Something Wicked Anthology Extended to January 2014

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Happy New Year, Dreadites! Here’s to a twenty-fourteen full of horrific words and splendid terror.

With all the holiday festivities to be had in December, there just wasn’t enough time to really dig into this collection, so the Dreadful Tales Book Club opens the new year with an extension of its December 2013 title, Someone Wicked: A Written Remains Anthology. The extra month will not only allow readers more time to enjoy the stories, but also a chance to visit The Mortuary message board to chat with some of the contributing authors as well as the anthology’s editors, Weldon Burge and JM Reinbold.

What better way to kick off your New Year than by delving into some disturbing tales of wicked people?

Join usssssssss……

Chat with the editors, authors, and other readers here!

-Meli

Dreadful Tales Book Club – December 2013 Edition

Banner by Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Banner by Mark Brown, a.k.a. Dark Mark

Hello, Dreadites! I hope you enjoyed all the nastiness that John Everson’s little eight-legged friends had to offer in our October / November Book of the Month, Violet Eyes. Don’t forget to stop by and chat with us about the book here at The Mortuary, the official meeting place for the Dreadful Tales Book Club.

For December, we are reading the Smart Rhino Publications anthology Someone Wicked: A Written Remains Anthology. We’ve read Smart Rhino titles for the Book Club before. In fact, our inaugural Book of the Month was Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! which we later followed up with the sequel anthology Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!

If you read the above-mentioned anthologies, you will see some familiar names in Someone Wicked like L.L. Soares, who was featured in both Zippered Flesh anthologies; JM Reinbold, contributor to Zippered Flesh 2 and co-editor of Someone Wicked; and Weldon Burge who is editor for all three anthologies as well as a contributor to the first Zippered Flesh collection. There are several new names as well and I suspect this anthology will fill up your to-read list as it has mine with both titles before it.

Here is a little tease from the Smart Rhino Publications website:

Avaricious, cruel, depraved, envious, mean-spirited, vengeful—the wicked have been with us since the beginnings of humankind. You might recognize them and you might not. But make no mistake. When someone wicked crosses your path, your life will never be the same. Do you know someone wicked? You will.

The 21 stories in the Someone Wicked anthology were written by the members of the Written Remains Writers Guild and its friends, and was edited by JM Reinbold and Weldon Burge.

You can pick up a copy of Someone Wicked in paperback format or for Kindle then come on over to The Mortuary to chat with us about the book! In the past, we have had a lot of success engaging the authors on the message board in discussions of their stories, so it should be a good time.

Find out more about Smart Rhino Publications and keep up with all the latest Smart Rhino news at their website here. You can also stalk them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

-Meli

All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 1)

allhallowsread2

Click on the picture above to get your own AHR posters from Introverted Wife!

Ahhh, All Hallow’s Read.
A wonderful celebration of scariness and wordiness, brought to you by the inimitable Neil Gaiman and his crazy hair – no doubt the Samson-like power center for his creativity and scheming prowess.

Regular readers will remember our 2011 stint with AHR, and the 31 suggestions we bombarded you with that month. We went the distance and threw out suggestions for everything from what to give your favorite student, to what to give your mother in-law for AHR. And you know what?

We’re gonna do it again!

Starting today (a day late… shush), we’ll post a suggestion every day for a book you could give to someone in your life for All Hallow’s Read. Some of them may be for the people you love, and some for may be for the people you hate, but we can guarantee all of our books with come highly recommended, and will be sure to leave an impression upon the reader – good or bad.

So without further ado, Dreadful Tales welcomes you to All Hallow’s Read 2013, and would like to recommend October Dreams for the AHR newcomers in your life!

chizmar04If ever there was a book that was so perfect and so dead on with its subject matter that nothing could ever top it, it’s October Dreams – A Celebration of Halloween.

Edited by Richard Chizmar and released by Cemetery Dance, this collection of short stories not only reeks of Halloween spirit and terror, but it also includes select remembrances by some of the authors, of their favorite childhood Halloween memories.

Our absolute favorite here is the last entry in the collection – Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub – a genuinely haunting story that speaks volumes in terms of darkness, wonder, and fear. If you weren’t a fan of Straub before, this one story will make you a fan for life.

