[Review] – The Deal Maker by Lou Yardley

When Ted’s beloved girlfriend Jessie disappears from the face of the earth, he is at a loss. But when he becomes determined to find her, no matter the cost, help is at hand, ready to lead him in the right direction – for the right price, anyway.

As Ted sets off on his journey, we meet a cast of other characters away from the Ted, and as the novel progresses, we start to see how their lives tie in with Ted’s. The characters can be, admittedly, quite vile, but that doesn’t detract from the story. Yardley pulls you along, tugging you with the characters and revealing information to make you question almost everything you think you know. As Jack gives Ted small pieces of the larger puzzle, we get them too, as lost as he is until the novel ramps up towards its climax.

My only gripe with the novel was in a certain reveal, one the characters know about but the readers are left in the dark with. It’s tricky to pull off, but personally I felt that though very small hints were there, it wasn’t quite enough to guide the reader in the right direction.

That aside, The Deal Maker is a gory, violent book that will keep readers engaged right until the very satisfying ending, and the grotesque, mismatched Jack – the Deal Maker of the title – is a character who, I think, will remain with readers, long after they’ve put the book down.

4/5 – Elle Turpitt

[Interview] – Author Patrick R. McDonough

By Garrett Witt

Welcome all. Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing a growing name in the indie horror/scifi field, Patrick R. McDonough. 

GW – Hi Patrick, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

PRM – Hello Garrett. Thank you for having me! I’m a New Englander that moved to southern New Jersey a few years ago with my wife. I have a handful of pets and our first child, Philip, on the way! 

GW – Congratulations on your first born. I’m sure you’re very excited. Tell us, What were you like at school? Did you enjoy it?

PRM – Thank you. Couldn’t be more thrilled! From the time I began learning how to read, up to high school, I loved it. Not sure what caused this but I went on a hiatus in high school from reading. I was a B/C student and only enjoyed history, computer, and writing courses. 

GW – When did you decide to become a writer?

PRM – I’m not sure I ever decided it. It’s more like a calling. We’re all meant to do something, writing is one of the things I was meant to do. I do know when I decided to start writing in a serious manner (to become published and hone my craft in both a creative and technical sense), it was when I met my wife back in 2013. She is my biggest inspiration in life.

GW – What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

PRM – Right now I’m concentrating on having as many short stories (and hopefully a novella or two) published through a few magazines and anthologies. Beyond that, I’m trying not to think of too much more or I’ll lose focus.

GW – Which writers inspire you?

PRM – Lovecraft, King, Rich Hawkins, Lydian Faust, Paul Tremblay, and Mark Cassell. 

GW – What are you currently working on? What’s it about? 

PRM –  A dark sci-fi/horror choose-your-own adventure short story, for an anthology (fingers crossed), and a zombie story (uncertain if it’ll be a novella or a novel at this point). 

GW –  That sounds great! Do you have a favorite zombie story? 

PRM – I have a few favorites: Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan.

GW – What draws you to horror and sci-fi? 

PRM – The first memory of a horror drawing me in was when I was 1. That was the year Stephen King’s IT–the television adaptation–first aired. Pennywise scared the shit out of me. I don’t know why but throughout my entire life, the things that scared me the most, fascinated me the most. And sci-fi, to me, is horror’s cousin. They both share many similarities and address questions I think about on a regular basis: death, how I’d handle a scary situation, the universe, other dimensions, future tech and social structures. 

GW – Why do you write?

PRM – It’s one of the very few things that I don’t doubt my abilities in. It’s also one of the few things in life that no matter how many rejections come my way, I won’t ever stop doing it.

GW – Do you write five days a week? How often do you write?

PRM – I wish! I feel like a lazy writer for not writing seven days a week, but life happens. I write as often as I can, which usually ends up being 3 or 4 days per week. I try to write in my office, but if I can’t, I’ll put on some headphones and write wherever I am.

GW – Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

PRM – For first drafts, I aim for 2,000 words a session. I’ve only recently learned to appreciate the art of editing, so when I edit I aim for 5 pages per session.

GW – I’ve been lucky enough to read some of your work, and while entertaining, I also find your ideas original. Where do your ideas stem from?

PRM – They come at random times, usually one idea stacked or intertwined with another. Every idea has one thing in common, they all begin with me asking, “what if…”

GW – Do you outline/plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?

PRM – I haven’t figured that out yet. Reason being, I do both. If a story feels too complex without an outline, I outline. How loose an outline is varies per story. 

GW – How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

PRM – I think the more feedback I get on why stories or characters DON’T work, the more it helps hone my creativity. I feel like I’ve evolved as a creative person over the last six years nicely. 

GW – What is the hardest thing about writing?

