LET THERE BE DARK by Tim McWhorter and Hydra Publications, Brings The Fear In Eight Artfully Written Horror Shorts!

Let There Be Dark covershot


Let There Be Dark
Tim McWhorter
Hydra Publications
August 21, 2018
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello friends and fans out there in Reader Land! I’ve got a book here that I’m really excited to tell you about. Let There Be Dark by Tim McWhorter is a seriously badass collection of short horror fiction that will rock your world! Hydra Publications has put together a fierce looking book from the author of Bone White and Blackened that delivers the goods. Just look at that evil raven on the cover! All ready? Good, because we’re diving in!

One of the most impressive powers great writers have, is to turn everyday things into shit your pants nightmares. Tim McWhorter does it with the first sentence of Rope Burns.                                                                                                                                                    “A fucking Walgreens? Are you kidding me right now?”
Nicely done. So we walk into one of the most familiar places in the U.S of A and smack into the Salem Witch Trials. Well, the location of them anyway. John and his girlfriend are on a research trip to check out the sites of horrible doings to the witches of Salem, Mass. Unfortunately, things have not been going to plan, or meeting expectations. That is, until John uses the rest room and undergoes a trial of his own…

How about a nice tale about a blue ribbon creeper? Would that shake your moneymaker? Better get ready, because it’s time for No Saints Here. I think a lot of people worry about what home improvement contractors do in your house besides knocking down walls. Are your possessions safe? What about your family? Especially if you’re blessed with a highly attractive mate. I mean, you can’t watch the workers all the time. Clancy is a creepy contractor who makes the best out of life’s opportunities. He likes to make it sound a little nicer, by calling what he does surprise dates. You get where things are going? Yeah, yuck city. But when Clancy stalks his latest target, nobody follows the script. Way too many people show up at this little get together. Until the biggest question is: Will there be any survivors?

One more peek inside? Okay, but this time we’re going into The Dark Side! It’s one of those cool new attractions that are sweeping the nation, blackout houses. First it was over the top haunted houses, but now you go into a completely dark place and have to find your way out, in complete darkness. Sounds fun, huh? Then you step right on in there! I’ll wait outside, thank you very much. This is the same thought Sky is having when her boyfriend Brent drags her off to one of these places. She suffers from high anxiety and in all honesty should NOT be going to this attraction. But she does so to please her dorky boyfriend. That’s nice of her and all, but not wise. Her reward is a terrifying end. Or is it?

More frightening tales await you inside Let There Be Dark by Tim McWhorter. Just released from Hydra Publications and chilling realistic. These things could happen to YOU! In fact I’ve had an experience that shares some parallels with The Dark Side. True story: Some friends of mine thought it would be fun to take me to a haunted house. Unfortunately they didn’t know about my anxiety disorders. So, in the middle of a haunted house I totally locked up. Closed my eyes, couldn’t move a step more. I had to be dragged out of the building by two men dressed as clowns. I didn’t regain full bodily control until I was outside and my emergency meds kicked in. What I’m saying is that Tim McWhorter knows people very well. It’s one big thing that makes him a great writer. He knows what’s going to whip us off our feet. Every one of the stories in Let There Be Dark happens in a different place with unique characters. My favorite thing is how twisted the stories are by the time you reach the end. Take note: The ending you expect to happen is not what you’re going to read! This beauty gets FIVE STARS all day, every day. Whether you’re familiar with Tim’s previous work or not, make sure to grab a copy of Let There Be Dark! It’ll scare you in a whole new way! Available NOW from Barnes & Noble (free shipping for members!) and Amazon.

Welcome to ‘Jubilee’!

I saw a little peek of this frightening book and I think it’s going to be a home run! Oh, and if you smell peppermint? BEWARE!

Pint Bottle Press Blog

The new novel Jubileeby Vic Kerry is available now from Pint Bottle Press!

Jubilee coverBirmingham, Al, 9/12/18 — There’s a killer on the prowl in rural Alabama where secrets are buried deeper than the bodies. Vic Kerry’s latest novel Jubilee, out now from Pint Bottle Press, blends wry Southern charm with suspense and intrigue wrapped in a plot full of candy-cane twists.

Synopsis: In a small Southern town, a father desperate to find his prodigal daughter meets three cash-strapped old maids with something to hide, and a mysterious man driven by an insatiable lust to kill. Welcome to Jubilee, Alabama, where death comes to stay for a spell.

“A thriller that simmers to a satisfying, explosive boil!”

– Russell James, author of The Playing Card Killer.

