Austin James
Hybrid Sequence Media
June 25, 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello darkness my old friend…I mean, welcome back to the Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! Sorry, I’ve just been pounded by Austin James’ poetry collection Shrapnel which is definitely RAW. Let me put it this way, if you like poems about birds, flowers, sunshine, and crystal-clear mountain air-go get your kicks elsewhere! Ditto, if you require poems that always rhyme. But if you’ve been kicked around by life and had your neck stepped on more than once. Maybe drank and drugged in excess in hopes of evading your stupid, shitty life and all the pain that goes along with it, only to wake up naked in an ambulance? If so, SHRAPNEL was written for YOU!

Part painful autobiography written in angry scrawls by a rusty switchblade on public toilet walls and part calls for help mixed with proclamations of anger, lust, and loss-Austin James’ work leaps out of the pages and attacks readers’ eyeballs. Speaking of eyeballs, even the front cover of this volume is twisted! At first, you see a spiny nightmare creature, but then you realize it’s being attacked by another from the rear. Maybe they’re mating, as bad thoughts often do, until you’re reeling over the brink.

The first poem to whack our eyeballs with a stick is simply a date; 22, 409 and begins with, “Ten things I don’t want to talk about…” The images keep scrolling, until we realize that we’re reading about a dead person and how hard it is to let go even if we want to. There’s also a strong undercurrent of anger, both at the hospital staff and for everything that’s led to this. I lost my Mom very suddenly this year, so I feel this.

The poem “Yahtzee!” on page 36, answers some of the questions non-writers ask those of us who do. We might as well try to explain the universe. But James unapologetically offers this:

Don’t call me a poet
I just can’t cope with the depths
so I shit my guts onto the page
like a handful of dice
to see if anything adds up

Can’t beat that for honesty! And isn’t that kind of what we all do when writing rough drafts?

Something a bit more seasonally oriented is the poem “Cold Front” which dispels the whole warm and cozy “Hello Fall” ridiculitude. James’ isn’t a bit happy to see all traces of summer packed away in favor of colder weather. Hell, even: “All the songbirds are sipping mojitos on some beach in Mexico” How nice for them! Meanwhile we’re stuck inside shut windows watching flies die while stirring grainy, bargain brand hot cocoa mix into a cup of tepid water. Whooee! Try not to remember that gun hidden in your nightstand. Happy Fall, indeed!

So there’s a sampling of the ride you’ll be taking when you read Shrapnel-Raw Poetry by Austin James. I also dig the cool snippets of art included with the verse that really do contribute to the vibe. “The Tree of Dermatology” is a favorite. This collection is difficult to place a number rating on because it is so raw and there are times when you might not like what you’re reading. But as a valid, artistic expression of a person living in these modern times, I think it rates a solid 5 STARS for its intensity and microdetails hurled into a huge space, kind of like, well, Shrapnel.

Looking for more information? Check out Austin James’ profile on and say howdy to him on Twitter @AusJamesWriter. Hybrid Sequence Media is a cool independent publisher of horror and weird with lots more groovy stuff happening this year. You can reach them on Twitter @HybridSequence and click the link to their site. Tell them that Damaged Skull Writer sent ya! Until next time, I’ll recede back into the darkness. Happy Horror Reading!



Currently reading this fine collection! Will have review out soon on my site. So far, it’s five stars all the way


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Kandisha Press is proud to announce that GRAVEYARD SMASH, the second volume of our WOMEN OF HORROR Anthology series, was officially released on July 20th 2020 and features an array of diverse voices from women around the world!