Colum reads Pork Pie Hat (a novella) at least once a year. And that’s saying a lot, since he doesn’t like to re-read things often.

This one can be found in bog box stores and online, and it’s definitely a must-have for any horror fiction fan.

 

Dreadful Tales Book Club – March 2013 Edition

This lovely banner is courtesy of Mark Brown (aka Dark Mark)

This lovely banner is courtesy of Mark Brown (aka Dark Mark)

Colum proposed a very ambitious Bram Stoker challenge for all you DT readers (you can check that out here), but I have an unrelated warm-up challenge for our Book Club members; we’re reading two books this month! Well, technically one anthology and one novella.

Book Club readers are of course free to read at their own pace (I’m just now wrapping up January’s book!) and since we have two books this month you are welcome to read them in whatever order you wish. So, without further adieu and in no particular order I present to you the March Books of the Month. Continue reading

Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 5

Last week I wasn’t completely honest with y’all. Although Part 4 of the Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition was titled “The Final Chapter,” there are actually a couple more stories to go before we wrap this up. I hope you can find it in your horror lovin’ hearts to forgive me.

This time it really is the end *tear*

The second to last story in this dark metahuman collection is “Gone Rogue” by Wayne Helge. This yarn is about how one sidekick finds his arch-nemesis and has one of my favorite endings among the 21 stories in this anthology. Z-pack is the trusted sidekick to the city’s hero Zooster, but when Z-pack has to step up to fight villain The Midshipman alone he proves to be more than capable. From then on, Zooster leaves the fighting to Z-pack so he can spend his time wooing the Athena sisters. That doesn’t mean he lets Z-pack take the credit for keeping the city safe, oh no. Z-pack does the dirty work and Zooster is there to take the credit giving interviews and smiling for newspaper photos. So where does that leave Z-pack? You’ll have to read to find out. “Gone Rogue” is one of the funnier stories in the bunch, mostly due to the hilarious punch line ending. Helge has a dark sense of humor that I think any reader will be able to appreciate. Short, sweet, to the point, and an ending that made me giggle out loud. “Gone Rogue” is a winner.

Corrupts Absolutely? ends on a bit of a sad note with Andrew Bourelle’s “Max and Rose.” While it’s not revealed explicitly how, Max has recently acquired superpowers and continues to get stronger. He has physical and mental strength, even able to control people with his mind. He hopes he can fly soon. Bourelle’s short gets at the heart of what Corrupts is all about. Max has newfound abilities, but he is not compelled to use them for good. He’s not stopping muggers from attacking innocent old ladies or disrupting bank heists. Instead Max is mind controlling women to have sex with him, using it to gain riches, and when this story opens he is manipulating the maître d’ of a fancy hotel restaurant to give him and Rose the best seat in the house. This may not sound so bad, but could this be how supervillains are born? Rose seems to think so and suddenly at this dinner at the fancy hotel, she has that epiphany which has recently been building. Everyone knows a true villain can’t find true love. In fact, it’s usually the loss of love that finally turns them completely to the dark side. Bourelle’s “Max and Rose” is the story of their relationship coming to an end, but in typical Corrupts fashion it is with a dramatic finale. This is a heartbreaking love story, the prologue to what could be a great supervillain’s tale and one of my favorites in the entire collection.

Corrupts Absolutely? opened strong, with Tim Marquitz’ “Retribution,” and ended with the equally strong “Max and Rose” by Andrew Bourelle. While there were a couple stories that I didn’t connect with as much as others, Corrupts represents a diverse group of dark metahuman fiction from a host of talented writers, rookie and veteran alike.

I was immediately intrigued when I first heard the concept for Corrupts Absolutely?. The collection quickly exceeded my expectations and what I thought would be an anthology of fun, lighthearted stories about evil supervillains turned out to be deep and often very personal. Childhood abuse, rejection from society, greed, power hunger, political corruption are all flavors offered in this anthology. A person corrupted by extraordinary ability is the perfect backdrop for some delectable mayhem, but Corrupts offers much more. While it’s impossible for every story to be a homerun for all readers, I think you will find that there are more RBIs than strikes. Did I say that right? My husband is making me watch a lot of baseball this summer. Thought I would throw that analogy out there.

