Monsters Are Real

I was once stopped at a book fair by a woman who I assume was a romance author and asked, “Do you ever read any romance at all?” Immediately I apologized because that’s just part of what makes (made) me who I am (was). I don’t know what makes me feel the need to apologize unnecessarily for simple things or feel guilty about saying no, but that’s me, or it was.

So, then came the big question, “What do you like to read, then?” 

Here we go. 

“Horror,” I answered. 

The lady pretty much cringed and said, “OH, wow! Horror! Well, that’s certainly quite a genre.” 

It is quite a genre! For me, nothing can compare. 

Reading (and writing) is my escape from reality. For some it’s music, running, or baking. With music, my mind wanders too far too fast, so music alone doesn’t always work. Even audio books don’t quite cut it for me. It takes more concentration for me to read, and with audio books, like music, my mind tends to wander. I guess I’m easily distracted. 

Horror stories bring me to life. They make me feel. They wake me and shake me, keeping me on my toes and are forever reminding me to never let down my guard. 

The true horror I need to escape from is reality. I’m not afraid of what’s between those pages, but what roams the earth on two legs is a different story. These people are filled with insanity and drugs— a cocktail for terror. They lie, cheat, and steal their way through this life. It’s not the physical things, the material things, that they take away that hurts the most, although it delivers plenty of pain and hardships. These monsters steal our peace, our security, our emotional well-being, our sense of safety. They destroy our mental health, instilling a never-ending world of fear, pain, panic, anxiety, depression, and suffering. 

No, I don’t want to be taken away to land of butterflies and fluffy kitties by knights in shining armor. Or maybe I can’t be taken there because those places don’t truly exist anymore, (but I really do love butterflies and kitties). Reading all this cheerful, happy ending stuff doesn’t work for me. It’s not reality. You stand up, you fend for yourself, and you fight your way through it. It’s an exhausting battle.

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I no longer apologize for my love of reading horror. Nor do I any longer apologize for the horror stories and poems I write. You just need to enjoy what you can in this life. Do what makes you happy, and do it unapologetically. 

Read romance or horror or bizarro fiction. Read the newspaper or a magazine. Read erotica or fantasy. Science fiction or non-fiction. Read what speaks to you. Write what you want. Watch what you want. Go for a walk or run. Bake and decorate an intricately designed five-tier cake. Build a birdhouse or a human house. Do the happy things. 

And don’t be a monster. 

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” — Stephen King

 

 

 

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Book Review for Bones by Andrew Cull

Bones by Andrew Cull
A Collection of Monsters
Four short stories
4.875 stars

Review was originally hosted on KendallReviews.com.

 

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Did You Forget About Me?

March 26, 2019

5 stars

Cam Miller returns to his hometown after the death of his estranged father. He and his sister, Kelly, go out to their original home, a home they had to leave one night in hopes of never returning, to clear out any personal belongings their father may have left behind with plans to sell the house.

Cam has letters his father wrote him over the years, but he never read them, yet he brings them with him.

Something happened here so long ago, something he can’t remember. As Cam returns to the farm, some of his memories, along with his sister’s help, begin to resurface. Maybe some memories are better left forgotten.

Cam and Kelly have to face the horror of what happened all those years ago again, but this time they can’t run away from the monster.

***
The feels:
I could feel the coldness of this story seeping into my bones. No amount of covers helped. I could almost feel the water and expected to see the pages of my book curling from the dampness as the rain pelted the windows.

_____

Hope and Walker

March 27, 2019

5 stars
“We were both 10. But he was dead. And I sat drawing him.”

Em’s father is the owner of one of two funeral parlors in the small town of Hope. She’s ten years old, and living upstairs in the same building as the funeral parlor. She isn’t supposed to be downstairs, but she sneaks into the Chapel of Rest at night and begins drawing the bodies in the caskets.

As she draws the bodies, she talks to them. This goes on for quite some time, but one night the corpse talks back from his special-order, child-sized casket that’s still a bit big for him.

Em uses what the dead boy has said to try to find his killer.

“Being scared’s good,” Grandpa Walker had told me once. “Stops us from doing stupid things.” It hadn’t stopped me.”

Em’s bravery leads her to do something stupid all right.

Her father may be special-ordering another of those child-sized caskets that Hope had never needed before, until now.

_____

The Trade

March 28, 2019

4.5 stars

“It began with the offerings.”

The heat is stifling and the furnace is broken. It keeps pumping hot air. Mum and Dad argue constantly. They’ve begun sleeping in separate rooms.

I’m sick, fevered, and they blame what I’ve seen on the illness.