Available now at these retailers:

A woman suffering from trypophobia, the fear of holes, descends into madness during a global pandemic.Due to overpopulation, the dead are forced to share their graves with strangers- and they’re not sure they like it.On a stormy night, the town’s watchmaker is visited by a mysterious man, who asks him to craft a timepiece from bone.A young girl has the ability to raise the dead, but she just can’t seem to get it right.No one believes Dakota’s story of seeing a…

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Bury Box cover

Lee Andrew Forman
Tattered Edges Press
May 23, 2020
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello readers, welcome to Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! We have a cool new arrival to share with you today: The Bury Box by Lee Andrew Forman, a novel that feels so real, readers will hope this doesn’t happen to THEM! If you live in an old house with a big tree in the front yard, you might want to pay attention. Let’s dig in.

A family of three has moved into a new location, which is a very old house. People always claim it’s good to raise your kids out in the country. There’s fresh air, a low crime rate, and a scary huge tree in the front yard. Hmm…well two out of three ain’t bad. While the isolated location gives young Reggie lots of room to play in, he’s got no playmates. Lucky for him, a couple of kids seem to arrive from nowhere, along with a shadowy character that calls itself “God.” They’ve got a new game for Reggie to play and he goes for it.

Mom, Lorie, tries to do a good job of supervising her son and keeping him fed. But she’s got some bad habits that slow her down a lot. In all fairness to her, many of them are due to her abusive husband, Tom, who makes life miserable. A drink here, a couple lines of Coke there, and smoking a pack a day, aren’t really doing much to help her. To top it all off, something feels really weird about the house. There’s strange shadows, a warping of reality, and that tree out front seems to move at times. What the heck’s going on?

Husband/dad, Tom, finally arrives at the house after leaving his wife and child alone for an extended period of time to drink and mess around. Initially, Lorie is relieved that he’s back. Even if Tom is a jerk, at least he’s big and knows how to fight. But it doesn’t take long for that relief to morph into fear when Tom starts behaving strangely. He’s all zoned out and talking nonsense. Lorie’s solution? Have a drink and snort a few lines. Everything seems to be slipping, spiraling out of control. Her son and husband look weird. If only there was a way for all of them to get away from the property, house, and that creepy tree…

But Tom has the only vehicle and he’s made it clear that they aren’t going anywhere. He’s got Reggie on his side for the moment and they are very busy preparing for some kind of important event. While they do that, Lorie is attacked by a variety of shadow creatures that can cause physical harm at will. The pace of the book keeps picking up speed, making twists and turns, suspense building, trapping the reader on a crazy carousel from Hell. Tree limbs that look like skeletons, phantasms moaning…Reggie breaking loose from the spell. Will he be quick enough to save anyone or is the family doomed to suffer the fate of the ones before them?

Damaged Skull Writer gives The Bury Box by Lee Andrew Forman FIVE STARS! This is a great read from the totally believable setting to the actions taken by the characters. The book has good flow from beginning to end and the gradually increasing pace works well. Readers will begin by tiptoeing in the front door, progress to stumbling about in terror, then gallop away to freak out city at the end. Good Stuff! Fans of Stephen King’s The Shining and Richard Matheson’s writing will like The Bury Box a lot. By that, I don’t mean this work is derivative, because it certainly is not. I’m looking at overall story vibe and The Shining starts with a family of three in an isolated location who come under the evil powers of a hotel, but Forman’s concept is his own and characters are very tangible. Maybe this is because we both live in New York state and know folks like Lorie and Tom. The Matheson comparison, for me, is diverse and a big compliment. House horror was something that Matheson was a master of. He also liked to have his characters almost get away from a horrible fate to the point of causing real pain in the reader. Well done, Mr. Forman!

So, to recap, Lee Andrew Forman’s novel The Bury Box is a FIVE STAR READ. Highly recommended by this reviewer! This is not Lee’s first book, so be sure to check out the other titles he has to offer. He is also an editor at Siren’s Call Publications and Pen of the  For more information about the author go to: For more information about Tattered Edges Press, go to: Thanks again for checking out another review from Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer. Happy reading!