If you’re like me, you will pick up this anthology because it has an interesting concept but after a few stories find that you were missing this type of superhero prose all along.

For a diverse collection of stories with a blistering pace, heavy action, and a lot of heart pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 4: The Final Chapter

We are nearing the home stretch of the Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition. This is the Final Chapter where we wrap up the closing stories in the dark metahuman fiction collection. Unlike the Friday the 13th entry by the same name, editor Lincoln Crisler will not come back from the grave to torment you and other mentally unstable residents of a backwoods halfway house. Not yet anyway.

I think Crisler’s team of author-heroes have almost exhausted every possible angle to dark metahuman fiction. While some of the superheroes featured in these stories are inherently corrupt by their own evil, others are puppets of the government, and others still are driven to corruption from the pain and anger of abuse and exploitation. Until now, the majority of the stories in this collection highlight the human element in metahuman, tugging on the heartstrings of the readers as we are offered a glimpse into the psyche of man and woman burdened with superpower.

This anthology closes with a healthy mix of metahuman tales, but many of the stories celebrate the Tony Stark and Bruce Waynes of superherodom. They are powerful corporate moguls for whom monetary influence isn’t enough. Or in other cases, they use their endless funds to control the superhero game, rigging a system to work in their favor, and never for the little guys.

We finally get some much needed female sex appeal in Anthony Laffan’s “Sabre” which features a powerful, seductive protagonist Leandra Shields, a.k.a. superhero Sabre. Katy Pierce, a journalist with The Informer, is determined to prove there is a connection between Sabre and Miss Shield’s company Aegis Inc. “Sabre” is one of the shorter shorts in this collection and more of the beginning of a story than a complete tale, but with an undeniably sexy edge that will leave the reader wiping drool from their mouth. I run the risk of revealing too much by saying more since this is a very brief story, but the heavy eroticism, while understated, was a welcomed surprise.

While the first two stories in this section have a bit of fun with the traditional superhero mythos, Lee Mather’s “Crooked” is a dark and violent drama. When we meet up with Leon Light, a.k.a. Lightfingers, he is making his way to Dale Howard’s place, though at the time we’re not sure why, then he heads over to his former girl Willa’s place. When he gets there Willa is missing along with their kid. Leon Lightfingers has been on the run from Jimmy Delvita, the Mouth of Truth, after taking his money for sixteen years, but his past has finally caught up with him. The history between Leon and Jimmy is deep. He took Leon in when he was just a kid, starting him in his burglary racket. All the sordid details play out from the time Leon is picked up by one of Jimmy’s henchman at Willa’s to the blistering finale at Jimmy’s headquarters. “Crooked” is one of the few stories in this collection with strong horror elements. Both Jimmy and Leon have acquired their power in tragic accidents. The former proudly displays a scar across his stomach known as the Mouth of Truth which mimics Jimmy’s emotion in its varying forms. And the latter can control objects with his mind, the result of a crippling beat down, and subsequent stroke, by his father. Only one can survive this final standoff. Vicious and cruel, “Crooked” is a heartbreaking story with a satisfying twist.

We get back into the mechanical gadgetry of superheroes with Trisha J. Wooldridge’s “Fixed.” Victoria Chattham works for a real asshole of a boss – excuse my language – Broderick. Despite her over qualifications in engineering, she’s treated like a glorified secretary. She also sports a prototype prosthetic arm, a project in which she was lead engineer. This bionic arm becomes the focal point of the story. Broderick needs her expertise to make an entire suit of the same caliber. This may sound a lot like Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, but this story isn’t about the suit or Broderick, it’s about Victoria breaking free from his corrupt power and taking back what is rightfully hers. But that requires hard work and late hours, both threatening to breakup her already fragile marriage with Bill, a serious hothead. Wooldridge reveals the volatile relationship between Victoria and Bill tactfully and the tension between them is palpable. The only trouble was I wasn’t particularly interested in them making it work. As I mentioned, Bill is a hothead, but not just a little irrational, he is at times violent and often whiny. I feel like I may have missed an integral point to what drives this relationship, besides their children. Victoria was relatable though. She’s obviously strong and highly intelligent, but marginalized for more than just her disability – she’s a Hispanic female in a predominantly male field. A minor downside for me, though, was a majority of the scenes were focused on the mechanics of the project Victoria is working on with heavy mechanical speak that went right over my head. This made it difficult for me to stay engaged. At the same time, that’s the point of the story! I suspect that fans who dabble in straight sci-fi, or fans that are less superficial than myself, won’t have that complaint. Don’t get me wrong, I like straight sci-fi too, but I struggle with too much technobabble.

