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!