Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts

Saturday, June 9, 2018

"Nightmare’s Eve" by Stephen H. Provost

Nightmare’s Eve
by Stephen H. Provost

Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost

Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

A collection of 16 short stories and 10 dark poems in the tradition of The Twilight Zone.
Trapped for eight centuries in a space no larger than a shoebox. What would you do to escape? How far would you go to rid yourself of that parasite in your brain that feeds off the worst of your nightmares? What if the person closest to you were fated to die – and you were powerless to stop it?
What if your savior were also your greatest fear? Would you trade years of your life for a chance at redemption? Would you slay or spare the dragon whose eyes gaze up at you pleadingly in the final moments of its life?
These are the questions that run through the mind when twilight fades and eyelids grow heavy. Fight the onset of sleep. Thrash beneath the covers in futile defiance of what lies beyond. This is the between-time of Nightmare’s Eve, those brief but lingering moments between the waking world and the abyss. It will have you. It’s only a matter of time.

Excerpt from “A Deal in the Dark”
Can you leave the light on, Andy?”
Andy poked his head back around the corner and shook it slightly. “The doc says that won’t help you sleep. You need your rest, Jen.”
“I know, but …”
“No buts.”
Jenny fixed her attention on the sliver of light that was bleeding into her room from out in the hallway. It seemed like a lifeline. This insomnia had been plaguing her for weeks now, and she did need her sleep. But she didn’t need the panic attacks that hit her whenever the room went pitch black. She hadn’t been afraid of the dark since she was a child, when her parents had bought that nightlight for her to reassure her there weren’t any monsters lurking in the blackness, waiting to emerge when it was safe. When she couldn’t see them. Couldn’t find them. Couldn’t catch them to put them back where they belonged in the part of her mind where they no longer existed.
Her parents had told her that’s where they really were.
“It’s all in your mind,” Mom had said. “There’s nothing here that can hurt you.”
She’d always remembered that. It had been reassuring at the time, but the more she thought about it, as she’d grown older, the more troubling it seemed. She could escape a monster that was
hiding in the closet; but if it had taken up residence in her mind …
how could she escape that?
Andy was a lot like her Mom that way. He had always been protective of his kid sister, always trying to reassure her that there was nothing wrong — make her think everything was going to be just fine.
Make. Her. Think.
Think the way he wanted her to think. It was just a trick, she thought to herself. She remembered Halloween night, when she was six years old. “Go to sleep, why don’t you?” he’d said, impatient and demanding. He was three years older than she was, so she’d closed her eyes. But she hadn’t gone to sleep right away. She’d heard someone rustling around in the plastic jack-o-lantern full of candy she’d left on the floor beside her bed, and in the morning, that candy had been gone.
“You sure you’ll be okay?” Andy said, lingering in the doorway.
What was he going to steal from her now?
“Please, just leave the light on, Andy. Or leave the door open, at least?”
He smiled that same smile he had always smiled at her. It magnified the mocking regret that leaked through his teeth in his too- apologetic tone. “I know what’s good for you better than you do,” it seemed to say. Why did he have to be so self-righteous?
“Sorry, Jenny Penny,” he said, using the nickname he’d had for her since they were kids. “Can’t do that. Doctor’s orders.”
I shouldn’t have come here, she told herself.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“The genres in this volume span horror, fantasy, and science-fiction, and each is handled deftly. ... Nightmare's Eve should be on your reading list. The stories are at the intersection of nightmare and lucid dreaming, up ahead a signpost ... next stop, your reading pile. Keep the nightlight on.” ~ R.B. Payne, Cemetery Dance
“Brace yourself. Your nightmares are about to get a whole lot darker. Stephen H. Provost pulls you into a place where reality, imagination, and fear play a brutal game of tug-of-war with your sanity. Keep the lights on, this book should come with a warning label to never read it in the dark.” ~ Vanta M. Black, author of Oubliette - A Forgotten Little Place
“Provost sticks mostly to the classics: vampires, ghosts, aliens, and even dragons. But trekking familiar terrain allows the author to subvert readers' expectations. ... Provost's poetry skillfully displays the same somber themes as the stories. ... Worthy tales that prove external forces are no more terrifying than what's inside people's heads.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“Stephen H. Provost has nightmares to sell. But be wary, this is no ordinary merchant of dark dreams. These are tales and poems of every sort from a writer to watch, from stories of redemption to those of love, vengeance, and damnation - or a frightful combination of all three. Sample his wares, but beware, many of these nightmares will stay with you long after the book is put aside.” ~ Mark Onspaugh, author of The Faceless One and Deadlight Jack
“Having thoroughly enjoyed Provost's debut novel, Memortality, I was quite eager to read his foray into short stories. Nightmare's Eve didn't disappoint. It's an enjoyably surreal, spooky peek into the things that keep us up at night, and it further solidifies the author's place among fiction's up-and-comers. Stephen Provost is the real deal.” ~ David McAfee, bestselling author of 33 A.D.

