Hello Horror fans! The time has come to welcome a fresh issue of “Little Demon Digest” into the world. Hooray! If that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is! There are both kindle and paperback versions available at Amazon.com. Just click on the link below to get a closer look at and place your orders!
7 DEADLY SINS Editor: Becky Narron Terror Tract Publishing May 20, 2020 reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hello lovers of Independent Horror that kicks ass! Tonight at the Skullcave we have something special to share with you. 7 Deadly Sins from Terror Tract Publishing is an anthology that focuses on the horrific consequences of committing the seven deadly sins of:
Wrath Gluttony Lust Greed Envy Pride Sloth
7 Deadly Sins depicted by 14 Horror Authors that include: James Pyles, Billy Chizmar, Andy Rausch, Kitty Kane, Shaun Avery, Andrew Lennon, and many MORE! Isn’t it funny how we humans rationalize our behavior, trying to twist it into a good thing when it clearly is not? That’s why even with the sheer strength and power they possess, tigers, bears, boa constrictors, even those crazy Honey Badgers pale in comparison to what evil humans are capable of. Does your good old pal Skull have you intrigued? Then let’s step behind that awesome cover and see what await us inside…
Searching For Dirty Jesus by Andy Rausch takes us on a roller coaster ride from hell. Dev is a misunderstood person who’s been through a lot in his fairly brief life. Stuck working in a fast food joint and relying on renaissance role play gaming to help him keep his sanity, Dev gets an unexpected call from his Grammy at work. Jesse Marks, the man who killed Dev’s father, has escaped from prison! Instead of just accepting that fact, Dev decides to swing into action and confront his father’s killer. But he’s not doing it alone. The ghost of his daddy arrives and does what he always did: make Dev and his mother miserable. Beating, insulting, making life a living hell. Still, Dev thinks Daddy has a couple good ideas and before long they’re off to catch the bad guys. Except things stray far from Dev’s original plan. Think funky antique store and giant sword wrong. And when those police car lights find the rearview mirror of Dev’s car, nobody is there to help him out. Not even Daddy.
The Babel Project by James Pyles is probably my favorite story in the anthology. It’s an excellent piece that combines elements of science fiction, social-political commentary, and horror to create a thought-provoking tale that is painfully close to reality. A couple things I like about Pyles’ work is how he never rushes the story or splashes unnecessary gore around. And yet, I came away from reading The Babel Project feeling terrified and upset. There is an international pandemic going on and the future is uncertain at best. But one man has a plan to save the human race. Not everyone of course, but a carefully hand-picked thousand. Noah Guenther is a disgustingly rich man who enjoys playing God and controlling every aspect of “his people’s” lives. So he builds his own modern day Ark to escape the earth’s demise. But what if he’s wrong about something? Missing a crucial detail, no matter how tiny, could slowly turn the Ark into an orbiting museum of death.
The Man Who Loved Thin Women by Shaun Avery is a twisted tale of lust, greed, and envy, that’s messier than mud wrestling and crazier than a carnival stripper on meth. Frank is a talent scout for a major record label who is constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. Not only does he enjoy making money, but the side benefits are pretty fun, too. Frank LOVES all the sex he gets to have while on the road. However, there is one condition: all the women he beds MUST be thin. So when he discovers Sue singing at a Holiday Inn karaoke night, Frank is smitten and excited about how much money they’re going to make. They have a wild first night together, with Sue’s friend thrown into the mix. But things don’t stay fantastic for long because Frank is a sex glutton. He’ll bang anything as long as it fits his wish list. Even his wife’s old friend while she’s trying to extort money from him. Of course, he’s got to get rid of her and that puts him under his boss’ thumb. This crazy story is one high speed trip to hell, that you don’t want to miss!