Jubilee is the kind of story that grabs the readers and shakes them like a rabid dog. Kerry does an excellent…

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Cover Reveal – Dead of Night 2018

Looks like a Cool Read!


Well, hello!

I have a brief announcement.

More than eight years on from it’s original release on Damnation Books, my novella Dead of Night will soon see the light of day once more. Completely re-edited and re-vamped, it features new and exclusive cover art by none other than the Dark Scrybe himself, Greg Chapman.

And here we are.


Dead of Night is available for pre-order now on ebook and paperback.

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Supporting the Home Team and Very Much Enjoying My Copy of “A New York State Of Fright” From HWA-NY!

HWANY NY State of Fright covershot

Boy, am I glad that I ordered my copy of this fine collection of stories via Barnes & Noble.com! It arrived in perfect condition and may I say, this cover is a beauty. As a resident of the Empire State and a Horror writer and reviewer, I wanted to see how we stacked up. So far, I’m three stories in and every one of them has been great! Also enjoyed Editor James Chambers’ foreword. Besides being colorful, it also explains that all proceeds from the sales of A NEW YORK STATE OF FRIGHT will be donated to GIRLS WRITE NOW http://www.girlswritenow.com  This program helps girls in their teens to get mentorship and break into the big world of publishing. The program especially targets girls who would not have a chance otherwise to do these things otherwise and that is pretty dang awesome! So not only are you getting 300 pages of great writing, but you are also helping the next crop of great new writers to step up. Hippocampus Press has done a beautiful job with these books, making them a joy to read and something that will look great on your bookshelf or coffee table! 

Just a few last words-This book is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. However, Amazon made the road rocky by cancelling pre-orders, so I would encourage you to go with B & N. This is also not an “official” HWA anthology, but it measures up to everything I’ve read in the past. Plus, by helping GIRLS WRITE NOW, you are going to give someone the proper outlet for their feelings, hopes, and dreams. Let’s crush the crack pipes and open those brains up for business! 


Summer Writing Time Almost Over

Summer writing

I like summer writing time a lot. It’s about the only way I can really multi-task because whatever I’m doing outside, even just taking a nap like Murphy Brown here, I can still say I was getting some fresh air and sunshine. Neither of those things is particularly abundant in the Skullcave, where most of the magic happens.

Lately I have gone back to writing with pencil in notebooks and I think it has helped me reconnect with my writing. Somehow the eraser always runs out before the lead, but that’s okay. It also brings me back to the original way I started writing. The days when I thought I was destined to become the next Kerouac. I have boxes of full notebooks to go through when I have time. Sometimes there are a few treasures in them. Other times, it is more like journal reading.

Sometimes I do take one of my portable typewriters outside to the porch, roll a sheet of paper in and see what happens.  Often, it turns out well because there’s so much to see and hear in the middle of an old city that’s struggling to stay alive. A freight train roars by, the mail carrier stops to chat for a minute, and the local garage is firing up an old hot rod. It makes a joyful racket.

How about you, friends? What is your favorite way to write? Would you change anything, if you could? Whatever way you are writing, I hope the words flow like wine at a wedding and that the word bar is never closed.

this day in crime history: august 15, 1914

Nobody Move!


On this date in 1914, Julian Carlton (pictured above) murdered seven people on the estate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Carlton, a native of Barbados, was employed as a servant at Taliesin, Wright’s estate near Spring Green, WI. Wright was out of town on the day of the murders. Carlton struck during lunch. Several estate employees were in the dining room, Wright’s mistress and two children on a nearby screened in porch. Carlton bolted all but one of the dining room doors shut. He poured gas under the doors and started a fire. After starting the fire, he ran to the screened-in porch and murdered Martha “Mamah” Borthwick and her two children with an ax. He then waited outside the dining room and attacked the employees as they tried to escape the fire. Three employees and the thirteen year old son of the estate’s head carpenter were killed. Only two…

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Happy Release Day to Crystal Lake’s awesome anthology WELCOME TO THE SHOW!Check out Damaged Skull Writer’s Review

Welcome to the Show cover shot

compiled by Matt Hayward
editor: Doug Murano
Crystal Lake Publishing
August 3, 2018
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Welcome to the SHANTYMAN! The shape shifting palace of dreams and conductor of nightmares. While its location remains more or less the same, the experiences it provides to its patrons are vastly different. Maybe it’s because of the closeness to the sea or just being in San Francisco, California? Perhaps. But in the words of onetime manager, Mr. Summers: “Here at the Shantyman we can be whatever we like.” And he is right, as you will see for yourselves dear readers. In this horrifyingly wonderful collection from Crystal Lake, there are seventeen tales for you to marvel at. Naturally, with such a special topic, great writers are required. Brian Keene, Jonathan Janz, Adam Cesare, and Max Booth III spin stories that are tres cool! But enough witty chatter! The Shantyman does not like to be kept waiting…It is the star, after all.