Under Her Black Wings cover shot

Edited by Jill Girardi
Kandisha Press
March 5, 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hey Horror fans! Welcome to another review from Damaged Skull Writer! Today we’ll be checking out Under Her Black Wings, the premier women of horror anthology from Kandisha Press. This FIVE STAR collection features female monster stories written by women. The namesake of this press Aisha Kandisha sounds sweet and nice, but she’s a monster to be feared. She appeals to men’s desire for beauty, fantasy, and flesh. What she takes in return is much more than she ever gives. Some victims may be innocent, but often men deserve what they get. Behind that absolutely smokin’ cover by Corrine Halbert are journeys you can take. The door is open, let’s take a look inside…

What You Eat by Alys Hobbs kicks things off in a righteous fashion! The narrator of the story is living a lush life with everything a girl could want. Fine food, clothing, and toys. But what really makes her happy is feeling superior to everyone else. Especially working class poor folks who have little in the way of possessions. Have-nots make her ecstatic. “Ha-ha! Look what I have that you don’t!” When a new governess arrives, she continues to heap indulgences on the girl, especially in the food department. Sweets, rich drinks, and lots of butter add rolls of fat and keep her skin so tender. Now why would a governess do such a thing? Readers will feel slowly mounting terror as realization is reached.

Somewhere To Belong by Yolando Sfetsos This Lovecraftian tale is about loneliness and the wish to fit in to a group. Enid is a very lonely person who’s easily scared out of having fun or being happy. She lies about it often, but someone named Mother knows the truth. Not your average, mom, Mother is beautiful in her own way and offers Enid a life-changing opportunity. Will Enid take it? This story spoke to me about the times we’re living in right now. There are so many lonely people out there. We spend time talking to our computers, asking them for information, entertainment, virtual worlds, cybersex. All paid for once a month, automatically through the internet. But you don’t really BELONG, do you?

The Darkness by Stevie Kopas Two girls, sisters, are trapped in a horrible dystopia called The Darkness are desperate for food. After their mother was killed by marauding troops sent to clean up their neighborhood, Lana must take charge and get them supplies. This story is full of cool twists and turns that I don’t want to spoil. So I’ll just say that “good” can mean different things depending on who you are!

Sarah Smiles by Christy Aldridge Such a soft, smooth sounding title for a story that is anything but! Chad falls in love with Sarah, but does Sarah reciprocate? Well she does something and is very happy about it. Maybe the bigger question is: How happy is Chad?

Firstborn by Jill Girardi Ah, having that first child! Your legacy and hopefully family that will support you in times to come. Maybe if there are many, they’ll be able to pull Mansur and wife Hajar out of the horrible poverty they’re stuck in. But this new child coming has woken the Peanangal, a cursed creature that drinks the blood of mothers and newborn babies. It has managed to get its claws into husband Mansur, by appearing as a sexy babe and firing up his desires. Unless this horrible creature is stopped, there will be no happy future. But Mansur doesn’t know how to stop it! Medicine woman Tok Bidan is their only hope in a place where modern life has yet to dispel the shadows of legend. Sensual, exciting, and horror movie gross-You will dig it! Great details on this and the next story give readers a look at what life is like in other countries

PONTIANAK by Tina Isaacs is just the story to represent what this anthology is about. When son Corey wants to take a spin around the world, starting with Malaysia, his father needs to talk him out of it. Not because he’s a pompous dad who won’t let his kid have fun, but because of a bone chilling secret. Nobody would want to tell their kid this story and have proof it actually happened. Jimmy has to do it to save his son, even if he looks bad in the process. Lust can destroy a person’s thinking, putting them in horrible danger. A man’s smaller head is not much of a thinker and Jimmy is smitten with a girl who keeps showing up when no one else is around. His desire becomes so strong that he’s willing to do anything to satiate it, which is just what the Pontianak needs. There is also another group benefitting from Jimmy’s activities with the siren. It seems that it’s not just monsters who have subversive motives for what they do!

Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer rates Under Her Black Wings FIVE Big Stars and gives it an immediate placement on The Wall of Fame! This is an amazing collection of stories by women of horror. Between all the monsters being female and women being a lot tougher than many men give them credit for, this anthology is downright amazing! Often I bid you all goodbye at the end of a review, but this time I’m lucky enough to stay close by! Keep your eyes open for a review of Graveyard Smash Women Of Horror Anthology Vol. 2 just out from Kandisha Press.

Want more information? Then be sure to check out or visit ,, , @hobzle
By the way, this list barely scratches the surface of this thick volume of stories written by great women of horror. Pick up a copy from your favorite bookseller today! Thanks for dropping into the Skullcave, we look forward to seeing you again real soon!


Big Lizard cover shot

Joe R. Lansdale & Keith Lansdale
Short, Scary Tales Publications
Publication Date: September 30, 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

When Joe Lansdale sent out a call for reviewers of Big Lizard, I jumped on it faster than a bullfrog slurping up a blue tailed fly. The projects that Joe has done with his highly talented children have been a treat for both readers and the writers, alike. Many of you will recognize Joe’s iconic writing style, but as it has been with daughter Kasey, combining his storyteller mojo with Keith’s exuberance brings about a new flavor. Big Lizard does not disappoint. In fact, it’s absolutely delightful and what we expect when we hear that family name. This book is a rocket-fueled blast of fun and suspense that elevates a group of people who’ve fallen on hard times into legend.

The concept of a Big Lizard superhero who doesn’t have a rich, handsome alter ego is perfect. I mean, come on now! We regular folks need someone we can relate to. Superman is damn near indestructible and will potentially live forever. Batman may be mortal, but he’s handsome, witty, and richer than a chocolate lava cake with caramel drizzle and whipped cream. The hero of this tale, Buster Nix, looks more like a chocolate lava cake that’s eaten all the whipped cream. He can barely pay his rent, the cable TV has been shut off, and his car is a 1983 Honda Civic that goes from zero to sixty in maybe 15 minutes, or some such.

So how the hell does a hefty fellow with trick knees and a bad hip become a superhero? Well, he starts off by taking a job as a security guard for a fun place called Pick-A-Chicken, where dinner begins with the violent death of a chicken. Yum! As his new boss, Ellroy Cuzzins shows him this funky new concept in dining, Buster is wondering how great a choice this joint is. But a job’s a job right? Cash coming in means gas in the tank and a few bucks in the bank. So our hero goes on to fame and fortune, to become the black Colonel Sanders and life is fantastic!

No, Nope, Nonsense. What Buster does is set the whole damn place on fire and burns it to the ground. He hates the senseless killing of chickens, the food sucks, and even gives his dinner to a homeless guy. Buster may be a failure and a bumbler, but he’s got a good heart. Truth is, the fire was an accident and Buster nearly catches his death. Instead, he gets what’s behind door number two. What have we got for him, Johnny?

“Buster Nix you get the ability to change into a Big Lizard when necessary! In times of danger, when fear’s no stranger, you’ll be stronger, faster, and unbeatable. However, your wing wang will also be huge and flap around in the breeze. So make sure to cover it, please! I mean we got women and children here and stuff.”

Take a look at the cover photo. That’s Buster wearing a red cocktail dress while saving two children from a fire. A little unique, but he’s keeping himself under wraps and using his powers for good. Unfortunately, there’s another creature in town and he isn’t nearly as nice as Big Lizard. Elroy Cuzzins has become Big Chicken and one mean mofo in the bargain. His game plan is to fulfill a secret mission that will cause harm to many fine folks. In return, Elroy gets to ascend the ranks and Pick-A-Chicken returns to its former place of dubious glory.

If anybody is going to stop Big Chicken, it’s Big Lizard, but he’s not going to do it alone. Enter Buster’s former chicken crush “Socks” and boy wonder, Isaac who’s been living inside a religiously themed amusement park for the majority of his life. A veritable jack of all trades, this dark-skinned young man is amazing. I guarantee you’re going to like this guy! Buster doesn’t have any family, so these characters, including Hadrian the homeless are all he’s got to lean on. Good folks and colorful to the max. They probably aren’t  The “A” Team, but they just might be the B Team!

