(Share the Horror Reviews) FLAME TREE PRESS (Part One): Tim Waggoner- THE MOUTH OF THE DARK and Hunter Shea-CREATURE

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Flame Tree Press’s new horror line, with horror editor extraordinaire, Don D’Auria at the helm, is gearing up to bring horror with “AWARD-WINNING AUTHORS & ORIGINAL VOICES” to the masses.

I received the first batch of stories to review last month and have made my way through the first couple by two familiar names: Hunter Shea (We Are Always Watching, The Montauk Monster) and Tim Waggoner (Pandora Drive, The Winter Box) .

Being a huge Leisure Books and Samhain Publishing fan (and sometime author), I’m excited about this new venture with Don and Flame Tree. After reading these two offerings, I think we’re in for a bit of change, and that can definitely be a good thing.

CREATURE by Hunter Shea

The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal. But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead. Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night. 

 CreatureCreature by Hunter Shea

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With CREATURE, Hunter Shea shares a horror none of us would choose to face. A very slow burn with one of the most sympathetic characters I’v ever read. The last act of this one features enough savage horror for Shea’s regulars.

Kate is a fabulous character, as is Andrew.  We feel their pain throughout this novel. Shea poured his blood on the pages and while I commend him for this, and it is effective early on, it began to wear on me halfway through. But if you push through, the reveal of the monster is well worth the wait.

The “Creature” had a bit of a fantasy feel for me with how Shea uses it once we discover what’s truly happening, and that bugged me a little but not enough to ruin things for me.  There was just enough gore to satisfy my hunger, but not as much as you’d expect to find in a Shea novel. That’s okay. This story doesn’t call for it.

I give CREATURE 3.5 monstrous stars.

*Recommended for patient horror readers. Takes a while to really deliver, but when it does, watch out!

THE MOUTH OF THE DARK by Tim Waggoner

Jayce’s twenty-year-old daughter Emory is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, homicidal sex toys, and – worst of all – a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man. But no matter what Shadow throws at him, Jayce won’t stop. He’ll do whatever it takes to find his daughter, even if it means becoming a worse monster than the things that are trying to stop him. 

 The Mouth of the DarkThe Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

THE MOUTH OF THE DARK by Bram Stoker winner, Tim Waggoner, is an interesting book. If you’re tired of the same old-same old in your horror stories, this might be just the thing you’re looking for.

There’s a world (Shadow) within our own, where creatures and, sometimes humans, live and thrive. There are exotic shops, a club called, Crimson Splendor (cool name!), and creatures, I said that, right? Weird concoctions like The Napkin Eater, Underborns, and Therons (oh my!).

At the core, is a story about a father (Jayce) in search of his daughter (Emory). Throughout the search, Jayce is introduced to Shadow and all the things Emory has gotten into.
I wouldn’t say this story is for everyone, but if you enjoyed shows like Grimm and Supernatural, you might really dig this one (note-this would be a very hard R rated version of those shows).

I enjoyed the characters well enough and the creativeness in Waggoner’s “Shadow” is amazing, but I think this would have had much more impact as a novella. Like I said, it is very different from anything I’ve read lately (when Waggoner goes weird, he really goes weird-see Pandora Drive). Sometimes, different works, sometimes it fails to connect. That’s how I felt about his particular book. While there’s plenty to like in here, some (key word: some) of it just wasn’t for me.

Overall, a good read.
I give THE MOUTH OF THE DARK 3.5 stars.

Final word:

You can tell I found plenty to enjoy in my first dance with Flame Tree Press. I think these two novels will find plenty of love from a wide range of readers out there. They also are a great lead into two of he books I’m most looking forward to this year: THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER from Jonathan Janz, and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY by John Everson

Stay tuned for those reviews next month!

