Category Archives: anthology

Monster Movie Marathon Giveaway #2

If you don’t already know, I’m hosting a giveaway in which someone will win a copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters in audiobook form. You click here for details on that.

For the Monster Movie Marathon’s second giveaway, I’m offering a trade paperback copy of the Dagan Books anthology, Cthulhurotica, edited by Carrie Cuinn. Click here to read my review.

To enter, just fill out the form below. This giveaway is open worldwide. If you follow this blog in some fashion, that can earn you an extra entry, too. Like the audiobook giveaway, this one closes on October 31st and I will announce the winner on November 1st.

Good luck! And watch out for yet another giveaway to be announced next week!



Filed under anthology, book giveaway, Carrie Cuinn, Cthulhu, Cthulhurotica, monster movie marathon

Rabid Reads: "Cthulhurotica" by Carrie Cuinn (editor)

edited by Carrie Cuinn
Dagan Books (2010)
344 pages
ISBN 0983137307
Available via Amazon
If you think this anthology amounts to little more than tentacle porn, think again.
Carrie Cuinn has assembled short stories that are not merely about monsters having sex, though more than a couple do feature some remarkably … unusual intimate encounters. The majority of stories come from authors who explore jealousy, loneliness, betrayal, morbid curiosity, and a slew of other facets, all wrapped up in a pastiche that is either directly influenced by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft or at least offer allusions to those stories.
Personally, I’m not much of a Lovecraft fan. That is to say I am not among those who deify the man and his work. Certainly, there is something to the mythos he created that has latched on to the minds of readers, and I do find the broader ideas of his stories to be quite appealing. But, the suffusion of his bigotry is noticeable to a point that makes some stories unpalatable, and the rather dated flourish to his prose only makes it harder to appreciate his stories. I’m not one to close myself off to an artist’s work though, as I still manage to appreciate Roman Polanski’s films, so I had no qualms in seeing what other authors could provide as a way to better understand Lovecraft’s work.
I found most of the stories avoided imitation and provided their own styles, though there were a couple of instances where the language felt so Lovecraftian it almost felt satirical. The real draw for me was the way the stories approached existing characters and settings from a whole new vantage point, and its through this method that I came to enjoy the stories and hop on board the bandwagon.
The stories I liked most were varied. Some took a more contemporary approach, some had a more streamlined style to Lovecraft’s while hanging onto that imitative flavor. Stand outs for me included: “Descent of the Wayward Sister” by Gabrielle Harbowy, which was the first story and did an excellent job in setting the tone for the rest of the book; “Infernal Attraction” by Cody Goodfellow, that had an ending I found to be deliciously bleak and sinister; “Turning On, Tuning In, and Dropping Out at the Mountains of Madness” by Ahimsa Kerp, which was absolutely saturated in a sixties milieu that felt almost too fun to belong in a Lovecraft world; and “Transfigured Night” by K.V. Taylor, which effectively used journal entries to ramp up the horror–and I usually stray from that journal entry style.
There are plenty of stories here, ranging from poetic to prurient, and the collection is something I’d highly recommend to any Lovecraft aficionado, as well as those who like stories that offer new twists on old material. I suppose it is much like Lovecraft’s own work, in that it can be easily dismissed by the unfamiliar, but there is a lot more slithering beneath the surface than we might give it credit for. I say give it a chance if you’re feeling adventurous.


Filed under anthology, Carrie Cuinn, Cthulhu, Cthulhurotica, Dagan Books, erotica, horror, Lovecraft, short stories

