Rebecca Gransden
Cardboard Wall Empire
April 18, 2021
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello dear readers, it’s your old pal Skull getting back to you with the full review of Rebecca Gransden’s Creepy Sheen. I don’t want to put the hearse before the motorcade but, let me just say that lovers of speculative fiction are in for a real treat when they dive between the pages of this purple covered beauty! So, with further ado, let’s begin…

To those who were kind enough to read my previous post about Creepy Sheen, thank you! Here is your reward/answer to my riddle about the connection arcade crane machines and babies have to the end of the world. It’s in “Arcady”, a great example of Gransden’s work. She combines the known and comfortable with the unknown in a shocking way that keeps you turning pages. Missy Jackson is the typical teenage arcade rat. She plays the games until all her money is gone. Unfortunately, it’s just not her day to be a winner and that bad luck extends to using the arcade’s rest room. She’s locked in by a malfunctioning stall door and ends up falling asleep in the none too deluxe surroundings. Upon waking, it becomes clear through many of Missy’s observations that something is very wrong in her corner of the world. One of the indicators of that is a crying baby trapped inside the crane game with all the stuffed toys. Not to mention the creepy guys with the trucks, yikes! “Arcady” is a great story that will chill your blood.

“Liquid Crystal” is a cool piece about a guy who figured out how to take technology way too far, resulting in a prison life sentence. While “Hell Alley” shows us a dystopian future where Myra the city rat collector has a run in with some guys who are using the rats to create a super drug. And let’s not forget “The Future Is White” which has a ghostly Twilight Zone meets Ray Bradbury vibe presented in a script format. All of which brings us to the delightfully diseased diamond of the bunch…

Skull’s favorite story in all of Rebecca Gransden’s Creepy Sheen is “Night Drive Drifter In A Bad Dream.” This tale is smokin’ and I mean that literally! At the core of it is a man and a fast car always travelling at night and catching what little rest they can during daylight hours. Emilio takes on a unique job from his “friend” Dexter because of the huge payout and the chance to get out of a crummy town where he’s stuck in one dead end job after another. I mean, the dude is fighting bums for a package of stale rolls. Not exactly living the high life! But its nowhere as easy as Dexter makes it sound. After some truly creepy scenes, Emilio decides to make a run for it, only to find that the thing chasing him is tireless. So instead of jetting off to some exotic location with his loot from the job, Emilio is spending his money in grungy motels and gas station snack bars. But tonight seems a little different, who knows what’s up ahead? Smart investors make a bid for TV rights, now!

Overall, Damaged Skull Reviewer gives Creepy Sheen 5 STARS and a place on “The Wall of Fame”! The concept behind the book is echoes of transmissions sent into outer space during the 1980’s and indeed, these stories are like finding some lost episodes of the Twilight Zone or unfinished work from your favorite late science fiction writer after earth is just a memory. Rebecca Gransden writes like she is multiple authors and stretches simple scenes into terrifying scarescapes. Get this one, you won’t regret it!

Also, before I return to my nice dark cave, let me mention that Cardboard Wall Empire has many titles on offer including more from Rebecca Gransden, Leo X. Robertson, and others. Tell them Skull sent you!

Cover Reveal: And By Fire, Crime Mystery Debut by Evie Hawtrey


Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK!

My friend Evie Hawtrey (aka historical novelist SophiePerinot – in a new, darker, incarnation) has recently revealed her cover for her crime mystery debut!AND BY FIRE is a dual timeline novel, pitting two extraordinary female detectives—tempered by fire and separated by more than three centuries—against a pair of murderous geniuses who will burn the world for their art.

Isn’t the cover cool? Check out the full book description below, and PRE-ORDER today for a Spring 2022 arrival.

About And By Fire

Nigella Parker, Detective Inspector with the City Police, has a deeply rooted fear of fire and a talent for solving deadly arson cases. When a charred figure is found curled beside Sir Christopher Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of London, Nigella is dragged into a case pitting her against a murderous artist creating sculptures using burnt flesh.

