Celebration of National Poetry Month Continues with a Video Interview and Poem HEY CAN LADY on THE HICKORY STUMP MAGAZINE!

Hey Can Lady


Hey Can Lady – I wonder if you were ever anybody’s sexy baby
and if you were, what went wrong?

Those cast off clothes you wear and the state of your hair tells me
that it don’t matter if people stare while…

You flap like a flag in giant size pants and too-big shoes – A grumbling
troll glaring under a knit hat

“Back the hell off! These cans are mine. Go take your show on the road!”
Is all I got back when I said hello

No time for friends when you’re walking every city street in sun, rain, snow
and sleet with a single goal in mind –

To cram every stinky, sticky trash bag on your rusty shopping cart full
of cans you exchange for cash

So you can eat breakfast in a restaurant and buy all the things you want
How far does that money go?

These days to cut down your costs for cigarettes, you pick butts and roll
your own from other people’s waste

You’ve got all the rudiments down, yet you never smile and always frown
even while you’re pissing on my lawn

Hey Can Lady – I wonder if you were ever anybody’s sexy baby
and if you were, what went wrong?


About Brian James Lewis  0 Articles
Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet, writer, and book reviewer. After an accident left him with spinal injuries and mental health problems, Brian found a second life in writing. His work has appeared in Econoclash Review, Bards &Sages Quarterly, and Trajectory. SFPA member. Reviews at Hellnotes and http://damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com.





PALACE OF GHOSTS by Thomas S. Flowers Is An Amazing Fusion of Horror and The Hell of PTSD That Makes For One Terrifying Read!

Palace Of Ghosts cover shot


Palace Of Ghosts
Thomas S. Flowers
Shadow Work Publishing
March 3, 2019
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Holy horror guys and gals! I just finished reading Palace Of Ghosts by Thomas S. Flowers and was absolutely floored by how good it is. Looks like another hit for Shadow Work Publishing! Seriously, the closer I got to the conclusion with my reading, the more I had to keep going. This book will make you stay up late and find excuses during the day to get back inside Amon Palace. Flowers’ writing is sharp and insightful with an incredible eye for detail. Descriptions are great and not cluttered, while conversations bloom organically. From the minute you start reading, the buildup of suspense is done masterfully. While I could go on for a long time about how great this book is, I think you’d rather take a peek inside, right? Okay then, follow me and stay away from the red door!

Palace of Ghosts starts off with one Dr. Frederick Peters talking with police detectives. It seems that something has gone seriously wrong during a special study he was doing with four veterans of the Iraq conflicts. The police are having a hard time believing Dr. Peters in light of the knowledge they have about the big old mansion he invited his patients to. The place goes by the name Amon Palace, a location regarded as being strange and creepy. Not exactly the ideal joint to house men and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If that wasn’t enough, Peters keeps telling them that he rented Amon Palace from its current owner and that it was staffed with a cook and a caretaker. But how could that be? The huge old house has been abandoned for over thirty years! Is it possible that, somehow, both parties are right?

Two things are indisputable. Amon Palace has been reduced to a charred husk by fire and six people are missing. What the hell happened? While one officer just wants to slap the stunned doctor into a cell, the other decides they should at least tape the guy’s story while he’s still talking. The parents of these people are at the station looking for their children or at least some answers. But the tale that Peters tells them is something out of an opium dream or a badly deranged mind to say the least. Flowers uses multiple points of view to give us the best overall view of the sequence of events once Dr. Peters gets the ball rolling. So you better sit down, shut up, and hang on because Palace Of Ghost is one hell of a story!

Four veterans arrive at Amon Palace on Galveston Island to spend a week with their psychotherapist doing some really intense work on the sticking points in their recovery from PTSD. That’s the plan, plain and simple. But even just pulling up to Amon Palace, they all feel that something is very different about this house. Marcus Pangborn tells the other three what he’s learned about the house and its mysterious past. Built by Sir Christopher Driscoll in the late 1800’s as a sanctuary he could be comfortable in as a leper, the house survived a horrible flood in 1900 even though the owner disappeared. It was rumored that Driscoll practiced the black arts and there was a red door with strange symbols carved into it which seemed to confirm this. Through the years, Amon Palace was passed to various Driscoll family members who all seemed to be rather eccentric. In 1963 the huge estate got some media attention when Amy Grice, a family friend, committed some grisly murders there. Thereafter, people believed that Amon Palace was haunted by multiple demons and not a wise destination choice.