Opening the windows doesn’t help the heat much. The monster, the thing that’s bringing in the dead, rotted animals with their guts trailing out behind them, might get inside if I don’t close the windows.

My clothes cling to my small body. Oh, the heat.

More dead animals. More stench from the monster stalking our house in the dark. It’s just outside. Ceaseless arguing from Mum and Dad. It’s beyond arguing now…

“What had been an offering at first was now a demand.”

_____

Knock and You Will See Me

April 2, 2019

5 stars

Coming in at ninety pages, this is the longest story in the collection. It’s cold and rainy. Andrew Cull certainly has a way with words, making me feel the dampness and the chill in the air.

When Ellie was a child, she was dead for over nine minutes, and it caused her to become “sensitive,” meaning that she can see things that most others don’t see.

Ellie’s dad has moved in with her and her three boys, but it’s not long before he dies.

“We buried Dad in the winter. It wasn’t until the spring that we heard from him again.”

While Ellie is grieving the loss of her father, she also begins to believe she is losing her mind. Letters from her father begin showing up, and her “sensitivity” is back.

“Spring is like that friend who you love to see but who always arrives when your house is dirtiest”

She believes maybe they buried her dad alive…
There’s an “animal” stalking the family. The authorities believe it is a bear, but with her “sensitiveness,” Ellie knows differently.

“They say when something terrible is about to happen, when you’re about to die, everything seems to slow down. I don’t think that’s true. I think, when you’re pushed, you can think a lot faster than you mostly spend your days thinking.

After months of hell, Ellie knows she must protect her boys and stand up and fight.

Book Review for The Long Way Home by Richard Chizmar

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Richard Chizmar

The Long Way Home

Collection

First off, I owe a huge thank you to Richard Chizmar and Cemetery Dance Publications for providing me with a review copy of The Long Way Home. 

This collection contains a little bit of everything. Short story collections are wonderful things, and when you throw in some non-fiction and a script, it’s like adding sprinkles to your ice cream. 

I wanted to take time to write a mini-review for each story in this collection as I read it, but it just didn’t happen for me this time. 

I read this book five months ago, yes I did get behind on reviews, but the first story, The Man Behind the Mask, has stayed in my mind this entire time. After a month or so, a lot of stories tend to fade or melt into other other stories for me. The Man Behind the Mask stuck in my jumbled brain. That story tore me up. Have you ever thought about the people you come in contact with on a daily basis, really thought about how many people in line beside of you or behind you could be a serial killer? Maybe they’re not grabbing that to-go bag for themselves later; it could be their captive’s only meal for a week, or their last meal. You just never know. 

“Anyone with tulips has to be a nice person, right?” 

The Witch was another story that stood out to me.

Is it a Halloween death or a murder? Two detectives—one doesn’t hesitate to let everyone know he hates Halloween—investigate the man’s death. They talk to the man’s ex-wife, a woman who has been accused of being a witch. More than listening to her speak, it’s almost as if they can see her story being played right before them…almost like a spell…

It’s really the perfect short, witchy, Halloween story. 

A Nightmare on Elm Lane. 

Kevin’s dad has decided that he and Kevin are going to work on a big project in the back yard. They begin on Kevin’s first day of summer break. Kevin is less than thrilled about the project. He’d much rather be fishing with his friends or playing basketball. After a couple days of hard digging, they uncover more than they’ve bargained for. Then, the police are involved. A person of interest has been arrested, but…someone or something is after Kevin…

The Man in the Black Sweater is the shortest story. I love drabbles. They’re a lot of fun. It always amazes me how much of a story you can get out of only one-hundred words. 

Stephen King at 70:  A Tribute to the Gunslinger.

Here Richard talks about the first time he experienced a story by Stephen King when he was in high school, and how that first story he read by King affected him. 

Then we fast forward to his college years, and things take a rough turn for him. This is when he rediscovers King with the release of IT, and his whole life changes. 

To me, this is the best story in the entire collection. Non-fiction isn’t always my “jam,” but when it comes to stories like this, they’re everything. We think we know where we want our path to lead, or we might even think our path is pretty well-paved and ready for us, but we don’t know that. Sometimes things happen to knock us off our paths, and we begin somewhere else in a completely new direction. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Richard’s story. He’s had some extremely rough patches in life, and I couldn’t be happier for him with where he is in life with Cemetery Dance and as a writer and especially when he writes with Stephen King. He says in this tribute, “I’ve been a dreamer my entire life, but I never dreamed this big.” 

Never stop dreaming, man! 

4.5 stars overall for The Long Way Home. This is one heck of a collection. 

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

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.