Rabid Reads: "Arcane: Issue #1 (Spring 2011)" edited by Nathan Shumate

Arcane: Penny Dreadfuls for the 21st Century Issue #1
edited by Nathan Shumate
Cold Fusion Media Empire (2011)
Available via: Amazon
There is a new dog in the hunt for short horror fiction and its name is Arcane. I finally got a chance to read the inaugural issue, which was made available in late spring. With a subtitle of Penny Dreadfuls for the 21st Century, the tone is made readily apparent, which is a welcome change over some of the ambiguous titles of magazines and other short fiction markets.
Issue #1 contains a brief introduction by its editor, Nathan Shumate, as he lays out the format of the book is irrelevant compared to the subject matter. From there, readers are treated to twelve short stories from various authors. Rather than long established authors, Arcane features new voices, up-and-coming and a couple brand spanking new. As for the horror, there’s a hodgepodge of styles and intensity. Where one story holds nothing back and reveals a visceral scene, another story takes a more lighthearted approach even revealing the absurdity of the situation.
When it comes to the more visceral side of things, there’s Stephen Hill’s “Laundry Night” with its shadowy laundry room in the lower ranks of a condominium. It’s not a splatter-fest, but it’s one of the more–if not the most–graphic stories in the collection. For lighter fare, there’s Tom Wortman’s “Dear Management”, which is told via memos from a new employee to his superiors as he contends with a foul stench in his office. Most stories, however, offer a creepy vibe with varying levels of suspense and intrigue. A couple of my favorites come from Amanda C. Davis, whose “Courting the Queen of Sheba” offers a historical piece set in the early 20th century as a traveling carnival–I’m a sucker for stories involving carnivals and sideshows–and its latest attraction, a mummified corpse heralded as The Queen of Sheba. Another especially enjoyable story was S.M Williams’ “Ricky and the Elder Gods”, which offered two points of view in nearly real time, as one character hunts the other only to have the tables turned midway through the tale.
Like any periodical, it’s a matter of hit-or-miss as you read each story, some resonating more than others, and invariably coming across one or more that fall flat. It’s the nature of the short story collection. For an upstart magazine like Arcane, it’s nice to see one more home for the pulpy goodness that comes from speculative fiction. There’s a nostalgic quality to some of the stories, while others offer a taste of the present. While there isn’t anything within its pages I would say advances the horror genre, the authors highlighted show that they are deftly carving out their own niche with some entertaining spine-tinglers.


Filed under anthology, Arcane, book review, horror, magazine, penny dreadfuls, pulp, Rabid Reads, short stories

Rabid Reads: "Supernatural Noir" edited by Ellen Datlow

Supernatural Noir
edited by Ellen Datlow
Dark Horse (2011)
ISBN 1595825460
Available via: Amazon / BookDepository / Indiebound
The ARC of this anthology came at the perfect time, as my reading tastes this spring and summer have been tuned to the noir and dark fantasy genres. So, to see a slew of authors each offer up short stories with a blending of elements from both genres, with Ellen Datlow expertly compiling the stories together, well … let’s just say this might have been the perfect summer read for me this year.
Now, being an anthology, this book offers up a mixed bag, even if does seem like the theme narrows the borders in which the authors can play. The truth is that noir fiction can be pretty damned diverse, and throwing in a supernatural bent only offers more freedom. It boils down to tone, I suppose. In any case, an anthologist like Ellen Datlow is about as reliable as they get when it comes to getting the best from the best.
Right off the bat I was charmed by a gritty heist story by Paul Tremblay called “The Getaway.” A getaway driver speeds his cohorts out of town after a botched robbery, only to find the leader of the pack isn’t in the car anymore. He’s just disappeared, and the rest start to wonder just what the guy they robbed might have had to do with it. This was had a good deal of tension and a cool bit of paranoia.
A great little tale of the wayward soul seeking redemption came from Jeffrey Ford’s “The Last Triangle.” A washed-out addict winds up at the end of his rope and going through a rough bit of rehab in an old woman’s house. But she doesn’t throw him out, and instead recruits him into helping her investigate a mystery involving some rune-like symbols graffitied around town. The dichotomy of the two characters felt familiar, but the magical flavoring and Ford’s way of moving the story along made it feel unique. Quite liked this one.
After that came Laird Barron’s “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven.” Young women hiding out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, hiding out from the law and the men in their lives, are swept up in a local legend and an animal hide with some powers that imbue through whoever wears it. A damned strange story with an ending that really packed a punch. It wound up being one of my favorites from the bunch.
A bit of a quirky one came from Joe Lansdale’s “Dead Sister,” which had a fella hired by an alluring woman to find out who is digging up her sister’s grave each night. I found this one creepy as heck, but with an odd bit of humor to it that kept the rather macabre subject matter from being too gruesome.
Those are just a few samples of what you can expect from the anthology. Sufficed to say that I didn’t really find any of them to be a disappointment, and I was really happy to finally get a chance to sample the works of some authors I’ve not read from yet, but have heard tons of praise for. It’s just about as good as I could ask for from a themed anthology and I hope there is second volume sometime down the road. I suspect Supernatural Noir could be a wellspring of stories if this batch is any indication.