What a great location for some very volatile people to hang out, right? Oh, and they’re locked inside. If they leave the property, the patients forfeit their last chance at returning to any sort of “normal life.” Dr. Peters is confident that he can “fix” these long-term victims of PTSD by using some revolutionary techniques. For Brad Myers, Samantha Green, Andy Lovejoy, and Marcus Pangborn this chance seems too good to pass up, so they accept the rules and conditions. Wouldn’t it be great to not always be an outsider? Or to not be afraid all the time? Maybe they could actually have relationships with other people that don’t end in fierce arguments. And maybe, just maybe, they could relax and finally be…happy. There is a LOT riding on successful completion of the program and Dr. Peters has the only key to the very sturdy oak doors.

It doesn’t take long for the idyllic veneer of the place to crack and unexplainable things to start happening at an alarming rate of speed. Dr. Peters keeps telling the patients that nothing can hurt them while they’re inside Amon Palace, but he hasn’t been totally honest about a lot of things. How come it’s so cold inside if just outside is a Texas summer? Who are the caretakers of the property really? What’s going on in the freaky library? Maybe the biggest question of all is, should the patients open the red door or just walk away? The answers seem simple but not when Amon Palace is at the peak of its powers and growing stronger all the time.

The verdict? Five Stars all the way! Palace Of Ghosts is also going directly to the “Wall of Fame” after I finish writing this review. If you are a fan of Hell House by Richard Matheson or enjoyed the recent Netflix adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” then you will LOVE this excellent novel by Thomas S. Flowers! He combines a heartfelt addressing of PTSD with a horribly shocking story that literally gallops into its ending. It feels like a ride on some heavy drugs and gave this reader a wobbly, hallucinogenic feeling which was really frightening at times. You’re freaking out reading Flowers’ words, but unable to put the book down because you need to know what happens! Everyone should get themselves a copy of Palace Of Ghosts especially those looking to understand the mysteries of PTSD. I feel genuine gratitude that someone who understands has written a book like this and think that others like me will feel the same.

Morgan K. Tanner Brings Something New To The Party With His Debut ” AN ARMY OF SKIN”

An Army of Skin covershot


An Army Of Skin
Morgan K. Tanner
January 14, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Howdy friends! We’ve been busy getting our heads twisted by this heavy new novella by Morgan K. Tanner. It goes by the name An Army Of Skin and let me tell you, this book is going to mess with your mind! M.R. Tapia lent his skills to the production of An Army Of Skin and you can feel it. Tanner has a distinctive style all his own, but they are kindred spirits. If you’ve enjoyed anything from Hindered Souls Press, I guarantee you’re going to dig this cool read. Let’s check it out!

When we first meet Trevor King, he’s covered in blood and frustrated by his lack of sculpting skills. Everything went to shit after he lost his mother to a malignant brain tumor and it feels like he can’t do anything right. Not only that, but Trevor believes that her death was planned by the one person who should have been helping her, Dr. James Mellick. However, making this kind of accusation is pretty damn complicated and Trevor needs to have solid evidence to show the authorities before he sounds the alarm. Dr. Mellick isn’t just some random bad doctor, he’s also Trevor’s general practitioner. Could the very same man who treats Trevor for his anxiety issues be a killer?