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
This is a collection of sixteen stories and ten poems centered mostly on the themes of nightmares and death. They cover various genres, including time travel, science fiction, paranormal, and fairy tales. Some are contemporary, while others are futuristic, historical, medieval, or gothic. So, something for everyone. Each piece is accompanied by a beautiful black and white illustration that gives the whole volume a vintage feel and makes me want to own the paperback version of this book. While some of the stories are a bit predictable, they are all well-written, although there are some editing errors and one major continuity issue (the armchair in “Virulent”).
In “A Deal in the Dark”, strange things happen to Jen in the dark. Is her brother behind it all or is it something more sinister?
In “Will to Live”, a man is stuck in a recurring nightmare.
“Just the Ticket” shows us that you should never make a bargain with the devil.
“Turn Left on Dover”: What would you do if you could go back in time?
In “Mama”, we are left to wonder if the pendulum’s predictions will come true.
“Breaking the Cycle”: How far would you go to end the nightmares?
In “Virulent”, there is a virus on Mars, but not the type you might expect.
In “Anatomy of a Vampire”, a group of anatomy students gets an unusual anatomy lesson.
“The Ends of the Earth”: What happens when you build a wall to keep someone out of your town?
“The Howl and the Purr”: How are cats and dogs involved in an alien invasion?
“Teeth”: What’s worse: the nightmares or the cure?
“The Faithful Dog” is a cautionary tale about seeing what you want to see, regardless of the truth.
“Lamp Unto My Fate”: What would you wish for if you freed a genie?
After reading “Nightmare’s Eve”, you’ll never look at Santa the same way again.
“Stranger Than Fiction”: What would happen if everything you wrote came true?
In “George & the Dragon: The Untold Story”, a young man uncovers his family history.
“Certitude”: Only one thing is certain in life: death.
“Lost Soliloquy”: What thoughts might run through the mind of a dead man?
“Unwound” is about hiding your true feelings.
“Upon Reflection” takes a look at the role of mirrors in fairy tales.
“Merlin’s Lament” is about the May Day massacre of Arthurian legend.
In “Bleed Not”, a woman murders her lover.
In “Lost at Sea”, a man is trapped alone on board his ship, a prison of his own making.
“Torrent of Tears” deals with the struggle with mental illness.
“A Never-Setting Sun”: Would the nightmares come to an end if the sun never set?
“This Vale of Dreams” takes a look at the world of dreams.
My favorites: “Will to Live”, “Mama”, “Nightmare’s Eve”, “George & the Dragon”.
Warnings: coarse language, horror, violence.

About the Author
Stephen H. Provost
Stephen H. Provost is a veteran editor, reporter, and columnist with more than 30 years of experience at daily newspapers in California. He’s currently the managing editor of The Cambrian on the Central Coast, as well as a columnist and assistant city editor for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo.
As an author, he has written historical nonfiction (Fresno Growing Up and Highway 99: The History of California’s Main Street), novels (Memortality and Identity Break), while also exploring the realms of mythology, fable, and ancient history.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of Nightmare’s Eve by Stephen H. Provost (open internationally).


