Poetry: Again by Brian James Lewis

Glad that JMWW published my poem about mental illness! This goes out to everyone dealing with lifelong issues and also their partners and caregivers. #MentalHealthAwareness

JMWW

It’s happening again
The thing I said I was done with
But anger fuels and rage overpowers
Every single good wish in the universe

Like a California wildfire
Taking down acres of trees
Flames radiating heat and smoke
Firetrucks driving through hell

Look out! You better save yourself
Because I’m on fire with anger
Rage boiling over the pot sides
Like tomato soup left alone

Stinking, smoking, ruining
Everything in my path
You try to hold up your hand
But I can’t stop this volcano

People like to throw words
Like PTSD around to be cool
PMS, OMG, LOL, WTF?
Pop culture is so damn lame

Like a slap in the dick
Poke in the eye with a stick
Truth is they don’t know shit
About pain, fear, and that rage…

That arrives breathing flames
An out of control freight train
Hot steel screaming off the rails
Smashing the flimsy…

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VOTING HAS BEGUN FOR THIS MONTH’S SHALLOW WATERS CHALLENGE ON CRYSTAL LAKE’S PATREON AND MY STORY “HEART AND SOUL” IS ENTRY NUMBER 12

September’s challenge was to write a short horror story around the theme “til death do we part”. My story (entry #12) “Heart and Soul” visits a couple on their 50th wedding anniversary. You don’t see that kind of dedication too much these days! What’s their secret? Well, there’s a lot of them actually and every marriage does require sacrifice…Find out how big by checking out my story on Crystal Lake’s Patreon! It only costs 5 bucks a month and offers a lot of great benefits, including mucho good reading! If you’re already a member, I’d sincerely appreciate one of your votes. Members can vote for up to three stories and help 3 emerging writers to move forward in their careers. Many thanks from myself and all the authors who’ve reached this level of the challenge!

“VENUM MALUM” BY MICHAEL R. COLLINS IS ANOTHER GREAT TITLE FROM INDEPENDENT HORROR PRESS GLOOM HOUSE PUBLISHING!

VENUM MALUM
Michael R. Collins
January 9 2022
Gloom House Publishing
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello horror fans! It’s your old pal Skull with a cool new read by Michael R. Collins that goes by the title Verum Malum. This is just one new selection from growing independent press Gloom House Publishing run by none other than James G. Carlson who is a fine author whose work has been nominated for multiple awards. Be sure to check him out at: gloomhouse@yahoo.com As an extra bonus, Gloom House is currently having a half press sale this month! That means you can sample a lot of cool writing for less or get more books on a budget. Nice! And now back to the subject of this review…

Venum Malum looks absolutely terrifying if you go by cover art alone, but this is a complex story that’ll have you feeling much more than just fear. Ben and Noah are a married couple who not only have to deal with negative vibes about their love, but also about their skin color. This leads to police not taking their complaints seriously and people treating them as “less than.” However, they do have some solid friends who are their chosen family. Jackie is one of those friends. Noah is upset that his husband hasn’t informed him about the cancer returning to his body and there is an argument. Turns out that many things aren’t as they seem and after an uninvited guest sparks things off, Ben tells Noah and Jackie about his secret dark past in which he belonged to a satanic cult. While that is scary, the worst part is that the group wants Ben back and is willing to stop at nothing in their pursuit of him. They’ve opened a portal to a demonic world called the Venum Malum that makes going to hell look like a Caribbean cruise. Group leader Marius believes that this will bring him unlimited evil powers, but will it really? Noah becomes a lion to save his man, but will that be enough to protect them? Will the police finally protect them without discrimination? Skull recommends you get a copy and find out. You won’t be disappointed!

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer rates Michael R. Collins’ Venum Malum a hearty FIVE STARS! There is a lot going on in these pages to keep readers riveted with the bonus of being very contemporary. Horror is often a great vehicle for social commentary and Michael R. Collins does a great job weaving his message into the pages of his work without having it feel preachy or unnatural. This book is a great read about the power of love, friendship, and how even a seemingly evil satanic rock band can turn out to be solid citizens. Always look beyond a book’s cover before making judgement. Get yours at: gloomhouse@yahoo.com and visit Michael R. Collins at: www.michaelrcollins.wordpress.com Thanks for stopping by the Skullcave! Stay tuned for more interesting news and reviews coming soon at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com   

EXCITING NEWS: MY FLASH HORROR STORY “HEART & SOUL” HAS MADE IT TO THE PATREON VOTING ROUND OF CRYSTAL LAKE’S SHALLOW WATERS CHALLENGE!

