3Q’s – Brian J. Smith is getting emotional!

3qs fifth

I’m usually pretty on the ball with knowing when I’ve connected with somebody on the various social media platforms, but for some reason I actually can’t for the life of me remember when myself and Brian J. Smith connected! Either way, we’ve interacted and supported each other for some time now and it’s been great seeing him continue to release fantastic dark fiction!

Welcome Brian!

Brian Smith

Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?

Smith: I dive back into it the very next day.

I print the first 50 pages and read them out loud and write any corrections on a wide-ruled notebook and finish them on my desktop. I continue that process until the book is done and then repeat that process again one more time to make sure everything is done right.

Steve: What’s the one thing you’d change now if you’d have known it when you started writing?

Smith: If I could change anything I’d have to say conveying more emotion. When I first began writing at the age of thirteen, I failed to convey any real emotion into my stories and into my characters and that was where I had failed as an author. Emotion creates characters that people will love and along with good storytelling you have a good book on your hands.

Steve: Of the books or stories you’ve released, which is your personal favorite and why?

Smith: When it comes to books, I’d have to say “Consuming Darkness” because I’ve always been a fan of creature features like Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Thing From Another World and The Night Stalker series w/Darren McGavin. I didn’t get to fully enjoy the latter until I was in my teens but I’d watched the former with my father every time it was on cable tv.

When it comes to stories, I’d have to say my supernatural horror novella “Dark Avenues” because I’ve always believed that our dearly departed never go away. They visit once in a while to see how we’re doing but in Kevin Perkins’ case Marilyn had visited him because of an injustice that needed to be corrected. The death of my parents had taught me how deep and cold grief can feel once it settles in on us.

These components alone make a good story because an author who has experienced such things and put them down on paper can connect with a reader who has been through the same thing as well.

Steve: Bonus Fun Question – Would you rather be lost at sea or in the mountains?

Smith: I’d have to pick getting lost in the mountains. A nice cabin with a bright crackling fireplace and a good book and a writing tablet or five would be just fine.


Steve: Great choice!

Thanks so much for doing this, Brian!

To find more of his work – check the links!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Brian-J.-Smith/author/B071HYLBN3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/beardedauthor9

Book Review: Playground by Aron Beauregard


Title: Playground

Author: Aron Beauregard

Release date: November 25, 2022

Over the last number of years, Aron Beauregard has emerged as one of Extreme/Splatterpunk Horror’s true Heavy Weights. His books are hotly anticipated by his ever-growing throng of fans and he has been raking up the accolades as well – becoming Splatterpunk Award nominated and Splatterpunk Award winning during that time.

A prolific author, Beauregard continues to release new and exciting slabs of decimation. But, I, being of the previously described ‘extreme-light’ crowd have yet to dive into any of his books. They sound great, but I’ve never been a hugely massive extreme-extreme horror reader. Saying that – I do my best to try and support as many as I can, and with this novel having been nominated for Best Novel for this years Splatterpunk Awards, I figured this was a perfect one to check out!

What I liked: I mean, the cover should give you some solid indication what you’re in for. If you require ANY sort of Trigger Warnings, you way want to stay away from this one. If you, however, enjoy the brand of brutality Beauregard delivers, this one will make you smile from ear to ear.

The story follows a crazy old lady, Geraldine, who gets sexual gratification from others misery. The worse that happens to them, the more turned on she gets. So, as one does, she creates this insanely intricate indoor playground and invites three low-income families with kids to test it out. They just don’t realize this is more ‘Saw’ meets ‘Hostel’ meets ’31’ than Sesame Street.

Beauregard has set this up as an escape room story for kids – with the only difference being each room is literally live or die – and the dying part is always a carnage filled paragraph of viscera. It also shows how some of the kids will band together and work to survive, while others are singularly focused on themselves and that typically doesn’t work out so well.

There is a really well-inserted redemption arc within the story, one involving the man-giant, Rock and his battle of wills versus loyalty and that worked to humanize the events to a degree.

I think the ending worked really well and followed how the reader sees the events played out. Beauregard does a great job of showcasing the hurt that was created with Geraldine’s actions as well as how this directly impacted the various characters in the novel.

What I didn’t like: You’ll need to go into this fully allowing yourself to just believe. Sure the scope/scale of these indoor rooms is insane. And so are the elaborate punishment devices that have been booby-trapped within each one to decimate the participants, but that’s part of the joy of reading something to just read and have fun. If you struggle to suspend belief for any amount of time, you’ll most likely want to stay clear of this one.

Why you should buy this: If you’re a fan of Aron’s you probably have already snagged this and most likely have read it. If you’re new to extreme horror and want to see what it’s all about, this is an excellent place to dive in and discover how these novels will contain really well done plots with fantastic writing and some of the most horrific gore-filled scenes you’ll ever read.

This was a blast.


3Q’s – Damien Casey is D E A D, ya hear?!

3qs fifth

3Q’s today is another super fun one. I love how each author takes the fun questions as fun questions and has… fun with them! Damien and I connected some time back on Twitter and through that it’s been great watching as they’ve carved out a place for themselves in the dark fiction work AND have now started a small press with the amazing Kyra Torres!

Please welcome Damien!


Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?

DC: For me it’s so so much easier to get back in. I do a first draft on my phone, people make fun of me, but it’s easier. Then I convert it to Word and do a light edit/format in the process. I set myself a limit of three edits. I like to think my writing has a distinct voice and if I over edit, I tend to lose that; which makes me big sad.

Steve: You win a very prestigious award and are invited to receive it. The award is a bronze plated copy of the book that means the most to you in your life. What book is it and why?

DC: I don’t have one answer for this. So, I’ll do three! Just like the 3 Q’s! YAY!

The great and secret show by Clive Barker- this is the book that made me want to start writing.

The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale- I write my characters before I ever even think of a story. I attach to them so much. I learned that from The Bottoms. This is also the book that made me realize how important your own voice is.

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by William Mabbit- This little booger eater has made me smile on days when I truly just didn’t want to. As cheesy as that is, it’s so important.

Steve: Of the books or stories you’ve released, which is your personal favorite and why?

DC: Ohhhhhhhh. That’s a two sided one too I’m afraid! The first would be Coffin Dodger, I put a lot of myself in the book and really focused on my characters. I would say Coffin Dodger is when I started coming into my own.

Hot Pink Satanism is just as important to me. Through the process of writing this I found my ~*BFF*~ Kyra R Torres, we started a pub AND a podcast because of this book. This is also the first book I’ve had picked up by a publisher. It will forever be so special to me.

Steve: Bonus Fun Question – You’re on a camping trip when suddenly a wild animal confronts you. You take off running and it follows. What animal are you confident in thinking you could outrun?

DC: As the great Baymax once said, “I am not fast.” So ya boi is probably D E A D.


Steve: Oh dear. Well, I hope you are able to outrun something!

Thanks again for doing this, Damien!

To find more of his work – check the links!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Damien-Casey/author/B07B7G49HJ

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dcuglybooks

Website: https://www.3-bpublishing.com/

Book Review: Illusions of Isolation by Brennan LaFaro


Title: Illusions of Isolation

Author: Brennan LaFaro

Release date: March 1, 2023

Huge thanks to Brennan for sending this e-ARC my way!

Over the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed reading Brennan’s ‘Slattery Falls,’ series, so when he reached out, I said absolutely. As you’ve heard me say a million times – I have been burned out on short-story collections for some time – BUT – I also know the difficulty it has been for many, many people to find reviewers open for reviews, so I gladly took this, wanting to do my best to support Brennan.

To be upfront – I’ve actually only read one previous short story from Brennan (which happens to be in here) and full disclosure – I also had a story in that anthology. Saying that, the story is superb and us appearing together in that book had no bearing on my thoughts towards this collection.

What I liked: This may sound weird, but while I greatly enjoyed the Slattery Falls books so far, I think I enjoyed the short stories even more and I think part of that was the new and fresh approach each story took. While the Slattery Falls stuff is really well done, if something bothers you, it’s there the entire time. Here, not so much. The story ends and you move on and it was that aspect that really elevated how these stories flowed for me. It was like an all you can eat buffet of sliders versus having one deluxe hamburger, if that makes sense?

The highlights for me – and it was tough picking only four (I like to pick four because it’s a number I think is high enough to convince folks to buy a collection or anthology), but I managed are;

Dressed for Success – this one follows a new kid at school who gets bullied. It starts small, but picks up and then all Hell breaks loose.

Piece by Piece – this one was verrrrry close to be my favorite in the collection. A young kid visits the creek by his home and begins to find pieces of a body. It was interesting to see how Brennan framed it but also how the kid responded.

Year of the Black Rainbow – a multi-layered story, this starts out with a teenager getting kicked out of their house by their overzealous, religious, whack-a-doodle parents. With no other options, they decide their only option is to find shelter in an abandoned building in town… one that is supposedly haunted.

A Shine in the Woods – my favorite story (and the story that we shared space with in the Shiver anthology) this should be no surprise to anyone who knows what I love to read and write. This one follows a kid and their parents as they head to their winter cabin over Christmas break. The caretaker warns them that some odd animals have been lurking around, rummaging for food. Brennan doesn’t hold back and we get a really great winter-survival-creature-feature short story.

Additionally, I’m a huge fan of story notes/author notes, but I prefer them directly after the story instead of compiled into one section at the very end. LaFaro gives some quick, fun insight into each story and thankfully these are slotted in directly after each piece.

What I didn’t like: Hey, it’s a collection, some will hit and some will miss. All of the stories are great in here, but there was one that was written back and forth in letter form that was just meh for me, but that’s purely because I’m not a fan of that type of storytelling. Epistolary. Not for me.

Why you should buy this: This collection flows from story to story hitting high point after high point. Each story is relatively short – I think the longest my Kindle told me was twelve minutes – excluding the last one that was a novelette. Brennan is as solid of a writer that you’ll find out there and even when he takes chances he handles it like an old pro.

If you’ve not read any of his work before, this is an excellent place to start. If you’ve already read some of his work, you’re in for a treat. Really well done.


3Q’s – Richard Clive and his flock of seagulls!

3qs fifth

3Q’s has allowed me to connect with so many people with the dark fiction community and today’s guest is one of those who I’m so happy to have connected with! A talented author, a super supporter of so many and someone who absolutely should be on your TBR, I’m really happy to have Richard Clive stop by today!

Welcome Richard!

Richard Clive

Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?

Richard: Once I have a first draft, I know I have a starting point. I tend to keep working on a piece until it is finished. Then I leave it for a while, edit it some more, and leave it again. And repeat!

If I get really stuck, I switch to another story and come back. But I read a quote recently. I think it was in Stephen Volk’s Coffinmaker’s Blues (highly recommended). The quote was ‘writing IS writer’s block’. So, it’s about perseverance – not giving up if you know the story is worth telling.

I see writers complaining when they’ve written just a few hundred words in a day. But three hundred words a day is equivalent to a novel in one year. So even if you write one good sentence, that’s forward progression. If I’m moving forward, I’m happy.

Steve: You win a very prestigious award and are invited to receive it. The award is a bronze plated copy of the book that means the most to you in your life. What book is it and why?

Richard: I don’t know what I’d do with a bronze-plated book!

But I’d probably go with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I read the book when I was quite young after falling in love with Hammer Horror films I watched on my grandfather’s old projector.

I was obsessed with monsters and ghosts as a child and particularly with vampires – I’ve never actually written a vampire story, though! Perhaps I should.

Steve: Of the books or stories you’ve released, which is your personal favorite and why?

Richard: It’s between Made in Hell and my novella On Air. Both can be found in my collection Strange Frequencies.

On Air has difficult themes. I was worried about the story being published. It’s about intrusive thoughts, about thinking the worst things. If you are a good person and think terrible things, does that make you a bad person? The story is about a character with a form of OCD known as pure OCD, which causes sufferers to experience terrible intrusive thoughts.

It’s almost a cliché that horror writers are often nice people. But we all think such terrible things, and we even take comfort in these stories. What does that say about all of us?

Steve: Bonus Fun Question – You’re on a camping trip when suddenly a wild animal confronts you. You take off running and it follows. What animal are you confident in thinking you could outrun?

Richard: I chased down a seagull at the supermarket car park yesterday!

So, I’ll say a seagull.

Leaving the shop, I put a packet of sweets (candy) I had just bought and a bottle of hand sanitizer on my car roof while I opened the car door. The seagull swooped down and stole the sweets! I ran after it and threw my hand sanitizer towards it – just to scare it away, not to hurt it – and got my sweets back.

In the US, you have bears, wolves, rattlesnakes, and alligators. In the UK we have seagulls…

The tourists feed them, and they turn into psychotic maniacs!


Steve: Ha! That’s amazing. We got some crazy seagulls here in Canada as well, but nowhere near as crazy as the Canada Geese!

Thank you so much for doing this, Richard!

To find more of his work – check the links!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Richard-Clive/author/B098PHRD4K

Website: https://richardclive.com/

Book Review: GRAVENFROST by Peter Hammarberg



Author: Peter Hammarberg

Release date: May 7th, 2016

If you read any of my reviews, you know I typically start off with sharing how the book came to be on my TBR. Well, this one’s a fun one (at least I think so!) and one of the stranger ones!

Recently, a movie blasted it’s way onto Netflix that had everyone watching it and loving it. That movie was TROLL. I watched it with my son, who you may already know loves creature feature/Kaiju and Kaiju-adjacent movies, and we loved it. I think we’ve watched it five or six times now and each time is just a fun time. The movie itself is really well done, as many of the foreign films are, because it takes the story seriously and isn’t all about big explosions and catchy one-liners. The movie was co-written by Espen Auken and it turned out that we followed each other on Twitter and Instagram. We have messaged a bunch over that time, Espen kindly answering some questions that my son had (yes, there is a quick moment that is an ode to Jurassic Park in the movie!) and I sent him a copy of ‘Churn the Soil.’ Well, Espen had posted about this book, ‘GRAVENFROST’ by an author I’d not heard of and after reading the synopsis and reveling in the glorious cover art, I knew I needed to read it.

I went in with great excitement and I have to say – this book pushed me in a way I wasn’t expecting – but HOLY HELL, was this a fun time.

What I liked: ‘GRAVENFROST’ follows outcast FBI Special Agent Bobby Doyle who heads to the town of Gravenfrost to investigate the deaths of a group of ghost hunters. Only one of them survived, but it was all caught on film, and it took place at a notoriously haunted house, which means Doyle aka the agent tasked with ridiculous cases involving this type of phenomenon is sent out.

I’ve said this a million times in my reviews and online – I don’t like humor in my dark fiction. I never have. It typically throws me right out of the story and makes it hard for me to stay focused and on task. But Hammarberg didn’t care what I thought when he wrote this and Bobby Doyle is not only a massive dick, but a hilarious SOB and it just worked. I raced through this. The best way I can describe his character is this – David Duchovny played Fox Mulder on The X Files. Duchovny also played Hank Moody in the fantastic Californication. Bobby Doyle is Hank Moody as Fox Mulder. Just a frat-boy, ass hat who doesn’t hold back and makes quips, snarky comments and whatever comes into his mind at that exact moment. He’s essentially me in real life and I loved it. His character worked so well, but with the secondary characters, it really had me in stitches.

The story races along as we learn what happened and what Doyle needs to do to end the horror happening at the house, known as The Devil’s Domicile. There are some really frightening moments but those are typically bookended but some really well done set up and knock down scenes, which allows the action to be nicely paced.

The ending is really well done, as well as the closing out of the characters. It definitely sets things up for more in this world. I hope we get to revisit Bobby Doyle. Even though this came out in 2016, there could still very well be another novel coming at some point.

What I didn’t like: I think I would’ve liked it if we would’ve had one more huge scare moment. We get a couple, but the ending is more bash and boom than oooh’s and aaahh’s. I gotta stay spoiler free, but I really wish we would’ve seen a big good vs evil moment.

Why you should buy this: ‘GRAVENFROST’ ticks a lot of boxes for those who like dark fiction. We get really fantastic characters, great banter, a really solid set piece with the town of Gravenfrost but also The Devil’s Domicile and we get some really amazing spooks and sequences. I’m frustrated I didn’t come across this one sooner, but hopefully more of you will get on this amazing read after seeing my review!

Now, we await a potential sequel!


3Q’s – Paul Flewitt knows where to look!

3qs fifth

Today’s 3Q’s is a blast and I’m super excited for you all to give this one a read!

I connected with Paul when he joined the Kendall Reviews review team, back when I was a member and he’s written some really strong think-pieces on the current state of horror publishing, the various platforms and the various representations we see within horror itself.

Always a fun convo, I’d like to welcome Paul!


Hi Steve, and thanks for the interrogation. It’s a pleasure.

Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?

Paul: Well, I’m kind of old school, so my first draft is always handwritten. I type up whatever I wrote the day after, so that really becomes my first edit pass. I still mistype, but a lot of the embellishments are done during the typing.

The process once the manuscript is complete can vary, depending on how long I’ve spent with the project. If it’s a short story, I’ll generally jump straight into editing and embellishing before sending it to my editor to pick apart. With longer work, I’ve inevitably spent months, or sometimes even years with those characters. That means I’m a little too close to the project and will miss things that should be glaringly obvious. So, I’ll take a couple of weeks away from it and either work on my secondary project (I usually have two or three projects in varying stages of development,) or tickle away at my Wattpad project. Sometimes, I might even just take the couple of weeks away and do nothing writing related at all … unless you count reading.

Once the rest period is over, I come back to the project fresh and read through the whole manuscript from page one. I’ll pick up typos and change them, make a note of clunkiness, any plot holes or anything I might be able to do better. Then, I read through again and make the changes I made a note of. Then, when I’ve done all I think I can do, it goes to my editor, Patti. That’s where I cringe while she picks it apart and paints the file in a wonderous variety of colours.

Actually, this is the part of the process I like best. I receive the edits back from Patti and spend some time reading her comments and recommendations. She never makes any changes to the document, only highlights the section at issue and adds a comment. Then, it’s up to me to decide whether I want to act on those changes or not. There’s usually only one or two suggestions she makes that requires discussion, usually because the choices I made are subjective or questions of artistic style. At those points, we’ll have a conversation about it where I will put across what I’m doing, and she will either agree or disagree and explain why she disagrees.

Patti might go through the manuscript three or four times before we both sign off on it and agree it’s done.

And that is my process.

Steve: What’s the one thing you’d change now if you’d have known it when you started writing?

Paul: Honestly, I would probably not have released my debut novel when I did. In hindsight, it was probably too soon and caused me some issues which set me back a good few years. It’s a long story, but the cliffnotes are basically these: I released and it was moderately successful. I got a bunch of good reviews from industry reviewers, comparing me to some of my favourite writers. That was all cool, but then I put a lot of pressure on myself to follow that up … or better it. The problem was, I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know whether I wanted to write a sequel to the first book, or whether to go a different way. I started writing a couple of stories, but they seemed forced to me and weren’t working.

Alongside that, I got a lot of invitations to write for anthologies and didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t want to come across as a diva or unprofessional. I didn’t want to not be asked in future, so I just said yes to everything. Big mistake. I got bogged down in deadlines, then started resenting them because I wasn’t writing a follow up to my novel. Then, it all stopped. I found I couldn’t write. I’d sit for hours with a blank page in front of me, and nothing would come. That was a first for me, and it got scary. I’d committed to all these projects, and I didn’t know how to honour those commitments. For the first time in my life, I started to feel anxiety and had panic attacks. Little did I know that this was an unrelated health issue rearing its head, and the stress of trying to keep up was making it manifest. In the end, I stopped writing for around a decade, except for releasing a short story here and there.

So, that’s a longwinded way of saying that I released my debut too soon and found I couldn’t handle it when it did well. My plan had been to write short stories and hone my craft, find my voice and then write longer form stuff, learning the industry as I went. Needless to say, I ended up jumping in at the deep end and found myself drowning. So, now I’m coming back forearmed, knowing what to expect … and also knowing that it’s fine to say no.

Steve: Of the books or stories you’ve released, which is your personal favorite and why?

Paul: It’s interesting, because there are a few answers people might expect here. It could be my debut Poor Jeffrey,) because, for all the nightmares it caused, it proved that I can actually do this thing. Also, it wasn’t a half bad story and still stands up. It could be the last thing I released (Defeating The Black Worm,) which you reviewed quite favorably. It could even be the next thing, a novel called Architecture, which will be released February 28th.

In truth, it’s none of those things. The one I’m most proud of is a short story which first appeared in the Demonology anthology a few years ago, and was reprinted in the paper version of …Black Worm. It’s called Climbing Out, and is the life story of a Nephilim as he climbs out of Hell. It’s a sad little tale really, not really big on horror. I like it because it’s the one where I felt like I was writing with my true voice, writing something I would really enjoy reading. It was the first one I thought was complete, and as good as I could make it.

Of course, that opinion could change with the next one … or the one after that …


Steve: Bonus Fun Question – Would you rather be lost at sea or in the mountains?

Paul: Oh, in the mountains for certain. Just thinking about this question made me uneasy when I pictured being lost at sea, surrounded by nothing and very little in the means of sustenance for survival. The nonsense rhyme comes to mind: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink…” and it is kind of anxiety inducing. I’m not sure I’d do well with no landmarks, no way to mark the distance travelled or the distance still to go.

The thing I like about mountains is that there’s bountiful food, as long as you know where to look. I like walking in the countryside, and there’s something invigorating about walking in landscape that’s largely been untouched for thousands of years. There’s always something new to explore over the next hill, around the next bend, in the next valley, and the next … and the next … and the next. I get some of my best ideas when I’m rambling around in the wilderness, alone and miles away from the city. That, my friend, is where I feel at home.

And anyway, we’re never really lost. We’re only ever waylaid for a bit (as my dear departed Dad used to say when he was clearly lost.) We always find home eventually.


Steve: Great choice!
Thank you so much for doing this, Paul!

To find more of his work – check the links!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Paul-Flewitt/author/B00FG34L7O

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealPaulFlewitt

3Q’s – Mark Zirbel is on a boat!

3qs fifth

Today’s 3Q’s guest is a Wonderland nominated author and someone who continues to push his readers to allow them to follow along with his steady and imaginative adventures!

Please do welcome Mark!

Mark Zirbel

Steve: What does your process look like once you finish your first draft? Do you immediately dive back into it, or do you take some time away?

Mark: For me, it’s important to step away for a while so I can review my draft with fresh eyes. If other people choose to dive right back in, I think that’s fine. Whatever works. However, when it comes to proofreading your work (versus revising it), it’s essential for everyone to take some time away. The only way you’re going to catch errors in your own work is if enough time has passed for you to see what’s really on the page instead of what your mind wants to be there.

Steve: What’s the one thing you’d change now if you’d have known it when you started writing?

Mark: When I started to get serious about my writing, I joined a writers workshop. The group met once a week, and I always wanted to have new material for feedback, so I’d crank out a story a week. It was great from a creative standpoint, but it got me in the bad habit of making my short stories very short. If I hit 1,500 words, that was an opus for me. Sometimes less is more, but my writing was suffering because of the brevity. I needed to slow down and dig in deeper to everything – the characters, the setting, the plot, you name it. I finally figured that out, but I wish I had figured it out sooner.

Steve: Of the books or stories you’ve released, which is your personal favorite and why?

Mark: I’m really proud of Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad because it was my first book and it was nominated for a Wonderland Award in 2020 for best collection. But I think I’m even happier with my new novel, Shithole USA. It has a lot of the same elements as Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad – including cyberpunk, bizarro, horror, and satire – but it takes things to a much weirder, much more experimental level. Ze Burns, who writes a fantastic bizarro fiction blog, said that Shithole USA may be the weirdest book he’s ever read in the bizarro genre. That makes me feel like I’ve really hit the mark this time.

Steve: Bonus Fun Question – Would you rather be lost at sea or in the mountains?

Mark: Good lord … I’d be dead in either scenario. I don’t fish. I don’t hunt. I’m not a survivalist. Then again, I don’t think most doomsday preppers are all that prepared, either. In Shithole USA, there’s a prepper who can make a gun from nothing but sticks and shit. The guy poops out his own bullets, too. He puts himself on a low-fiber diet so he can make rock-hard ammo – and he ends up dead on the toilet from constipation. There’s survivalism for you. But anyway, I never answered your question. Let’s see – I guess I’ll try my luck in a boat. Maybe it’ll be a luxury yacht with a month’s food supply.

Endless sea and sky to the distant horizon

Steve: Fair enough! Thank you so much, Mark for doing this!

To find more of his work, check the links!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Mark-Zirbel/author/B0BL82BKDR

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mark.zirbel.1/

Book Review: Sleeping Among Wolves by Robert Royal Poff


Title: Sleeping Among Wolves

Author: Robert Royal Poff

Release date: March 7th, 2023

After reading Robert’s collection ‘Call to the Void: Definitive Edition’ and really enjoying it, I was really excited when he reached out to see if I’d be keen on an e-ARC of his upcoming novella, ‘Sleeping Among Wolves.’ I had no idea what it was about or what to expect so once I dove in, I was immediately engaged and brought into the world that he had created.

What I liked: The story follows Atlas and Moose, six months after an infection has ripped through humanity, leaving some alive and others with an insatiable desire to eat those who live. The two of them escape and decide to make their way over to where a radio broadcast is offering safety.

The reality here, is, that if you’ve read much in the way of zombie/post-apocalyptic survival books, you’ll have come across a lot of what you’ll find within. The strength of this novella though, is Atlas and Moose and their relationship. They will do whatever it takes to make sure they both survive and it’s the most compelling aspect of the story.

We get a lot of emotions laid on the reader throughout and as things take a turn and we get to the ending and discover what will be happening, it hinges on how much the reader has bought in to their relationship.

What I didn’t like: As I said, most of what we experience in here is something you’ll have come across before. I almost groaned when we got a bad guy with a baseball bat wrapped in razor wire. It’s tough to find new ground in this subgenre, but as I did say before, the relationship here definitely pulls you past a lot of the predictable plot twists.

Why you should buy this: Well, if you love this type of fiction, you’ll really want to read this because this will be your bread and butter. If you’ve not read Robert’s work previous, this is a great spot to jump in and see his ease of how he tells a story. And of course, I can’t overstate this enough – this novella features one of the strongest relationships between two primary characters I’ve read in some time.

Good stuff.


Book Review: Oblivion’s Child by Tommy B. Smith


Title: Oblivion’s Child (Black Carmenia – Book 2)

Author: Tommy B. Smith

Release date: January 17th, 2023

I have to admit I’ve read far too little of Tommy B. Smith’s work. What I have read has been fantastic and everyone should make time to read his excellent ‘The Mourner’s Cradle: A Widow’s Journey.’

Recently, he reached out to me asking about if I was open for reviews, as he had a few out and was trying to get some eyeballs on them. This one caught my eye, but before I bought it on Amazon, I confirmed that it was fine that I hadn’t read Book 1 in the Black Carmenia series. He said it would be fine and, after having finished this, I can confidently say I never felt lost or as though I’d missed something. Saying that, we do learn some back story about the Black Carmenia, so I suspect that tied into Book 1 and I’d be curious to dive into that one and see what’s what. The synopsis of that book – ‘New Era’ – is definitely intriguing!

What I liked: The story follows nine-year-old Zander, who lives with his grandma and aunt. His aunt has been unresponsive for some years, but now, after a storm moves in and ravages where they live, she wakes up. Within the storm are – oddities – which is the best way of saying that while remaining spoiler free.

From there, we get a stranger who is thrust into their home, a forced burying and an elderly woman who house is on the edge of what awaits those who walk further.

Smith has created a really engaging and imaginative narrative and place here. We race along as Zander and his aunt (aided by the elderly woman, Nellie) search for this stranger but also for Zander’s mom and Nellie’s son. What they find is fantastic and while it’s never out right said, this read like a portal-horror novella and I for one am always down for that.

The ending was great and not only allows for furthering Zander’s story, but also can easily be utilized for more in Smith’s Black Carmenia series.

What I didn’t like: 99% of this novella read like a fantastic YA portal-horror story. Saying that, what I wasn’t really a fan of was the domestic violence angle involving the stranger that meets with Zander. It just didn’t fit the rest of the story at all and didn’t add much to the overall aspect of what was happening at all.

Why you should buy this: If you like storm-based/portal-horror with fantastic set pieces and really intriguing lore, look no further. Smith does such a phenomenal job of setting and atmosphere that you’ll be pulled into the world and will love being within.

Really well done.