“MIDNIGHT IN THE CITY OF THE CARRION KID” BY JAMES G. CARLSON IS AN ACTION-PACKED THRILLER WITH A HEART OF GOLD

Midnight In The City of The Carrion Kid
James G. Carlson
Gloom House Publishing
November 2, 2021
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello again dear readers, it’s your old pal Skull with a full review of the great new speculative novella Midnight In The City Of The Carrion Kid by James G. Carlson. As I mentioned in my New Year’s post, this is so good that I couldn’t wait to finish reading it, so I won’t keep you in suspense. That way you can grab a copy of your own and enter this terrifying and magical city yourself!

Carlson’s story begins with a down and out couple sitting in a neglected sedan. They’re waiting for their heroin dealer to show up so they can turn on and stop being so miserably dopesick. Alistair the narrator and his girlfriend Eden are about as far away from paradise as people can get. Especially when their only “relief” is to hop aboard the drug train until it stops moving again. However, the trip they take this time is much different from others. Alistair awakes to find himself alone in the car and that his environment has changed, but it also hasn’t. Despite being an addict and a criminal, Alistair is a good guy deep down, so his first thought is to find Eden and make sure she’s okay. But as he ventures out into a city he thought he knew, Alistair realizes that the changes haven’t been for the better. Usual things of relative safety or goodness are now entirely evil.

After nearly being killed in a laundromat, Alistair is rescued from a bunch of evil nuns by two dudes in a van. Because when a couple of guys in a van offer you a ride, it’s always a wise idea to hop aboard, right? But since everything’s topsy-turvy, Nico and Miles are actually good people who want to help. They take Alistair home to their safe space called “Haven Below” to grab a little rest and get their thoughts together. The journey to Haven Below is one of my favorite things in the book. Carlson uses existing city structures like parking garages, maintenance tunnels, and sewers to create epic urban wildscapes of a dangerous concrete jungle. Nico explains that they’re existing in a place called the In-Between, where souls go to hang out while their bodies’ fates are decided. A long time back, The In-Between was a really nice place to chill, everything safe and lovely. Then The Carrion Kid arrived and changed all that, turning a safe space into a dangerous hell. Alistair might want to go blasting through the city to find his love, but without help he’s more likely to end up as another miserable puppet of the Carrion Kid.

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer rates Midnight In The City Of The Carrion Kid 5 STARS OUT OF 5 and also gives it a home on the Wall of Fame! James G. Carlson is a great writer who delivers a powerful, fast-paced story that’s populated with characters you’ll be rooting for. There’s two love stories, talking cats, terrifying monsters, and maybe even a few chances at redemption. Seriously, this is a boss read that everyone can enjoy and take something away from. Carlson writes in the tradition of many of our favorite speculative authors, giving us many stories to follow within the larger one. A few bonuses: Nico and Miles are not only a couple of nice guys, they are a couple. The residents of the secret hideaway Haven Below might seem lacking at face value, but as the story progresses you’ll be delighted to see their secret superpowers unleashed. Our world is often too quick to judge people and sadly, think them the lesser for their differences. But even a brain damaged elderly man is capable of great bravery to save those he loves.

Incidentally, I wanted to mention here that this author and book deserve nominations for the annual Splatterpunk Awards in the novella category. Could you please do your old pal Skull a favor and send a quick email to: splatterpunkawards@gmaail.com and say your version of this sentence? “I’d like to nominate James G. Carlson’s novella “Midnight In The City Of The Carrion Kid” for the splatterpunk novella award.” It costs nothing and no salesman will call, but it will help James to keep moving forward as a horror writer. This tale definitely meets the requirement with its laundromat creature made of vermin, a monster that guards the meat fields, and nuns so disgusting you’ll be scared for Alistair. Those are just a few of the splatterpunk elements, and there are plenty more.

Thanks again for stopping by to hang out with your old pal Skull. It’s always nice to see some friendly faces at the Skullcave and I’m always looking for more followers of my blog! James G. Carlson is also in charge of Gloom House Publishing. For more information about that check him out at : gloomhouse@yahoo.com See you soon!