Monday, June 4, 2018

"The Water Rabbits" by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits
by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó is currently on tour with Kate Tilton’s Author Services. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt.

The Water Rabbits features fourteen short fiction pieces. The approach is pretty similar to my previous short story collection (The Mascot Moth), and to my film work in general: formally venturesome rather than hard line experimental, taking pleasure in narrative and its plasticity; engaged with not-quite-our-worlds, but ones which are still close enough etc.
So, if you’ve enjoyed any of my moving image work then there’s a strong likelihood that this will appeal i.e. it’s similar… but still (and on paper). None of the material is related to my films or performance pieces – it’s all new – so if you’ve never seen any films by me that’s not going to be a problem either!
Narratively, the scenarios include: the reappearance of monsters in a town that has long since stopped believing in them; a plague of sinkholes; an experiment in saying yes; a sound-artist who specializes in recording bone growth; a drift through the streets of a city where the local authors have run out of things to say; and an awful lot more.
The shortest piece runs to 347 words; the book’s 172 pages long and weighs 248g; one piece has pictorial accompaniment, three dress up in verse.
A handful of these works have recently appeared in The Wrong Quarterly, DecomP magazine, Leopardskin and Limes, and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Excerpt from “The End of the Expert”
I've been invited to a panel discussion in my role as an expert, only this isn't the term they'll be using. The conference convenor explained that they're currently between words: expert is out, and they've yet to find a replacement. I was surprised, believing ideas and objects stepping-stoned labels at their convenience, graduating and post-graduating from word to word; that's what language did, and we loved it for that.
So I was flattered, but bothered. It seems unlikely that a thing could exist for too long without a label. It would be like a snail without a shell. Or an astronaut floating in space without a tether: how do you get them back?
You just move the space vehicle a bit closer, explained the convenor. If you really want it, you make the effort. With the snail: the shell's attached - it's part of the snail - so if it's missing then something very traumatic must have happened; there probably is no going back. Maybe you meant hermit crab?
Let me change the analogy: If you dropped your house keys down a drain then walked away - to get help - you wouldn't forget about the keys: the concept of your house keys would still exist, even if you didn't physically possess them. And one day you'd be reunited with the keys, or copies, or would have had a new lock put in and so have new keys. So you'd either have the original, a copy, or an entirely new set and yet they'd all be your house keys.
This seemed different, but at that moment I couldn't exactly say how, and so gave the appearance of not disagreeing.

Praise for the Book
The Water Rabbits is a unique, and extremely well written collection of unusual stories, and poems that are written to get readers thinking. I found that this book is best when read not just in one setting, but read in small batches, that way the reader can take a break and process what it is that they just read. Some stories I found to be more enjoyable, and relatable than others. I found the particular story entitled, ‘The new old’ to be amusing as it pertains to being social, and what were to happen by simply saying yes to everything. I think most readers might have a little trouble understanding what some of the stories are about, and following the writing style. The overall pace of the book itself is not slow, but it can take a while to get through because the stories are meant to get the reader to ponder the meaning behind the stories that they just read.” ~ Amber
“Reading The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó is something like the literary equivalent of touring an exhibition of contemporary art, at which we are made to confront the unfamiliar, the secretive and the inscrutable. We wander through the galleries, alternately perplexed and intrigued, distracted and stimulated, occasionally consulting our watches and wondering if that fire extinguisher attached to the far wall in magnificent isolation is in fact an exhibit. Afterwards, probably over a meal and a drink, we struggle to process the experience and find things to say that sound remotely insightful and intelligent.” ~ Jack Messenger
The Water Rabbits was different, absurd and experimental and it made me think which is more than what I can say for a lot of other books that I have recently read.” ~ Ananya thefoodandbooklife