Wow, this is exciting! I’ve reviewed many excellent Crystal Lake titles and submitted to calls, but this is the first time I’ve made it onto the next round. WooHoo! I’ll post new information when it is time to read the stories and vote. For any of my friends out there who are subscribers to Crystal Lake’s Patreon, I would sincerely appreciate your vote! Many Thanks

GOOD NEWS! MY SHORT STORY “STILL A GREAT NIGHT TO BE A KID” HAS BEEN ACCEPTED FOR THE 2022 HALLOWEEN ISSUE OF THE SIRENS CALL E-ZINE!

Sure it seems far away while we’re still walking around in shorts and flip-flops, but Halloween is creeping towards us on silent feet. Fans of horror are running around full of excitement, like the handsome devil above. They’re eager to visit haunted houses, corn mazes, and read some scary stuff. To help those with a reading jones, there’s the annual Halloween Issue of The Sirens Call E-Zine. Not only that, but you can dig it for free!

My story “Still A Great Night To Be A Kid” is about a couple of teenage boys who are in a hurry to grow up. So they ditch their trick-or-treat gear and head for Hemlock’s House of Horrors to celebrate in style. But there’s something strange about the town’s newest attraction…

BESIDES READING AND WRITING, I ALSO ENJOY GUITARS AND “60 YEARS OF FENDER” BY TONY BACON IS A WINNER!

60 Years of Fender: Six Decades of the Greatest Electric Guitars by Tony Bacon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is part encyclopedia, part pizazz, and 1oo% fun! Wife got me this after I returned to guitar playing this year and wanted a different Fender/Squier guitar not the same old Stratocaster or Tele(which I still love) This is invaluable for today’s guitar shopper because depending on where you buy, they don’t always explain all the features of your potential instrument. I’ve read other books by Tony Bacon and always come away impressed with the depth of his knowledge. Get this! You’ll enjoy it for years and it makes a great coffee table book when you have company.



View all my reviews

KEEPING THINGS DARK, LET’S GO VISIT LUNAR BAY AND CHECK OUT “THE DARK MATTER OF NATASHA” BY MATTHEW R. DAVIS FROM EMERGENT EXPRESSIONS AND GREY MATTER PRESS!

THE DARK MATTER OF NATASHA
Matthew R. Davis
Emergent Expressions
June 6, 2022
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello there fans of dark fiction, it’s your old pal Skull with a new book from Grey Matter Press’ Emergent Expressions Signature Line that is some powerful stuff. Before I go any further, I do want to mention that The Dark Matter of Natasha is a heavy book that deals frankly with sex, depression, self-harm, and the consequences of one’s own actions. If these topics are triggers for you, please try a different title from this press. This is an excellent book by Matthew R. Davis, but not one you’ll walk away from unscathed. That being said, let’s check in with our narrator in Lunar Bay, a place by the sea that harbors a certain darkness…

People who have a close relationship with death have a certain charisma. They seriously do not give a fuck and live each day as if it’s their last, because it might well be. Even if she’s poor, and possibly homeless, Natasha has that flair and the narrator of this story finds it irresistible. Even though she’s not really his type and he might still have a solid girlfriend who will love him with all her heart, a chance meeting sets him chasing Natasha and the darkness she carries with her. Because along with that darkness and lack of restraint are large breasts, a voluptuous body, and every high school boy’s erotic desire: Free sex with no repercussions or responsibility. Natasha even tells him, “I ain’t your fucking girlfriend, mate!” To make things clear.

But to a virgin with no real close friends, and what appears to be a dire future cleaning up a trailer park, this might be as close as he gets to love and living out the fantasy he only hears people boasting about outside pubs. So, he adopts Natasha’s religion of smoking weed and listening to Slayer, the heavier the metal the better. Goodbye to inane pop music with all its bogus platitudes and jingle-jangle guitars. It’s balls to the wall, no fear, and fuck her for glory. But as the days pass, things he hadn’t seen before come to light. Like how no one really escapes Lunar Bay, that he’s just a teenage boy playing at being a tough, but deep inside he’s too scared, and the biggie: sex isn’t love. Natasha is so broken that she’ll never be able to love anyone, and the only thing she has a true desire for is something the narrator cannot give her.

