Lambs by Michael Louis Calvillo

The Dreadful Tales Book Club is a celebration of horror fiction. The club affords genre fans the opportunity to share our enthusiasm for macabre tales and genre talent with like-minded readers and chat about our experience in the virtual hangout, The Psychopedia Necronomicon. Just as members cracked open Greg Lamberson’s zombie road novella Carnage Road for May’s Book of the Month, the horror fiction community lost one of its most talented members, Michael Louis Calvillo, after a long and arduous battle with cancer. Lamberson joined as a guest member to pick our June title and there was no question that the most appropriate choice was to honor the late Calvillo’s legacy with a reading of his posthumous release from DarkFuse Publications, Lambs.

From DarkFuse Publications:

Plagued by a trio of murderous ghosts, Arthur has bigger problems than your average teenager. Young love, wild hormones, and The System haunt him, but those phantoms are nothing compared to the concern he has when watching the darkened corners and deep shadows around him. These spaces are now consumed by a spectral evil seemingly hell-bent on destroying everyone he loves.

As the bodies pile up, Arthur distances himself from his roommate, Connor, a pyromaniac crack-baby with destructive tendencies, and his girlfriend, Melanie, an all-American Satanist with a hidden agenda. He embarks upon a grisly odyssey of self-discovery in hopes of burying the past, cleansing his soul, and obliterating the blood-thirsty spirits once and for all.

Calvillo’s Lambs features three separate tragic stories – that of Arthur, the main protagonist and center of the tale; Melanie, the unlikely girlfriend; and the lamentable Connor, Arthur’s mentally disturbed roommate – that culminate into one connected narrative. The 3 ghosts of Arthur’s past have returned, as they always have every 3 years. As the injuries of their violent deaths manifest on his body, wounds only he can see, Arthur grows increasingly distant from Melanie and Connor. Meanwhile Melanie prepares for various Blood Rituals, in which she will become a woman in the eyes of Satan that threaten her future with Arthur. Connor too gathers the necessary tools and finalizes the stage for his big moment when he can eradicate his enemies once and for all.

Initially, Arthur is the main focus of the story and in fact he is the driving force of the drama, but Melanie and Connor undeniably win over the reader as their own struggles with right, wrong, and all the in between surface. Despite unlikable characteristics for both Melanie and Connor, they are easily relatable in their ultimate helplessness in this world. Melanie juggles social expectation unsuccessfully, from her parents and friends, with her irrefutable love for Arthur. Connor, on the other hand, has been neglected and cast off by all but Arthur. His only quandary is whether to trust Arthur and spare him from his destructive plan.

As we get a further acquainted with Melanie and Connor, Arthur almost becomes an after thought although he is the center of the plot. Melanie’s actions seem increasingly less malicious and more the product of her confused desperation. And Connor, well, who can blame the poor little bugger considering all he’s been through. From a crack-addicted, abusive mother, to endless ridicule and torture from his peers, it’s hard to blame Connor for his course of direction.

While I found all three characters sympathetic and endearing I became particularly worried about Connor. Even brief moments of joy for Connor offer a dark glimpse into his pitiful existence. “Pure, unadulterated joy was a feeling uncommon to Connor. There were small pleasures. Cards with Arthur. Favorite foods. Videogames. Planning destruction.” That last line forced a giggle out of me even though it reflects the sad underpinnings of Connor’s state. Connor is a ticking time bomb, dangerous and destructive, but his pitiable disposition renders him unintentionally charming and you hope that no matter what things will work out in his favor.

Calvillo’s Lambs offers more than engaging characters. There is an abundance of blood, violence, and satanic ritual. There just might be more bloodshed in the first quarter of this novel than anything else I’ve ever read… maybe. As I mentioned, the injuries of the 3 ghosts haunting Arthur manifest on his body. The worst of the 3 are the slits up his wrists. “…the red stuff continued to pour from his mutilated wrists and soak everything in a slick, slippery downpour.” Since he is the only one that can actually see the mutilations on his body, Arthur tries desperately to hide his unease. Even in situations like this: “In PE he ran the track, blood spraying behind him, misting like a red vapor trail, and he thought about thinking about nothing.”

Perhaps the best part of Lambs is that Calvillo manages throughout to surprise the reader, lifting a rug here and there to expose a secret shelter, offering a new perspective on the story. To me, Arthur and Melanie and Connor were not characters, they were real people, vulnerable teenagers manipulated by a corrupt system I desperately wanted them to beat.

Whether a longtime Calvillo fan or newbie, all readers consistently agreed that this is an outstanding genre entry from an exceptional talent taken from this world all too soon. While his passion for life and warmth of character will live on in the hearts of his family and friends, his well-crafted art will live on in the words of his work for generations of fans.

Be sure to check Michael Louis Calvillo’s website as his wife will keep it updated with reviews and news as well as information regarding 8 completed novels and 4 novellas yet to be released.

You can pick up your copy of Lambs from DarkFuse Publications in eBook or paperback format.

-Meli

Two Down, One to Go for the DarkFuse LAMBS Giveaway!

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown (a.k.a. Dark Mark)Hello, fiends! We just picked our 2nd lucky recipient for the paperback copy of Michael Louis Calvillo’s Lambs, courtesy of DarkFuse Publications, so there is but one copy left! If you haven’t entered yet, all the details are below. If you’ve entered once or even twice, there are still a few ways to increase your chances.You’ve got 12 hours to go, so get on it!

Here’s what you do:

(1)   Like DarkFuse on Facebook. Not only does this count for one entry in the giveaway, but you can also claim a 25% OFF coupon. You just need to go to the “Special Offers” tab at the top of the page to redeem.

(2)   Follow DarkFuse on Twitter.

(3)   Visit the DarkFuse website and let Dreadful Tales know about your favorite DarkFuse title OR which title is on the top of your wishlist. You can do this by commenting below, telling us on Facebook, Twitter, or email (dreadfultalesstaff AT gmail DOT com).

(4)   Post a review of a DarkFuse title on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.

Any of the above-mentioned count for an entry in the giveaway, so the more you enter the better your chances. Just be sure to notify us via Facebook, Twitter, or email (dreadfultalesstaff AT gmail DOT com) each time you enter for verification.

Also, don’t forget that we’re reading Lambs for our June Book of the Month Club, so stop by The Mortuary to chat about it. We’re almost halfway through the month, but the book club is just warming up. There is still plenty of time to get a copy of Lambs and join the discussion. I’m only through the first quarter of the book, but this is a very unique story with a gripping plot, engaging characters, and lots of blood. Buckets and buckets of blood… Can you handle it?

-Meli

One Down, Two to Go for the DarkFuse LAMBS Giveaway!

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown (a.k.a. Dark Mark)Hello, my horror loving fiends! We announced a fabulous giveaway from DarkFuse Publications to kick off the Dreadful Tales June 2012 Book Club earlier this month. In conjunction with a reading of Michael Louis Calvillo’s Lambs, DarkFuse has generously offered 3 paperback copies which are up for grabs. We picked a name at random from the entries received thus far and now have only 2 left.

We don’t want you to miss out. If you haven’t entered yet, what are you waiting for!? It’s super simple, it’s fun, and for macabre maniacs it’s a no-brainer :)

If you have entered, but your name was not drawn the first round, you’re still in the running for a free paperback copy of Michael Louis Calviollo’s Lambs. Don’t forget there are several ways to enter, so you can do all of the following to increase your chances.

(1)   Like DarkFuse on Facebook. Not only does this count for one entry in the giveaway, but you can also claim a 25% OFF coupon. You just need to go to the “Special Offers” tab at the top of the page to redeem.

(2)   Follow DarkFuse on Twitter.

(3)   Visit the DarkFuse website and let Dreadful Tales know about your favorite DarkFuse title OR which title is on the top of your wishlist. You can do this by commenting below, telling us on Facebook, Twitter, or email (dreadfultalesstaff AT gmail DOT com).

(4)   Post a review of a DarkFuse title on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.

Any of the above-mentioned count for an entry in the giveaway, so the more you enter the better your chances. Just be sure to notify us via Facebook, Twitter, or email (dreadfultalesstaff AT gmail DOT com) each time you enter for verification.

Good luck!

-Meli

Dreadful Tales Book Club – June Edition & Giveaway!

Banner courtesy of Mark Brown (a.k.a. Dark Mark)June marks the third month of the Dreadful Tales Book Club and while each selection thus far has been darkly sweet we have an extra special month of grim reading ahead.

Gregory Lamberson, author of May’s Book of the Month Carnage Road, scanned the darkest corners of his book shelves to find the perfect title for you macabre maniacs. This month we’ll be hanging out in The Psychopedia Necronomicon forum of The Mortuary message board discussing the literary prowess of the late Michael Louis Calvillo by digging into his novel Lambs (DarkFuse Publications, 2012).

From the DarkFuse website:

Plagued by a trio of murderous ghosts, Arthur has bigger problems than your average teenager. Young love, wild hormones, and The System haunt him, but those phantoms are nothing compared to the concern he has when watching the darkened corners and deep shadows around him. These spaces are now consumed by a spectral evil seemingly hell-bent on destroying everyone he loves.

As the bodies pile up, Arthur distances himself from his roommate, Connor, a pyromaniac crack-baby with destructive tendencies, and his girlfriend, Melanie, an all-American Satanist with a hidden agenda. He embarks upon a grisly odyssey of self-discovery in hopes of burying the past, cleansing his soul, and obliterating the blood-thirsty spirits once and for all.

In conjunction with this month’s book club we have an exciting giveaway courtesy of Lambs publisher DarkFuse Publications. We have 3 paperback copies of Lambs up for grabs. There are several ways to enter and each time you increase your chances of getting a copy. This giveaway will run for the next two weeks, so you’ll have plenty of time to join in the book club discussion if you win.

Here’s what you do:

(1)   Like DarkFuse on Facebook. Not only does this count for one entry in the giveaway, but you can also claim a 25% OFF coupon. You just need to go to the “Special Offers” tab at the top of the page to redeem.

(2)   Follow DarkFuse on Twitter.

(3)   Visit the DarkFuse website and let Dreadful Tales know about your favorite DarkFuse title OR which title is on the top of your wishlist. You can do this by commenting below, telling us on Facebook, Twitter, or email (dreadfultalesstaff AT gmail DOT com).

(4)   Post a review of a DarkFuse title on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads.

Any of the above-mentioned count for an entry in the giveaway, so the more you enter the better your chances. Just be sure to notify us via Facebook, Twitter, or email (dreadfultalesstaff AT gmail DOT com) each time you enter for verification.

Michael Louis Calvillo touched many lives not only with his great words, but also with his humble and gracious character. I hope you will join me in this celebration of his literary legacy for our June reading of Lambs.

-Meli

Meli & Jason Discuss ZIPPERED FLESH

As most of you probably know, we launched the Dreadful Tales Book of the Month Club, a book club for macabre maniacs hosted by The Mortuary, this past April with a reading of Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!. This short story anthology was initially on my radar because it included “Paraphilia” by one of my favorite authors, Lisa Mannetti, but it turned out to be a perfect collection for a horror book club, wonderfully morbid with widely diverse content. Zippered Flesh, edited by Weldon Burge and published by Smart Rhino Publications, contains 20 short stories by genre veterans and relative unknowns, but all share one common theme: (as you may have guessed) body enhancements.

Undoubtedly, each reader has their own expectation of what constitutes body enhancement and how that will be presented in Zippered Flesh, but you will find there are more imaginative horrors to body modification than strangely placed tattoos, piercings, or plastic surgery for wannabe Barbies.

One woman tries to become the ultimate sex object in Graham Masterton’s aptly titled “Sex Object.” Don’t be fooled though, this story isn’t concerned with ridiculously large breast implants or liposuction; rather we are introduced to a doctor that “used his surgical genius to create such erotic aberrations…”

There are historical pieces, like the deadly delights on the high seas in Elliot Capon’s “By Hook” and P.I. Barrington’s “Independence Day.” A couple stories present frighteningly realistic psychopaths while others still exist in the supernatural realm of our darkest fantasies.

Zippered Flesh features psychological drama with an unbelievable twist like Charles Colyott’s “Comfort;” straight science fiction, for example in “Unplugged” by Adrienne Jones; and future worlds offering body modification to unbelievable extremes like Jonathan Templar’s darkly humorous “Marvin’s Angry Angel.” This is a truly exceptional collection of stories sure to hit the hot spot of any horror fiction fan. Almost every tale is burned into my memory and with 20 entries that is phenomenal.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this collection is, and I do along with Jason Darrick in our Zippered Flesh podchat.

Be warned, there could be cursing, bad grammar, mispronunciation of author names and just regular English words! Please send all hate mail or complaints to the head of our complaint department, Jason Darrick. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook. Direct all compliments to the head of the compliment department, me (Meli)! You can post praise and romantic flourishes here or here. We can also be reached at dreadfultales AT gmail DOT com.

Enjoy!

(If you are interested in joining the book club, we are currently wrapping up Greg Lamberson’s zombie road novella Carnage Road. This is a short one, so a great time to start. We’re discussing the book here.)  

7 Brains by Michael Louis Calvillo

7 Brains from Michael Louis Calvillo took me for a ride. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, never having read any of Calvillo’s previous works, this little book kept me on my toes right from page one.

Humanity is on the cusp of a New Evolution. Yep! Pure Emotion has curdled and given way to empty solutions, a gilded edge of bling-bling exteriors masking Rampant Corruption, Souring Evil and Internal Pollution. Our hero, Malcolm, the reluctant man with a reluctant plan, purpose fluttering in his chest from zero to a million miles an hour in seconds flat, holds the keys to the kingdom of light. All he has to do is eat seven lovely brains and set things right. He’s got a hacksaw, and a hammer, and a set of determined, pearly whites. Can he usher in hope before the imminent descent of everlasting night?

The story is told by Malcolm, himself, in first person. After only a few pages it becomes apparent that Malcolm is quite possibly insane. Calvillo’s narrative invites the reader into Malcolm’s mind, and paints a picture of a happy, yet troubled man. Malcolm’s nightmares draw upon legitimate human fears, while his conscious mental state evoked a genuine sympathy from this reader. As the pace of the story quickens and the antagonist is introduced, Malcolm further straddles the line of insanity, yet remains grounded by his constant love for his family.

Calvillo pushes the boundaries of classification with his antagonist. I began reading expecting a zombie splatter-fest, but that opinion was quickly squashed as Malcolm’s degeneration is protracted and “zombie” becomes improper terminology. Elements in both story and narrative suggest a paranormal antagonist, however that idea is quashed by the antagonist himself.

I said before that this book took me on a ride, and that’s the best way to describe it. 7 Brains is emotional, psychological horror. Having said that, this book contains all the gore and uncomfortable situations that hardcore readers will crave, and will test those limits at least twice. Calvillo made this book incredibly funny in areas where the humour was best served, and the punchlines were delivered effortlessly. Calvillo also examines the human condition, as each of the 7 brains represent human attributes that in Calvillo’s world, (and in ours, I’d agree) have been rendered extinct. Malcolm is forced to make gut-wrenching choices, and Calvillo’s world is so expertly constructed that all choices offered to Malcolm could have a terrible outcome.

7 Brains is only a taste of what Michael Louis Calvillo has to offer, and as a chapbook, it’s a bite-sized portion of awesome. You can order a copy from Burning Effigy Press, and check out Calvillo’s other works on his website.