PRM – Starting. I LOVE writing, but some days it’s hard to write that first word. 

GW – What is the easiest thing about writing?

PRM – The nth draft. Ha. After the story starts to take form and I understand where it’s heading, it gets a bit easier.

GW – Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

PRM – Put that story to the side, a week, two weeks, a month, and work on something else. If the idea is still pestering you then give it another shot with a fresh mind and eyes. 

GW – Do you ever get writer’s Block?

PRM – No. Then again, I’m a writer that doesn’t believe in that. I think people get stuck on ideas for different reasons, but what it boils down to is some ideas aren’t meant to be expanded. Some ideas should just stay an idea. Other ideas aren’t meant to be worked on when you want to first explore them.

GW – Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

PRM – I try reading every day. My favorite authors are Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Rich Hawkins.

GW – I love book covers. I think sometimes I’m sold just on the cover art alone. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

PRM – Absolutely. A cover is a promise to the reader. It sets tone. Sometimes it can even set an atmosphere. It’s actually how I discovered one of my favorite sci-fi books, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It caught my eye amongst a row of books at the local store I shop at. It looked amazing. On the cover was this elephant amongst a city marketplace, with towering buildings in the backdrop, and zeppelins in the air. I wanted to read about that world. Lucky for me, the cover followed through with it’s promise of a grim tone and intriguing atmosphere.

GW – What do you do to get book reviews?

PRM – I reach out to as many reviewers as I can. I have limited experience, but the handful that have responded to me (you being one of them, ha) have been a delight to talk to.

GW – How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?

PRM – I’d say so far I’ve been successful 50%-60% of the time. 

GW – What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

PRM – I personally don’t write bad or negative reviews. If I don’t like a book, I don’t write a review for it. It’s just the type of person I am. If someone were to write a bad review for one of my stories, at the very least I’d hope they would offer constructive criticism on what didn’t work for them. 

GW – What’s your views on social media for marketing?

PRM – It’s incredible. I’m very happy and grateful for being a writer during this period.

GW – Which social network work best for you?

PRM – Twitter and facebook. 

GW – How do you relax?

PRM – Reading and writing, listening to music, and watching sitcoms (The Office, Seinfeld, South Park, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia). Shows that allow me to turn my brain off and laugh my ass off.

GW – Where can you see yourself in 5 years as a writer?

PRM – I think I’ll have a few short stories published and if all goes well, a novel or two under my belt.

GW – What is your favorite movie and why?

PRM – Damn, that’s a tough one. There’s SO many to choose from. I can’t pick one, so here’s three of my favorites: Chappie, The Matrix, and the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill.

GW – What advice would you give to your younger self?

PRM – Learn to appreciate my education more, and don’t go on a damn hiatus from reading and writing!

GW – Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

PRM – Benjamin Franklin, because I’m a history junkie and when it comes down to it, he’s the most influential person that shaped modern America. I’d love to listen to his thoughts on the 21st century.

GW – If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

PRM – I Am Legend. It’s PERFECT. It’s not too long and that book will, and has, stood the test of time.

GW – What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

PRM – Just do it. Seriously. Start writing. And expect your early stories to suck. 

GW – Where do you see publishing going in the future?

PRM – Using new formats to deliver stories. Maybe it’ll be through smart glasses, I’m not sure, but I do know that books will always be in both physical and digital form. 

GW – Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

PRM – I’m just excited to see where my future lies and hoping to make a name in both the horror and sci-fi market. 

Patrick R. McDonough / @PRMcDonough

[REVIEW] Husk – by Rachel Autumn Deering

[Spoilers Ahead]

Husk tells the story of a soldier home from war, dealing with the stress of PTSD and drugs. For the majority of the novella, it reads more like a drama than horror; Kevin Brooks is damaged from losing his best friend in Afghanistan, and is looking to cope with that loss and the ones back home. With his grandparents now passed, he has their house he once knew so well. Only, it’s empty and haunting now. The property is overgrown, dirty, and it seems like something is following him around. The scenes that take us through the development of Kevin’s character are fantastic (if Deering wasn’t in Afghanistan herself, I’d be surprised – that’s how well she wrote that opening), not to mention unnerving and all-to-realistic; everything that happens in this book can and has happened elsewhere. Without going into detail, Kevin gradually loses his mind as his insecurities and fears appear to take on a physical, hungry form.

As mentioned before, the writing of Husk is top notch. You’ve got to hand it to Deering; she has a way with words, and does a beautiful job in painting characters and their downfalls. The concept is also a great one – you’ve got to love a horror story that is actually based in reality. In a lot of ways, these kind of stories strike you to a deeper core as a result. I was sucked in right from the start.

