Review Of VISCERA by Jessica B. Bell from Sirens Call Publications

Jessica B. Bell
October 3 2016
Sirens Call Publications
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

If you like horror and love weird, you are going to want this collection of scary, creepy, funkiness from Jessica B. Bell! For those of us who are looking for maximum bang for the buck, Viscera is the answer to your prayers. This collection is HUGE! I mean, seriously, this review is only going to be a taste of the delights that await you upon purchase of this awesome collection. The book opens with the famous Stephen Crane quote about the beast eating its own bitter heart, which to me, is usually a signal that some great reading lies ahead. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the unique titles and the writing that went with them. Unfortunately, since JournalStone has such a wide reach, we’ve had to censor ourselves a bit so that we can reach all of our readers in their comfort zone, so don’t be mad if we can’t write something exact. We want you to have the widest market possible.

Let’s get to the stories, shall we? “Morbo’s Threat” is a fun and slightly terrifying tale about how magicians get the animals they use in their act. In the weird vein we have some twisted takes on the whole princess and prince deal. What if a girl desperate for love goes to the pond and starts kissing frogs to find her prince, only to find she really digs frogs? Then you’d have You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs. If the reverse happened, you might have You Can Take the Boy Out of the Swamp… Good stuff! The collection begins with “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before” which feels like total old-school horror. Explorers in the jungle contract illnesses and are saved by natives, only to contract an even more serious disease which is fatal and has bizarre symptoms. I felt like I was reading an Edgar Rice Burroughs piece! Until the joke at the end.

Werewolves…Hey, been there, done that! Right? WRONG! Try “Territorial Pissings” on for size. It is not the same old boring jive. This story is irreverent and funny to twisted people like us. To picture in your head what the author is describing is entertaining to say the least. There are also larger pieces like “The Best Medicine” where technology and medicine, that big pharmacological machine, screws the world up on a major scale. Apocalyptic, frightening, and tugs at the heart strings until you scream. Maybe the most scary thing is, how can we be sure that’s not happening right now? We can’t!

There are also very short pieces like “Banshee” which also features the beautiful and frightening sketch of a banshee by Nika Davitashvili which I really love. She is beautiful, with needle-sharp teeth and screaming curses. My favorite illustration in Viscera! I would frame it and hang it on my wall if I could!

The last story I’m mentioning in this review is “Paraxogenisis,” which is one badass horror tale about a very unusual birthing during which the husband dies and an interesting baby is born. I’ve tried, but I can’t forget it!

Once again, this collection shows off the benefits of being published by an independent press. Unless you’re a huge star writer, you can’t do this kind of thing with big presses that have to answer to uptight corporate heads that just don’t get it. Viscera feels so fresh, startling, and oddly delicious, that you might just miss your train in the morning. Or you could maybe read it on the train as well! Just don’t miss your stop.

About Brian Lewis

Brian James Lewis is an emerging published writer and poet who, after spending many years of writing and saving his work for “the right time,” finally arrived after he could no longer do heavy garage work due to spinal injuries. Writing turned the situation into a much better thing than it originally was and has kept Brian from doing anything fun, like driving his car off a bridge. Currently Brian’s poem, “Garage Sense,” can be found on Trajectory Journal’s web page, and his short story, “Finally,” which is about a mentally ill homeless man who shoots a liquor store owner, will be coming out in the Fall issue of The Iconoclast. Besides writing, Brian repairs and uses old typewriters, including his star typewriter: a Royal KMM that was previously owned and used by Rod Serling when he lived on the west side of Binghamton, NY. Even though he loves music and writing, the biggest part of Brian’s heart belongs to his wife, Michelle. They live next door to an abandoned K-Mart with their rescue animals in the industrial city of Endicott, NY. He can be contacted @skullsnflames76 on Twitter, or check out his struggling blog at