Plans are made, gears are greased, decoys set in place, but Big Chicken is a truly unruly dude…err, rooster! As time grows short the only thing left to do is have our competitors wade into the ring for the ultimate slug fest. Yee-Haw! But these are not infallible superheroes and shit goes sideways a time or three until things aren’t looking real good for Big Lizard. Even with his sturdy, reptile hide, the authors describe the battle sounding like “Somebody slapping a Naugahyde couch with a belt” Ouch! Anybody got a towel to throw in?

It’s up and down for Buster and Elroy, but somebody’s got to win. Oh, and did I mention there’s a strict time limit on the match? Well, consider it mentioned! What I can’t share with anyone is how this crazy cool entertaining book turns out. Because that would spoil y’all’s fun. A crime punishable by death or being run over by Big Chicken’s red convertible. Whichever comes first. Your mileage may vary!

Big Lizard is a 5 STAR reading experience that offers relief from the real life horrors that the world is facing right now! Frankly, I enjoyed the hell out of this book and know that this baby belongs in your hot little hands, come September. A couple other reviewerly thoughts: I do not think it’s by accident that the protagonists in Big Lizard are people of color and the bad guy is a rich, white corporation owner who deals with the devil for his success. Might be that Elroy Cuzzins is supposed to resemble Donald Trump a bit, might not. Heck of a satire if it is, though. Silly hats, racism, white fella out of control and going down the wrong road, funky family…

BUT, the most important thing is that Joe R. Lansdale, Keith Lansdale, and artist Jok who is contributing the color panels inside the book which are top secret until release time…have put together an excellent book! It’s gonna be a humdinger! So you might want to “Cluck  It Up” and order yourself a copy of BIG LIZARD real pronto like before that deep fried goodness is gone!

Want some more information? Contact Short Scary Tales Publications at:
Joe R. Lansdale at his page: on Twitter: @joelansdale or
Keith Lansdale at: You can also visit Keith on twitter and Instagram using the handle @KeithLansdale.
Jok is on Facebook
As always, thanks for checking out Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! It’s lonely down here in the Skullcave, so please visit me at  On  Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Facebook at:




Under Her Black Wings cover shot

Hello dear readers! My next book for review is the fabulously intense anthology Under Her Black Wings which is currently available from your favorite booksellers. I absolutely love this cover art by Corrine Halbert! In this case you can judge a book by its cover, because the stories inside will rip your face off. The contents include work by:






Be sure to check back often, or follow  to check out my upcoming review. It’s gonna be a THRILLER! 


The Horror Zine logo

Monday was wonderful this week! Editor in chief Jeani Rector replied to my recent submission by accepting ALL SIX POEMS for the December 2020 issue of her most excellent online magazine THE HORROR ZINE! I mean, wow! This is a chance for wider exposure for my work, so readers can get a solid flavor of what I do when writing dark poetry. Instead of having a grumpy, hazy Monday morning: I only needed one cup of coffee. That’s how happy I am to be included in this special, long running Zine. Check them out at:  for lots of good reading! They are currently open for submissions, as well. So if you’re looking for a new place to send your work, give them a try! 



In Darkness Delight Creatures of the Night cover

Edited by Andrew Lennon & Evans Light
Corpus Press
August 5, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello again from the Skullcave, home base of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! It’s funny, but I always read speculative fiction to get my daily dose of unreality, scary situations, and creepy weird stuff. But with the current world situation being so crazy and out of control, I feel like I’m going to horror for normality! Does anybody else feel this way, or is it just me? Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know.

Today’s subject for review comes from Corpus Press, a magical place that always manages to find the most disturbing tales for their anthologies! This review is of In Darkness Delight Vol. 2 Creatures of the Night, a superb collection that horror fans are going to eat up like the sharp toothed monster on the front cover. Y’all ready? Then let’s take a walk into the darkness.