Filed under anthology, book review, crime, Ellen Datlow, fantasy, horror, noir, Rabid Reads, Supernatural Noir

Rabid Reads: "The Zombie Feed Volume 1" by Jason Sizemore (editor)

The Zombie Feed Volume 1
edited by Jason Sizemore
an imprint of Apex Publications


Available via: Amazon / direct from Apex
A few years ago, I was pretty sure the zombie phenomenon had run its course. I think it’s safe to say I was way off. But in 2011, you’d think now the zombie trope was worn out. The publication of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies should have made that clear. But, like vampires and other long-running creatures of the night, the walking dead are continually dusted off by authors and thrown into new stories, to explore multiple facets of the human condition. Zombies are here to stay, and as such, Jason Sizemore has plumbed some of the more engrossing stories from burgeoning authors of every stripe.
The Zombie Feed Vol. 1 offers up seventeen short stories, each with its own variety of zombie, and each with its own way of looking at the characters who must either contend with the undead or with being the undead. The table of contents looks like this: “Not Dead” by BJ Burrow; “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” by Monica Valentinelli; “Cold Comfort” by Nathan Tapley; “This Final December Day” by Lee Thompson; “Broken Bough” by Daniel I. Russell; “The Sickness Unto Death” by Brandon Alspaugh; “A Shepard of the Valley” by Maggie Slater; “Twenty-Three Second Anomaly” by Ray Wallace; “The Last Generation” by Joe Nazare; “Bitten” by Eugene Johnson; “Lifeboat” by Simon McCaffery; “Rabid Raccoons” by Kristen Dearborn; “Zombies on the Moon” by Andrew Clark Porter; “The Fare” by Lucien Soulban; “What’s Next?” by Elaine Blose; “Goddamn Electric” by K. Allen Wood; and “Hipster in Love” by Danger_Slater.
Rather than dive into every story, I’ll simply highlight a few of the stories from which I gleaned the most enjoyment.
“Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” involved a blue-collar kind of guy working for a company tasked with disposing of zombies as if he were a termite exterminator. He’s called to a wealthy family’s home to exterminate a child zombie sheltered by her parents who insist she’s not infected. She is though, but that’s not the real problem. The exterminator will have a harder time dealing with the father than the daughter. I really liked this one for taking the zombies, making them seem mundane in a sense, then twisting the story into something else just as disturbing.
In Lee Thompson’s “This Final December Day,” Frank, a former police officer, is on a journey to rejoin a woman he loves, yet abandoned in a sense to go off on his own crusade amidst the zombie uprising. Along the way, he joins forces with a young photographer who helps him navigate through the ruined streets and ravenous hordes. There was a bleakness to this story that felt very familiar compared to other stories, but really resonated as Frank struggled through. And the ending packed a real punch, in my opinion.
“Shepard of the Valley” by Maggie Slater might be my favorite of the bunch. A man of faith makes his home in a desolated airfield, undisturbed by any savagery from other survivors in a desperate situation. He’s gather a dozen or so zombies and “saved” them, so to speak, fashioned them in restraints and electronic devices that essentially domesticate them–keep him company. A young woman he mistakes for a shambling zombie at first, one more to his collection he initially hopes, offers the first sign of real companionship. She’s a bit rough around the edges though, and is pretty handy with a shotgun when pushed. I loved this story for its tragic strangers in the night tale, with tinges of I Am Legend and other tales that show how deep loneliness can go.
Then there was “Lifeboat” by Simon McCaffery, which shows a view of a viral zombie outbreak from the view of a cruise ship’s deck, as they meander the Caribbean and south-east American coastline for safe harbor. There’s not a lot to be found though, as the outbreak has gone global, and docking for supplies is done in short, harried bursts. Even worse is that other human survivors off-ship see them as one more prize of resources to be hunted down. The ceaseless danger of the zombies, the high seas, and other ships is captured very well and made for a really good story.
I’ll also offer a nod to a couple of quirky tales, “Rabid Raccoons” and “Cold Comfort”, for their humor interspersed with horror.
I’d say seventeen stories is enough to offer variety to any zombie fan. And for those who haven’t dipped their toes in this genre could find a nice sampler with this volume. You aren’t likely to enjoy all of the stories, but I’ll bet you’ll find a couple with which you can warm up to the undead. For me, it provided a great window into the worlds of some authors I was otherwise unfamiliar, as well as get a little more goodness from a few whose names I’m already aware (Lee Thompson and Daniel Russell to name two). I’ll be interested to see what The Zombie Feed Volume 2 has to offer someday, but for now I’ll simply recommend this first volume.