Nigella partners with Colm O’Leary of Scotland Yard to track…

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Why hello there dear readers! It’s your old pal Skull come out of hiding to deliver some exciting news. I’ve found Rebecca Gransden’s CREEPY SHEEN! I’m currently reading this fine collection of speculative fiction and I’ve got to say, these old bones are impressed! That’s me there on the left in case there was any question. There’ll be a review coming soon, but before I go, here’s a little riddle for you:

What do babies and the end of the world have in common with those crane machines often found in arcades? Don’t you just HATE those things? I mean it looks so simple, put your cash in and perform an “easy maneuver” to win a giant Hello Kitty or whatever…But the reality is quite different than the spin, isn’t it? Anyway, hold that thought and maybe get some more change, I’ll be back with the answer SOON. Good luck!


Markosia Enterprises
January 20, 2020
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello to one and all from your old pal Skull! Today we have something that we don’t get a lot of here in the Skullcave, a graphic novel. Not only is Stay Alive a graphic novel, but it is one that combines Horror, Crime, Sex, and Showbiz into one vibrant and tasty package. YUM! If you’re not a fan of those things and don’t much care to laugh at the society we’ve become, then I’d recommend that you get the hell out of here now. Everyone else, come along and take a peek at what the twisted trio of James C. Harberson III (author) , Mackie Wildwood (author), and Stephen Baskerville (artist) have created for your viewing pleasure.

I’m gonna do my best not to toss any spoilers in, but there’s a lot of detail and action going on here and I want to give you a solid sight line of the big picture. So hold tight, and concentrate to get what I’m spinning. There is a private sector funded assassination group called UKILL and what they do is hunt down and kill creepers, pedophiles, and rich stars who indulge in animal cruelty for fun and profit. The way they decide who to kill next is by taking a public poll of their viewers. Once the numbers are in, it’s time to set about taking out whoever is chosen. As UKILL puts it. “Death Does Discriminate!” These are folks who most of us wouldn’t mind having gruesome deaths after all the hell they’ve put their victims through.

That is until Jane Morgan, a failing movie starlet with a checkered past, decides to take her agent’s advice and go on an opposing show called STAY ALIVE in which she’ll try to avoid being killed by UKILL. All the action will be followed 24/7 by TV cameras and blasted all over social media. While Jane is kind of sexy naked, she doesn’t spend a lot of time using her brains, so this could be a very short show indeed. Except the STAY ALIVE crew have stacked the deck heavily in Jane’s favor. There’s all kinds of professional help, including one Moses Rabkin, bodyguard and soldier of fortune extraordinaire. This guy has amazing instincts and is a powerful ally to have on your side. But keeping Jane alive isn’t going to be a cakewalk…

UKILL is huge and has its hands inevery part of our society all the way up to the good old FBI. Plus, it’s a monster many people take into their lives willingly because they believe in the cause, or maybe just like seeing folks die in imaginatively gruesome ways. This isn’t just a couple of tough guys who talk funny offing people. Plus, there’s a zany wildcard that UKILL is more than happy to spring from the secure mental health facility where he’s been cooling his heels and focusing on his hatred for none other than Jane Morgan. Kenyon Kraft is crazy as they come, but he’s also crazy smart about how to kill people violently, painfully, and with plenty of blood splatter. Just having this wackjob after you would be reason enough to be scared, but when he’s assisted by a huge organization, terror is too small a word.