Seasons Don’t Fear The Reaper by Billy Chizmar is an expose of the deadly sin wrath. You wouldn’t expect it from detective Ira Paul Ripley, who seems to be the most well-adjusted man in the world. Everything is regular, routine, and safe. Or is that just a carefully constructed cover for what hides inside? When a strange little man arrives at police headquarters, asking to see Detective Ripley, he whips the blanket off a monster in waiting. Not that Ripley doesn’t have a reason for all of his pent-up rage. It even has a name: Walter. At first, it seems like justice is being served and old hurts put to rest, but in this story that’s just the beginning of even more hell. Who is the oddly cheerful man in the down jacket and why would anyone walk into a police station to inform them of his crimes? Chizmar has proven many times that there’s more than one expert storyteller in his family and Seasons Don’t Fear The Reaper is a great example of his work. Check it out!
Fast Food by Andrew Lennon gives us an interesting take on the sins of gluttony. Fast food is gross, greasy, heavy, bready, and chock full of carbs. It’s the stuff that all the TV health gurus warn us about. And yet…We keep eating it because in our moment of need, it tastes fab! Some people even eat it four times a day. But at some point, you gotta pay the piper for all the bodily abuse you commit, right? Peter sure is paying painfully and unhappily when we enter the story. Heaving his guts out, sweating, miserable-Hey! What the hell is that green thing he just hurled? He better figure out real quick, or else he could be in serious trouble.
So what’s the Skull’s evaluation of 7 Seven Deadly Sins? Honestly, This is a seriously boss read with a great variety of stories that follow a single theme but stay fresh. Nice work, editor Becky Narron! That earns you a rating of FIVE BIG STARS! This is real horror written by real people, so it’s very relatable for readers and a great way to escape reality for at least an hour a day. Hopefully, this review has piqued your interest in the 7 Deadly Sins anthology from Terror Tract Publishing. Paperbacks are priced at a very reasonable $10 on Amazon and you can also purchase a kindle version for $3.99. It’s a Damaged Skull Reviewer “Wall of Fame” inductee!
Want more information or have an interest in their other cool publications? Then check out Terror Tract Publishing at: https://terrortract.com for exciting novels, more great anthologies, and their magazine TERROR TRACT. You can also visit them on Twitter @terrortract.
The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Sleight of Hand by Scarlett R. Algee
Almost always, the first thing I hear is Nice tattoo, though it’s usually followed by a qualifier like sick or kind of creepy.
Tonight, though, this guy at the bar’s question is, Did it hurt, putting it on your hand like that?
I don’t answer right away; I just shake my head and smile a little and drink my G&T. Of course it had hurt, but not in the way he’s imagining. I smooth my hair, carefully keeping the right side of my face covered so he doesn’t see the smooth divot that used to be my right eye. Not as much as you’d think.
He nods absently; he’s halfway through a pitcher of some beer I don’t know the name of, and his words are soft-edged when he starts, Does it match your real eyes?…
Author and gothic expert Tracy Fahey is a woman in horror who always interests me. I suppose it’s because my first love in horror myself is the gothic sub-genre, but also Tracy always has intelligent and thought-provoking things to say. It’s why, besides wanting to support her, I invited her to write another article for this site during the time frame of her latest release, a collection of female body horror. I knew she’d discuss something that would be make me want to think a bit harder, challenge me. She didn’t disappoint, but extended my thoughts of the pre-conceived boundaries of body horror I had in my mind. And she’s cited one of my favorite stories, and biggest influences, in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman Perkins!
I hope you enjoy it and check out Tracy’s collection too!
I Spit Myself Out: Contemporary Female Body Horror by Tracy…
JUST RELEASED ON JANUARY 28TH, THIS ANTHOLOGY FROM HELLBOUND BOOKS IS FULL OF HELLISH READING PLEASURE FOR HORROR FANS WORLDWIDE! 385 PAGES BIG, IT RETAILS ON AMAZON AT $15.99 (PLUS SHIPPING) PHYSICAL COPY OR $5.99 KINDLE VERSION THAT YOU CAN READ INSTANTANEOUSLY WITH ZERO SHIPPING CHARGES. EITHER WAY, CHECK IT OUT! WILL HAVE MORE TO SHARE ABOUT THIS FLAMING HOT ANTHOLOGY SOON! KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR MY SHORT PIECE “WHEN THE DEVIL LAUGHS” IN THERE. IT’S ABOUT AN UNFORTUNATE POLICE OFFICER IN A STRANGE CITY WHO MAKES A FEW MISTAKES THAT COULD LAND HIM IN HOT PLACE!
