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 www.kandishapress.com or visit www.yolandasfetsos.com , www.tina-isaacs.com, http://someonereadthis.com , @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: www.sstpublications.co.uk
Joe R. Lansdale at his page: www.joerlansdale.com on Twitter: @joelansdale or www.facebook.com/JoeRLansdale/
Keith Lansdale at: www.facebook.com/lansdaleKeith/ You can also visit Keith on twitter and Instagram using the handle @KeithLansdale.
Jok is on Facebook www.facebook.com/jok.laproductora
As always, thanks for checking out Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! It’s lonely down here in the Skullcave, so please visit me at http://damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com  On  Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Facebook at: www.facebook.com/DamagedSkullWriterandReviewer




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 http://damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com  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:   https://www.thehorrorzine.com/  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!