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
This is a collection of eleven stories and three poems populated by characters with wild imaginations.
In “The End of the Expert”, a man is asked to speak at a conference, but things don't quite go as planned.
“Absence of Monster” reflects on the changing face of monsters.
“Arguments for an empty room” is a train of thought on what constitutes the concept of being “empty”.
In “Under ground and over thought”, strange things occur above ground while stranger things occur underfoot.
“history lessons” is a poem about the things we can learn from the past.
In “The water rabbits”, we meet the inhabitants of a small island community where a writer’s imagination is sparked after witnessing an unsettling incident with the water rabbits. As it was the last day of autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere as I read this, I found this passage suitably apt: “Autumn passes quickly, like it has a pressing appointment elsewhere. It's never really settled, has been looking like it wanted to go from the moment it arrived. So, as soon as the temperature starts to drop, it makes its excuses and is off and out. Did you meet Autumn? No, I didn't, didn't even know it was here.”
“pep talk” is a poem I’m not sure I understood. A pep talk given to traveling coffee salesmen?
“OPPORTUNITIES” explores the process of coming up with the next new fad.
In “The new old”, we find out what happens when a man decides to say “yes” to every request.
“The Orphan” questions the reality of what we see in print.
“Pattern recognition” is a story that is three pages long but consists of just four sentences, one long, one short, one long, one short. I’m not sure if this is the pattern we’re meant to recognize.
“The Bombardier” takes a humorous look at the slow cooker.
“Tight” studies the effects of wearing a high-tensile bodysuit.
“The long game” is a poem that looks at how the glut of books on the market - due to the self-publishing phenomenon – is leaving authors destitute. (I think.)
The stories and poems are all well-written and eloquent in their use of language. The stories are more about introducing ideas and commentary than providing a narrative. Some are even structured like essays. They are the literary equivalent of a farce, in which high-brow and educated people sublimely discuss the ridiculous. As you can see from my descriptions above, I found it hard to understand some of the pieces and had to read some of them more than once to make any sense of them.
Still, if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will reap the rewards.
Favorite pieces: “Arguments for an empty room” and “The Bombardier”.

About the Author
Paul Tarragó
I’m a filmmaker and writer, using both video and celluloid, living in London. My work? A mix of underground experimentation and metafiction, tugging at the leash of (film) language but with narrative often held close at hand.
My moving image work has shown widely on international film festival and gallery circuits (including the South London Gallery, Brooklyn Museum of Art, National Review of Live Art, Pompidou Centre (Paris), Moscow + Rotterdam International Film Festivals) and includes several award winning experimental narratives, video installation, a collaborative feature film, moving image + live soundtrack performance work, etc.
In recent years much more of my time has been spent on words, besides scripts and performance texts. Some of these writings have appeared recently in The Wrong Quarterly, 2HB, decomP magazinE, Leopardskin and Limes, Ink, sweat and tears, SO MUCH FOR FREE SCHOOL, ETC. (Five Years), as well as in my short story collection – The Mascot Moth and several other pieces – which was published in 2013.
I currently work as a lecturer at the University of the Arts London.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

"UnCommon Evil" by P. K. Tyler

UnCommon Evil:
A Collection of Nightmares, Demonic Creatures, and UnImaginable Horrors
(UnCommon Anthologies Book 6)
edited by P. K. Tyler

UnCommon Evil:  A Collection of Nightmares, Demonic Creatures, and UnImaginable Horrors (UnCommon Anthologies Book 6) edited by P. K. Tyler

UnCommon Evil, the sixth book in the UnCommon Anthologies, has just been released. Keep reading for an excerpt and my review of some of the stories in this collection. Also available: UnCommon Bodies (read my blog post), UnCommon Origins (read my blog post), UnCommon Minds (read my blog post), UnCommonly Good, and UnCommonLands (read my blog post).

More books and stories by P. K. Tyler: White Chalk (read my blog post), Dead Girl (read my blog post), Heaven's Vault (read my blog post), Alt. History 101 (read my blog post), Mosaics Volume 2 (read my blog post), CLONES: The Anthology (read my blog post), Book of Lilith (read my blog post), Avendui 5ive (read my blog post), Twin Helix (read blog post), The Jakkattu Vector (read my blog post), Dominion Rising (read my blog post), and OCEANS: The Anthology (read my blog post).