NEVER REST Marshall Thornton Lethe Press October 28, 2018 reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Hello and welcome once again to The Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! Today we’ll be checking out another fine book from Steve Berman’s Lethe Press, Never Rest by Marshall Thornton. This Lambda Award Winner is labelled young adult fiction, but a novel like this transcends all boundaries. We’re talking about love, hope, life and death, universal themes for all humans. Not to mention coming out-definitely important stuff for teens and young adults, but also important for people who aren’t in same sex relationships to read about and understand that love is love.
The story kicks off with our reluctant protagonist, Jake, deciding that now is the time to kick the bucket. He has every right to feel this way. After dealing with what he calls “blah-blah-blah leukemia” for the last five years of his teenage-hood, Jake is worn the hell out. The disease is killing him slowly and painfully while modern medicine charges in with a chainsaw to help out. But it seems like the treatments only make things worse with all their side effects. Chemo’s purpose is to kill things and it sure does. Medications and radiation aren’t selective about what they destroy. Jake is stuck in bed watching TV and sleeping all day instead of chasing the man of his dreams. It’s no wonder that he’s in misery!
But just as Jake decides to agree with his medical team’s prognosis and ride the great Morphine train into the next world, his mother comes up with a plan. Jake doesn’t like the plan and tries to resist going to the snazzy new research facility she’s found, but he doesn’t have the strength. So off they go, to the middle of nowhere and a funky old place that sure doesn’t look like a research facility. Dr. Harry is eccentric and some of the staff seem unqualified for what they’re doing. This worries Jake, but he can’t deny that something is happening to his body.
Is it possible that he might actually recover from “blah-blah-blah leukemia?” Will he and the handsome boy in the next bed actually get to have sex, something Jake’s dreamed of for years? Why isn’t there any cellphone service at the Godwin Institute? The deeper we go into Never Rest, the harder it is to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you that the pace picks up a lot and all the mystery will keep you turning pages late into the night. You will likely become emotionally involved with the characters, especially when it becomes clear that Property Fivemight not be a miracle drug and that there are worse things than dying.
But it’s not all doom and gloom in every paragraph. You will find yourself laughing at times because Thornton’s portrayal of a gay teenager is so perfect. I mean how about this line:
“Dying of a terminal illness is like a trip to Detroit. You hear all these terrible things and you really don’t want to go, but when you get there, it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.”
I mean, with all apologies to Detroit, that’s a perfect way to describe things, especially from a younger person’s viewpoint. There’s also the rather entertaining episode when a new, straight patient named Edmond arrives and quizzes Jake and Goth about the availability of “pussy in this joint.” Poor Edmond reminds me a great deal of Donald Trump, which only makes his pathetic attempt a sexiness even more laughable. I mean he’s got crazy hair, big teeth, and shouts “Yo! You sexy!” as his cool pick-up line. This is good stuff.
Damaged Skull Reviewer gives Never Rest by Marshall Thornton a hearty 5 STAR rating! This is a great, complex novel that is so much more than just horror. The characters are really 3-D and you can practically feel the tall grass behind the institute against your legs. There is a LOT going on in 200 pages and I really encourage you to grab a copy of Never Rest from your favorite bookseller! Want to find out more about Lethe Press and all the cool titles they have available for your reading pleasure? Then head on over to www.lethepressbooks.com Thanks for taking the time to read this review at Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer, I look forward to seeing you soon!