 

Scares That Care V: An Adventure in Small Press and the Braking Road Trip

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It truly was a fantastic weekend.  I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in a couple years, plus meet plenty of new ones. I got to participate in the WELCOME TO THE SHOW panel with Matt Hayward, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovani, Robert Ford, Kelli Owen, Somer Canon, Rachel Autumn Deering, Patrick Lacey, Adam Cesare, and Matt Serafini. The anthology made it’s debut and sold out!  I ended the weekend with a fun reading with Amber Fallon (whom I got to meet in person for the first time).

The main purpose for the trip was to see if I could run my own table and sell not only my books, but the books of some of my buddies. I’m happy to report that Alien Agenda Publishing had a successful debut. With only a few titles available, we nearly sold out.

Special thanks to Deborah Grace and Matt Manochio for watching my table so I could step away now and them. It was a huge help.  Thanks to all the folks who picked up copies of AAP titles, THE BEAST OF BRENTON WOODS, BECOMING, THE NIGHTCRAWLER, and LAND OF BONES.  And also thanks to those that picked up copies of my Sinister Grin Press book, CHASING GHOSTS.

I had a blast in the spaces and beats between multiple con functions. Friday night, I ventured into the bar and ended up spending the evening with Ron Malfi who introduced me to Rio Youers.  We had drinks and did some Scaryoke. Ron did his “I Alone” Live staple, I took on the spirit of the Lizard King for “Break On Through to the Other Side”, but it was Rio with his fist pumping, hip thrusting, hat borrowing, intimate eye gazing rendition of Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds” that hijacked the show and made it one for the ages.

Saturday night, I got to catch up with my dear friends, Russell Coy and Brian Picard. I also finally got time to hang with Matt Hayward. Matt’s a fantastic writer and just an all around great guy. He invited me to the WELCOME TO THE SHOW anthology and I owe him many beers for that alone. Sometimes, you talk to a person online and its cool and easy, then you meet them in person and its more awkward. This was not the case with Matt. It was great to see and hear his enthusiasm face-to-face for the anthology and all things writing and music.  He’s a great dude and i hope we get to hang many, many more times in the future.  It was also nice to meet Dan Padavona, and chat with him, Tim Meyer, Russel Coy, and Matt Hayward.  I also got overwhelmed and schooled on JAWS by the great Jonathan Janz and John Boden.

Sunday was much more chill. Got to talk GN’R with Brian Keene, do my reading with Amber, and then head for home in one piece.

The trip wasn’t without its challenges.

And that brings us to the brakes.  My wife’s car decided that Pennsylvania was the place where all things brakes would be taken care of.  On my way down, a loud noise scratching sound brought me to CJ’s Tire and Automotive in Exton. Luckily, Dalton and his crew got me back on the road (and thanks to my wife for taking care of the bill-love you, dear!). All was good the rest of the way down, and I had no troubles all weekend. On the way back, things were smooth, I had made my money back for the earlier repairs and we were smiling. Then, as I’m getting off my exit in Wilkes Barre, an even louder, more persistent grinding noise starts up from the back passenger side.  At this point, I’m asking what PA has against me and my brakes, but I make it to my hotel and call the wife.  Next morning, I find a place called KOST Tire and Auto Service.  And i have to say, after explaining my misadventures in brakes, Casey made all things right again. My mother-in-law came through helping me pay for this second stop (thank you, Laurie!), but Casey gave me such an amazing experience and deal that I left the shop in tears. The kindness and willingness shown by Casey and his staff at KOST to go far above and way beyond to help a crazy nimrod like me was just overwhelming.  Thanks to Casey and Dalton, and their crews, and to my wife and her mother, I made it to SCARES THAT CARE and home. I’m a lucky dude.

All said and done, it  was an amazing, costly, sure, but totally amazing trip.

Not sure when I’ll be back at Scares (aiming for 2020), but if you have a chance as a reader, writer, publisher or whatever, it is the best con I’ve ever been to.  AND it all goes to helping families in need.

i didn’t get a chance to chill with Patrick Lacey, Aaron Dries, or Mike Lombardo, but we’ll make sure to fix that next time around.

I put a few photos below.  See you guys again down the road!

Cheers!

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