When Caitlin, the girlfriend he thought he’d lost, zooms back into the picture, it looks like it’s all blue skies and hooray the gang’s all here, yeah? But sometimes things turn out much differently than expected. Will our lad be able to patch up things with Caitlin? Does Natasha finally make her escape from Lunar Bay? How many times can “hope spring eternal’ before it’s shot down by a mean bastard called life that carries a sawed-off shotgun? Oh, and one more thing: NATSHA LOVES SLAYER.

So, what does your old pal Skull say about The Dark Matter of Natasha by Matthew R. Davis? FIVE STARS! This is another excellent book from Emergent Expressions and Grey Matter Press that meets readers on so many levels. There is a lot to be learned here by inexperienced hearts and some of us older will nod our heads because we’ve been in this place. Maybe some still are. Better to learn now before the darkness takes control. Want more info and to grab your own copy? Go to: www.greymatterpress.com  Want to find out more about author Matthew R. Davis? Go to: www.matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress.com To keep getting news and reviews, follow your old pal Skull at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com

Brian James Lewis is a poet, writer, and reviewer of urban poetry and dark fiction. He has written for Hellnotes, Aphotic Realm, Gallows Hill, and his own site Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer. Brian’s most recent work is the immersive short story “Following My Destiny” about mass shooter Chance McCandless that gives readers a chilling look inside the criminal mind. Available NOW in Issue 22 of Trajectory Journal For more information message me or go to www.trajectoryjournal.com Thank you!

Matthew R. Davis

IF YOU’VE BEEN WATCHING THE GROWING NUMBER OF MASS SHOOTINGS AND WONDERING “WHAT KIND OF MONSTER DOES THIS?” THEN YOU’LL WANT TO READ MY IMMERSIVE FICTION PIECE “FOLLOWING MY DESTINY” FOR A FIRST PERSON VIEWPOINT. NOW AVAILABLE IN ISSUE #22 OF TRAJECTORY JOURNAL

Human beings want to understand things because it makes us feel more in control of our lives. There are countless books, articles, and blogs about how stuff works from automobiles to xylophones. But we don’t really know everything that happens inside the human brain. I know some of you are huffing and puffing, perhaps explaining the functions of neurons and ganglia to your computer screen, right now. And you’re right about the mechanics of those systems. But a list of parts doesn’t explain why a person who appears outwardly “normal” to the casual observer would want to murder a store full of people, a school full of children, or random individuals attending a concert or movie. That’s what makes the whole phenomenon so scary. How are we supposed to stop these killers if we have no idea where, when, or why they’re going to strike next?
 
I wrote “Following My Destiny” to give readers an idea of what life looks like through a mass shooter’s eyes. My original plan was to use the research I did in more of a creative nonfiction format, but the result was dryer than a high school book report. Frustrated, I talked with some trusted friends and fellow writers, who suggested an immersive fiction approach that made use of my research and my personal mental health issues with PTSD. The results were still pretty flat…Until I was wrapping up another late-night writing session and my hand wrote: The voices are always talking to me, no matter where I am…”
 
Chance McCandless had finally come to life! And once he started talking, there was no shutting him up. My day-to-day activities were constantly invaded by his observations and desires, delivered in a strangely dry and matter-of-fact voice. Sleep provided no escape, just frequent nightmares in which I was always running or drawing a bead on targets. Feelings of guilt, anger, lust, and shame kept washing through me as if I were the one committing crimes, not Chance. He brought me to the realization that mass shooters carefully plan their crimes, slowly accruing supplies, and studying targets. They also spend time figuring out how to be invisible or accepted on the surface while their brains whir like food processors inside their skulls. In our modern world where everything moves fast, and stores are understaffed, those that notice something off about a person are too busy to point it out. And if they do tell their manager or law enforcement, nothing good happens, so you can be damn sure that employee or fellow tenant will keep their head down and mouth shut in the future. The system is broken.
 
“Following My Destiny” begins with Chance telling us about the voices, his desires, and what he’d like to do to his father. Not that I’m endorsing violence, but his hatred is not without provocation. Also fueling the fire is Chance’s favorite podcast delivered by religious zealot Lediv Bloodsmoore who preaches Armageddon to his followers. Chance is desperate for recognition and is planning to do something “really big” in the nebulous future. But when an unexpected event occurs, he’s forced into action too soon. Without a fully developed plan, things speedily spin out of control. Bullets start to fly slicing open Chance’s detached view of life and making his ideas crumble. Should he give up like his friend Al, keep fighting to the bitter end, or make a run for it while he still can and continue “spreading the good word” across the nation?
 