GRAVEYARD SMASH-Women of Horror Anthology Vol. 2 Edited by Jill Girardi Kandisha Press November 4, 2020 reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Happy 2021 everyone! I thought I would start the new year off right by reading some great horror fiction written by women. Kandisha Press never fails to provide a great selection in every one of their anthologies and Graveyard Smash is truly a 5 STAR reading experience by women of horror. We’re talking about Sonora Taylor, Lydia Prime, V. Castro, and Ally Peirse-who wrote the story from which this anthology gets its title. Sound cool? Then let’s dive in and check it out!
Sonora Taylor is one of my favorite authors, so I was looking forward to reading her contribution to Graveyard Smash. Amazingly enough, when I set the book on my lap, it fell open to the first page of The Clockmaker! How’s that for spooky? Nathaniel is the town clockmaker of Sanguay Bluff and he takes great pride in his work, which is beautiful as well as functional. So when an unusual gent comes into his shop seeking a pocket watch made of bone that needs to be ready in a short period of time, Nathaniel turns him down. Well until he sees the large amount of money the guy is offering. That and pride won’t let him pass on such a challenge. But pride is one of the seven deadly sins and the wages of sin are never easy money. The watches are horribly difficult to make and Nathaniel’s need for bone forces him to seek it in a rather unsavory place. But when the townspeople discover that a grave robber is in their midst, life becomes even more challenging for The Clockmaker.
In South Dakota, Lydia Prime delivers a tale of bone chilling horror. The setting seems so picturesque at first, that it’s hard to believe anything bad could happen there. A lovely village next to a stunningly beautiful lake appears idyllic, but the residents practice a weird burial custom that kind of takes the shine off the place a bit. Most of the residents in the village enjoy their simple way of life, but not Dakota. She’s a lonely child who longs for friendship instead of the taunting she gets from the other kids. One day, while exploring the frozen surface of the lake, Dakota makes a friend who is a mirror image of herself. How fun! The only problem is that her friend is trapped under the hard glassy surface of the lake. Together they hatch a plan to pull “OtherKota” through. But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. Will Dakota’s actions give her the friendship she so deeply desires, or will things go south in a big hurry?
Once you start reading Holes by R.A. Busby, you’ll realize its connection to our current world pandemic. COVID-19 is terrifying all by itself if you’re one of the people taking it seriously. But when that terror is combined with mental illness, things can quickly spin out of control. Most interior designers are pretty OCD people to begin with and you don’t have to be trapped in the Overlook Hotel to feel isolated now that self-quarantine is often required. There are also wildly conflicting accounts of how one could get sick with this virus that has been compared to the plague. Plus, there are just as many ideas about avoiding it So when Katherine loses her job, and pretty much sole purpose in life, at Clean Corners-an interior design company-She loses it. But before she does that, she supervises a bathroom remodel that shows her that a person’s home is often not as safe or substantial as we think. There are holes, too many holes. Holes that need to be filled and that means every single one.
Last, but certainly not least is Atmosphere contributed by Ally Peirse. Initially, a story about night shift cleaners in a brewery sounds like a lot of fun. Got any free samples? Har-har! But it turns out to be a frightening place to be the night Vicky pops in to do a newspaper story about it. Initially it doesn’t seem too bad, but as accidents befall her and a cleaner named Rob, they find themselves trapped. That’s when Rob tells Vicky the story of a mean supervisor and how the brewery had its best year with a beer called Graveyard Smash. There is more going on than you might think in small towns all over the world, so open your eyes and ears. Whatever you do, don’t forget to carry a hammer.
This is just a wee smidgin of what’s enclosed in this amazing women of horror anthology from Kandisha Press. Graveyard Smash is over 300 pages worth of 5 Star reading that you will get hours and hours of enjoyment from! All female writers and every story is fantastic! Highly recommended by Damaged Skull Reviewer and available NOW from your favorite booksellers! Don’t forget to also check out Volume 1 in this anthology series Under Her Black Wings! Great Stuff! Both have earned spots on The Damaged Skull Wall of Fame. Want more information? Then head on over to www.kandishapress.com Thanks for visiting the Skullcave. See you soon!