Rating? We’re talking 5 STARS here folks! The action moves fast and dialogue is funny in the snarky way that only horror can produce. There are many small jokes included in the big picture and quite a few jabs at stereotypes. Buccaneer Magazine being featured here is a tip of the hat to Stephen King who sold a lot of stories to men’s magazines in his early days. If you haven’t guessed by now, this graphic novel is for mature audiences. STAY ALIVE’S great characters and multiple storylines rocket along all the way to the finish line. Maybe if we’re lucky, there’ll be a sequel in the works! Thanks for checking out Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer’s review of Markosia Enterprise’s graphic novel STAY ALIVE! Special thanks to James C. Harberson III for his time and help with this review. Be sure to check out his great collection of short horror, A Disgusting Supermarket of Death, which is also currently available from your favorite booksellers and highly recommended by this reviewer in a previous post. Need more info? Then check out Markosia at www.markosia.com and James C Harberson III at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19908137.Jim_Harberson


Hello again fellow horror writers and readers! I always enjoy sharing good news, so let me tell you a bit about this new short horror story anthology from No Bad Books Press. The title is “RELEASED” and the overall theme is things escaping into the world that probably shouldn’t have. Not only do I like the concept, but I’m proud to be contributing my short horror story “Hell To The Holler” to this cool project. I’m also a big fan of this amazing cover! It really gives readers a good visual representation of what’s inside. Make sure to keep an eye out for “RELEASED” from No Bad Books Press! Want more information? See what co-founders S. Faxon & Theresa Halvorsen are up to by visiting them at http://www.nobadbookspress.com


I enjoy writing all kinds of poetry, but there’ll always be a large part of my heart dedicated to the dark, speculative, and horror forms. Life itself is often a big horror movie. Maybe it’s a bit more subtle, and there aren’t clowns with chainsaws running through your living room. But how about getting stuck on the highway at two in morning, or having to slip out the backdoor of your girlfriend’s place because there’s a man out front who wants to introduce you to his pals, Smith & Wesson? To everyone who married their high school sweetheart and lived happily ever after, kudos! For the majority of the world, love hurts, maims, and sometimes kills. People commit suicide because their hearts are broken. Beauty is often only skin deep and it’s easier than one might think to find yourself trapped in a real bad spot. I think “Beautiful Tragedies 2” is going to be a book that slices you to the bone but also offers a solace to those in dark places. Damaged Skull Writer will keep you posted on this book’s progress and let you know when it hits bookstores. Until then…be careful out there. Unless you enjoy pain, then by all means carry on!

“The Jogger”

If you haven’t had a chance to read this awesome story by Jenny Maloney, here’s another chance to give it a whirl. THE JOGGER is interesting, disturbing, and very real feeling. Why do joggers always seem to be the ones to find those murdered off the beaten path?

Other Worlds, and This

Exciting news! My short story “The Jogger” is now up at All Worlds Wayfarer.

Many moons ago, Ray Bradbury wrote a story where he explored the idea that the looky-loos at all accidents were actually the same people every time.

Well, you know how it always seems like joggers find the bodies? (As one friend put it, it’s how all Law & Orders start.) I wanted to explore the idea that it was always the same jogger who found the bodies, inspired by Bradbury’s idea.

Thanks so much to the team at All Worlds Wayfarer. I appreciate your time, your effort, and your dedication to presenting creative work in such a beautiful format.

You can read the result now. I hope you enjoy it.

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Happy Pride Month! Currently Reading “VINTAGE” by Steve Berman To Celebrate!

Hello horror lovers who also agree that “Love is Love!” Skull’s next read is a special edition of Steve Berman’s haunting classic “VINTAGE.” This beautiful book is from Lethe Press, a cool publisher that focuses on work by LGTBQ writers. They’ve pulled out all the stops for this Lucky Thirteenth Anniversary Edition and even included a foreword by New York Times bestselling author, Holly Black. Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer has always been a safe space and will remain one for as long as I’m alive. We’re here to celebrate what we have in common, not to hate on anyone for living differently than we do. Review coming soon!


Seven Exhumations
James G. Carlson
January 8, 2021
Terror Tract Publishing
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello Horror Fiends! Welcome once again to the Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Reviewer. Your old pal Skull has something special to share with you today-a collection of short horror fiction by Pennsylvania based speculative fiction writer, James G. Carlson. Published by Terror Tract, Seven Exhumations is way above the average slash and splash version of horror that many people have come to dread. In fact, this collection contains very little gore and is all the better for it. There’s still plenty of chills and lots of things that make you wonder if something similar could happen to you.

