Forgotten

Forgotten

Peck, peck, pecking away

At seeds fallen onto my tombstone

The lone crow

Turned to look toward me

He couldn’t really see me

Only sense my presence

Or maybe he could

I can’t be certain

My body has been here

For twenty two years

No one ever brings

Flowers anymore

They’ve moved on

Found new loves

Others have taken my place

And I linger here

I enjoy the crow

He visits every day

My only friend

Now that I’m forgotten

May 2, 2019

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Book Review for Tamer Animals by Justin M. Woodward

When you pick up a book by a new-to-you author that you’ve seen floating around on social media that’s getting good reviews, and, once you get past the gorgeous cover, you see one of your favorite authors James Newman, has written the foreword. You’re sold. You then know you’re holding something special, something golden.

Tamer Animals is a great coming-of-age story about a group of high school boys. They know there is no way their parents would let them take off alone on a camping trip near the Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge, so they make plans to have their parents believe they’re going on a church trip. It’s quite the scheme, and it leaves them without anyone knowing where they’ve actually gone.

The area surrounding Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge is rumored to be haunted. Local legend says that a goat farmer had been hanged from a tree many years ago. Sightings of a bizarre beast have been reported. Surely something half-human and half-goat isn’t really lurking in the woods…is it?

They could feel themselves being watched pretty much from the time they got to their campsite. Then, one of them disappeared… This camping trip was supposed to be a good time to get away and relax, let loose, and smoke some weed, but it’s been anything but a good time. It’s turned into a horrific experience that keeps getting worse and worse.

This was one hell of a camping trip.

Justin Woodward wastes no time bringing in the creepiness. He took me to the woods, along with these boys, and he didn’t let up with the intensity.

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As someone who spends a lot of time in the woods and camping (and my house is surrounded by woods), Tamer Animals has me looking over my shoulder more than usual. I don’t want to meet up with the Goatman…again.

This will easily be one of the best books I read this year.

Five out of five stars.

Book Review for Rotten Little Things by Justin M. Woodward

I’m honored to have received an eARC of Rotten Little Things. Thanks again, Justin! This is a prequel to Tamer Animals with the recommendation of reading it after Tamer Animals.
Both books will easily be in my top favorite books for 2019.

I was excited to go back to the vicinity of the Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge, back to the area where it all began.

Twelve years before the events of Tamer Animals, the Dresdens move to southwest Georgia. Jacob has found a new job that will allow his wife, Monica, to stay home and work on her writing. Jacob and their son, Zach, set out to build some shelters for their new little farm, thinking a few animals will help keep Monica company.

“New home. Old haunts.”

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Monica has battled paranoid schizophrenia all her life and has been haunted by a supposedly imaginary being. The move has been rough on her, and her imagination has been working overtime. Soon it becomes hard for her to distinguish reality from imaginary.

This novella is a quick read. Justin Woodward can sure pack a lot of horror into a small space.

We are building a cabin in the woods a few miles from our home. We can access it through the woods on what isn’t much more than a four wheeler path. I finished reading Rotten Little Things at the cabin, and the ride home in the dark on an unenclosed side by side, wide open to what lurks in the night was not any fun! I make that same ride home in the dark almost every night, but the night I finished this story was different. The next evening, I was at the cabin alone. It got dark before I got my supplies unloaded, so I had to wait until my husband got there before I was able to finish unloading my things. I didn’t tell him that was the reason. Thanks for the thrills and paranoia, Justin!

Five starts out of five stars.

Book Review for Book Haven: And Other Curiosities by Mark Allan Gunnells

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Mark Allan Gunnells is one of the best writers out there. I discovered Mark’s work when my friend James Newman recommended WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE by Mark and Aaron Dries.

I’ve read quite a few stories by Mark at this point, and he never disappoints. When he was sending out ARCs, I was extremely honored to receive one. Thanks again, Mark, and a huge thanks to Crystal Lake Publishing.

I love short stories, poems, novellas, and collections, so I knew this had to be good. I wasn’t wrong.

Book Haven is the title story. It’s a novella and an interesting read.

It’s a futuristic piece where a virus has wiped out all the books. The search is on for mythical library containing physical books. Any physical books that turn up are locked away like the treasures they are in library vaults. Some jobs require books to be rewritten so they can continue to be enjoyed and not forever lost, but some of the writers are rewriting them the way they want them to be.

Eek!