UnCommon Evil brings you 20 of the most horrifying stories our deviant authors' minds can conceive. From the monster under your bed, to the very real reason for that oily sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, our UnCommon Authors bring you a whole new way of looking at the true nature of evil.

“The Nature of Evil” by P. K. Tyler: A foreword from the uncommon mind behind Fighting Monkey Press.

“Sip the Dregs” by Rhoads Brazos: Maribelle returns to her deceased grandmother Dulcine’s home near the bayou. Dulcine went missing and everyone assumes that she drowned in the waters. The story moves from a character study, to the paranormal, and then to much worse.

“Knobby Bones” by Jeremy Megargee: A man finds the lowest kind of human darkness hidden in the South Sudan.

“Dark Cloud over Ladysmith” by Robert Allen Lupton: During the second Boer War, thousands of civilians and British soldiers fought to survive during the siege of Ladysmith. A small group of brave women are forced to defend the beleaguered city from an ancient evil.

“A Handsome Man” by Joriah Wood: A chance meeting with an uncommonly handsome man at a party gives Brandy hope of escape from the criminals she's fallen in with, but the night has more in store for any of them than they realize.

“June’s Perfection” by Anne Skinner: Laura came to Las Cuevas for a fresh start, but her new job brought her so much more than she bargained for.

Mosaic” by Annetta Ribken: A trip to a local psychiatric museum to inspire a blocked artist releases more than inspiration.

“Let the Bodies” by J. Edward Neill: In the old-world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day. Poor little Mia doesn't stand a chance. Or does she?

“An Old Family Recipe” by Caroline A. Gill: With their crops failing and two sons killed by accident, Archie and Charlotte Stilton have to decide what they are willing to do to keep their family together.

“Windikouk” by Tausha Johnson: Ten-year-old Megan Jameson lives with her mother and younger sister in an isolated house in the mountains. Winters are never easy in the wilderness and when a blizzard threatens, Megan expects they’ll be snowed in—again. During a night of snow and cold, someone or something tries to break inside the house. Could it be her unstable father? A wild animal? Whatever it is has the scent of something uncommonly evil.

“Master of My Fate” by Bill Hargenrader: Hans is a normal boy growing up in the suburbs of Munich when he is diagnosed with a chronic disease, and soon after loses his mother in a horrible motor vehicle accident. His father, grief stricken and delirious with rage, blames Hans and pushes him to his limits and beyond.

“The Midnight Visitor” by Rose Strickman: Jenna and Gompers live a shadowy existence, awake only at night and dealing in mystery and magic. But something disturbs their equanimity, a disembodied monster that visits the house by night, stealing food and--eventually--feeding upon the living. Jenna must make the decision to use her most powerful spell to defeat it. The only problem is, this spell requires a human life...

“A Day with Uncle Addie” by Joshua Ingle: Peter’s parents take him on an exciting weekend trip to his Uncle Addie’s estate in the mountains. Addie is one of Peter’s favorite people in the whole world... but something isn’t quite right about him.

“Under the Bed” by Harlow C. Fallon: Monsters are real. They live wherever your mind’s eye sees them moving and breathing--in the darkness behind your closet door. In your basement. Under your bed. You don’t believe in monsters? You should. It might save you from becoming their next meal, like the boy in this story.

“The Well” by John Haas: Louis and his sister, Kate are on the run from local bullies when they come across an abandoned well in the woods. The well, as it turns out, is not unoccupied, and whatever is down there wants something.

“Eye of the Beholder” by R.A. Goli: An obese woman, desperate to lose weight, agrees to an unholy deal to make her dreams a reality. An uncommon visitor arrives to give her exactly what she wished for.

“What a Tiny World” by Jeremy Rodden: When Bill found himself relegated to duty in Section Six, the sub-section of the sheriff's office responsible for policing Dingo World, he never expected to find himself getting shot at in the underground labyrinths under the theme park. What he discovers beyond that is even worse.