ASKING FOR SPLATTERPUNK SHORT STORY AWARD NOMINATIONS FOR MY BATHROOM HORROR TALE “REST STOP”

Published in March of 2021, LITTLE DEMON DIGEST VOLUME 2 contains many great pieces of speculative fiction, but only mine was listed as “a bathroom misadventure” It sure is one, too! When “Binghamton Bill” Stinson desperately needs a restroom during a road trip, he finally finds one in a strange rest stop. But it takes a lot of scary and somewhat gross trials by fire to earn the privilege of going inside. Then comes the challenge of getting out alive…

Recently I learned about The Splatterpunk Awards and realized that “Rest Stop” is definitely that kind of story. With the deadline of January 16th, fast approaching, I’m asking my follower friends and family to voluntarily nominate me for the short story award. All you need to do is send a quick note to: splatterpunkawards@gmail.com and say that you’d like to nominate Brian James Lewis’ short story “Rest Stop” (Little Demon Digest Vol 2-March 2021) for the splatterpunk short story award. It’s super easy, fast, and I will greatly appreciate you. Thank you all for your help!

GOODBYE 2021 AND HELLO JAMES G. CARLSON! WELCOME TO 2022 AND GLOOM HOUSE PUBLISHING!

WELCOMING IN THE YEAR 2022

Hello friends, it’s your old pal Skull with both my final post of 2021 and first post of 2022. I could get into a lot of sentimental jazz right about now, but that’s not usually why you drop by Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer, is it? NOOO, of course not! What you’re here for is to check out the latest and coolest speculative fiction. So, without further ado, let’s get on that. Shall we?

I started reviewing books by James G. Carlson this year, and really liked what I read. Carlson has a deep imagination, which really enriches each of his stories beyond measure. It’s not enough to just scare the reader, you’ve got to make them want to keep reading your work. 7 Exhumations kept me reading and I wrote good things about it. Now, I’m lucky enough to have two works by James G. Carlson to review. Happy Skull!

Midnight In The City of The Carrion Kid is Carlson’s latest novella and so far, it’s fascinating. The reader is thrust into a dark world between life and death, sort of the purgatory before a soul’s fate is decided. Alistair and Eden go from fulfilling a narcotic jones, to one hell of a strange trip…And that’s as far as your old pal Skull has gotten. But Carlson’s writing is so vivid that I already feel trapped in that strange world along with the characters. I predict that readers will enjoy the journey. Another cool thing about this book, is that Carlson is releasing it through his own publishing company, Gloom House Publishing. And it looks like things are off and running towards a bright future in 2022, so watch this space!

The Ever-Descending Staircase is a short story collection that was released by Carlson’s former publisher, Terror Tract in 2021 and I am very much looking forward to taking that “downward journey” soon! Here are just a few of the scenes I’ll be reading about:

At a seedy dive bar, while teetering on the edge of sanity, an afflicted alcoholic meets a stranger who changes his life forever…

In an old warehouse in Pennsylvania, a dark and terrible secret is shown to a researcher of spiritual phenomena…

A pregnant veterinarian at a Wyoming zoo has an unexpected meeting with an infernal presence…

See what I mean about James G. Carlson? He’s a writer who does a lot more than just haunted house stories. You get a fresh angle every time, which is what keeps Damaged Skull Writer reading! Yesss…

So welcome to 2022 from your old pal, Skull! I’ll be sharing full reviews of these works with you soon. There’s also an upcoming review of Releasedfrom No Bad Books Press, new work by Daemon Manx coming in January, and Loren Rhoads’ Morbid Life. You can find out more about James G. Carlson and Gloom House Press by contacting: gloomhouse@yahoo.com James is also on Facebook, and Goodreads, so check him out!

Thanks again for visiting the Skullcave! I said I wouldn’t get sentimental, but I feel it in my bones that 2022 is going to be a great year for independent writers and presses. Come along for the ride, won’t you? Follow my blog at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com for news, reviews, and there might just be a few giveaways coming up this year. See you soon!

ONE MORE ACCEPTANCE BEFORE THE YEAR ENDS, AND IT MARKS MY RETURN TO THE ICONOCLAST: A SUPER COOL INDY LIT MAG!

The accepted nonfiction piece, “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” tells the story of how I managed to stay alive and even be deemed “cool” by some seriously badass dudes in a rough New Jersey neighborhood called “the commons”. It’s a mix of humor, tragedy, and how, in the words of the late, great BB King, “Everybody lies a little sometimes.” Writing this story brought back a lot of cool memories and I will be submitting more nonfiction in 2022.