I will, however, say that Husk has a couple faults. There is a lull in the story as we watch Kevin and his love interest, Samantha, meet and become attached. It is then followed by the horror-soaked ending, which feels sped-up and rushed. The way Samantha dies wasn’t even clear; I had to reread the pages several times to assume she was poisoned. I think if Deering had given the story another 30-50 pages here for development of Kevin’s inner monster, it would have worked wonders for the final impression.

Complaints aside, Husk has brought Deering to my attention in a good way. I look forward to anything else she writes moving forward (speaking of, where is this Wytchwood Hollow book she started promoting back in 2017??). ~ by Andrew Redman

3.5 / 5.0

[REVIEW] Rose – By Rami Ungar

Waking in a greenhouse with no memories from the last few years isn’t the strangest thing to happen to Rose. She also discovers her skin has turned green, buds have sprouted, and roots now reach from her body. A mysterious young man introduces himself as her boyfriend, Paris, and Rose has no choice but to trust him.

It takes a skilled author to make a single setting interesting and terrifying, and Ungar does it successfully here, with most of the novel set in Paris’ apartment, as Rose comes to terms with her new form, and faces the results of the dark magic used to transform her. The tension levels remain high, each scene building upon the last, keeping the reader completely – no pun intended – rooted to Rose’s story, engaged throughout. 

The only slight downfall was the ending, feeling like it went on maybe a little too long, but the novel is no less enjoyable for that. A frightening, high-tension read, one I would definitely recommend to any horror fantasy fans. ~ by Elle Turpitt

4/5

[REVIEW] Milk-Blood – by Mark Matthews

WOW, YOU GUYS. THAT IS THE ONE WORD I CAN USE TO SOME UP MILK-BLOOD BY MARK MATTHEWS. THIS IS A DARK, BLEAK, AND SINISTER TALE OF ADDICTION AND THE TRAGEDY OF A YOUNG GIRLS LIFE. THIS STORY PULLS NO PUNCHES AND IS ALL THE BETTER BECAUSE OF IT. IT’S ALMOST TOO DARK AT TIMES.

THE FIRST FEW CHAPTERS HAD ME PUTTING THE BOOK DOWN FOR A FEW SECONDS JUST TO CATCH MY BREATH. THE INCIDENTS IN THIS STORY FEEL SURREAL AND VERY MUCH BASED IN REALITY. I COULDN’T HELP BUT PICTURE THIS REALLY HAPPENING SOMEWHERE ACROSS THE WORLD, WHICH MADE THE EXPERIENCE THAT MUCH MORE HARROWING THE FURTHER YOU GET INTO THE RABBIT HOLE.

I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK BECAUSE OF ITS BLEAKNESS AND THE DARKNESS AT THE HEART OF IT. IT’S A NOSE DIVE INTO THE WORLD OF ADDICTION AND OTHER HORRORS I DARE NOT SAY UNTIL YOU’VE READ THE BOOK. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THE TERM MILK BLOOD MEANT UNTIL THIS BOOK, AND NOW I’LL NEVER FORGET IT.

I DON’T BELIEVE I’VE EVER READ SOMETHING THAT MADE ME FEEL THE EMOTIONS THAT THIS STORY DID. FOR THAT REASON ALONE, I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO YOU GUYS. JUST MAKE SURE YOU PREPARE SOMETHING THAT CAN PUT YOU A SMILE TO YOUR FACE SOMEWHERE NEAR BY. YOU’RE GOING TO NEED IT. ~ BY GARRETT WITT

4/5

[REVIEW] Growing Things – Paul Tremblay

Growing Things and Other Stories is Paul Tremblay’s most recent book. Comprised of 19 short stories, this collection is nothing short of hypnotic. It will resonate with you long after the last page has turned. This book has, for lack of a better word, a bonus feature—notes. A select few stories have notes on how the stories came to be. A story-behind-the-story. I love that! It makes me appreciate what went into the mall the more.

No story in here is anything short of good. But, like anything, we all have our favorites. Here are my five (spoil-free) favorites:

Growing Things: We get to revisit two characters from A Head Full of Ghosts—Merry and Marjorie. Tremblay paints a picture of an apocalypse brought upon us by vine things. They are anything but docile. The thought of the what-if factor results in nightmares that force their way down my spinal cord and branch out to every part of my body—slowly choking away my life and hope. 

Something About Birds: This was my absolute favorite in the collection. Not only that, it’s one of my favorite short stories EVER. It delves into the world of the indie horror community, its authors, and how its fan base can become suffocating and obsessive. It explores what a blogger of that community would do to capture his fifteen minutes of fame and, possibly, add his own stamp to the mythos of an old cult classic short story. 

This story should be studied in future weird-fiction lit classes. Is that a thing? If not, get on it… someone get on it and make it a thing.