Intrigued, interested, and wanting to read more? Excellent! What you’ll want to do next is order a copy of TRAJECTORY issue 22 spring 2022. Inside, you’ll find excellent poetry, short stories, and flash. There’s a photo documentary about the wall between Mexico and U.S., a piece about the legendary Charles Bukowski, and poetry so real that it hurts. In other words, this fully independent literary journal publishes real writing by real people, not just college kids who are guaranteed to get published because it’s part of the degree their parents are paying for. To date, TRAJECTORY issue 22 has sold out two print runs and is printing a third as you read this. To get your very own copy of this excellent literary journal you can contact:
ME through this blog. I have a limited quantity for sale at $20 each which includes domestic shipping and handling. You can also contact editor in chief Chris Helvey at: adobechris@hotmail.com to purchase issue 22. I also encourage you to check out TRAJECTORY’S website at: https://trajectoryjournal.com where you can read previously published work, sign up for the newsletter, and subscribe. All of which supports independent writers and poets, which is good for everybody. Thanks for reading this post from Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer. Skull and I would love it if you’d follow us at: https://damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com so we can continue to help independent writers and presses. Until next time, keep writing!

HERE IT IS! THE FULL DAMAGED SKULL WRITER REVIEW OF T.C. WEBER’S FIVE STAR NOVEL “THE SURVIVORS!

The Survivors
T.C. Weber
May 5, 2022
Solstice Publishing
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Howdy horror readers, it’s your old pal Skull with the full review I promised of T.C. Weber’s great new book, The Survivors! If you like stories where women are the heroes, warriors, and healers, then get yourself a copy of this unique, futuristic read. This tale of people living in a post-apocalyptic world transports readers to what remains of the earth after major climate issues and the view is not pretty. But it is interesting. So buckle up, buttercups and let’s take a ride…

We meet narrator, Lucy, as she’s climbing aboard a small boat with another member of her small group of survivors. These are people who are existing long after we are gone in so much fossil fueled dust. Nobody is whipping out their cell and clicking the GPS app, kicking over their motor and zooming across the lake. Because well, they can’t. No electricity, which means no refrigeration, light, power, or any of the creature comforts we take for granted.  Everything is done manually and with great effort. Things have returned to almost caveman status, with the occasional relic from the “Vanished Ones” People roam in tribes and survive on what they can kill or find to eat. They also can’t be out much in broad daylight because it is very hot, most likely due to nearly zero ozone layer.

Lucy’s Aunt Irma is a warrior woman with animal like smarts. Everything is handled by force and anything in her way is beaten into submission. This is a handy skillset to have but might is not always right. She and Lucy, who is a healer, clash frequently. Still, they seem to be doing okay with shelter and plentiful food until huge storms come and destroy everything they have. Back to square one, everybody! They must travel to find something better, but they’ve got a pregnant woman, an infant, and children slowing them down. Not to mention a couple teenage boys who are more concerned with their sexual desires than survival. The dangers are many and those without focus turn themselves into targets.

Unlike Irma, Lucy is interested in learning. She wants to find out more about the exalted “Vanished Ones” because she is sure that they were much smarter than she is and knew the secrets to living in harmony with each other. Weber’s approach here brings a perfect bittersweet humor to the story. I mean, here we are reading this in a time when mass shootings have become a scary new norm. Most of the crimes are driven by anger and hate. Gas is heading for ten bucks a gallon, yet huge trucks and muscle cars are selling like hotcakes. Guys sit in their cars with the motor running for an hour while the family shops. “We never even saw it coming…” Seriously? Sorry! Back in the story, Lucy begins to have revelations from what she learns as they continue to travel. Some people evolve and others fail to change. Those who resist change too much are not likely to continue the journey. Patience is indeed a virtue, and a person will be tested time and time again. Things get very dark for a bit, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the light of the ALL…

So what does your old pal Skull think of The Survivors? I give it a 5 STAR RATING and a spot on the Skullcave’s “Wall of Fame”! This is a great and complex story with wide appeal to readers from teen to adult. Climate change has been scientifically proven to be a real thing. There will be a time when life as we know it may cease. I wonder how smart the “Vanished Ones” will be before then? Get your copy of T.C. Weber’s The Survivors with the following links:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZL9BPCR/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZLM43H2/

Want to learn more about T.C. Weber? https://www.tcweber.com/, or contact the author at https://www.tcweber.com/contact.

Want to follow your old pal Skull? www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com

Or follow my mortal host Brian James Lewis on Twitter@skullsnflames76

Author T.C. Weber