Not only that, but Dr. Mellick also employs Trevor as a receptionist at his office and gives him preferred treatment, much to the frustration of office manager, Veronica. It’s obvious that Trevor isn’t a particularly good fit for his position, but that never lands him in hot water. He’s constantly coming in late and in rough shape from his nightly activities. And those nightly activities aren’t the hobbies of the average young man…Instead of a few pints with the lads and a roll in the hay with a beer goggle beauty, Trevor is busy picking up prostitutes and the odd homeless person for…um, sculpting purposes. Where did Trevor come by such a unique and grisly hobby? From his his benefactor, Dr. Mellick, of course!  This makes Trevor wonder even more about what the good doctor up to. Who the hell hands their employee a strange textbook on how to create sculptures from dead bodies, Johnny Friendly?

He starts this process by flaying his victims alone in a storage unit owned by Dr. Mellick. But before long, Trevor is joined by some unusual helpers. The skins that Trevor has freed from their cumbersome bodies are coming back to a different kind of life than they previously led. The main thing being that they are subservient to Trevor or whoever releases them from bondage. At first, Trevor thinks this is kind of cool, but soon he’s wondering if empowering these skins was such a great idea. Whether he wants to stop his activities or not, it quickly becomes apparent that the growth of  An Army Of Skins is out of his hands. They are more powerful than he ever thought possible and damn near indestructible. Plus, he needs their help to avenge his mother’s death.

Just when it looks like Trevor has Dr. Mellick squarely in his sights, the good doctor slips away from the office and starts spending a lot of time at St. Luke’s Hospital for the Insane. This is a bit strange, since the place has been closed for many years. What’s left is a vast derelict wasteland that any self-respecting citizen would want to avoid. Trevor tries to find out what Mellick is up to, but playing detective nearly costs him his own life. Not exactly what he was planning on!

Things continue to ramp up in intensity on both sides, until the story is racing along at breakneck speed. Somebody breaks into Trevor’s house after he finds some very incriminating paperwork in Dr. Mellick’s office while pulling patient files. Talk about hitting the bullseye! But his findings give him more information than Trevor was expecting and it it leaves him feeling oddly conflicted. Instead of a simple takedown, things get twisted until Trevor seems to be bent on destroying  himself. Then when he finally does contact the police, things turn out a LOT differently than the reader expects.

Wow! 5 Stars for this original and captivating novella by Morgan K. Tanner! Thanks to M.R. Tapia for helping this fine piece of writing emerge into the world. An Army of Skin is a great read and the cover will keep people on the train from bothering you as well! Available for purchase at your favorite booksellers and at Amazon.com. Want to find out what Morgan K. Tanner is up to next? Then follow him at: www.morgantanner.com or on Twitter @morgantanner666

National Poetry Month: Sara Tantlinger Brings Us Poem on the 1893 World’s Fair and a Discussion on Involvement of Serial Killer H.H. Holmes #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Cool Post Celebrating National Poetry Month That Will Make You Want Your Own Copy of THE DEVIL’S DREAMLAND by Sara Tantlinger!

Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!

Natl Poetry Month pen

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more by writers I admire and adore, and also some new poetry writers as well, so stop by often. Tuesday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here and yesterday we read some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich, which you can enjoy here.

Today, Sara Tantlinger joins us with a poem from her Bram Stoker Award nominated recent collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which features poems surrounding serial murderer H.H. Holmes. We are able to read the poem below as well as a discussion by Sara about the themes and locale of the piece – the 1893 World’s Fair…

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Curiosities Issue 5 cover shot


Curiosities Issue #5
Edited by Kevin Frost
Winter 2019
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

This is a great time to be a fan of speculative fiction! A big reason for that is the many cool independent publications that have really raised the bar for what to expect in exchange for your hard-earned cash. Curiosities is certainly one of them! The paperback edition is a thing of beauty with amazing cover art of the airships that appear in Lady with a Thousand Teeth by George Edwards Murray. I also like the highly detailed title page, along with the woodcut accents that end each story. The choice of Tudor Perpendicular font for the story titles is also a delight and gives one the feeling of time travel. But enough about the outside, let’s see what’s inside!