But enough pre-game chatter, let’s open that handsome cover-which just happens to be an artist’s rendering of the very first story, “Grim.” That’s brothers, Jack and Daniel frozen in their tracks at the sight of the story’s namesake. Carlson has written a story that mixes ancient evil and the modern day with satisfying results. Exploring abandoned properties isn’t anything new, but now there are videos all over social media of people doing it that pretty much destroy the magic. Despite their cameras and club shirts, most old house explorer groups just find dust bunnies and old clothes. Daniel and Jack do it the old-fashioned way, with just a lighter to illuminate the dark places. They soon meet the strange lifeforce of the house, but things go sour pretty fast. A couple of uninvited school bullies barge into the mix at just the wrong time and the house reveals some secrets to Daniel. Will Grim get his way or is there a chance to escape?

Insatiable is about a man who never feels satisfied, despite all the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. It’s cool and all, but he just can’t fill the void. Then a friend of his lets him in on a secret, He’s a demon and she’s an angel named Temperance of all things. After a night to remember, they have big choices to make.

Major Arcana: The Devil Reversed is about a man named Gerald who finds a unique way to escape from hell. But now he needs a body to experience life in the modern day, which brings the question: Can a mortal actually enjoy being possessed? Maybe the most terrifying part of this story is the woman who shows up near the end looking for Gerald. The Devil is a fearsome entity, but his accountant is on a whole different level of creepiness.

It’s Always Night Underground As a former mischievous teenager, this one hit me like a ruler across the knuckles. WHAP! When three bored teens decide to party in a dangerous cave on the outskirts of town, it seems like a pretty cool deal. That’s until they find a note from a neighbor girl who’s gone missing. The note is chilling enough, but her mention of an evil creature that guards the cave entrance sends every iota of fun packing, leaving only fear behind. This story reminds of all the stupid shit I did with friends back when we were “invincible.”

Micah And The Hellmouth. Intense tale about the people polite society ignores unless their kid becomes one. Then it’s just to condemn drugs and wave their silver canes about. None of that actually helps the addicts or saves relationships. All the hoo-hah about the war on prescription drugs is just so much news fodder. Most serious junkies are not purchasing their drugs from pharmacies, they get their stuff from a guy named “Oatmeal.” But love is love and to lose it, is to lose everything as Micah finds out. He’s also the reason for the hellmouth in his basement and why the Devil’s accountant is sitting next to it. My favorite quote in the book is this: “To exist is to suffer, whether alive or dead. No way around it. But it is to be hoped that our suffering served a purpose, had some meaning. It is to be hoped that when we fall, we do so gladly.”

Interview On Amen Alley The final story in this book is an apocalyptic dystopia about the future of “Old City” Philadelphia, PA. It contains strong fantasy elements and the often unrealized truth that modern technology cannot always replace the ancient things. Modern day humanity relies far too much on electronic help instead of honing real life skills. But when the future may only be a few hours away, you better keep learning and stay strong. All the stories in Seven Exhumations are great. But for me, this piece is the diamond. Thanks to Carlson’s writing skills, you can feel this story.

So, what about the million-dollar question: How did Damaged Skull rate this collection of James G. Carlson’s work? I rate it FIVE BIG STARS! This is some really groovy stuff that lovers of all things speculative are sure to enjoy. Seven Exhumations has also landed the coveted facing outward spot on the Skullcave’s “Wall of Fame!” James G. Carlson is a great writer who brings new material to the table and gives us lots to think about while avoiding the pitfalls of overdoing it. He presents a nice balance of reality and fantasy in his stories that puts readers right in the action. No flat spots, just pure imagination power at work. Plus, this is a release from Terror Tract, and they only publish good stuff. So do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Seven Exhumations your favorite bookseller today.

Thanks again for checking out another review from your old pal, Skull! For more information check out https://terrortract.net