Mason Morgan kicks things off in fine style with The People In The Toilet! Jimmy has serious problem on his hands. There are monsters in his bathroom that won’t let him use the facilities. They are a dangerous lot and to make matters worse, there’s another monster in the house. Jimmy’s abusive father is an angry, hating, hurting giant who terrorizes Jimmy, his mother, and even their tiny dog. In an alcoholic rage, he forces Jimmy to confront The People In The Toilet. When Jimmy folds, big bad dad steps up to the plate and confronts the invisible threat. Who’s right? Great, well thought out story.

Let’s be honest, we all call in to work once in a while, right? Sometimes we need a mental health day or have a 24 hour virus that ends up with us going fishing. In Scales by Christopher Motz, there is definitely a legitimate reason for Michael calling in. What starts out as a pesky itch in his feet quickly turns into something a whole lot worse. Michael is in horrible pain and can barely stand up. That’s when he can stay awake at all. Time slips by at an alarming rate until he has to call his boss with the news of feeling terrible and burning up with fever. He’s not lying either! The skin of his feet and lower legs is changing into…scales? WTF? Even in his demented fever dream state, Michael can see that other residents in the shabby apartment building are turning into bloody, insane wrecks, too. Well, he isn’t going down like that! Michael has a plan to cure himself and gets to work. Can he stop the virus before it’s too late? Let’s just say that Annie Wilkes would certainly be a fan of this story because it causes so much Misery.

Eddie Generous, champion of independent writers, editor in chief of Unnerving Magazine, and publisher of high quality books, contributes his story The Newel Post to this anthology. When Samantha Tremblay buys a very unique and ancient newel post at a flea market, it turns out to be more than just a piece of wood. The plan is to jazz up the stairway of Coyote Bed and Breakfast with it, and The Newel Post is certainly an attention grabber. Its intricate carving and obvious age bring about reactions from everyone who sees it. Things become quite lively, but not necessarily in a good way. While it brings lustful urges to Samantha, others are not so lucky. The carpenter who installed the post, her guests, and even her children, all have negative experiences that seem to be brought on by the newel post. Samantha tries to gloss things over, but the dreams don’t stop and neither does the trouble. If she doesn’t hurry up and do something, Samantha will find herself in a very tight spot. Good stuff!

Speaking of weird and unexplained things that happen in one’s house, you’ll want to check out Glenn Rolfe’s story Human Touch. You’ve heard the saying “No good deed goes unpunished?” Well, in Rosie’s case, it couldn’t be more true. When she tries to save an injured creature on the side of the road, it thanks her by going into destructo mode. Soon Rosie is trapped inside her own home and no one can save her, including her police officer boyfriend. Yikes! Despite all that, it looks like Rosie might make it to freedom! But, once again, things do not go according to plan…This one is a SCREAMER!

In Darkness Delight-Vol 2-Creatures Of The Night is an awesome collection of stories that rates five out of FIVE STARS and a place on the Skullcave’s Wall Of Fame! Beside being awesome, this anthology is HUGE, including stories from: Richard Chizmar-Josh Malerman-Evans Light, Frank Oreto, and Kev Harrison, just to name a few of the great writers that await you inside 300 plus pages of delightful darkness. I highly encourage lovers of horror and the unexpected to grab a copy of this fine volume at your bookseller of choice! If you haven’t yet read In Darkness Delight-Masters of Midnight I suggest you give that a whirl. And, for all of us who can’t wait for the arrival of Halloween? Doorbells At Dusk will make you smile, possibly in a demented way. But that’s okay, we’re all friends here.

Looking for more info? Then head on over to: Thanks again for visiting Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! If you could just take a moment to hit the “Like” button and consider following my blog here on WordPress, I’d sure appreciate it. Wishing you all health, safety, and happiness!