Iconoclast editor-in-chief, Phil Wagner will tell writers what he thinks. So even when you get a rejection, it will often come with a quick note explaining what could have been better. When you’re starting out, this kind of feedback is invaluable. He pays in contributor copies and does business the classic old school way, which I really enjoy. Writers and poets send in a physical submission via the post office, along with a SASE for reply and wait to hear back, just like our heroes did. I was previously in issue 114 with my short story “Finally” and look forward to being in issue # 125 soon!

SONORA TAYLOR’S “SOMEONE TO SHARE MY NIGHTMARES” IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I’VE READ THIS YEAR!

SOMEONE TO SHARE MY NIGHTMARES
Sonora Taylor
October 19, 2021
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello there fans of horror and speculative fiction. It’s your old pal Skull here to share a cool collection of short stories with one and all. Sonora Taylor’s recently released collection Someone To Share My Nightmares is fucking AMAZING! That’s right, I said it and no one’s paying me to offer high praise like that, but it’s the truth. Once again, Taylor shows that the ladies can be just as scary as the gents. Maybe even scarier, because she gives us the perfect balance of hot and cold, wet and sweat, topped with shouts of terror and screams of ecstasy. Someone To Share My Nightmares is packed with powerful, well-crafted stories that this reviewer couldn’t tear himself away from.

The book kicks off with a couple of really cool things: A forward by V. Castro that gives readers a wonderful picture of the very modest Sonora Taylor and what she’s doing to make the world a better place. As I frequently say, you will find the most compassionate people in horror. There’s a lot more to us than scaring people. Check it out! The other thing is a notice that the author has included a list of possible trigger warnings in the back of the book. That way, those that require that feature get it and the rest of us are none the wiser until we read Taylor’s work. Hooray for no spoilers!

Someone To Share My Nightmares is the opening tale for this great collection and really sets the tone for the book. Taylor doesn’t write about wimpy women who are little balls of fluff that scream their heads off and wait to be saved by a hunky man. Protagonist Kristin is a strong woman with her own viewpoints, strengths, and desires. She lives in Creekwood, a place frequented by bravado-fueled arty types who think they can explain the dark forest there. But the forest doesn’t want to be exposed, violated, or used to make money. The same can be said about women. Some things are meant to be secret, revealed to only a select few. Kristin enjoys the hunky man but also understands that she is at one with the forest.

Bump In The Night is a cleverly woven tale of lust, terror, that also gives props to plus size sexiness, interracial love, and same sex fun. What’s not to like? I’m just going to say right here and now, if you’ve got a problem with big women being luscious or people loving who they want to love, then you’re reading the wrong book, blog, and review. We’re not going to get along. A good time is saved by magic.  

The Parrot is a chilling story with a twist ending I didn’t expect. Whoa! In these modern times, the majority of the population rely on digital assistants. Ask Alexa for a recipe, use your cellphone to shut off the lights, autopay your bills…There are even little robots that can roam about your home meeting your needs. But what if someone was able to twist that technology around for evil purposes? Charles is an asshole who thinks that he controls his wife, Melinda. He likes to hurt women and force them to do what he wants. He even has Melinda make him a personal assistant called Parrot, never suspecting that it might have other uses. Then his wife suddenly ends up dead and the Parrot starts to malfunction, showing him strange things on TV. Somebody is in control and it damn sure isn’t Charles. Satisfying conclusion for all of us who hate domestic abuse.

Prefer an ecohorror tale about a man and woman working equally together? Then check out The Sharps! Scientist Camila is a biologist doing research at her isolated cabin, which normally is a pretty chill time. But not when the sharps make their unwanted appearance, trapping her there. Enter ecological activist, Joseph who also ends up stranded by the sharps on Camila’s island. There’s romance but also two people working together towards a positive end. Equality is a lot more sexy than the outdated Hollywood stereotype of an overly brawny guy seizing the reigns and dragging a scrawny little honey who can barely lift a fork (obviously!) to safety. Sonora Taylor’s “The Sharps” is an awesome story that’s also the perfect amount of hot. BRAVO!!!

The verdict, if you can’t tell already, is that Damaged Skull Writer rates Someone To Share My Nightmares by one of my absolutely favorite authors Sonora Taylor, a hearty FIVE AND A HALF STARS out of 5! This fine paperback is also in a place of honor on the Skullcave’s Wall of Fame. I mean, seriously, if you don’t have this book, I recommend you grab yourself copy NOW. There’s a long cold winter ahead, which is great for reading in bed. Someone To Share My Nightmares will not only give you chills, but heat you up as well. It also includes many more tales than the ones I’ve mentioned!