GO CHUCK BERRY! a poem in celebration of a Rock and Roll legend

GO CHUCK BERRY!  3/18/17-Poem by Brian James Lewis

Duck walking in a white suit
making that guitar do what he meant
Rhythm pumping like the pistons
in a V-8 motor going full tilt

Maybe showing us that
white men couldn’t play shit
or maybe not. Chuck was
a lean, black, question mark

His cruelly handsome face could
smile or give a tight lipped smirk
not to mention that sneer or
those expressive rolling eyes

That liked to wink at us
or run up and down the thighs
of a hot blonde in a too-tight skirt
because our brown eyed handsome man

Had an appetite for the flesh
no different from any other musician
He just got caught at it while Elvis
and Jerry Lee could sneak by

Don’t waste time asking why he
had to hide in the Chess basement
At least he wasn’t a lie or fake
with people to run damage control

Chuck Berry was real Rock n Roll
blazing a trail for many to follow
Love him or hate him but know
he wasn’t there to take your shit

Crow Shine Review On Horror Review Now!

Alan Baxter
November 11, 2016
Ticonderoga Publications
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

 This collection of intense speculative fiction from Alan Baxter is definitely one of a kind. Reason being, that Crow Shine is filled with all kinds of different stories that are not connected very much setting-wise, but are strongly connected by the concepts underneath them. What Baxter’s stories, and the novella length The Darkest Shade of Grey illustrate is that it is not always smart to take things at face value. There are a lot of forces controlling the world around us and while they are close by, it takes a little digging or sometimes a bad mistake to reveal them. Also, many of the people who seem lowest on the totem pole to our uneducated eyes are often the most powerful. Those of us who think we’re smart and know what we’re doing are often messing ourselves instead. A good example of this is Beat of the Pale Wing when the mobsters who are using the demon/entity to clean up their dirty jobs and abusing their power by hurting those that love them get schooled by a stronger, more passionate woman who turns the force they’ve been exploiting back on them.

The Darkest Shade of Grey shows us that angels are not just the gentle and peaceful creatures depicted on Christmas cards and in gift stores. Sometimes they operate like “company men” and have to handle a “problem” just like mafia hit men. They’re not so saintly after all! Tiny Lives is a beautifully sad story about a father who is sacrificing his life to save his youngest daughter by making toys that are alive. I took away some social commentary there too. The story showed that while many of the wealthy people were happy to spend a large amount of money on amazing toys, no one seemed very interested in paying for a life-saving surgery. So this selfless father had to sell his life in order for his daughter to live. Just kind of brings to mind some of the U.S.’s mega-rich families like the Kardashians or Trumps who make news when they buy a five thousand dollar outfit of see-thru clothing for Kim to wear (again) to display her expensively altered self, but not on a replacement kidney for a little child.

Crow Shine’s title story is a great mix of old and new. A young man learning to play classic acoustic blues guitar like Robert Johnson from his grandfather gets a horrible shock when the old man dies suddenly in a fire caused by his moonshine still. At first Clyde grieves, then he rebuilds and remakes the shine that his grandpa refused to let him have because it was “his curse.” Something Clyde just interprets as his grandfather was a bit of a boozer. So he’s real proud of himself when he’s able to cook up a batch of this magical brew. His companion for all this is an ancient old crow who seems to have a connection to it. The shine does more than just give a person a buzz. It gives the maker the ability to steal life force from other humans. Clyde kills his girlfriend via shine and blues playing because he takes too much of her away until she’s gone. That brings him to his senses and he tries to destroy the dangerous set up. But Crow stops him and sets things up to wait for the next customer. Very cool riff on the whole making a deal with the devil at the crossroads thing that is part of the delta blues legends.

There are nineteen stories in Crow Shine which means this review has barely scratched the surface of the treasure within this excellent book that I highly recommend this to all our readers! All the stories are strong and the variety is amazing but stays on target. This will be a pleasure that you will read for years to come. Remember, things move fast these days, so grab a copy or buy an e-book of Crow Shine while it’s available.