters – To say this story was a little blue would be an understatement. It definitely had shock factor. It had laughable moments but it was a vulgar humour. I think I’d have to be in the right mood or have a couple of drinks in me to really enjoy this sort of levity, and I could easily see some people finding this story offensive (although I have thicker skin than that.).

Keeping It Together – This story made me smile right away with the description of someone as a “friendly baguette” and by the second page into it I was laughing out loud. I’m a sucker for good zombie humour and, to me, this was by far the funniest story in the anthology.

I think I agree with some of the other reviewers that this was the best MDP anthology yet. They assembled a great collection of quality stories with quite a menagerie of beasties.


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