Sonora Taylor www.sonorawrites.com is the author of many fine books, including: Seeing Things, and Little Paranoias: Stories. Both of which have been reviewed by your old pal Skull right here at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com Once again, thank you for reading and sharing this post. I’m also looking for more followers of my WordPress blog, which will cost you absolutely nothing but helps more independent authors and presses to get positive exposure. I only post once or twice a week, so I won’t bombard your inbox with a lot of extraneous garbage either. Damaged Skull Writer is a safe space that has no room for hate.

  

SOMETHING SCARY ARRIVED AT THE HOUSE TODAY…MY CONTRIBUTOR COPIES OF “RELEASED” FROM NO BAD BOOKS PRESS!

Hello everyone! It’s always nice to have some good news to share on a Monday. I’ve been looking forward to the day that I’d hold one of these beauties in my hands, and here it is! This is what all writers and poets look forward to: seeing our work in print for the whole world to read. No Bad Books Press went many extra miles with RELEASED-A Horror Short Story Anthology. They created chilling book trailers, snagged the number one spot on Amazon’s new American horror releases, and are actively promoting their books on social media and at hot spots like Comicon. Cool right?

Many thanks to editors S. Faxon & Theresa Halvorsen for including my story “Hell To The Holler” in this lovely volume with so many great writers. I’ve already started reading RELEASED, and wow! The first two stories, “Liberation” by Kevin David Anderson and “Terrified Lambs” by Nicole M. Wolverton, are amazing! I highly encourage readers to grab a copy of RELEASED, today! Not so much because I’m in it, but because it’s a damn fine collection of stories. Independent presses are the future. Together we can become something great.

BREAK OUT THE CHAMPAGNE! MY SHORT STORY “FOLLOWING MY DESTINY” HAS BEEN ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION IN THE SPRING 2022 ISSUE OF TRAJECTORY JOURNAL!

Hi everybody! I hope you’re having a good day. Me, I’m having a GREAT one because a story that I put months into writing has been accepted for publication in the place I got my start, Trajectory Journal! “Following My Destiny” is an immersive narrative from a mass shooter named Chance McCandless that puts you inside his head. It’s a strange and scary place to be, but at the same time gives readers insight to how a mass shooter thinks and goes about things. I’m planning on writing a more in depth account of my experiences while writing this piece, but the short version is this: These people don’t usually pop into being overnight. The damage begins early and grows, creating a need to be seen, to act, to cause hurt to as many others as possible. This is how things are with my fictional character, Chance. Add in an unstable home life, strange environment, and a doomsday evangelist podcaster, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. This was a really different experience for me. Being Chance was terrifying as were the nightmares that came along with the job, but I think the results are worth it. I hope you will too. I’ll keep you posted about when the spring 2022 issue of Trajectory Journal becomes available and encourage you to try this independent literary journal that’s geared towards adults and contains a great mix of poetry, prose, and artwork. Check them out at http://www.trajectoryjournal.com to read some kickass work!

IF YOU’RE FREEZING IN YOUR COFFIN, THIS NEW CD FROM BAT HEARSE MIGHT JUST BE THE CURE FOR THOSE COLD WEATHER BLUES!

CRYPT LOAD
Bat Hearse
Bat Hearse Records
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello horror fiends, it’s your old pal Skull with some cool news about a great band that you’ll want to be feasting your eye and earballs on real pronto-like! Most often, Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer focuses on the written word and graphic novels, but today I’m going to be reviewing Bat Hearse’s debut album, CRYPT LOAD. Y’all ready? Then, to quote lead singer and stuntman Rick Ruiner, “All right all you bastards! Grab yourself a handful of steering wheel and let’s go!”

Coming at you straight out of Detroit, Michigan, Bat Hearse arrives in their namesake vehicle: a vintage Cadillac hearse that’s been customized into a mashup of the Batmobile and a rocket-powered ice wagon. This midnight beauty was built by none other than Rick Ruiner, who also handles lead vocals and some cool performance stunts involving fire! He’s got his foot to the floor, making the engine roar, and that big block of Detroit iron under the hood can smoke a set of tires faster than you can say “Beat It Creep!”