Next up is a piece from a writer with a name worthy of only a tried and true badass, Cat Rambo and her short “Acquainted with the Night.” She has either the coolest name or pen name in the history of names. “Acquainted with the Night” is heavy on the supernatural elements focusing on a group of superheroes, the Weather Team, that enjoy a bit of pleasure with their work, in particular our protagonist Captain Hurricane. Unfortunately, Captain Hurricane can’t have the love he truly pines for, an alien from beyond Betelgeuse named Waterlily Elegance. “When she returned home to engage in the mating ritual that would lead to her explosion in a rain of seeds,” Captain Hurricane finds himself in the arms of Sunshine Princess. He can’t shake his infatuation for Waterlily Elegance and Sunshine Princess’ affection only fuels his anger and depression further. Too bad his convienent lay bears real fruit and Sunshine Princess reveals that she is with child. This is much like a fantasy-fueled Jerry Springer episode in its dramaticism, but despite this Rambo makes the whole tragedy play out in beautiful prose. All this culminates in a gut-wrenching conclusion that will turn any reader’s stomach. “Acquainted with the Night” has very light and dreamy prose, but seriously dark subject matter. Bravo to Cat Rambo for offering up a piece that lives up to the soft / hard dichotamy of her name.

That wraps up this edition of Bit by Bloody Bit. Remember when I said there would be no ressurection? OK, I lied. I know this isn’t the way to foster healthy relationships, but I promise this is the last time ;)

I’ll be back next week with the final two stories in this collection and the wrap-up!

Don’t wait for the conclusion to get your copy, you can pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Stop back next week for the real finale of Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition!

Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 3

In Part 3 of Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition, the review column for taking apart books limb by bloody limb, we take a look at the next five stories in this dark metahuman anthology. Now beyond the halfway point, we continue to delve into the cruel reality of meta-human life like the previous five stories, but instead of grappling with their own personal demons it’s the corruption of others that put them in danger.

First up is Joe McKinney’s “Hero.” McKinney introduces Robert Hanover, a man with the power of premonition–exactly seven minutes and twenty-two seconds into the future–and Dr. Lange who is working with Hanover in the insane asylum where he now resides. Hanover wasn’t always a crazy man confessing his woes to a doctor in the nuthouse. Once a media darling, saving lives left and right, his ego turned the public against him. Now he is denyed that much needed attention. Dr. Lange seems unimpressed with Hanover’s claims despite the undeniable heroism he’s shown in the past. McKinney’s story demonstrates that it’s not always the superhero’s ego we have to watch out for. There are plenty of other people that will be inclined to exploit the gift. McKinney is known for his horror as well as crime fiction with a heavy police procedural angle, but he weaves a delectably suspenseful yarn with “Hero.” He builds the tension between Hanover and Dr. Lange without spoiling the ending and includes little details to throw the reader off as well–Hanover calls Dr. Lange by his first name, Gene, which Lange attributes to his narcissism, but could these men have a past history? While I had questions that were never answered, I could appreciate that McKinney was coercing me into thinking outside the story and this was one of my favorites in the entire anthology.

“Pride” by Wayne Ligon shows that superheroes aren’t exempt from the corrupt world of politics. In fact, they are perfect targets for a politician’s selfish agenda and unfair legislation. Calvin Carmichael is a young meta-human trying to overcome his dark past. Carmichael worked as sidekick Kid Kinetic for the Detroit’s Teen Corps One. When his mentor put a woman in a wheelchair after a botched job, Kid Kinetic took the blame. Now, he works construction with the threat of prison looming over him like a dark cloud and all it would take is one more screw up to put him away for life. Of course, this makes Carmichael an obvious candidate for playing the fall guy (again!) when the Detroit Mayor’s plans for expansion are threatened. Like McKinney’s tale before it, Ligon’s “Pride” takes a more realistic approach to a world of metahumans. Ligon also introduces an important real world component — metahuman legislation. In a world with superheroes, there would have to be laws and regulations to control their activity. Ligon addresses the social implications of a metahuman world without bogging his story down with too much legislation talk, but instead uses it as a backdrop for the main action. For a story about a kid with superhuman strength and power, Ligon spins a believably realistic yarn.