Human Bones in a China Cabinet is about human bones in a china cabinet. Jesse collects bones as a hobby. They’re human bones, and his friend Mike thinks it’s a bit weird. This story reminds me that people aren’t always who you think they are. So much sadness here.

Welcome Home is a different take on the haunted house story. Evan disappeared when he was kid, but his father never stopped looking for him. He never believed his son just vanished into thin air. I wasn’t expecting this ending. Bittersweet.

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Oh, what a haunting tale!

Monica is always on her phone playing games, texting, and keeping up with what’s happening on social media. Texting with her boyfriend, Philip, while driving, she’s killed in the accident. Only Philip feels weird about Monica being buried with the very cell phone that killed her. He’s full of guilt, and when he starts receiving text messages from the grave, he might lose his mind…

End-of-the-world Benediction

This poem left me feeling empty and drained of words. It kind of let the air out of me.

Going to See a Man About a Dog

I’ve heard the expression “going to see a man about a dog” many times in my life, or maybe I heard “going to see a man about a horse” instead. I never really put much thought into what it actually meant or could mean. I always took it to mean someone was going somewhere to do business of some sort, do some trading, or to get away for a bit. Small children take such sayings to heart; they take what we say literally. When four year old Ethan’s stepfather tells him he’s “going to see a man about a dog,” Ethan gets excited. He wants a doggie! What four year old wouldn’t?

All Ethan wants is the doggie Skeeter has mentioned. Skeeter finally agrees to let Ethan go with him, although Ethan can’t understand there wasn’t ever a dog. Skeeter was actually surprised to see a dog tied to the tree when they arrive at his “friend’s” house, and he makes Ethan promise to wait in the truck. Four year olds can only contain their excitement for so long, and Skeeter isn’t in any hurry to return.

There isn’t much that infuriates me more than druggie parents who are too selfish to see past their own “needs” to give their children a decent life. This story gutted me. It infuriated me. It made me sad. This story is the stuff reality is made of, sadly.

Excellent, horrific story.

The Sandbox

Chills. CHILLS! I made a note in my kindle when I finished this story. It simply said, “Chills. CHILLS!” That’s what The Sandbox did to me.

Timothy is a friendless outcast, sitting in a sandbox, playing alone. A seemingly familiar stranger comes over to talk with him. He gives Timothy confidence by sharing positivity and being kind. It’s life-changing. This story is a reminder that no matter how small we think a simple act of kindness is, it can mean the world to someone who hasn’t been shown kindness. A little positivity can go a long way. As I read over this story again to refresh my memory before writing this review, I got chills all over again. There is magic on these pages. Mark Allan Gunnells is a word magician! Wow!! A beautiful, ghostly story.

Wrong

There’s no better title for this story.

Janet finds Carol crying in the copier room. Carol’s son has been accused of a heinous crime. She wishes she could’ve been a better parent. No matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to get through to her son, Jimmy.

They have a heart-to-heart talk about parenting. When Janet walks into her home that evening to hear her own son and husband yelling, she takes the advice Carol gave her, even if it is wrong.

Evolution

A post-apocalyptic story of lost love, unlikely friendship, and revenge.

After a plague wipes out most of the population, Lowell and his boyfriend, Rick, are attacked by some barbaric morons. Dru, almost too cold and distant to call a friend, saves Lowell from the gang. As he heals physically, his emotional pain increases along with his thirst for revenge.

The Bracelet

What if a material object, and maybe a little magic, could really take away something bad, heal, or cure? Take care with those little trinkets and tokens of love, they could really be more a token of love than you know!

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Ping! After reading this short story, you might be a bit more selective of the people you accept as friends on social media sites. Beware of the smoking hot babe requests! Some things are exactly what they seem…

A Day Like Every Other Day

A poem about the monotony of life and how doing the same thing, or a slight variation of the same things, every single day can wear on a person. Change up your routine. Try something new. Do something different. Say yes more often. Break out of the cycle. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow your credit card may run out,” so to speak.

The Man Who Watched the Ocean, or Twelve Steps Down Into the Sea

This short story packs a punch. It’s filled with sadness but also, in a way, a relief.

Mourning the loss of love from the past, Isaac comes to the lighthouse every couple weeks to watch the ocean. On this particularly cold and rainy autumn day, he decides he’s not to visit the lighthouse anymore.

The Desk

This story was completely unpredictable for me.

Nick Henson has moved into an old house that needs upgraded a bit. The previous owner had died a year ago. Nick has writer’s block and deadline, but he’s been getting the house cleaned and fixed up instead, doing anything to avoid writing. When he finds something the previous owner has left behind, he could easily use it to his advantage. No one would ever know. Could this solve his problems and help him meet his deadline?