In the late 1800’s, San Francisco was a town based on its main industries: Fishing, shipping, and the toughs that worked the docks. People who don’t waste any opportunity that is presented to them. Whether it be slashing a man’s throat for the coins in his purse, or providing entertainment in a variety of ways. Alan M. Clark’s banjo playing protagonist wants to know What Sort of Rube the motley collection at a nearby pub think he is. Why, he’s just secured a two-week engagement at the Shantyman! Not just anyone can walk in there and pull off such a feat. In fact, he feels so good about it that he offers to buy a crippled old man some lunch and a brew. He is horrified by the tale that the old sea dog tells him in exchange for the grub. But the warning? Now that’s going over the top! Or is it?

As the years roll by, the Shantyman continues its existence. In Jonathan Janz’s story Night and Day and In Between the year is 1926. Well, maybe. In this reality bending tale that reminds me much of the Overlook Hotel’s eternal party crowd, nothing is what it seems to be. A tough private detective arrives from the wharves and heads right for the Shantyman. He’s looking for someone and he isn’t taking no for an answer. Not from the gorilla watching the door, or the creepy manager who calls himself Summers. The bastard even has the audacity to laugh when the detective gives his name as George Raft. The club is full of wealthy aristocrats and socialites there to see the talent sing and play piano. Flappers and bathtub gin, everyone is looking for their favorite sin. Raft is in, but will he get who he came for?

Want a little humor with your horror? Then chances are good that you’ll enjoy True Starmen by Max Booth III. We have arrived in the more or less present day and it appears that the Shantyman has hit hard times. Kind of an out of sync, used to be a cool place joint that does whatever it has to in order to get by. Somebody has to take care of all the orange shag carpet and paneling, right? Martin checks out the unique customers arriving for a podcast and wonders WTF? Why would a whole crowd of abstainers choose a drinking establishment as a meeting place? Turns out that he may just be right for once. I hope that you fine people are familiar with Mr. Booth’s brand of horror. If not, be sure and look him up! The perfect balance of fun, odd, and scary. Pass the Doritos and turn on the bug zapper!

Do you ever go to places that the people you work with might be surprised about? If so, then you might identify with the narrator of Adam Cesare’s The Southern Thing. Even though he’s a lifelong fan of Southern rock band, The Truckers, this guy is an IT pro. Tonight he arrives at a place called the Shantyman all excited to hear them play. But it doesn’t take long for his neurosis to kick in, making him feel like the only clothed person on a nude beach. UN-comfortable! Fortunately, he meets up with a cool dude from Alabama named Chuck and starts to chill. But the Shantyman has other ideas in mind. “Hi! I’m Chuck. What’s with all the screaming?”

Even though the majority of the tales in this book are based in San Francisco, it turns out that the powers of the Shantyman stretch all the way to the opposite coast. In Wolf with Diamond Eyes by Patrick Lacey, a New York City journalist is about to capture the most amazing story of their career. Yes, they’re going to get the skinny from the last living member of the Italian rock band Harpie. Their show at the Shantyman was also the end of the band and a great number of the audience due to a horrible event. But instead of a step by step walk-thru, the journalist leaves with something a lot more abstract and dangerous. Great story that makes excellent use of details to really shock!

Another great story is Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith. This fine piece of writing and historical articulation is gonna kick you where it hurts! But in a good way. Three young adults are on one of those tourist bus tours that are so popular, when they stop at the Shantyman. Karla, a retro rocker seductress decides to drag boyfriend George and pal Jason out for an extended stop at the historic location. They want to soak up all those rock and roll juices! As the trio is joined by a stoner goofball for their walkabout, something goes horribly awry. Maybe the tour guide was right about staying on the bus? The beginning hints at the end, but you won’t see it coming! Go ahead and scream all you want. Nobody is going to save you.

Well friendly readers, I don’t want to reveal too much more of what’s behind the curtain for you to explore. That would just be wrong and the Shantyman does not suffer fools lightly. I’ve spoken with the voices in my head and we’ve decided that Welcome to the Show rates a fantastic FIVE STARS! Actually, I’d venture to say it rates even higher than that. Once you get started reading this highly addictive collection of stories, you won’t be able to stop. Running Free by Brian Keene is so amazing that I left it for you to explore yourselves! Trust me, Welcome to the Show is something you want to be reading NOW.