This is a band that creates real rock n roll and has fun doing it. For those unfamiliar with Bat Hearse, think of what might happen if The Cramps jammed with a surf music loving Detroit garage rock band. Real, raucous, with revving motors, and a sense of humor to boot! So while pop bands are busy auto-tuning, dubbing, and basically faking their way into teenagers’ ears. Bat Hearse’s Jungle Josh is wrestling riffs out of his guitar, while bass player Nate Knox keeps the grove and drummer Ajax rocks the beat. Oh, and let’s not forget the singing and dancing of goth lovely Nina Friday, who brings a lot of pizazz to the band. Nina is much more than just a pretty face. She’s also an artist and costume designer who also handles the band’s merchandise. Want a cool CD, stickers, buttons, patches, Bat Hearse poster or T-shirt? Then get in touch with her on Facebook at Nina Friday Art or click on the link at the end of this review.

There are eleven great tunes to enjoy on this CD but a few really grabbed my attention. “Go Little Bastard” and “The Day I became James Dean” both reference the iconic James Dean who was gone way too soon.  “Little Bastard” was the name of the Porsche that he died in, costing us a true American original. Hey classic horror fans, Bat Hearse is ready to show you how to “Do the Bela!” As in Bela Lugosi, the face many people see when they think of Count Dracula. They’re also getting a “Coffin For Christmas.” Because they’re “not looking for a stocking stuffer, baby.” Uh-uh! They want they want the whole enchilada or nothin’. And what would a garage rock album be without an homage to the king of cool? So, Bat Hearse gives us a “Bronze Fonz” Ayyyy!   

In case it’s not clear, your old pal Skull digs Bat Hearse like a miner after gold. Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer gives BAT HEARSE’S CRYPT LOAD FIVE STARS out of five. These tunes are great and check out the pictures. Bat Hearse also has the look. Coolness to spare, baby! As the temperature drops and we get what seems like about two hours of daylight, don’t hibernate. Instead, get something really great, and dance away those blues! Yeah, baby. Or use this fun CD as the soundtrack for your next writing or reading session. To get in touch or place an order go to: www.facebook.com/BATHEARSEDETROIT Want more visuals? Then check out Bat Hearse on YouTube for some mega cool videos. As always, thanks for visiting Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer. See you soon!

SONORA TAYLOR PROVES ONCE AGAIN THAT SHE’S THE HIGH CLASS, KICKASS, HOT AS…RISING QUEEN OF HORROR WITH HER MOST RECENT RELEASE “SOMEONE TO SHARE MY NIGHTMARES”

Hey the there horror fiends, it’s your old pal Skull with a public service announcement. I want YOU to have a great Halloween Month! Do something different this year and get yourself some independent horror to read. Playing it safe is boring. Instead get visceral, get a little hot and sweaty, and work your brain. Released just in time for your Halloween pleasure, get Sonora Taylor’s “Someone To Share My Nightmares” available from your favorite booksellers NOW!

PARDON MY EXCITEMENT, BUT DID YOU SEE? I’M AN AUTHOR IN NO BAD BOOKS PRESS’ DEBUT HORROR ANTHOLOGY!

OCTOBER IS A GREAT MONTH THAT WE HORROR WRITERS ARE ESPECIALLY FOND OF BECAUSE IT ENDS WITH OUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY, HALLOWEEN. THIS OCTOBER IS ESPECIALLY SWEET FOR MYSELF AND ALL THE AUTHORS FEATURED IN “RELEASED: A HORROR SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY” EDITED BY S. FAXON & THERESA HALVORSEN OF NO BAD BOOKS PRESS. WHILE I’VE BEEN ON THE HORROR SCENE SINCE 2016, I’M STILL EMERGING AND WORKING ON MY VOICE. BUT I MAY HAVE FOUND IT WITH “JUNIOR” THE NARRATOR OF MY SHORT STORY “HELL TO THE HOLLER.” LIKE MYSELF, JUNIOR HAS BEEN “FACED” WITH SOME MAJOR ROADBLOCKS. UNLIKE MYSELF, HIS TROUBLES HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY AN EVIL WITCH AND IF HE CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO OVERCOME THEM, IT’S ENDSVILLE FOR HIM. INTRIGUED? I HOPE SO! AND I’M ONLY ONE OF THE 19 GREAT WRITERS INCLUDED IN “RELEASED!” THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE IN THIS GREAT ANTHOLOGY AND WHAT BETTER TIME TO READ IT THAN HALLOWEEN? PLEASE SUPPORT THIS COOL INDY PRESS THAT HAS A SOLID 5 YEAR PLAN TO HELP INDY WRITERS GET PUBLISHED. GET YOUR COPY HERE: https://books2read.com/u/bwax19