TALES FROM THE REALM VOLUME ONE is another awesome first for Aphotic Realm! Get YOUR Copy Today!

Tales From The Realm Covershot

Edited by Dustin Schyler Yoak & A.A. Medina
Aphotic Realm Publishing
May 1, 2018
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

WOW! What a seriously awesome collection of mind-blowing speculative fiction! I have followed Aphotic Realm since issue number one, when they had to explain the exceptionally high quality of their digital publications to me. As a reviewer, this what I like to see and hope for every great first from an independent writer or press. With each consecutive issue, Aphotic Realm has grown by leaps and bounds due to the collective efforts of everyone involved. I think it is safe to say that they have created a community of like-minded individuals who are making the overall writing world a better place. Ahem! Enough compliments! It’s time for me to sit up straight in my chair and give you the rundown on Tales from the Realm Volume One.  

What better way to start off than with Silencing the Bell by rising star Gary Buller? I’ve read quite a few of Buller’s stories and this one has a chilly precision that slices to the bone. Dare I say it? I think Buller’s writing has matured and become more polished. Very tight, clean and dangerous like a brand new straight razor! Harry Stubaker has made a grievous error and it is only fair that he pay for it. In fact the bell demands that he do so. Life has become unbearable, piece by piece until the climax. But will there be an end to the terrorizing? It’s up to the spirit world to make that choice.

From spirits to something more physically tangible, we go on to experience some Black Lung Hay Fever by the master of flash S.E. Casey. This illness will take your breath away with the slow build that starts with a mysterious scarecrow in a gone to hell hay field. Ancient and only visible for small portions of the day, the scarecrow should be a stationary object, but is it? The only residents who might know the truth are the old timers. But they sit under the awning of Jasper’s store in silence while sipping their endless beers. Now you see them, now you don’t!

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I don’t live in a posh neighborhood. Between dealing with the mad fence pisser and pharmaceutical salesmen that do most of their business at 2 in the morning, there are times when a gated community sounds attractive. But, at the same time there’s all those rules and if you deviate by doing something crazy like change your door color from black to yellow there’s going to be trouble. In The Yellow Door by Isha Ro, such a situation occurs and the neighbors go wild. Is their madness caused by a simple door change or by something that was there all along?

Maybe it’s because I used to be a hospital janitor in one of my previous lives, but I really connected with Enid and the Owls by K.T. Wagner. As I read it, I could feel the cool, damp lilacs and the desperation to do things right. Enid Bailey, dutiful cleaner of an old folks’ home, goes above and beyond for her patients. All the elderly ladies remind her of a different kind of owl, which is an apt fit because Enid works the night shift as do the nocturnal hunting owls. There is something about being a uniformed cleaner in these settings-maybe because we listen. Whatever it is, night nurse Abigail is not a fan and when she goes into screech owl mode, everything changes…

Is it possible to haunt yourself and by doing so, make your life an odd charade? My Better Half by Mark Blickley tells such a tale. When Andrew hooks up with his cardboard self, Sir Andrew, life gets great and awful at the same time. At first, it’s kind of funny when Andrew’s better half makes his appearance. But as things roll along, there’s a feeling of desperation. It makes me think of The Picture of Dorian Gray a little bit. As the laughter fades and life continues, you wonder: how does one live up to their flawless self? So convincingly told, it feels like nonfiction and I like that.

It would be remiss to do a review of this collection and not look at S.J. Budd’s The Forgotten House. Kirsten rides the train to work and every day sees something that no one else appears to. There’s a house that could potentially be a home for her. But how would that be possible? All the work to be done…Who would help? Then new developments occur and Kirsten isn’t sure what to think! When she attempts to show her fellow train passengers what she sees, everyone is too absorbed in their electronic devices. In my opinion, The Forgotten House contains two horror stories. Are we all just ghosts in the machine isolated by our own hand? What of Kirsten’s hooded helper? Friend…Or foe?

There shouldn’t be any questions regarding my rating of this book, but just to clarify-FIVE STARS! I highly encourage you to buy the paperback version so that you can display Gunnar Larsen’s fantastic cover art on your bookshelf or coffee table or wherever you keep your damn books! The whole book has obviously been carefully thought out and features just the right amount of writing from the editor. Obviously the editors are glad you’re here, but they let the stories do the talking. Thank you for saving us from those rambling book forwards that go on for 40 pages or so! They haven’t crushed wildflowers and added them to the paper, but they have given each contributor a fun-sized bio where you can find out a little more about them, other places to read their work, and to share the fact that being a Realmer is indeed a worldwide phenomenon!