A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken: A fun choose-your-own-adventure. First featured in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. I only wish this adventure was longer! I enjoyed it so much that the different options still run through my mind.

Notes From The Dog Walkers: The notes, basically being a mixture of a few voices we all face at one point or another:the praise, the suggestive, and the pretentious critic. Every writer faces this (some more than others). The pretentious critic is always the worst. The Bitch. The one you want to shoo away, but can’t stop but listen to for just one more line. The mind does not have a devil and angel. It has many demons telling you all the bad you do with occasional nice words of sweetness to keep its grip held tightly. The writing is so believable that if Tremblay said he simply transcribed real notes, I’d believe it.

The Thirteenth Temple: This was the last story in the lot. Like the first story, it involves the same two main characters—Merry and Marjorie. We get to see what both parents are like in this one. The atmosphere and social interactions are nothing shy of strange. But it’s perfect for a weird fiction collection. 

This collection was well paced. At no point did I feel like one story led into another jarringly. At no point did I feel disappointed. If you like weird fiction, then this is without a doubt the book for you. It may even get you a new favorite author, as it did me. ~ by Patrick R. McDonough

4/5

Review by Patrick R. McDonough

[REVIEW] Remains – by Andrew Cull

4.5 / 5.0

Bones got our attention; Remains seals the deal. Andrew Cull has a talent for building suspense. The atmosphere he sets is that of a scary movie, complete with spooks in windows, loud sounds, and crazy messages on the wall. Better yet, this story has a very meaningful base of support – our leading lady is looking for her little boy’s ghost! After losing him to a horrific murder/suicide, you can’t help but ache for her and understand the way she completely unwinds into hysterics.

Remains is spooky, sad, and thrilling. If you missed out on Bones, make sure to put your head in the game for this one; you won’t be sorry. ~ Andrew Redman

[REVIEW] To Be Devoured – by Sara Tantlinger

4.5 / 5.0

Sara Tantlinger’s debut novellette, To Be Devoured, is an unsettling and gritty story with a darkly poetic voice. Though it’s not necessarily violent, it has an extremely violent feel throughout (in the sense that there are bared teeth that continuously open wider, revealing sharpened blades).

Despite a conclusion that felt a little weak after the build-up, this story had me curious and disgusted and entranced from beginning to end. Tantlinger has a way of writing that is simply captivating; the way she spins words in such horrific scenes is grand and brilliant. And for that alone, she is recommended. The story is the added cherry on top – the loss of the lead character’s composure and mental state is thoroughly enjoyable and depraved. You’ll enjoy the ride, even when it makes you cringe and gag. ~ Andrew Redman

[REVIEW] The House That Jack Built – by Dale Robertson

I’ve always been a huge fan of great cover and a haunted house story. In fact, I would put it above all other sub genres of horror as my favorite. So, when I was approached to read The House That Jack Built by the darkly talented Dale Robertson, I wasn’t hesitant to jump in.

We start the story with our main character Sebastian, and his two best friends, Tommy and Regan. There’s a legend around town about Old Man Jack and the house he may or may not still be inhabiting. Our curious characters are eager to discover what lies inside the decrepit, possibly haunted house. 

I will say first and foremost that, personally, one of my favorite things of this story was the dialogue. Dale has a real way of creating characters and the relationship between them in short time, specifically, Seb and Tommy. I was immediately invested in them, and while they may not have been the deepest of personalities, I was nervous of what fate may be waiting for them in the coming night. 

“Even the forest seemed to have held its breath in anticipation of their arrival…”

Almost a quarter into the book, we are taken into different stories as it is old myth that Old Man Jack requires a few spooky tales before he’s willing to manifest himself. Each character brings an entirely different short story to the table to please Old Jack. While this was unexpected for me, I did not feel that the stories took me out of the main one. They are not related to the events going on, if anything they were a suspense builder to what was going to happen to our characters if legend proved itself true. I enjoyed some of these short stories more than others but overall, I feel each could stand by itself separately. So I had no quarrel with this. 

It was impressive how Dale manages to keep ‘Haunted House’ cliches to a minimum, as the classic story has been told countless times. 

Our three short stories lead back and forth to an engaging and adrenaline filled climax. Another thing I loved about this story was that the final chapter was my favorite. The twist was held out until the final words, even if I did have an idea of what it would be early on, I appreciate the ability to hold out on your twist until the very end. 

I would like to read a sequel to this story focused more into the myth of Jack and what horror he could bring this world. 

Overall, if your looking for a fairly quick read to get some thrills, characters you care about, short stories in the mix, and dark atmosphere, The House That Jack Built is an engaging tale that you should not pass up! ~ Garrett

4/5