When Gas Was 52 Cents Per Gallon

It’s hard to write a mini review on this without getting into spoiler territory. Brandon has had a massive crush on his roommate for months. When their car breaks down at a deserted gas station, Brandon risks entering the abandoned building to use the bathroom. What waits for him inside? Is this what he’s been looking forward to, or is it a nightmare?

This isn’t one I’ll soon forget.

The Little Boy Who Lived in the Library

When I’ve gone through rough times, my best escape has always been reading. Music helps some, but my mind tends to wander too much. Reading takes more focus, so I’m able to escape reality and live in another world even if for only a little while. It’s good to see Paul is able to use the library to escape his reality.

Waiting for the Fall

After Darrell’s stroke last winter, he has proved everyone, including his doctors, wrong. They’d expected him to live no longer than a few weeks, but here he was, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch eight months later. His daughters seem to think he’s waiting for something, possibly their brother, his estranged son, Philip. He’s unable to communicate and feels useless. He’s just sitting her waiting, “waiting for the fall.”

Tanner

An erotic yet horrific tale about a man purchasing a used tanning bed.

Matthew’s lover doesn’t like the tanning bed from day one, and he’s constantly badgering him to get rid of it. Things tend to heat up in more ways than one inside the machine, and Matthew is rather enjoying his tanning sessions. Wes’s dislike and possibly even jealousy of “Tanner” is mutual. If the warnings you’ve heard about tanning beds aren’t enough to deter you, this story might make you change your mind.

Go to Sleepy Little Baby

A man and woman are living a luxurious lifestyle. What they sacrifice for the luxury is unfathomable. Is a life of luxury really a life at all? Is it really synonymous with happiness?

The Farm

Victor has bought a farm that was the scene of a horror movie. He gets a few unwanted visitors every month. He’s considering fencing his property to keep sightseers away, but things change once Becket, a “Farm” freak, as Victor calls him, arrives.

The Hidden Cemetery

Billy is driving Beth down a rarely used road that leads to The Limestone Cemetery which is not a well known place around town. She is hoping to smoke some weed and hop into the backseat, but Billy has plans for a whole lot more fun…

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In a nutshell: hoard all the books, don’t trust anyone, never give up, don’t take someone else’s advice to heart, seek revenge if you must, take care with the simple gestures, do a background check on anyone before allowing them on your social media sites, break out of the monotony of every day life, be persistent, do the right thing, don’t wander off in deserted places, read to escape reality, be patient, heed tanning bed warnings, don’t believe a life of luxury is all it’s cracked up to be, don’t trust anyone, and don’t trust anyone.

This collection delivers everything: warmth and hope, anger and sadness, paranoia, fear, everything.

Five out of five stars.

Review Policy

I accept both ebooks (Mobi format) and physical books mostly but not limited to the horror genre for review. I like mysteries, thrillers, suspense, psychological, splatterpunk…

I enjoy a wide variety of works including: flash fiction, short stories, collections, novellas, novels, poetry, etc. Shorter works have a special place in my heart.

I have no triggers at this time.

I generally am not interested in works completely revolving around wars and battles, futuristic works with flying cars, holograms, and robots, or super-weird/bazaar/bizarro fiction, but some of these elements is fine.

I will take time to consider all submissions.

I post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and I share those reviews on Twitter and (sometimes) Facebook and usually on Instagram with photo(s) of the book with a link in my bio leading readers to the full review. Physical copies tend to photograph better, but I’m usually able to create a nice photo either way. If you’d like to check out my Instagram posts, my username is: @miranda_c_rites.

You may email details about your work to mcrites1@yahoo.com for my consideration.

I can’t accept everyone, but I will answer you. If you don’t hear from me within a week, I haven’t received your email.

I have quite a few books on my TBR (to be read) list, so I might not be able to get to your story immediately. If you need something read and reviewed quickly, sometimes I can make an exception and bump you forward but not always.

Reviews aren’t guaranteed. If I DNF (did not finish) a story, I don’t write reviews.

 

All Apologies: A Sad Look Into My Past and My Love for Nirvana

I sit here and look out at the gray sky, the silhouette of the trees still mostly bare. The rain falls down onto the weeping cherry tree, the droplets run down the weeping branches and plop to the ground.  The petals shrivel, unable to hold the weight, litter the ground like a pink springtime snow. I can see the leaves beginning to bud on the cherry tree, so I know there’s hope, but today I need the sunshine and blue skies that are absent.