The first story is All She Needs by the magical Madeleine Swann. It is a tragic tale told by the maid of a formerly very ritzy home. Little Miss is a 1920’s era flapper with a grotesque secret that some people find very attractive under the right circumstances. Maid Gladys is perhaps the only true friend the young woman has. She believes that she’s doing the right thing by hiding the young woman away. But is she really? A great story that echoes Swann’s love of flappers and the jazz age!

I also really enjoyed the interview with Madeleine Swann by Andrew McCurdy that’s also included in this issue of Curiosities. In it, there’s discussion of the author’s love of the 1920’s and 1960’s, hence her fusion look of “psychedelic flapper!” They also talked about Swann’s book Fortune Box , a collection of interconnected short stories about a mysterious company that delivers packages throughout the city with very mixed results. Her love of Bizarro and Weird writing, along with a short list including some of her favorite authors was great to read about as well.  Fun and informative stuff! Madeleine Swann can be found on Twitter @MadeleineSwann and on her site http://madeleineswann.wordpress.com

Speaking of the jazz age, make sure to check out Samantha Lee’s short story Take Five. A musician by the name of Zoot, eases himself into a very cool club and enjoys digging a hot jazz band. When he meets the owner of the club, things start getting kind of funky, but Zoot can’t resist the chance to sit in with such a great band. It’s then that he realizes that what he thinks is wonderful, might not truly be so. Just when he thought he’d reached his desired destination, too! Well, the Devil is a trickster.

Once again, I find myself reading another excellent short story by Gary Buller! His contribution to Curiosities number 5 is A Light In The Darkness. A poor lonely hiker gets lost when he’s forced to make a journey without his usual companion. Luckily, he finds an inn just as he was giving up hope. Not many of us would fancy the name of the place, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least it’s warm and dry inside The Snake Inn. Still, something is off about the place and the weary traveler suspects foul play. He starts poking about and makes a frightening discovery, but will he live to tell anyone about it? Gary Buller is a very prolific author and a friendly guy. Be sure and look him up on Twitter @garybuller. Check out his special project Mechanisms of Despair and find out how you can make a difference!

Barbed Wire Fence by Santiago Eximeno is a short, but very intense piece about war. How far will a country go to win? It’s one thing to give your armed forces the best weapons possible, but how far can people be modified before they stop being true humans? I could feel the cold rain and smell the fear in this story.

Last, but certainly not least, is the story that appears to have inspired the cover art. Lady with a Thousand Teeth by George Edwards Murray. When I started reading this, I had an entirely different vision in my head. So when I saw the lady, I was blown away. There’s a lot going on in this steampunk apocalyptic tale that mirrors the machinations of war into a gypsy caravan tent. Narrated by a scholar, who’s out of work, this piece steadily moves forward until there’s no place to hide.

All in all, Curiosities issue 5 is a FIVE STAR experience that I heartily encourage lovers of speculative fiction to check out! Also for parents, or those who prefer a style of horror aimed at thinking folks-this collection is for YOU. There’s not a lot of blood or profanity to be offended by, but there is 100% pure entertainment that will keep you happy for hours. Get a copy today! You’ll be glad you did! Available from Amazon.com and your favorite booksellers.     




Weird Mask Hard Boiled issue 15 - Copy

Hello my friends! It is so nice to be back and have good news to share. Most of us are grateful for Friday, but my day got even better when I opened the mailbox to find this cool publication inside! Raymond Chandler on the front cover let me know that Weird Mask issue 15 The Hard Boiled Issue, had arrived. Not only that, but my short story “By The Book” is INSIDE! It’s a quick peek into the world of a repo man doing his dirty, but necessary job. No sparkles required. 

For those of you who enjoy the pulpy, the weird, the spicy, WEIRD MASK is for you! I’m doing a more in depth feature about this fun little magazine very soon, but until then, get yourself a copy of this hot off the press issue. Not only is there great writing inside, but you also get one classic short and some very vintage advertising to set the mood. Check it out at weirdmask.com and see what’s new on Twitter @weirdmaskzine  Want to subscribe? Then head on over to their Patreon site http://www.patreon.com/weirdmaskzine and tell ’em Damaged Skull Writer sent ya!