SHEET MUSIC TO MY ACOUSTIC NIGHTMARE by Stephanie M. Wytovich is Music to the EYES!

sheet music to my acoustic nightmare cover shot

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare
Stephanie M. Wytovich
Raw Dog Screaming Press
December 15, 2017
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

It’s no secret that I dig dark poetry, so getting the chance to review this collection by Stephanie M. Wytovich was a nightmare come true! I’m sure you know what I mean with that phrase, but if you don’t, it will soon become apparent. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare published by Raw Dog Screaming Press is not your average poetry collection. If you foolishly think that all poetry is hearts, flowers, and things that rhyme, you better pick another book before you either have a meltdown or lock yourself in a closet. Wytovich is opening the door to her mind and daring us to look inside. Make no mistake, this is NOT a frivolous invitation. We’re allowed in with stern warnings about what we will find in those dark, blood-tinged recesses and to beware of Jolene.

Who’s Jolene? Isn’t this book of poems written by Stephanie? Well…Yes and No. Jolene is Wytovich’s muse, something that is different for every writer and artist. Some folks become very jolly when they are creating new work because their muse is a happy one. Blah Blah Blah! You can’t shut these smiley faced mofos up! Unless you bury an axe in their skull, but that’s kind of messy and the whole prison thing is a downer. Others of us like to work alone in quiet places. We need to hear the faint screams and think about how tricky a knife is to hold when covered in blood. Jolene arrives most often at these times to sing her songs and sink her teeth into the dead. She also protects Stephanie because without her host, Jolene will not exist.

To quote the back cover Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare was written “during a time when the road was her home.” And it shows. When reading Wytovich’s work you can feel the melancholy, fear, screaming frustration, and even the orgasms. You are lost on some highway with Stephanie and Jolene waiting for a fat, hairy truck driver to give you a ride. Will you give him a ride in return or jam an icepick into his neck and take all his money? Just another rube killed by a lot lizard. Yeah, this is THAT kind of poetry!

Come on, let’s get between the sheets…of paper that contain her powerful words. Wytovich’s use of imagery to make an ordinary item exceptionally creepy happens in 395 Miles to Memories. Check this:

“The steering wheel holds a toothless grin.
Black gums beneath rotting lips,
It laughs louder with each mile I drive;”

Feel that? This woman is driving away from something while her brain bashes her over the head with a metal folding chair. She thinks about what she’s left behind luridly, but as the distance increases so does the physical until it fades into a ghost. Haven’t you been in that spot at least once in your life? If not yet, you will be.

In On the Other Side of the Glass we are possibly dealing with a ghost. After committing suicide over being cruelly abandoned by her lover, the writer finds herself in a glass prison reminiscent of Alice in Through the Looking Glass. But instead of being in a place where everything is backwards and all the characters are full of whimsy, the woman in this poem is trapped in a frightening space full of other dead things frozen to immobility. Not the desired end result.

This is poetry and also a confessional for Wytovich. A sharing of the burdens held by so many of us who have been used and abused in exchange for unstable “safety” The world is not a kind place. No, it’s a bastard that wants us to fail. It will encourage us to stab ourselves in the eye, slit our wrists, and blow off our own heads with a shotgun.

If you fail to kill yourself, is that a good thing to celebrate or just another damn mistake you should be punished for? There are many people who will be most happy to punish you whether you need it or not. Even if you finally end yourself and achieve what you thought you desired, the quiet nirvana of death is easily shattered. In the poem “Under Take Her” a creepy embalmer gets his kicks with a woman he’s just prepared for viewing. No respect for the recently deceased here! Some people just don’t care where their orgasms come from. There shouldn’t be any children-but just imagine if there are. Demonic bloodless things seeking to share their gift of death-Jolene would be so proud!

I highly recommend Stephanie M. Wytovich’s book Sheet Music to my Acoustic Nightmare to everyone who enjoys poetry that is emotionally charged. Yes, it is dark, speculative work. But it is also a mirror of the human condition. Romances that collapse or cause partners to run away, the desire to kill anyone who’s tried to hurt you, sex that turned sour and deadly. This is as real as it gets, readers! Does anyone else hear music or see a shrouded figure coming their way? I’d tell you to run but, according to the author, it’s already too late.