I stand and have a different view. The grass is getting greener. Some of the little spicebushes display a nice pop of green. Purple deadnettle cascades down the bank, promising springtime is here.

But the gray sky hovers as a reminder of the past. I hold my sick head in my hands; my brain is either rotting or my sinuses are trying to kill me. With this fogginess, I can’t seem to focus my thoughts to good place, a happy place, a place I need to be today. No, the gray sky and rain make me wonder if this is what Seattle looks like. That’s what I’ve always been told. I never made it to Seattle, and now the grunge movement is dead. And here comes the flood of thoughts I try to hold back, but today the dam is broken. The flood is here.

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Me and my cousin Amanda around 1995

“Good evening. This is off our first record; most people don’t own it,” Kurt tells us during the opening of the Unplugged album of the track “About a Girl” originally from the “Bleach” album. I guess I’m not most people. My dad bought me my first CD player when I was probably 14, I believe I was in 8th grade, and I didn’t own any CDs so he told me to go ahead and pick out one. “Bleach” was the very first CD I ever owned.

“She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak.”

I was born on February 24, a Pisces. I was always interested in astrological signs and looked forward to getting a new TV Guide. There were horoscopes in the back, and it was the first thing I looked at, rather than going for the crossword section like most. My aunt would give us magazines, and of course, it was the horoscopes I went for. Grocery line checkout? You guessed it. I haven’t kept up with much astrological stuff for years now, I’m not sure why, but it meant a lot to me such a long time ago.

“I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks.”

When I first started getting into the band Nirvana, I was enthralled to find the Piscean references in a lot of the songs. Kurt Cobain’s birthday was four days before mine, and it felt like I connected more deeply with the music because of this. Sadly, Kurt passed away just as I was starting to get into Nirvana, so he pretty much always spoke to me from the grave.

My cousin, Thad, shared a birthday with my grandmother on February 26, fellow Pisceans. Thad and I talked about music a lot. He would play songs for me, including Nirvana, on my old Academy Ovation acoustic. I would show him new stuff I’d learned, and he’d try to teach me more. On Halloween night in 1995, Thad was killed in a car wreck. He was 22. I was a freshman in high school at that point, and without Nirvana, I think I would’ve died, too. I clung to every lyric and guitar chord, every thump of the bass, and every beat of the drums like my life depended on it; it did.

“I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black.”

Later on, my cousin, Jason, another fellow Piscean and Nirvana fan, got sick. Lymphoma took him at 27. I was driving home not long after he’d left us, and I realized he’d been the same age Kurt had been. I beat on the steering wheel and screamed and cried, but it didn’t change anything.

On April 5, 2013, my grandmother passed away on the nineteenth anniversary of Kurt’s passing. I had this Nirvana shirt I wore probably two or thee times a week in high school that had Kurt’s photo and February 20, 1967 — April 5, 1994 under the photo. How ironic that date would be forever immortalized with death to me.

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“Hey! Wait! I’ve got a new complaint!”

What does all this mean? I don’t even try to figure out any meaning anymore. Coincidences? Some will say that’s all it is. Maybe it is. I don’t know. I do know today is hard because it’s a big set of dominos that brings back this flood of memories, and it hurts.

I’ve often heard that a cardinal represents a loved one who has passed, and when you see one, it means they’re visiting you. They usually show up when you most need them or miss them. Sure enough, there’s been a cardinal at my feeders all morning.

I’m going to blast Nirvana all day, drink coffee, hope the sun shines at least a little, and try to make the best of a sad day. Most of all, I am going to be thankful for the memories, they’re all I have.

I normally don’t write too much about my personal life, but today I felt compelled to let it out. Even if I do write about my life, it’s usually never going to see the light of day. It always gets weird. So, if you’ve read this, know it was hard for me to put this out there. I like my privacy, but sometimes things need to be said to someone other than just hidden away in a notebook or a computer file. Fiction is easier. Horror fiction is even better. This stuff that’s reality is too hard and too real at times, and definitely way too weird. I no longer fight weird. I’ve learned to embrace what I can’t change. “What else should I write? I don’t have the right.” (All Apologies). Thanks for listening.

“Forever in debt to your priceless advice,”

Miranda

All quotes are lyrics from “Heart-Shaped Box” unless otherwise stated.

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Goofing off at Amanda’s house one evening during a sleepover. My hair was a mess after this.