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Filed under anthology, book review, Jason Sizemore, Rabid Reads, The Zombie Feed, zombies

On My Radar: "Possessed", a new anthology

Possessed: Spine Tingling Tales From Ten Masters of Horror is a new anthology available on the Amazon Kindle Store.

I caught wind of this on Facebook recently, thanks to one of the contributing authors and editor, Nate Kenyon.

Nate’s responsible for writing one of my favorite novels from 2010, Sparrow Rock, so on the occasion when he has something to pimp out, I’m going to pay attention.

Here’s the write-up via Amazon:

Welcome to hell.

Hands that live on, long after their owner is dead. A little girl who learns about killing, with a little help from Doctor Nine. A diary that suggests murder to whoever writes in it. An encounter with a fallen angel that ends with a death–and a rebirth, of sorts. And other encounters with things birthed from the darkness that are far worse.

Inside these pages are terrifying stories of possession, madness and murder, by ten of horror’s brightest stars. These are masters at work, and their stories will shock you, make you gasp, and make you wonder if those noises you hear in the night are not simply the house settling, but something far more ominous.

Don’t look now…that thing from your nightmares may be right behind you.

Editor’s introduction by Nate Kenyon

Stories by: Maria Alexander, Kealan Patrick Burke, Nate Kenyon, Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, Lisa Morton, Joseph Nassise, Scott Nicholson, Jeremy Shipp, and Simon Wood


Filed under anthology, Nate Kenyon, On My Radar, Possessed

Writing Like Crazy: "Seasons in the Abyss" Now Available

Seasons in the Abyss is finally available for purchase. The flash fiction anthology, in which my winning story “Staving off the Thaw” appears, is published through Blood Bound Books and can be found through Createspace, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble very soon.

Here’s a quick write-up:

Welcome to the Abyss! If you stay awhile, you’ll find that horror is always in the forecast, regardless of the time of year. Seasons in the Abyss is a flash fiction anthology containing more than 70 stories of horror and suspense.

The season of fear has begun!

Elsewhere on the writing front, Library of Horror Press is getting closer to publishing Horrology 2, an anthology of animal-themed horror stories. My contribution, “Walk ‘Em Up,” will be included in that anthology. The cover has recently been displayed and should be available for purchase soon.

I wish there was more to report, but I don’t consider my collection of rejections very newsworthy right now. I’m simply trying to find homes for my stories, as most writers are, and doing what I can to apply the constructive criticism I receive from editors towards the stories. Most rejections are form letter responses, but on occasion I’ll receive a personal note with some opinions or suggestions, and more often than not it’s good advice. Nothing drastic, just some fine-tuning.


Filed under anthology, Blood Bound Books, flash fiction, Seasons in the Abyss, Writing Like Crazy