Twenty fantastic stories in one badass collection. Get your copy of Tales from the Realm Volume one TODAY!

HOT OFF THE PRESS! Strange Stories Volume 1 is Cool City!

Strange Stories Vol one

When this beauty arrived in my mailbox I was amazed! It was like I’d gone back in time and just come back from Kenny’s Newstand with the latest issue of one of the horror comics that we all used to be so stoked about. Those things would get passed through so many hands that I’m surprised they didn’t just disintegrate after the last kid read it.

Now there’s no reason to go searching around somebody’s mildew filled basement unless you want to! STRANGE STORIES Vol. One is only 5 bucks and it comes to YOU in the mail! Not only that, but this thing is jam-packed with stories and groovy goodness. Take a trip back in time and get your copy today at http://www.deadlightshorrorfiction.com/shop/

Review of NARAKA by Stoker Award Winning Writer Alessandro Manzetti!

NARAKA cover shot

Alessandro Manzetti
Independent Legions Publishing
May 15, 2018
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Are you the kind of horror fan who wants things taken to the extreme? Skin peeled slowly and painfully from a live human body and eaten for the purpose of pleasure? Do you want to read a nightmare? If so, then NARAKA by award winning writer, Alessandro Manzetti was written just for you! For those who don’t understand the purpose of profanity, extreme sex, cannibalistic torture, and a horrifying look into the future-Please head on over to the world made by Disney where monsters sing songs, skeletons dance, and everybody lives happily ever after. None of that ridiculous shit happens in books written by Manzetti and I’m not here to apologize. Got that? Good. Now let’s all go to Hell!

Seriously, NARAKA is a Hindu and Buddhist word meaning a hell. In these religious practices there are believed to be multiple hells that we must journey through to complete our life cycle. This intense book takes us through some of these hells and introduces us to the idea of the Moon as a prison for criminals. Much like the current legal system in this country, the rules are complicated and getting killed doesn’t mean you’ll stay that way. This is especially true for more elite criminals who are true professionals at killing. Many have extreme fetishes that boost up their standing in hell.

NARAKA makes me think of writings by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso to name a few. Manzetti even drops a cool nod (check out page 86) to Ginsberg’s iconic poem HOWL, a piece of writing so controversial that arrests were made and the books seized by police. The result was a U.S. Supreme Court hearing to answer the question of whether or not the book was obscene. What serious writer wouldn’t want to have that effect on society’s precarious norms? Especially a fellow poet? The Burroughs effect is in the overall feeling one gets from reading NARAKA. It’s like dropping way too much acid, followed by getting drunk to a level near alcohol poisoning, while watching bad pornography and getting raped in a slaughter house. Add a dash of Corso for the fiery flames with balls-out anger, and you’ve got some building blocks for this book.

Everybody dies, except the very rich
Human beings are sliced up and rendered
The final product is packed in cans
and shipped out, labelled as “chicken”
From the Moon which has become a
penitentiary farm, and vivisectionist’s dream
Whores are destroyed from the inside out
with specialized tools & humans are eaten alive
Life gets zero respect-Big money rules

There are many ways for readers to take in this powerful book. They could be offended and run away screaming, or look at it in a more constructive fashion. I see NARAKA as a warning to us from Manzetti. He combines timeless religions with ancient traditions such as cannibalism, prostitution, gangs/tribes, and violence. Since this book shows us a possible future, these things are done in a larger hi-tech way. Without a doubt, it is horrible and dehumanizing, but isn’t that what we’re doing to ourselves or having done to us by those in power? There is no middle class anymore in most countries. There is just the struggling lower class majority and the rich minority who hold most of the money and power in their ugly little hands. So characters like “Big Blue, Ute Mobius, the white monkeys, Blaster Miller, and Kiki and are good representations of characters in the struggle to continue living the way they want to.

Humans are ruining the Earth and its natural resources in their quest for more petroleum products and money. This is a fact that has hardened from being a concept held by “tree hugging hippies in tie-dyed shirts” into reality. We will eventually destroy this world we call home until the only resource available is ourselves. Our bodies will become a sources of food, enjoyment in new forms of sex, and the only ones who will be able to continue their existence are the rich, who can afford regeneration and a few very smart criminals. Once Earth is destroyed there will have to be other places to live and exist. Prisons, sex houses, Hells-All NARAKA.

None escape

I have put a lot of time, over a month actually, into reading this book and writing a review of it. A lot of thinking and time spent enveloped in the Hells of NARAKA. “Is it good?” Friends have asked me. “How many stars should we rate it?” My honest answer is, I don’t know. This is not the kind of book you can easily do that with. We are talking about severe dystopias. These are hells and many of the main characters are criminals, sexual deviants, and computers programmed to kill and use whatever they find. I think that the best answer I can give is that NARAKA is something each reader has to experience for themselves. You need to travel the dirty streets of Paris 5 and the stone corridors of The New Belmarsh Penitentiary located a short space-hop from Earth in our Moon, and hear the roar of the slicer as it gets ready for another victim.

None escape

Do you have the strength to, as Hunter S. Thompson put it, “Buy the ticket-Take the ride?” If you do, it’s time to step up and see the show. NARAKA is ready, now it’s your move…A revolutionary novel from a true master, Alessandro Manzetti. Available now from Independent Legions Publishing and your favorite booksellers. Step into madness today.

Alessandro Manzetti biopic


COMING OUT JULY 20, 2018- LOST HIGHWAYS from CRYSTAL LAKE A Big Anthology of Horror Stories From the Road!

Lost Highways cover shot

Editor D. Alexander Ward
Crystal Lake Publishing
July 20, 2018
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Lost Highways brought to you by the frightening folks at Crystal Lake, is a travel themed anthology. It digs deep into the mysteries of the road and reveals more than blue skies, apple pies, and playgrounds for the kiddies. The roads in this collection are dangerous and filled with strange stuff. Under the cover of darkness, small towns cease to be charming. Is it wise to stop at that tiny little gas station in the middle of nowhere? Or is it better to just keep rolling with your “low fuel” light on and hope for the best? For the unfortunate couple in Jim’s Meats by Kelli Owen, a choice was made for them and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

The collaboration between Doungjai Gam and Ed Kurtz that kicks off this collection of twisted road madness, has the fitting title Crossroads of Opportunity. We are plunked into the bench seat of a blue Buick, next to a man named Eddie who has been driving nonstop from New Jersey with a strange passenger in his backseat. With only rare stops for gas and a handful of road snacks, Eddie and his passenger have made it to a small town in Illinois. They almost make it to Chicago, but before they do, a giant white cross stops them in their tracks. Just as the journey appears to be over, an opportunity presents itself and gives a whole new meaning to “running on faith.”

Looking for nightmare material? Well, look no further than Mr. Hugsy by Robert Ford. The name may sound nice, but Mr. Hugsy is anything but! Think of your worst nightmare coming for you out of thin air with very sharp teeth and a tophat…All summoned by a kid who’s not even old enough to shave yet! Yikes! Little Andy’s old man is a creep and a con who kidnaps Andy for his own purposes. Kind of unfortunate that Andy views his father’s behavior as bad, because bad people get a visit from Mr. Hugsy. It’ll make you cheer and scream! Don’t waste time running…He’s everywhere!

While he’s not the only person to ever drive home stoned out of their mind, the biker trying to make it home in Where the Wild Winds Blow by Matt Hayward, has also committed a crime. He’s fallen off the sobriety wagon, is funk as druck and is doing his best to make it home in one piece. Just as he thinks he might just squeak by, a blinding white fog surrounds and torments him. Forced to see what he doesn’t want to, the man crashes his bike only to find another victim of the misery causing fog. Together they watch it head towards a city…

Every time I read a collection of stories, I always hope for a few standouts. Those are the stories I usually feature in my reviews. Not every collection of stories has a “Wow” story in it. You know the ones I mean, right? After you finish that story, all you can do for a bit is just sit in your chair staring at nothing and say “Wow…that was one hell of a great story!” In Lost Highways the “Wow” story is Room 4 at The Haymaker by Josh Malerman. When I began reading, I was dead sure I knew what the outcome would be. Here’s a 56 year old woman who’s leaving her home of 31 years to move all the way across the USA from Detroit, Michigan to Denver, Colorado in hopes of starting some sort of new life. Oddly enough, she just can’t bring herself to drive away from the house. It was supposed to be her forever home with a husband who disappeared suddenly after less than 100 days of married life. Just, zip! Gone.

But my idea of what Evelyn was going to do was wrong and before I knew what hit me, she was picking up a young male hitchhiker on the highway entrance ramp. Then they were on their way West and my overly active imagination was figuring out exactly what would happen. The old gal probably had a purse full of cash, plus a decent car-so the young guy would…Nope! “Wrong again, Watson!” as a famous detective liked to say. Every time a new situation came up and I was sure I knew where it was going to go, the author would smoothly fool me. He did that right to the very ending of the story. Just whipped the chair right out from under me. Well now, it’s only right to say this: Josh Malerman, you are one sneaky, twisted, and completely AWESOME WRITER! There, how do you like those apples, buddy? Room 4 at The Haymaker is one great story that’ll tear you apart like a cheap re-capped tire and leave you for dead by the side of the road. Consider yourself warned!

LOST HIGHWAYS rates five big stars glowing like those huge illuminated signs beckoning from the roadside. Gas, Eats, and Fun between the sheets! All available for a price. This is a GREAT collection to read while travelling or when you can’t and wish you were, like me. The takeaway? More independent press sales means more independent writers writing and getting paid. By the way, did I mention this collection is 20 stories huge? Good stuff all around. Check it out!

Guest Post: Sara Tantlinger

Check out this great profile of Sara Tantlinger and her feelings on the conventional old school direction to “Write what you know.” Review of Love for Slaughter coming soon on this site!

Erik Hofstatter ~ cimmerian WRITINGS


Dark poet and the enigmatic author behind Love For Slaughter, Sara Tantlinger, is my latest guest with her eye-opening essay on the age-old advice of writing what we know. Sara touches on key points of expanding our horizons, embracing diversity, and emphasizes the importance of learning and challenging ourselves by writing what we, in fact, don’t know.

Love For Slaughter is a blood diamond amongst poetry collections. Sara’s talent is undeniable and the sheer force of her verses devastates.

Over to you, Sara.

Writing What You Don’t Know
By Sara Tantlinger

“Write what you know” is a phrase that has been following me since I started studying creative writing during my undergraduate years. This phrase would be echoed to death while I pursued my MFA, and don’t get me wrong, it’s great advice, but it’s also the mostobvious advice you could give someone. Of course we have to…

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EAT THE RICH Arrives in a Biohazard Bag! Hindered Souls Press Teams up with Renee Miller for a Dynamic Reading Experience!


On Tuesday a totally badass package thumped into my mailbox and the mailman ran away screaming. Not me though! I was grinning from ear to ear when I slid my knife into that package and revealed…A blood spattered face behind a Biohazard Bag. If that doesn’t make you happy, well then you’re on the wrong fucking page! I was eager to take a snap of this crazy new release from Renee Miller along with M.R. Tapia’s most excellent stickers, when my assistant Moonbeam added himself to the picture. Funny thing was that it seemed appropriate to have a pussycat sit on the face of  “Busy Ben the ladies’ man Franklin!” (if you don’t believe me, look it up) That was fun, but what I’m really looking forward to sharing a review of  EAT THE RICH with you all soon! Renee Miller and Hindered Souls Press working together-Check it out!


Tales from the realm arrives

As promised by the very industrious S.J. Budd, this strangely beautiful book arrived in my mailbox today! Gunnar Larsen has outdone himself with the cover art. You really need to see it in person either in this beautiful paperback version or an E-book to get every fantastic detail. Many of my favorite writers are inside and I can’t wait to get started, so bye! Wait! Just kidding. I have a couple more words to say-INDEPENDENT PRESSES and WRITERS ROCK! Seriously, these are the people you want to support. They are working Dads and Moms who are following their dreams. Their dreams make the world a better place and reading makes us smarter and more connected to each other. Real books mean real jobs for us, too. Manufacturing, shipping, the US Mail, and even recycling or resale at a thrift shop to help the homeless. Be a part of the phoenix rising-support your favorite independent writers and presses today! Why not start with APHOTIC REALM?

Just Out From Joe R. Lansdale & Kasey Lansdale TERROR IS OUR BUSINESS: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors! A Modernization of the Holmes & Watson Approach to the Unusual

Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors
Joe R. Lansdale & Kasey Lansdale
Cutting Block Books
May 29, 2018
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

In a previous review I did of a book about writing, Joe Lansdale voiced his opinion that the magic doesn’t just exist in the stories, but in the storytellers and how they plied their craft. I agree heartily with that statement. Otherwise, why would people have favorite authors that they eagerly await a new release from? Even people who binge watch a television series are proving that they are fans of the writers of the show. Joe Lansdale is certainly one of my favorite authors. He is one of the great storytellers with a voice that is amiable even while he tells you about something frightening. You feel as if you are travelling with a friend. Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors just released from Cutting Block Books, continues that fine tradition.

Joe is also very proud of his daughter Kasey and the wide amount of cool stuff she does. Besides being a fine singer and songwriter, Kasey is also an editor and a writer. Not every writer’s child decides to do the same thing their parent does. Contrary to popular belief, writing is not easy and no one is an “overnight success” despite what the entertainment rags try to tell us. Neither is fronting a band as a lead singer. You either get some broad shoulders or find something else to do where large amounts of people aren’t waiting to criticize you. Even though Joe prefers to write alone, he and Kasey collaborate on a story now and then. I’ve read the results and enjoy the mixing of their styles. So when the opportunity to review this book came up, I definitely wanted in.

Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors, is a fun and frightening collection of short stories that does a whole lot of nifty stuff while entertaining readers. One major thing it does is flip-flop the well-known gentlemen’s adventure club tale and put a woman in the storyteller’s seat. Dana Roberts is a very real feeling lead. She is in charge and is not shy about letting folks know that. At the same time, I like how honest she is. When clashing with a new member of the supernormal world, sometimes she’s scared, but not in a ridiculous “eek a mouse!” way. She keeps calm, watches her opponents, and uses whatever works. For example, in The Case of the Lighthouse Shambler a regular Coca-Cola bottle is used to save everyone’s life. Cool, right? It is one hell of a good story that sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is scary, yet there are these humorous bits that round out the story and humanize it.

Dana uses assistants at times and also works alone. She doesn’t much care for the term supernatural or the obscenely large amount of television shows that use it as the main topic. Hate mail be damned, I tend to agree with her that the majority of these “reality” shows fail to prove much except that you can record a lot of weird camera angles and strange sounds at abandoned buildings. Dana deals with the supernormal, which acknowledges much of what we speculative readers believe in. She’s also honest enough to tell her clients that a scary haunting is actually a nest of baby birds in an air duct. But enough with who believes what, there is someone more important to talk about. Jana arrives mid-book and it doesn’t take long to realize that she’s the right woman for the job of being Dana’s assistant.

Jana is introduced to us in the great collaboration of Blind Love and her down to earth approach to the supernormal world is perfect. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the things Jana had to say about a unique form of speed dating that involved staring into other people’s eyes and no speaking. But things go from silly to weird pretty fast and soon we are far away from downtown. Things get dangerous, but Jana walks right into a creepy old house that’s surrounded by a junkyard to save her friend. Once she and Dana start working together, each fills in the other’s gaps, making them a force to be reckoned with no matter who you are. They are strong, but laughter helps at times so that they’re not merely dry tomes of spells and facts. It’s amazing how the Lansdales are able to make their characters so real. That is their storyteller magic and has to be read to be experienced.

When I started this review a couple weeks back, I wanted to break the stories down and give more inside peeks to them. But the more I read, I realized that it’s not fair to do that. Joe Lansdale said that with writing we shouldn’t dissect things too far, lest we ruin the magic. I think that applies well to Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors. These stories are fun and full of action. Read them and enjoy the escape they give you. One thing that is brought up a lot is that one might compare Dana and Jana to Holmes and Watson. You might do that. It’s definitely a good point of reference, but I think this collection of stories does a lot more than that. Dana Roberts and Jana are about NOW. This pleasant read puts real women firmly in charge and conveys what we’re trying to do in the speculative fiction community. We want to empower people, expand diversity, and make sure that those who feel marginalized are included. The Lansdales have done that along with publisher Cutting Block Books and that is something to be proud of! FIVE STARS. Great reading, well presented, overall great message…What are you waiting for? Get your copy of Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors today!

Something New is Coming and it is NARAKA by Alessandro Manzetti!

NARAKA cover shot

Something new and totally horrifying has been set loose by award winning writer and poet, Alessandro Manzetti! Not only that, but I’ve been asked for a review of NARAKA! Previously I’ve reviewed the poetry of this powerful legend and even been inspired by it to write unique poems of my own. I am currently reading this excellent book and look forward to sharing my thoughts with you all. Until then, let me offer a quick peek. The Moon has become a prison for the worst offenders. It also has become a place of butchery where human flesh is sliced, organs harvested, and the meat packaged for consumption. Naraka is the Hindu word for a hell and there is no doubt you’ve arrived in one when you open this book! More to come…