Keeping consistent with this group of stories, “G-Child” by Malon Edwards is a tale about the marginalization of methumans. In this short, Aieesha (a.k.a. Bliss) and her partner Ray J (a.k.a. Rayge) are the result of an experimental prenatal supplement. Luckily these children were born healthy, but have the unfortunate side effect of superpowers. This has alienated them from parents they love and need most. Relegated to the institution that created them, both Aieesha and Ray J suffer from emotional turmoil. When this story opens Ray J has gone rogue, destroying homes and putting innocent lives in danger. Aieesha is there in hopes of reigning him in. Initially I struggled to get into this story. “G-Child” is a high action narrative from the opening and I was a little confused about what was going on and the relationship between Aieesha and Ray J. The turning point for me was when Edwards started to intersperse flashbacks in the present day storyline. The reader gets some much needed background on the origin of Aieesha and Ray J, but also a heartbreaking glimpse into how this life has impacted our protagonists. The element I’ve enjoyed most about many of the stories in this collection is the realism the authors bring to this supernatural fantasy world. Edwards does this successfully with “G-Child” as well. Even though I found the opening to be a bit disjointed I found both Aieesha and Ray J to be sympathetic characters that heightened the harshness of Edward’s metahuman world. This author also addresses how these superbeings might act out given the emotional abuse they suffer. Aieesha, like any other angsty teen, finds unhealthy ways to deal with her internal demons, but when you’re a superhuman they’re particularly dangerous.

Jason Gehlert’s “Static” goes in more of a supernatural direction with a story about a spirit resurrected. Skylar comes from beyond the grave, taking over the body of Jamison, to challenge New York City police officers Lincoln Carter and Joe Buchanan for signing his death sentence years ago. Gehlert’s police procedural focuses on the battle between Skylar (in Jamison’s body) and Officers Carter and Buchanan, but the reader never has the opportunity to connect with any of the characters. I wasn’t necessarily rooting for Carter and Buchanan to defeat the resurrected criminal Skylar, but I wasn’t cheering for him either. I also didn’t feel particularly bad for Jamison, the innocent vessel caught up in this battle. Without having that connection with at least one character in the story I found it difficult to stay engaged. Skylar is genuinely creepy and I found the scenes between him and Jamison most effective. There were horror elements, which have been mostly absent from this collection, and there are extensive fight scenes that fans of action will enjoy. I still would have liked to have characters I could connect with beyond the surface. Since the stories that precede “Static,” and the one following, focus on the human component of metahuman and the psychology of that existence, this story felt a bit out of place as a straight up action narrative.

Karina Fabian’s “Illusion” returns to the exploration of personal tragedy in being a superhuman. Deryl Stephens is thirteen years, four months, and seven days old. He is in eighth grade. His favorite subject is science. He likes metrology best. His worst subject is Social Studies. He has to repeat that mantra multiple times everyday because Deryl can hear everyone’s thoughts and has seemingly no control over his gift. To Deryl this is a curse. The voices flood his head in an unceasing cacophony of chaotic, foreign thought. Fabian’s sad drama is much like Edward M. Erdelac’s “Conviction” in that both deal with a young child not quite in control of his power, but who also have the likelihood of misusing their strength to lash out at those who have hurt them. Both Fabian and Erdelac’s perspective on metahumans show the terror and isolation of having power you don’t understand. Fabian easily gains the reader’s sympathy for Deryl, illustrating his pain and anguish exquisitely.

Despite a little misstep in the placement of the action driven narrative, “Static,” amid the dramatic, psychological driven stories, Corrupts Absolutely? continues to offer a wide range of dark metahuman fiction. At the 15th story mark, editor Crisler shows there is much to offer in the realm of superhero fiction from the authors he has picked for this collection.

You can pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Stop back next week for part 4 of Bit by Bloody Bit! Link to Part 4 here.