“Mad Skinner” by Jonathan Cromak: In an older section of a certain English town, underneath black and white timber-framed buildings and cobbled streets, lies a catacomb of interconnecting cellars and tunnels. Once, they bustled with activity—servants dashing around like ants retrieving food or wine for their masters above; or after hour's meetings, dealings of a darker nature in the shadows and corners, out of sight. Nowadays, what remains are merely dark, fusty passages, the only disturbance being the muffled drone of traffic from somewhere above. These antiquated spaces of little value now lie forgotten and ignored. But not by everyone.

“The Donner Kid” by W. Jesse Gulbrandsen: In order to escape his troubled past, former gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok seeks refuge in sleepy town of Perdition. Unfortunately, trouble has a tendency of seeking him out.

“Window Dressing” by Stephen Lomer: A village butcher is thrilled to have an unexpected windfall when his cousin finds a sow on his property. It is a sow. Right?

“The Silent Treatment” by Tom O’Brien: A confused wife and mother isn’t quite sure what’s happening to her. She’s losing words and confidence. She might be going crazy.

Click below to read an excerpt from this collection, including two complete stories.

Praise for the Book
“I am extremely pleased with this collection of dark stories!! The authors do a fantastic job of drawing you in and keep you wanting more when the story is over.” ~ Devin Mojecki
“This book is full of amazing and wondrously evil stories that have you torn between wanting to read them and hide under your blanket.” ~ Fleur W
“If you are looking for scary and creepy horror, then get this anthology. I don’t read much horror, but I am a horror movie aficionado, and some of these stories even scare me! Therefore, this book is not meant for kids. There is a good variety in the 20 stories by various authors. Some are paranormal and some not.” ~ Diana in SC
“The tales in this book will most absolutely keep you awake at night. […] If you are a fan of horror, and all things that go bump in the night ... you MUST get this book!!” ~ Dowie
“Some good morbid tales in here. Certainly worth the price.” ~ William D. Wallace

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
An introduction by editor P. K. Tyler on the nature of evil is followed by 20 stories with the common theme of unspeakable horror. I’m about half-way through this collection and, as a fan of the horror genre, I’m loving it!
In “Sip the Dregs” by Rhoads Brazos, Maribelle clears out her grandmother’s home after her disappearance. No one knows what happened to her, but their suspicions are nowhere near as frightening as the truth. I’m not sure I understood this one, but it certainly had a lot of atmosphere.
In “Knobby Bones” by Jeremy Megargee, an aid worker in South Sudan attempts to uncover the truth behind the legend of Knobby Bones. What he finds is worse than anything he could have imagined. Truly disturbing.
In “Dark Cloud over Ladysmith” by Robert Allen Lupton, Martha and her friends struggle to defeat evil during a siege in the second Boer War. An interesting story, but the sentences are short and choppy.
In “A Handsome Man” by Joriah Wood, Brandy meets a handsome stranger at a party, and things take a very strange turn. Delightfully creepy.
In “June’s Perfection” by Anne Skinner, Laura escapes one unhealthy relationship only to enter another.
In “Mosaic” by Annetta Ribken, a  visit to a psychiatric museum unleashes an artist’s muse with disturbing results. Short and well-crafted.
In “Let the Bodies” by J. Edward Neill, a person goes missing from her town every day. But what does Mia’s grandfather have to do with it?
In “An Old Family Recipe” by Caroline A. Gill, Charlotte seeks justice for her family when two of her sons are killed in an accident. A beautifully written, heartbreaking story.
In “Windikouk” by Tausha Johnson, Megan loves telling her little sister scary stories. But, in reality, the truth is stranger than any of her fictions. Suspenseful.
I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in this collection. It seems to include something that will appeal to every horror buff’s tastes.

About the Editor
P. K. Tyler
P. K. Tyler is the author of Speculative Fiction and other Genre Bending novels. She's also published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA Today Bestseller's List.
Pav attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms.
Now located in Baltimore, Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica.